Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Friday, November 20, 2009
Any class can use any weapon, but if it's not on their list of allowed weapons, it inflicts either the damage listed for the weapon, or their class hit die in damage, whichever is lower.
This allows you make that sword-swinging wizard you always wanted to play - Gandalf used a sword, right? - without stepping on the fighter's toes. Your magic-user can use that sword (or battleaxe, or glaive-guisarme, or whatever) as much as he wants; it just inflicts 1d4 damage instead of the damage listed.
It's a pretty sloppy solution, and one I'm not entirely happy with, but if you're dead-set on making a sword-swinging magician, it allows you to do so. I think I prefer this "damage cap" to dealing with the attack penalty ascribed to using weapons not normally allowed to your class. Still, if I was really going to start gutting the Rules Cyclopedia, I'd probably do a full-scale overhaul of the way classes use weapons, based on the weapon mastery system.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Yes, this is something of a vague post. More on this topic later.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Fantasy without spells.
That's right - I'm coming to the conclusion that I'd be happier if my setting didn't have magic, or at least didn't have what RPGs generally describe as "spellcasting". The more I think about what turns me off about D&D-style western fantasy - a magic sword for every warrior, wizards chucking lightning bolts at their foes with impunity, priests healing the injured several times a day - I just don't like the idea of mere mortals having that kind of power, least of all on a reliable, predictable basis. I want magic to be scary and incomprehensible. I still want monsters, though.
In a lot of ways, the feel I want is what's depicted in the ultra-violent manga series Berserk, around the time of "The Golden Age" story arc. (The series ramps up the D&Disms shortly afterwards, with the main character befriending an elf and a wizard, among other things.) But early on, the world of Berserk is much like Europe during the 13th century or so, with mercenary bands doing the business of war and terrorizing the populace when work is slow. Whenever anything supernatural occurs, it's monstrously demonic in nature, and met by most of the protagonists with disbelief, confusion, and abject terror. That's more or less what I'm going for.
So, for the moment, I'm thinking of a human-dominated world, where magic is a fantasy, but horrific monsters lurk at the edges. There's still room for a sorcerer or two in this world, I suppose, but they'd be more monster than man.
You know, this concept has a lot in common with the so-called Cthulhu Mythos. I could say that's because BRP's currently the system I'm planning on using for the setting, but I think it's really just the influence of the aforementioned Berserk along with Princess Mononoke and similar films.
Friday, October 23, 2009
I want it to have the following:
- Subtle magic (i.e. no fireballs or bags of magic swords)
- Detailed and deadly combat that is fast-paced, with use of minis as an option
- Systems for conquering and managing lands
- Hirelings/followers as an integral part of the game
- Support for large-ish battles (involving about 20 to a side)
- Ways to mechanically differentiate one "warrior" character from another
- Characters that can fit on an index card
Does such a game exist? I think not, but I'd love to be proven wrong. I have been thinking of cobbling it together from bits of BRP, which is a close but not exact fit. I am open to suggestions.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Nevertheless, with the announcement of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay's 3rd edition, I'm starting to understand how D&D grognards felt when 4th edition was announced.
WFRP3 is drastically different from the previous two incarnations of the game, both in presentation and in mechanics. I can certainly understand why, from a business standpoint, Fantasy Flight Games would seek to make an RPG that includes lots of funky dice and cardboard doodads that come in a big, attractive-looking box which costs $100. If you want to look at it in a positive light, FFG is just playing to their strengths as a company best known for its high production value boardgames. If you want to look at it in a more negative light, they're trying to make as much profit as they can while simultaneously making the game difficult to pirate (something Wizards of the Coast have had trouble accomplishing).
Either way, I don't begrudge Fantasy Flight Games' desire to use a sound business model for their new game. As somebody who liked WFRP 2nd edition a whole lot, bought everything released for the game, but never got a chance to play it, the announcement of a 3rd edition was a little unsettling for me. I have to admit that as I read more and more about the mechanics, my gut reaction is to squeal "but that's not WFRP!" I mean, I know that as the current holders of the license, Fantasy Flight can define WFRP as whatever they want it to be, but there's something deep in my core that is bummed out when I read that the Halfling and Ratcatcher are not in the starting boxed set, or that you can be a High Elf, or that the feel has been brought even closer in line to that of the wargame. Yes, it all makes sense, but it's not what I want, dammit.
