Friday, December 31, 2010

An Untimely Demise

Bad news: it looks as though Magnum Opus Press has lost the rights to the Dragon Warriors roleplaying game. This has evidently been known for some time, but since I didn't see it reported on any blogs I follow, I didn't learn about it until recently. The exact details are vague, depending on who you ask, but the end result is that James Wallis is no longer involved - a result I find disappointing.

The final releases for Magnum Opus' Dragon Warriors line are a revised printing of the core rulebook (incorporating the errata to which I contributed after it was first released) and the scenario compilation In From the Cold, which should be of interest to any fans of the early days of White Dwarf magazine.

Perhaps most frustratingly, this development means that the upcoming "player's book" for Dragon Warriors, which was intended to introduce several new character careers (including the much-needed Robin Hood-esque Hunter) is apparently going to be scrapped. This is a major disappointment, especially considering that by all accounts, the book was near completion. (Jon Hodgson even showed off the book's cover artwork - which I've used as the image for this post - several months ago.)

Whatever their reasons for revoking the license, the game's owners have expressed their desire to see Dragon Warriors continue, so there may be some hope yet for what is one of my favorite old-school fantasy games.

Friday, November 19, 2010

This Is Relevant To My Interests

I should probably pick this module up soon, considering... well, you know.

I must apologize for the lack of updates recently. I had been concentrating all of my energies toward finding either gainful employment or admission to grad school.

Okay, job-and-college-hunting and playing in an excellent New York Red Box D&D campaign, which has been so satisfying that I've felt less motivation to post here. Good for me, bad for the blog. I'll work on that.

The good news is that I recently got a job at a local university, so I should be able to do things like purchase RPG books in the relatively near future.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Fifteen Games

There's a thingy going around where bloggers list the fifteen games that have meant the most to them, all in fifteen minutes. In my case, "meant the most" means "played a lot, or had a big impact". Since the goal is do this quickly, there are probably tons of games that belong on a "top 15" list that I've overlooked.

Anyway, here are mine, in no particular order:

1. Rifts
2. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons
3. Marvel Super Heroes
4. Earthdawn
5. Cyberpunk 2020
6. Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay
7. Street Fighter: The Storytelling Game
8. Dragon Warriors
9. The Palladium Role-Playing Game
10. Talisman
11. Final Fantasy Tactics
12. Final Fight
13. Wrestlemania 2000
14. Ultima: Exodus
15. Cadash

I play few of these games today. Practically all of them speak to my gaming heyday in the late 80s to mid-90s. A few are scorned, or regarded as guilty pleasures at best. I think that sums my tastes up pretty well.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Gaining Mastery

Is everybody sick of reading about spell mastery yet?

Too bad.

Here's the first draft of my spell mastery house rules. They're a bit clunky, and I'm open to suggestions on how they might be improved. Here goes:

Magic-users can achieve spell mastery. Any spell memorized by a magic-user can be replaced at will by a mastered spell of the same level or lower.

Magic-users who wish to master a spell must first find a mentor. Mentors are hidden mysterious beings - ancient, inhuman, possessed of alien intellects and appetites - that seek to advance their own goals, which most mortals find inscrutable. (None are of lawful or chaotic alignment.) Those that dwell in the material world are invariably found in inhospitable, near-inaccessible locales. Others must be entreatied in the otherworldly realms where they reside, be they nightmarish hells of impossible angles or gauzy opiate dreamlands. Though no two mentors are the same, they are universally temperamental and notoriously difficult to approach, each one first requiring a particular set of cryptic gestures, obscure passwords, outre offerings, etc. before any requests are entertained.

Furthermore, no mentor knows all of the spells in existence. (For example, Three-Headed Oul-Balam grants mastery in spells dealing with visual illusion and invisibility, while Glatth, Eater of Doves gives instruction in spells of travel, movement, and teleportation.) To research the means of finding a mentor capable of teaching mastery in a specific spell requires a significant investment of time and money.

The first time a magic-user attempts to find such a mentor, he must first invest 1500gp per spell level and one week per spell level desired, then roll under or equal to his Intelligence score on 4d6. Subsequent visits to a mentor who the magic-user has previously contacted cost 750gp per spell level, and the Intelligence check is made on 3d6. If the Intelligence check fails, the money and time are lost, and the magic-user must start again. If the Intelligence check is made, the magic-user has successfully contacted the mentor, and the chart below is consulted.