So unless somebody buys me the 3rd edition box as a present and I somehow end up loving it, I think I just became a Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay grognard. Somebody give me my name badge.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Check them out here.
(Sorry for the scarcity of posts recently. I'm about to start a new job, and beyond that, have been too busy actually playing games to write about them much. I hope you'll forgive me.)
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
D&D 4th Edition: Eberron Campaign Guide
D&D 4th Edition: Divine Power
Rifts Ultimate Edition
Rifts Book of Magic
Rifts Game Master Guide
Rifts Adventure Guide
Those first two will be the last D&D 4e books I get for a while, I think. I'm a little bit burned out on the game, since I've been playing it every week since it was released, but more to the point, I have an annual subscription to D&D Insider, so I have digital access to all the crunchy bits from the 4e books anyway.
Our plan is to wrap up the campaign we've been playing since last year, and do a few short adventures with new characters, so we can try some of the myriad new classes and races that have been released since we started. We're also hoping to alternate and get in some non-D&D gaming. A few games have been pitched with no decisions made as yet - my fingers are crossed that we'll avoid anything using the Storyteller system. I'm most excited by the prospect of (possibly) finally playing Call of Cthulhu.
But to get to the point, you can probably see that my love of Rifts, which has been in remission for at least a decade, has flared up again. I know the system, clunky as it often is, like the back of my hand. Many gamers my age started with Palladium games, for better or worse, and it's tough to shake the siren call of familiarity. Rifts was my game of choice throughout my adolescence, and despite the game's many warts, it's hard to be mad at it when it provided me with inspiration and enjoyment for over six years straight.
My good friend Kent is currently considering running a Rifts PBP, with (most of) our original gaming group. As soon as he mentioned he was thinking about it, I found myself bitching about power creep, Kevin Long's Dead Boy armor vs. Vince Martin's Dead Boy armor, the Siege on Tolkeen and the relative damage capabilities of plasma cannons and the Wilk's 457 laser rifle like nothing had ever changed. I hope Kent's PBP comes to fruition. Even if it doesn't, I might end up doing something like it myself.
So, I guess this is my "old-school renaissance".
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Thursday, July 9, 2009
I'm surprised at how well running a game via an internet forum is scratching the Dragon Warriors itch. Sure, it's not exactly like a face-to-face tabletop game, and real life can slow down people's ability to participate regularly, but the PBP format has certain strengths. Foremost for me is the encouragement for players to stay in character more consistently.
You see, I find that during my face-to-face game everybody tends to, well, bullshit a lot more than I'd prefer. I'm as guilty of it as anybody else. It's largely because it's the only time many of us hang out with each other "IRL", and so we naturally want to goof off and joke with each other, since we don't get much of a chance to otherwise. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but I do often miss the deep roleplaying one could find themselves getting into in the old high school days. PBP largely removes my temptation to quote Ghostbusters and ramble about Saints Row 2 when I should be getting into the game at hand.
The other day I was thinking about future Dragon Warriors releases and what they might entail. I know the game's current steward, James Wallis, has mentioned possible books on the Fay and the Church, but for whatever reason I ended up pondering what a DW-based megadungeon might look like. I thought back to William Cobbett's disparaging nickname for London, "The Great Wen", and felt that it would be a pretty cool name for an underworld site: a great swelling of the earth, like a massive boil caused by some sort of subterranean malignancy. A place where Hell seems not far from the world. Frame it in terms of a Crusade, and have adventurers drawn to it for the same reasons people took the cross in medieval times - some for glory and profit, some for religious fervor, some because they seemingly had nothing better to do. You could have your usual shanty town - complete with camp followers, apothecaries, blacksmiths, and sellers of indulgences - sprung up around the site, to cater to those that come to ransack it.
Okay, yeah, it's vague, and possibly not entirely in the spirit of the game or its setting, but if there's any game where you could make a dungeon and put the Devil at the bottom of it, it's Dragon Warriors.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
To this day, I'm fascinated by illustrated, encyclopedic books that list lots of creatures or character. If you looked at my bookshelf during my childhood you'd find things like Donald F. Glut's Dinosaur Dictionary, The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, and any number of illustrated wildlife guides and encyclopedias. The Monster Manuals were a natural fit.
Monster Manual II was my favorite, for a variety of reasons. First of all, it contained a lot of really inventive creatures - though they crop up on "dumb monster" lists these days, I loved weird stuff like the executioner's hood or the wolf-in-sheep's-clothing. Secondly, it had the boggle, which was a favorite of mine, since my brother's long-running AD&D character had been reincarnated as one. Third, I just plain liked the artwork more.
Now, don't misunderstand me. These days I've found plenty to like in the original Monster Manual, not least of which is the fantastically cool artwork of Dave Trampier. But at the time, the guy whose art really appealed to me was Jim Holloway. His work was clean, clear, and it popped off the page. More to the point, I felt like his monsters had personality, and as they say in Pulp Fiction, "personality goes a long way". Holloway's grippli had a serene sort of smile on its face that, as an eight-year-old, instantly made me want to hang out with him. His tasloi stepped out of the shadows with a mischievous smirk. His stench kow looked downright displeased with itself. I loved it (and still do).
I also appreciate the art Holloway's done for various adventure modules. His characters look like D&D player characters should. They carry chipped swords, battered shields, and mismatched, scavenged armor. They drink, laugh, goof off, make rude gestures, shout battle cries, chop monsters down with bloodthirsty sneers, and flee in terror. It's fun stuff.
I recently found Jim Holloway's site and while it's a bit clunky, it's worth visiting. I'm especially impressed with some of the revamps he's done of his original monster illustrations (they're about halfway down the page). Check it out.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Dragon Warriors has fairly straightforward and simple rules that often remind me of gamebooks like Lone Wolf and Fighting Fantasy. One of the things I ran into as I was reading the rules again that I thought would bother me was the way weapon damage is calculated, or rather, isn't. If you hit an opponent and roll over their Armor Factor, you inflict a set amount of damage based on the weapon being used.
As I said, I thought this would bother me, and the editors of the revised rulebook must have anticipated this, as they included an optional chart telling how to roll damage for different weapons. However, when I started running the game, I decided to stick with the original rules as written before I started mucking around with them. First, I wanted to understand the system and the intent of its authors, Dave Morris and Oliver Johnson.
As it turned out, the fixed weapon damage didn't bother me at all. What did bother me was the way you determine the order in which combatants get to take their actions: they go in order of their Reflexes characteristic score, highest to lowest. Combatants with the same score go at the same time. Now, there are a couple of stumbling blocks here, at least for my taste.
One is that monsters don't have Reflexes scores. You're told to roll 3d6 once for all of the monsters in the fight, and use that for their Reflexes (for this purpose, at least). This means that if you're fighting five feral dogs, all the feral dogs go at the same time. This is a little unrealistic, but realism isn't really a major concern in role-playing. It does keep things streamlined and simple, so I'm willing to go with it.
Another, bigger problem for me is that this system means the player characters will always go in the same order, every single time they get into a fight. To make matters worse, characters with identical Reflexes scores will always act simultaneously, in every combat. It's workable, but quickly becomes repetitive and silly when you're describing battles in narrative form, as I'm doing for this PBP campaign, especially when you consider that the player character party we're currently using has the following Reflexes scores: 14, 14, 14, 13, 10. Our Barbarian, our Assassin, and our Knight would always act simultaneously under the rules as written. That would get old fast.
So, here is my simple fix: all combatants (including groups of opponents, at the GM's option) roll a d8 and add their Reflexes score to determine the order in which they take action. I'm using the d8 because I think a d10 or higher value die will add too much variability, and because I think the d6 is boring. The variability thing could be complete bullshit - I suck at figuring out probability curves and don't really care to improve. But we'll see how it works soon enough.
I imagine that as time goes on I will continue to tweak Dragon Warriors. House ruling is fun!
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
The good news is that everybody's on board now, and we've got a nice mix of professions and personalities so far, both in terms of characters and players. I'm also excited to be playing with my older brother Chris again. He's the one who ran my first RPG sessions, and it'll be fun to turn the tables on him after all this time.