(The money and time represent mystical research of the proper etiquette, the purchase of the required offerings, and either an expedition to whatever inhospitable place the mentor inhabits, or the rituals - magical, drug-induced or otherwise - necessary to visit an otherworldly one. At the Labyrinth Lord's option, the costs in time and money may be waived if the magic-user and his PC companions agree to undertake an adventure in search of a hidden mentor.)

Spell Mastery Attempt Table (2d8) For a particular mentor, each roll below 12 provides a cumulative +1 modifier to future rolls on the table, until the result is 12 or higher. Once a result of 12 or higher is rolled, the modifier is reset.

2-3 What is the meaning of this? PC has offended the mentor somehow. Roll on the Spell Mastery Mishap Table below.

4-5 This should suffice. Mentor teaches PC a new spell of the Labyrinth Lord's choice. New spell is of the level in which mastery was desired, but is not mastered.

6-8 Is this what you seek? Mentor grants mastery in one spell currently known to the PC, but not the one the PC wanted (Labyrinth Lord's choice). If none of the PC's spells are those in which the mentor can teach mastery, see "This should suffice", above.

9-11 What have you done for me lately? Will grant mastery in exchange for a favor from the PC. Roll 1d6: (1-2) valuables (3-4) magic (5-6) mission. (The Labyrinth Lord should make the cost proportionate to the spell's power.) If the PC is unwilling or unable to pay the price, see "Get thee gone" on the Spell Mastery Mishap Table for consequences.

12-14 Very well; I shall show you the way. Mentor grants mastery in one spell of the PC's choosing.

15-16 You have long been a favorite of mine. Mentor grants mastery in two spells of the PC's choosing, and marks the PC physically in some fashion. (The Labyrinth Lord should devise a physical change that relates thematically to the mentor.)

Spell Mastery Mishap Table (2d6)

2 This I command. Mentor places a quest or geas spell on PC (no saving throw). Even if the mission is carried out successfully, mentor will not grant mastery.

3-5 The stars are wrong. Mentor refuses to grant PC audience. PC can try again in 1d8 weeks.

6-8 Get thee gone. Mentor ejects PC from premises and will provide no aid for 2d4 months.

9-11 Darken my door no more. Mentor casts PC out, will never be found by PC again.

12 I must despise you now. Mentor casts bestow curse on PC (no saving throw) and drives the character out, never to be found by PC again.

(These tables are based in part on Jeff Rients' "Suffer Fools Gladly" table in Fight On! #3.)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Paths To Mastery

(For those who don't feel like reading this entire post: Yes, I'm still brainstorming my house rules on magic and spell mastery. No, I haven't got anything concrete yet.)

In my previous post, I introduced a concept I call "spell mastery", which allows magic-users to spontaneously cast certain spells. The rule, lifted from 3rd edition D&D and modified, seems workable enough, though it hasn't yet been playtested. I'm still trying to figure out exactly what process characters will have to undertake in order to gain spell masteries, but I do have some ideas.

I thought about awarding a set number of masteries based on the character's experience level, but that feels a bit dull, not to mention that it would mean that literally all magic-users would have mastered at least a few spells. I want spell mastery to feel more impressive than that. (Still, I'll probably give starting characters a mastered spell or two, most likely based on their Intelligence score.)

I also dislike the idea of creating schools or domains of related spells from which a character would have to choose. I thought long and hard about it, and in the end I feel that imposing a classification system on D&D's already reliable and mechanistic way of handling magic is just making the whole thing feel even more like a science (or worse, a technology). I've got no problem with players choosing to master spells that are related thematically, but I'm not going to force them to - if somebody wants their character to master ventriloquism, anti-plant shell, and teleport, I'm not going to object.

So, I'm thinking about making characters seek out a mentor in order to master spells. These mentors wouldn't just be old wizards that charge for magic lessons, though. I'm picturing something more like Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser's mentors, Sheelba of the Eyeless Face and Ningauble of the Seven Eyes: mysterious and inhuman figures whose goals are often inscrutable. Or they could be like the "Spirits, Partly Evil and Partly Good" described in the old demonology tract, The Goetia, who impart specific knowlege and abilities to those who call upon them, but are inherently unruly and untrustworthy (and will often seek to harm an unprepared or arrogant student).

Seeking a mentor would not be a quick or easy task. I could handle such a thing as a full-blown adventure - "Quest for the Cave of the Hidden Master" or what have you - but then I risk making the magic-user and his acquisition of spell masteries the subject of the entire campaign, relegating the poor fighters, thieves, and the rest to the role of bodyguards and henchmen. (There's already an RPG for that: Ars Magica.) My current thinking is that the best way to handle it might be something like the carousing table, to be used in the downtime between adventures, in order to keep one character's spell-questing from distracting from the meat of the campaign. Some kind of formula that lets characters convert earned gold and invested time into a chance at spell mastery, with a nice random mishap chart, I think...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Thoughts On Mastery

Good news, everyone! I've just created a house rule that will outlaw clerics forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.

Well, sort of.

Not long ago, I discussed a number of fiddly ways to handle my proposed removal of the cleric class from Dungeons & Dragons (or Labyrinth Lord, if you prefer). You may recall that by the end of it, I was ready to give up and just let the cleric stay. After all, what right had I to just rip one of the original classes out of the game, with no respect for its legacy? It's not as though I'm a stranger to backpedaling, especially when it comes to tweaking the core assumptions of D&D.

I'm backpedaling on my prior backpedaling. I'm reverting to my original idea: putting all the cleric's spells (and maybe the druid's and illusionist's, too) in the magic-user's basket.

There were a number of objections to this idea, most of them centering around the cleric's iconic status, the setting implications of its removal, and other issues of flavor. Frankly, none of these really bothered me, which shouldn't be surprising considering what I'd proposed in the first place. I have a pretty solid idea of how religion, faith, and priesthood work in my setting. It's not that these things won't exist in it; it's just that none of them are inherently magical. In Cosk, the gods don't just hand out spells to their faithful, in other words. (You might have priests that use magic, but in game terms, I think you can guess what class they'd be in my setup.)

The comment that was most troubling to my initial "lump 'em all together and let the player sort 'em out" idea was this one, from my fellow New York Red Box player Naraoia:

"The only problem that I can see is that it puts too many hats on the poor M-U's head. Is he going to be the guy who casts fireball, or heal serious wounds? Especially at low levels, it's tough enough to pick spells. If the DM is evil enough, every M-U is going to have to take cure light wounds as their first spell. And memorize it every single day."

Spell memorization! That's the problem, of course. Clearly, the answer is to just dump it! Easy, right? Well, no. I'm trying to put together a campaign that's recognizably old-school D&D here, and I've already made up my mind not to chuck Vancian magic in the bin, no matter how badly I may want to at times. So, what to do?

My idea is this: Let magic-users have "spell mastery". Any memorized spell can automatically be replaced by a mastered spell of the same level or lower. Let's say your magic-user knows three spells: charm person, magic missile, and cure light wounds. He's mastered charm person. He heads into a dungeon with cure light wounds memorized, in case somebody gets badly hurt. As it turns out, his companions find some healing potions in the dungeon, so nobody really needs that memorized spell, but it would be useful if the magic-user could charm a goblin they captured in order to learn the location of some treasure. Remember, the magic-user has mastered charm person, so he can automatically trade that memorized cure light wounds spell for charm person and proceed to make a new best friend.

(Anybody who's played some version of 3rd edition D&D will recognize this as a warped version of the cleric's "spontaneous casting" ability. I happen like this mechanic a lot, and think it's worth stealing.)

Obviously, the next step is figuring out how magic-users get masteries. I could just hand out a certain number per level. I could make characters spend money for training, much like weapon mastery in the D&D Rules Cyclopedia, or use something like Jeff Rients' well-received carousing rules to determine whether a spell was successfully mastered. I've got a few ideas as to how this could work, but first, I'd like to see what repercussions my idea would have on the way the game is played. So, let me know what you think.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Answer

The Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Coloring Album, expertly colored by my older siblings, was the first D&D book I can remember looking through. Later I picked up the Monster Manual and Monster Manual II, purchased at a WH Smith bookshop in Edinburgh, and later still the AD&D 2nd edition Player's Handbook, but it's this cover image that pops into my head when I hear "Dungeons & Dragons".

Monday, September 13, 2010

More On Magic (or: Moron Magic)

My last post outlined my plan to merge the magic-user and cleric spell lists. Upon further reflection, and taking into account some of the excellent points raised in the comments, I'm pretty sure that I am going to head in a different direction, namely: to remove the cleric class and then create something else to stand its place.