I've had a couple of people ask if they can lurk on the campaign forum, but for now I'd like to keep it private. I may well post occasional updates here on the blog detailing the characters and their progress, though.
Welcome to Legend, travelers... hope you survive the experience!
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Yeah, the PDF is essentially an advertisement, but you know what? This version of HackMaster sounds pretty cool to me.
I used to own most of the HackMaster rulebooks and almost really liked them. The players-versus-DM attitude kind of put me off, and the humor wasn't really my style, but I thought there were some cool ideas in it. Ultimately I thought it would probably work better as an AD&D supplement than as its own game, but I have no gameplay experience to back that snap judgment up.
Anyway, the new game certainly seems to be toning down the blatant (and formerly contractually required) goofiness while still retaining a sense of fun. I like that the mechanics are AD&D-inspired but still willing to go off in different directions - combat, especially, looks like it will be pretty interesting. I get a cool "let's take what AD&D did right, and go from there" vibe from this I haven't felt since I got into Palladium Fantasy when I was a teenager. That's exciting.
Between this and Aces & Eights, Kenzer is definitely starting to intrigue me.
(Yeah, I just preordered it.)
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
I'm not vastly experienced with PBP games, but have been having a good time playing in them recently and figured I'd give it a shot. This will also be my first time running Dragon Warriors. I'll be using published adventures, mostly, so if you've already read them (or played them) you might want to sit this one out.
It's still in the early stages, but I will be setting up a dedicated forum specifically for the campaign in the near future. Comment on this post (preferably with your email) if you're interested in giving it a shot and we'll talk.
Looks like I found my two players. Thanks!
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
I find myself thinking about running 4e again a lot lately. I mean, I actually took a test to see if I could qualify as a RPGA "Herald" Dungeon Master yesterday afternoon. Now, I didn't pass (yet), and I was mostly doing it in the hopes of being able to grab the RPGA-exclusive revamp of The Village of Hommlet, but the effort is there.
One thing I was thinking about was that the encounter-design structure of 4e makes it hard to do a traditional, Wilderlands-style "sandbox" (or "hexcrawl") campaign. You know, one where the characters are plunked into a detailed area with lots of site-based adventures from which they can pick and choose. On the surface, it seems like D&D 4e makes that difficult, since encounters are constructed specifically for your characters, based on experience level. But it's always been possible in sandbox play for players to wander into things way above (or below) their characters' ability to handle. I mean, yes, you're going to get your butts kicked if you decide to take on an Exarch of Orcus at 5th level. How is that any different from the way D&D worked in the past? You take your risks.
Now, another stumbling block is the absence of any sandbox-style setting supplements or adventures for 4e. (There are rumors that Wizards' upcoming Revenge of the Giants super-module is going to be site-based, but that was supposed to be a boxed set, too, and that's looking less and less likely as time goes by.) But if you take a look at the Dungeon Delve hardcover, you've got tons of mini-adventure sites for a variety of different levels. Just lay a hex grid over a map of the Nentir Vale and place the delves where you want them. Combine your new sandbox Vale map with the published modules, the DMG, and Dungeon PDF magazines, and there's a whole mess of trouble waiting for your wandering PCs.
Yeah, I want to give this a try.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
As I continue to read A Distant Mirror, I'm struck by how awesome the names of some of the cities of medieval France and Switzerland were. If I wasn't being careful not to pilfer real-world names, I'm sure Thann, Olten, and Solothurn would pop up somewhere.
These days, I've resorted to cribbing stuff from the random word verification system used right here on Blogger... and have gotten some pretty awesome names, I might add.
(And since I don't have any relevant images, please enjoy this nice Angus McBride orc attack I had saved on my hard drive for some reason.)
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
It should come as no surprise, then, that I jumped on AEG's new supplement, Ultimate Toolbox, as soon as I learned it was available. The back cover blurb describes it as "400 pages of the best charts, tables, and seeds of gaming adventure." It's a massive expansion of their well-received Toolbox sourcebook, released for the d20 system several years back. Ultimate Toolbox cleans that product up, removes the d20 gaming statistics, and adds a whole lot more random tables.