I've had a few different ideas on how to accomplish this, many suggested by commenters on the previous post:

I could simply create a cleric variant that is closer to the magic-user in terms of its hand-to-hand combat effectiveness - weapons, hit points, and the like - but retains the same spells. The "flavor text" of the class would be changed from an armored servant of a god to a magician specializing in spells of protection and healing.

Another possible course of action goes like this: Eliminate the spellcasting classes as they currently stand. Lump all of the spells in the rulebook together and then reassign them to new spell lists, each with its own class. My guess is that there would be at least two, possibly three or four classes when all was said and done - maybe a "white mage", a "black mage", and a "witch" with illusion and nature powers? This solution is one I've considered before, but it's not without its own potential pitfalls. For one thing, I would have to figure out exactly what kind of spells the ranger and paladin classes receive at high levels. Also, I'm worried it might be overly complex. Something about the idea smacks of 3rd edition D&D to me. That's not the feel I'm going for.

More or less independent of these possible courses of action, I'm also thinking about creating a "universal" spell list - a dozen or so 1st-level spells that any magic-using class would be capable of adding to their spellbook and casting. I'd like to make it so that even an attack-oriented class like the "black mage" would be able to cast a simple healing spell, and that a "white mage" could likewise zap a foe if need be.

An even more radical idea would be to split up all of the spells into themed lists, like "fire spells", "detection spells" or "healing spells" and give spellcasters a choice of one or two lists (possibly with access to more as they increased in level). This is similar to the approach taken in Rolemaster. It's also reminiscent of the cleric's "spell domains" in D&D 3rd edition. This idea appeals to me on a mechanical level, because it would make D&D magic work a lot more like some systems that I've enjoyed in the past, but again, it'd add a lot of complexity and might be wrong for the old-school feel I'd like to evoke. It would also mean a lot of tinkering with the classes, and frankly, I don't know if I'm up for that. It'd take time and expertise that I'm not sure I have at my disposal. (The irony that it would mean I had basically turned the magic-user into a cleric, rather than the other way around as I had originally proposed, is not lost on me, either.)

I'm a little worried that these are all potentially game-breaking ideas, and I have to admit that I'm starting to wonder if I wouldn't be better off just leaving the classes as is...

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Guy What Uses Magic

I hit the same stumbling block every time I start making a setting for D&D. I map the place out, I come up with a basic idea of what the theme is, a vague idea of history, religion, culture, and all that good stuff. Then I start thinking about magic.

This probably won't endear me to the OSR community, but I kinda hate D&D magic.

All right, "hate" is a strong word, but I've played a lot of fantasy role-playing games, and I'm not exaggerating when I say I liked the magic systems in every single one of those games better than D&D's. This is the reason why practically every D&D setting that I think up gets moved to a different RPG when it really starts to take shape: the assumptions inherent in the D&D magic system rankle me. (My idiosyncratic Freed Lands setting, which will probably never see any actual play at a game table, was originally intended for Castles & Crusades. But now that it's taken the weird shape that it has, it would hypothetically use BRP or RuneQuest II.)

Anyway, I'm resisting that urge this time around. I'm not going to rip out the so-called "Vancian" spellcasting system for this one - frankly, it's just too much trouble, and I'm intentionally trying to make something that's recognizably D&D. Cosk is set up for a relatively traditional old-school adventuring model, so I want to keep the races and classes recognizable, for the most part. (No trisexual lizard people or egg-laying naked mole rat dwarves this time around.)

Still, even after I make my peace with Vancian magic, I still have beef with another weird idea D&D introduced. I'm talking about the cleric/magic-user split.

Accounts from people who played with Dave Arneson when D&D was in its nascency say the cleric wasn't one of the initial character types. The class was introduced when somebody wanted to make a character who could take down a vampire PC who had been causing a lot of trouble. Beyond the interesting fact that player vs. player infighting wasn't frowned upon, I'm intrigued by the idea of how the game worked before this Van Helsing character class was introduced. Was there magical healing at all? Resurrection spells? Turning the undead? Man, the undead must have been scary as hell without the cleric's turning ability.

At some fundamental level, I don't get the cleric. Apparently, sometime between its introduction at Arneson's table and the publishing of the original Dungeons & Dragons game, the class morphed from its Peter Cushing undead hunter roots into some weird, heavily armored, spellcasting healer-guy that can only use blunt weapons. I know the edged weapon prohibition was based on some historical individual whose name slips my mind, but D&D's cleric isn't exactly a strong fantasy archetype, at least at the time it was published. It's certainly become one thanks to the game's wide-ranging influence on the genre, but that's beside the point. (I can't help but wonder what would have happened if it was the vampire class and not the cleric that made it into the little brown books.)

I'll cut to the chase. The idea's pretty simple: I'm considering taking the cleric spells, giving them all to the magic-user, and dumping the cleric class entirely. (Since I'm using the Advanced Edition Companion for Labyrinth Lord, people who really, really want to make a crusading warrior-priest can make a paladin.) There's something appealing to taking the magic-user - the class that would later become known as the wizard - and giving him all of the magic, making its name more accurate in the process. The magic-user would be the character class that uses magic.

Given some of the truly crazy stuff the magic-user as written can already do, I can't imagine that letting them heal people is going to break the game, mechanically or thematically. I don't want to be rash, though. Despite years of playing D&D on and off, I'm far from an expert on the minutia of all those spells. I'll admit that I have no idea how this would actually work in play, but I'm sure I'm not the first to think of this. (In fact, I think James Maliszewski has discussed trying this very idea, but I'm not sure if he ever has, as I know he's not as big a fan of sweeping rules changes as I am.) So, if anybody out there has tried this, or something similar, how did it work out?

(And since I am using the Advanced Edition Companion, what do I do with the illusionist and druid spells? Give them to the magic-user too? And how would this affect the elf class? Hmm.)

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Isle of Cosk

Almost immediately after I finished drawing my campaign map, I hurriedly typed the following description:

Situated at the mouth of the RIVER WULE, the port town of GLYGON is where the bulk of the ISLE OF COSK’s importing and exporting is conducted. Ships from across the SEA OF UNTHICOR unload their wares here and bring raw lumber, spices, and other goods back to ERSIS and THAMSH, or take on supplies before continuing eastward. Increasingly, companies of chartermen (as well as free lances) are disgorged from these ships to seek their fortunes further downriver.

Among the canyons and foothills of the mighty SPIRES OF SLOINE yawns the gateway to the legendary STONEHELL dungeons, “liberated” over a century ago yet somehow still infested with all manner of monstrosities, many of them human. The often venal needs of its would-be plunderers are served by the mercantile inhabitants of FULCRUM, a shanty-town that sprung up seemingly overnight.

Farming homesteads dot the fertile expanse of the PLAINS OF HEALOTH to the south, the largest of which is the village of WATTEM, situated at the edge of LAKE RUMIC. Their bountiful crops are carted north to Glygon, and south to CRADOUN for shipment to GHOOR-AMPAVA, THRONE CITY OF THE ICONESS. From here, many who find their dreams of riches thwarted by the terrors of Stonehell hire themselves out to the elves of the Spires, becoming the latest soldiers to serve the feuding clans and the multi-generational grudges they call the Mountain Wars.

Little of the precipitation that sustains these settlements reaches past the Spires, and much of it trickles back westward, filling the rivers and creating vast expanses of boggy earth. The sweltering heat of the MAGGELE SLOUGH is unpleasant enough, but further south, the RIVER STRELB has its start in the foul swamp known as THE CYSTLANDS, a veritable breeding ground of abominations. The neighboring FOREST OF MOTOMB is hardly more welcoming, overrun as it is with sinister creatures. The crusading zealots of Ghoor-Ampava have their work cut out for them here.

Yet the settlement of NEW FIESSEL sits at the edge of LICRETTO BAY, only a few days’ travel from the heart of Motomb. Their proximity to that dread forest (and to the mysterious, fey-haunted SHANDAWOOD) leaves these devout souls, driven out from the increasingly debauched cities of Thamsh, left practically cut off from the outside world, a situation that seems to suit the townsfolk well.

Across the Spires of Sloine lie the arid, rocky WASTES OF SPHAURG, unexplored - except, legend says, by the unspeakable cultists who constructed the TOWER OF PRIDE at the salty shores of LAKE DYFOI in ages past. None know the name of the being (god? demon?) summoned here, but the stories say it is trapped within, and maddened by the passing centuries. The GAUTVAS REACH and the strange island fortress dubbed the BASTION OF BLYCH remain likewise ancient and largely unknown, except to the pirates that harbor along its rocky coast and cavernous islands. The people of the nearest settlement, PHAWN, rarely travel south, content to fish the RIVER AFTRYDE.