As can probably be gleaned from the book's cover, which appears to depict a cleric of the new default D&D death goddess, the Raven Queen, Ultimate Toolbox is still aimed at those running and playing D&D-style fantasy. The book organizes its charts into seven chapters: Character, World, Civilization, Maritime, Dungeon, Magic, and Plot. Each chapter contains around one to two hundred d20 charts that can be used to generate a bewildering variety of useful information that one might need to produce on the fly (or any time inspiration is needed). Here are some sample tables that I've randomly flipped to:
- Druidic Orders (Character chapter)
- National Calamities, Magical (World chapter)
- Power Behind the Throne (Civilization chapter)
- Ship Names (Maritime chapter)
- Potion Tastes 2 (Dungeon chapter)
- Command Words, Healing (Magic chapter)
- Gossip About a Group/Guild (Plot chapter)
Naturally, the real question here is "how good is the stuff you can roll up?" Well, they're generally pretty good. Results can be dull ("Ranger" under Ranger Titles), anachronistic ("Bring it on!" under Battle Cries 1), ornate ("Scarlands of the Bladed Earth" under Desert Names), or inspired ("Pretty wife of an ugly man said to be magically animated statue" under Local Legends 1). There is a lot of material here I would probably never use, but I think the point of this book is to help you out when something you thought would never come up in your game suddenly does. I found that the World and Plot chapters, especially, would be useful if one needs to whip up an adventure background when their player characters elect to wander off the map.
As far as drawbacks, there are a few. Ultimate Toolbox is a project that likely exhausted its authors, and while most of the results you can roll up are pretty interesting, as I mentioned earlier, sometimes you can roll up a dud. This is probably inevitable when you have three people creating over 700 charts, but it should be mentioned. Also, as in many RPG products, I noticed quite a few typos that easily would have been caught with even a simple spell check - "steppe" is consistently misspelled as "steepe", for example. If you're a person who likes a book packed with glossy artwork, look elsewhere - there are a few pen and ink illustrations here and there, but nothing that will knock your socks off. Finally, the book is pricey - $49.95 for a black-and-white softcover.
Nevertheless, I'm glad I picked up Ultimate Toolbox. It isn't perfect, but it does deliver what it promises: piles and piles of random tables. If you're the type of gamer that enjoys such things, as I am, it's a purchase worth considering.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
- As written, neutral fighters can become knights at 9th level. You get nothing for being a knight, other than having to do what your king tells you. Compare that to what lawful and chaotic fighters get, and the knight quickly looks pretty lame. If paladins and avengers get neat tricks, knights should get them too. Maybe look at AD&D's cavalier for ideas?
- Dump the cleric and the magic-user as written. Put all their spells into a pile, then divide them into "white" and "black" magic. Write two new classes - let's call them "magician" and "sorcerer" for now - based around those revised spell lists. Make sure neither of them are armored holy fighting guys... that's what the paladin does.
- Rework thief skills somehow.
- Either let the demihumans reach the same level as humans using the optional rules in the appendix, or drop them entirely. None of this half-assed "enforce a human-centric world by dicking over non-human player characters" garbage.
- Give elf characters access to the druid's spell list, instead of the magic-user's.
- Either drop the druid, or make it a class you can enter at first level.
- Drop the mystic class. It's mechanically borked and doesn't really have the right feel anyway.
- Write up a ranger-type class - probably one without spellcasting abilities.
- Tone down weapon mastery a little, but KEEP IT. Maybe make it exclusive to fighters, or make it so knights get more masteries?
- Keep skills, but make the skill list about 75% shorter.
- Define alignments as sworn allegiances to the otherworldly powers of law or chaos. The vast majority of humans are neutral. Change the alignments of a lot of the monsters accordingly.
And that's just for starters! Judging from what I read of other people's "basic" D&D campaigns, I imagine the choices I'd make aren't the ones many would go with, but that's the beauty of houseruling.
(On an unrelated note, I got my DragonRaid boxed set yesterday. I haven't read any of its contents yet, but I can say that it is BIG.)
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Back in what some like to call "the day", a lot of the RPGs on the market came in boxes. You'd usually get a couple of pamphlets of rules, maybe a map or a cardstock character sheet, possibly some dice, and some ads for whatever company published the game. It was pretty awesome.