To the north, where the SHAILOR MOUNTAINS branch off from the Spires, sits the abandoned dwarven outpost men call BLEDSPAR’S FOLLY, believed wiped out by plague. The dwarves that survived travelled east, building a nigh-unassailable fortress at SKOSTALM TOR and virtually sealing themselves within. The SCIDIAN PENINSULA, to the far northeast, does receive some small amount of rainfall, and the cutthroat town of PORT CANCIARE serves as eastbound ships’ last port of call before crossing the OMMULTIC OCEAN to the far-flung lands of QUING and QAYEDESSA.

(Looking back on it now, it's a bit of a mess. It's certainly not very evocative, but I was mostly trying to write down my concepts before I forgot them. Many of the details will undoubtedly be changed as I continue to develop the setting, but I feel I'm off to a decent start.)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Strong On His Mountain

I'm back, I'm in New York, and I'm unemployed.

With any luck, this will be a temporary situation. As uncertain and unsettling being jobless can be, it's not without its perks. It allows me plenty of time to become accustomed to my new home. I've also had the opportunity to find myself an excellent new gaming group.

Even better, my creative batteries are recharging. This afternoon I found myself sitting down with my copies of Labyrinth Lord, Renegade Crowns, and Stonehell Dungeon, some percentile dice, and a pad of graph paper, with the intention of sketching out the environs surrounding the dungeon. Before I knew it, four hours had flown by and I had a fully-mapped island drawn up: rivers, mountains, towns, dungeons. I don't think I've done that since I was thirteen or so. It's a quite a feeling to look over a map and know what's lurking on every square of that paper.

Bledspar's Folly.
The Shandawood.
Ghoor-Ampava, Throne City of the Iconess.
Skostalm Tor.
The Cystlands.
Licretto Bay.
Port Canciare.
The Wastes of Sphaurg.

Feels good.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Dearth and Paucity

As followers of Dungeonskull Mountain have no doubt noticed, there has been a distinct lack of content on the blog in recent months. There are a few reasons behind this (in addition to general sloth, which is an ever-present factor):
  • My face-to-face tabletop gaming group hasn't met in quite some time.
  • I'm feeling burned out on my play-by-post Dragon Warriors campaign, and put it on indefinite hold.
  • I'm preparing to move to New York City at the end of this month.

So, there you have it. The good news is that after such a long break, I'm really starting to feel the RPG itch again, so I should be ready to post more regularly once things calm down a little. I am hopeful that I'll be able to find a good group in New York. I might even be able to find a decent old-school game. I would really like to get some Labyrinth Lord in...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

We've Got Crab Legs

A deadly and treacherous creature, no doubt. Clearly, the chefs at this restaurant are not to be messed with.

Monday, May 10, 2010

To Valhalla

I would tell you to rest in peace, Frank, but something tells me you'd prefer to kick some ass.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Help Me Out Here

Tell me that I what I think is happening here isn't really happening:

Because it sure as hell looks like an elf is about to shoot a terrier point-blank in the face with an arrow. "Drop the hammer or the dog gets it!"

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Farewell To a 4end

Running Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay for the past few months made me realize something: I don't like Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition.

Actually, that's not exactly right. I had some fun with 4E and I won't say I never will again. But it doesn't do the kind of fantasy game that really appeals to me. As I've said before, 4E is a game of high-powered, ass-kicking heroes that carry so many magic items their teeth glow. That's fun - for a while, at least - but it quickly gets old for me. I like my fantasy games to be a bit grittier, and by "a bit", I mean a lot.

I spent nearly a year playing 4E, and most of that time was eaten up by running fights. I know there are people out there who swear 4E combat runs faster than any other edition, but that certainly wasn't the case for us. Fights took hours. They always felt fun at first, but I got bored with them in short order, whether I was running them or participating as a player. In fact, when I think about memorable fights I've played in the past couple of years, only one of them happened in 4E, and it was one where the DM was handwaving a lot of things. The fights that stick out in my memory happened in games like WFRP and Rolemaster (which suggests I really need to play more games that have detailed crit charts, but that's a subject for another time).