Boxed sets were shrinkwrapped. I think I bought a lot of boxed sets specifically because I couldn't see what was inside them. I flipped through plenty of rulebooks for perfectly good games as a youngster, but didn't get them because they looked boring. (I passed over getting the "deluxe" RuneQuest book multiple times for this very reason.) With a boxed set, I was never sure what I was getting into. That element of not knowing was maddening, and I often ended up buying something just for that reason. Sometimes they led to hours of play (TSR's Marvel Super Heroes, for example), and other times they led nowhere, but to this day, I still pick up old boxed sets just on the principle that they look cool.
Anyway, for whatever reason - most RPG companies cite manufacturing costs - boxed sets have more or less fallen by the wayside. I think that's a shame, as there was something about them that made first-timers want to try them out. A couple of smaller publishers, like Troll Lord or Fiery Dragon, still do them from time to time, but the "big" guys almost never did... until recently.
Wizards of the Coast have a boxed module called Revenge of the Giants due later this year, which is a change from their previous policy of only using the boxed set format for their sorta half-assed D&D Basic Sets. White Wolf recently published Dreams of the First Age, a big boxed expansion for Exalted (though apparently it didn't do as well as they'd hoped). Green Ronin's recently announced Dragon Age: Origins tabletop game is going to be a boxed set aimed at new gamers and distributed in book and video game stores. Cubicle 7's Doctor Who RPG is going for the same demographic and distribution pattern.
It obviously remains to be seen if any of these boxed sets will be met with any enthusiasm or success, but one can hope, right?
Thursday, May 7, 2009
"People lived close to the inexplicable. The flickering lights of marsh gas could only be fairies or goblins; fireflies were the souls of unbaptized dead infants. In the terrible trembling and fissures of an earthquake or the setting afire of a tree by lightning, the supernatural was close at hand. Storms were omens, death by heart attack or other seizures could the work of demons. Magic was present in the world: demons, fairies, sorcerers, ghosts, and ghouls touched and manipulated human lives; heathen superstitions and rituals abided among the country folk, beneath and even alongside the priest and sacraments. The influence of the planets could explain anything otherwise unaccounted for."
Of course, in Legend, the flickering lights really are the work of goblins, the seizures are the work of demonic forces, and the fissures in the earth lead to underworlds dreamlike and nightmarish.
Must... run... game... now...
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
But hey, I've been picking up some pretty decent fantasy place names from lyrics lately. Thanks to my iPod, I've got:
- The Tower of Pride
- The Tower of Strength
- The Temple of Lies
- The Corridors of Desire
- The City of Nine Gates
- The Chasm Gaping
These all seem like they would fit on the Divine Right map pretty easily. Best of all, none of these come from the metal genre (that would be too easy) or songs having anything to do with fantasy themes.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
I was wondering where my copy of Barbarians of Lemuria ended up, so I checked Lulu's website out of curiosity. Lulu had my old shipping address stored, and I didn't notice. It was sent to the wrong house.
With the way USPS operates in my area, it's unlikely it will ever make its way back to me. So, that's... what, about $25 (including shipping) down the drain?
Monday, May 4, 2009
If nothing else, it looks like the game's artwork is pretty good, and might even be useful to me as inspiration for a quasi-Crusader "order against chaos" campaign idea that is forming in the back of my head, this time sparked by thoughts about B/X D&D alignments, my current reading of the classic Keep On the Borderlands module, the historical narrative A Distant Mirror, the D&D Rules Cyclopedia, and Scott's new setting, the Ordained Dominion of Vologes.
Friday, May 1, 2009
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
And all the while, Freed Lands lurks in the shadows, biding its time...
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Soon I was reacquainting myself with Bob Bledsaw's Wilderlands of High Fantasy setting, which, despite the name, is more of a S&S-flavored pulp fantasy mashup than "high fantasy" in tone. I am a proud owner of all of Necromancer Games' d20-based Wilderlands material. Though I don't plan on running D&D 3rd edition ever again, I will probably hang on to those books (and especially the Wilderlands boxed set) until I keel over.
Anyway, I was flipping through the Player's Guide to the Wilderlands the other day with an eye towards using it with a system other than 3rd edition, and I actually think it'd be easy to use 4th edition for it without eliminating any of 4e's core elements, since the Wilderlands setting is chock-full of weird D&Disms in the first place (having been designed for that game, after all).
The 4e classes, really, fit just fine. Sure, having a bunch of friendly spellcasters running around with the fighter-types isn't very S&S at all, but as I said, I think the Wilderlands are more about putting a Frazetta veneer over D&D than anything else. If you wanted to make things more true to the genre, you'd probably want to dump a few of the newer, crazier classes - like the swordmage or artificer - but if you can have a crashed Soviet MiG in the mountains, I guess you can have a guy who shoots acid out of his sword.
Even "non-traditional" 4e races like tieflings and dragonborn are a surprisingly easy fit. The existing Wilderlands history already includes references to "Orichalan dragon-lords". Dragonborn are easily recast as a former servitor race of the Orichalans, or maybe even as degenerate descendants of the dragon-lords themselves.
Likewise, the Wilderlands already include an entire region to the south controlled by infernal powers and a shadowy race called the "demonborn". Using the 4e stats for tieflings, you have an easy stand-in for the demonborn, who are pretty much overpowered as written in the Wilderlands Player's Guide anyway. Or you could just use tieflings as-is and tie their backstory in with the demonborn.
You would need to write up a new Amazon race for 4e, though. Making a race that doesn't use much armor is tricky in any system, but at least there's already the beastmaster ranger build, so it'd be easy to have the archetypal Frazetta spearwoman, complete with smilodon friend.
I have a feeling that adapting the Wilderlands gods would be as simple as reassigning the various Channel Divinity feats from the 4e deity to Thor or Armadad Bog or what have you. There are already plenty of them between the 4e PHB and the Forgotten Realms Player's Guide, with more coming in Divine Power.
It... could... work!
Monday, April 27, 2009
Friday, April 24, 2009
As a side note, I was telling my wife - who has never played a tabletop RPG - that I got more comments yesterday than for any previous post. She asked what it was about, so I told her. Her response:
"Wait, wasn't that a 1st edition book? So... you were talking shit about 1st edition? Even I know you don't talk shit about 1st edition!"
I still don't think I was "talking shit", but point taken.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
I think I hate it.
I've read Gygax before, but his writing style here is pedantic to the point of incomprehensibility. This is no Monster Manual - the artwork consists primarily of cartoons and Sutherland stuff, which is not to my taste. The DMing advice, as far as I can tell, is almost exclusively negative. The author tells you not to change the rules, not to allow monster player characters, not to alter the tone of the game... well, not to do lots of things. I didn't see much in the way of telling a DM what he or she should do, but plenty of reflexive "if you do this, you're playing my game wrong" admonishments.
What you do get are exhaustive sections on subjects as esoteric as casting spells underwater, footnotes telling you that a roll of "mastodon" on the Pleistocene marsh encounter table actually indicates a shovel-toothed relative of the mastodon, and charts telling you how much damage a wereboar takes if he changes into boar form while wearing plate mail. There's a certain insane appeal to the bewildering degree of attention paid to the pointless minutiae of situations that will probably never occur in the typical D&D game, but I'm afraid that for me, it's not enough. Except for the sections on generating wilderness environments, settlements, and dungeons, this thing is almost completely useless to me. Still, I know a lot of people love this book, and that's great. Maybe one of them will want to buy my copy.
(To be clear, I'm not taking a dump on AD&D 1st edition or Gary Gygax. I own plenty of AD&D stuff, much of it written by Gygax, and have enjoyed reading it. I just strongly dislike this particular book.)
In happier news, I like the fun, freewheeling attitude of the D&D Basic and Expert Rulebooks a lot. So, what I've learned is that if I'm going to go for "old school" D&D, I should probably stay away from AD&D and stick to Basic.
Okay... now that I have probably enraged or alienated most of my readers, I am going to prepare for the onslaught.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
- A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying, which is something of a dry read, but thus far seems to do a bang-up job of emulating George R. R. Martin's brutal, intrigue-ridden fantasy series. I am especially impressed with the game's focus on players sharing and running their own noble house. Shame about the errata, of which there are many.