There are a lot of things to like about 4E. I like the way they evened the playing field between magic-using and fighting classes. I like the way they simplified skills. I like the concept of the Feywild. I like the idea of ritual magic (though in play, we practically never used them). There are a lot of changes that 4E made that I thought were good ones. But when the system is built entirely around combat, and I find combat boring, that's a problem.

(Plus, a lot of the artwork is terrible. It's actually a step back from the previous edition's artwork, which is just weird. I mean, look at the pic I posted up top. I know art's not everything, but dammit, it is important to me. I need visual aids to help me imagine the action, and when those aids look like half-assed comic art from the 90s, well... that's not good.)

Anyway, the point is this: I sold my "non-core" D&D 4E books not long after we stopped playing last year. Today I sold the rest of them.

But hey, the good news is that RuneQuest II is pretty damned good.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Street Fight

I ran Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay tonight, largely by the seat of my pants, and it went pretty well. We're nearing the final stretch of Terror In Talabheim scenario. I'm deviating massively from the adventure as written at this point and loving it.

Really, though, I just wanted to show off the awesome homemade street scenery we were able to use for the big fight against Clan Skryre's elite Stormvermin troops (along with a Warpfire Thrower team), thanks to the artistic efforts of one Kent Bonifield. Too bad Rick's character lost a leg, but hey, it's not a WFRP adventure until somebody gets horribly maimed. Right?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Once More Into the Breach

I'm recruiting for my forum-based Dragon Warriors play-by-post game once again!

Since I started the campaign some time last year, we've had a few player dropouts. At the moment, the game is on hiatus. I've only got three active players, with one potential recruit looking over the rules. I'd like to pick up one or two more and get the ball rolling again.

I'm looking for people who fit the following criteria:

  • Like the Dragon Warriors game and have access to the rules (either the original Corgi digest paperbacks or the new Magnum Opus version - the changes are minimal).

  • Don't mind playing through (tweaked) published scenarios, many of them at least partly dungeon-based.

  • Are able to post to the forum at least a few times per week.

So, if that's you, and you think you'd like to give it a try, leave a comment to this post. Thanks.

[UPDATE: I've got enough players for now. Thanks, everybody!]

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Changer of the Ways

This blog has always been somewhat stream-of-consciousness in nature. It's largely become a receptacle of little ideas that never really get used much in my own gaming time. I constantly spout half-baked campaign concepts or fiddle around with books I've acquired, but I haven't talked much about what I'm actually playing right now. So here goes.

First off, after a long love affair with the game, I've finally somehow managed to get my group to give Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay a shot. I'm using the 2nd edition of the game, since I own literally everything that was published for it. There are a couple of people in my weekly group who I think were a bit skeptical about my insistence on random character generation, but we're now two sessions into the Terror In Talabheim adventure scenario, and the players seem to be having a good time rooting out a Skaven plot to poison the inhabitants of the nigh-impregnable fortress that is the Taalbaston. As much as I talk about wanting to run this campaign or that, I often find myself freaked out and frustrated once I'm actually behind the screen, but happily, I've avoided any such crises of confidence thus far. Maybe my love for WFRP overcomes the usual jitters, or maybe it's because the current plan is to run just this one scenario, relieving some of the pressure?

Then we've got my online forum-based Dragon Warriors campaign. I recently discussed some of the difficulties I've run into, both with the play-by-post format and with a rather poor choice of adventures I had made. We've finally slogged our way through The King Under the Forest, but the nature of the adventure combined with the fact that the characters started it just as the holidays were upon us has pretty much killed the campaign's momentum... and a good deal of my enthusiasm along with it. At the moment, I've put the game on hiatus until I'm finished with WFRP. When I start it back up, I will need to recruit more players (since one of my regulars dropped out), so if you're interested in playing a Dragon Warriors play-by-post campaign, keep an eye on this blog.

Lastly, I continue to participate in my good friend Bret's forum-based OSRIC campaign, set in his homebrewed (and wonderfully detailed) "Realms of Lakoria" sandbox setting. The AD&D rules have been a lot of fun to work with, and I have been having a great time playing a grumpy ranger character in that ruleset. For whatever reason, OSRIC really seems to get people into a fun, not-too-serious, old-school mode of play that's much different from the style I'm used to. It took a little while to get used to, and I sometimes think our party has been going about things in a more gonzo way than our DM anticipated, but it really is a blast.