- Career Compendium for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, 2nd Edition. I've only given this a quick glance-through, but it's definitely nice to have all the careers from all the books (plus a few new ones) together in one place. I do like the added notes on the different careers' places in the Old World. So far FFG seems to be doing a solid job with WFRP2.
- Talisman Revised 4th Edition and The Reaper Expansion, also from FFG. I played a lot of the previous edition of Talisman, and was lucky enough to give the new version a try this past weekend. I'm happy to report it's easily as good as the old game, with some interesting tweaks, and is physically a much sturdier, more polished product than it was in the past. I intend to pick up the next expansion, The Dungeon. (Anybody want to buy my 3rd edition stuff?)
- The Elven Crystals. This is another very good revision of old adventure material for Dragon Warriors, with clearer maps than Magnum Opus' previous adventure book, Sleeping Gods. The original adventure felt wackier and more high-magic than what the rules implied, but Adrian Bott did a great job of making it all feel a bit more logical and grounded.
- Arcane Power. I'm playing a wizard in D&D 4e and am looking foward to revamping him - I'm already leaning towards getting a tome implement and a familiar. (Do you care? No.)
- AD&D 1st Edition Player's Handbook and Dungeon Master's Guide. I have owned the former in the past and wasn't that taken with it, but it came in a bundle with the latter, which I'm told I must own, so let's see what it's like.
- D&D Basic Rulebook and Expert Rulebook. These are the Moldvay/Cook versions; another case of "let's see what the big deal is".
- Lords of Creation. Another Moldvay-penned RPG. I've owned this one before, but sold it when I was hard up for cash. I'm looking foward to reacquainting myself with it, especially since I could hardly figure out what the heck it was about the first time I owned the boxed set.
- Fantasy Wargaming: The Highest Level of All, an early-80s British fantasy RPG notorious for giving stats for Jehovah, Satan, Jesus, etc. It seems this was available from a book-of-the-month club at some point, which means used bookstores are overflowing with cheap copies. Still, it apparently does contain reference information about the medieval world and lots of folkloric monsters, and has been cited by more than a few as a useful resource for Dragon Warriors.
Good thing I just made some room on the bookshelves.
Friday, April 17, 2009
I don't really buy modules for D&D anymore, but this kind of paradigm shift in product diversification bodes well for the future of the hobby. Kudos to Goodman Games!
It's oddly heartwarming to see the skank-riffic art of Clyde Caldwell make its triumphant return to D&D.
Seriously, though, I appreciate Joseph Goodman's willingness to poke fun at his own products, and I like the attitude of Goodman Games a lot. Their Dungeon Denizens book for 4e has been getting a lot of use in our campaign, and I'm looking forward to flipping through their new print magazine, Level Up.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Dungeons & Dragons (Rules Cyclopedia version). I like the RC a lot, and obviously have been spending a good deal of time thinking about D&D lately. This particular version of D&D has plenty of compatible supplemental material. It's a familiar system that would be relatively easy to tweak. The problem with that idea is that players have certain expectations of what they're going to be getting when they play D&D, and I think my tweaks and play style might not be in line with those expectations. Also, I have a feeling most people wouldn't get why I picked "basic" D&D over AD&D, v3.5, or 4e.
Tunnels & Trolls (5.5 edition). I'm currently playing a character in Scott's play-by-post T&T game and having a good time with it. It's a neat game, but a little too cutesy for my default approach to fantasy, at least as written. I guess you could say it falls a little too far on the Otus side of the Erol Otus-Dave Trampier continuum for me. There's lots of support for T&T, though I'm not a huge fan of how it handles combat - I prefer a bit more granularity than just saying "add up the dice on each side, roll, and see who wins."
Dragon Warriors (Magnum Opus Press version). In case I hadn't already made it clear, I love this freakin' game. The rulebook is simple yet comprehensive like the Rules Cyclopedia, the setting is right up my alley, the published adventures are pretty cool, and there is a modest (but growing) amount of fan support available online. I've been wanting to run this game for years, but nobody I've shown it off to has seemed particularly interested, so I'm not sure how easy it would be to recruit players.
All right, so it seems like I've pretty much made up my mind to run Dragon Warriors. Now I just need to figure out the logistics of when/where/how/with whom I'll be running it.