And as a last random note, I just got a bunch of Creature Crucible D&D supplements in the mail yesterday. I picked them up on eBay with the inkling of ripping them off for use with Labyrinth Lord. We'll see how that works out.

So, yeah, a happy gaming time for me. Hope yours has been good as well!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Gloomspear's Saga: Part Five

In Central Casting: Heroes of Legend, the twists and turns of a character's life have an effect on their personality, represented by Lightside, Darkside, and Neutral traits. Considering all the crap Gloomspear's been through, you'd expect him to have a pretty negative take on life, but apparently not: the winding road to adulthood has left him with four Lightside, one Neutral, and two random personality traits.

Lightside traits first, then. I turn to table 647: Lightside Traits and roll 2d20 four times, resulting in scores of 13, 14, 32, and 10. This means Gloomspear is Pious (which the author defines not-too-subtly as "reverently devoted to worship of God"), Honest ("always gives what is due"), Benign ("gentle, inoffensive"), and Trusting ("trusts others to behave correctly"). So Gloomspear's a big pussycat, considering everything he's been through. Too bad about that berzerker rage.

Gloomspear's Neutral trait, rolled on table 318B: Neutral Traits, is Grim - "unsmiling, humorless, stern of purpose" - a roll of 28 on 2d20. Well, that's more like it. Even though Gloomspear is strong of conviction and generally morally upright, he's not cheerful about it. That makes the Lightside rolls easier to swallow.

Last, I need to make a roll on table 318A: Personality Trait Check to see what to do with his random traits. My first percentile roll of 99 indicates that I need to roll up an Exotic Personality Feature on table 649. First, I need to figure out what type of exotic trait he has by rolling a d20... and I roll a 20, so "Several Features manifest themselves. Roll 1d3+1 times on this table." All righty, I get a 4, so that's 3 more rolls: 18 (Sexual Disorder), 11 (Behavior Tag), and 10 (Allergy). All right, Gloomspear's getting weird...

Deep breath. A quick glance at table 649F: Sexual Disorder shows me that it's definitely the product of somebody who's not particularly open minded: transsexualism, bisexuality, and homosexuality are all listed as disorders, and it's explained in a sidebar that "All Sexual Disorders are considered to be Darkside personality traits by most societies, fantastic or otherwise." Nice editorializing there, Jaquays. I guess the description of the Pious trait should have tipped me off. But we've come this far, so let's see what happens, shall we? I roll 2d8 and get "Too Prude: Convinced that sex is bad in any form. Despises all who lower themselves to it, including self." Well, that could sort of make sense, considering that Gloomspear's cursed to cause the death of anyone he loves, and who knows what happened to him (or what he witnessed) when he was enslaved or imprisoned as a child? I'm now directed to roll a d8 to see if his prudishness is an attempt to hide his own sexual disorder, and thankfully, it isn't.

That gave me the heebie-jeebies a little.

I still need to roll Gloomspear's Behavior Tag and Allergy. I roll a d20 for Behavior Tag and get a 4: "Distinctive Possession". I'm to select an object "for which the character is well known and which he may not wish to be parted from". I'd say it'd make a lot of sense if this was his cursed spear. It's given him his moniker, and he actually can't get rid of it - not that he'd wish his curse on anyone else. The Allergy is pretty unremarkable, as my roll of 5 indicates an "unusual food type", with a 1 for its strength, meaning it's a mild allergy. So, Gloomspear has a mild allergy to... let's say frog meat. Underwhelming, as I said, but they can't all be telepathic tamarins and wondrous wizards, right?

One last random trait to go. I roll an 86 on d100, meaning it's a Darkside Trait. (Hopefully it's not something really monstrous, like being gay or having premarital sex.) I roll 23 on 2d20, meaning Gloomspear is Angry: "spirit always unsettled, never at peace". That directly contradicts my earlier roll of Benign, but hey, that's how the cookie crumbles. I'll take Angry over Benign, anyway - it just makes more sense for this character.

You're instructed to total up your Lightside, Neutral, and Darkside traits, and assign the character an alignment according to whatever you've got the most of. In this case, Gloomspear would come out as a Lightside (i.e., "good" or "lawful") character, but I've already written in Neutral on my character sheet. Next time I'll make the character after using Central Casting, as I think that would make more sense.

That's it for Gloomspear! Overall, I'm impressed with how this worked out, despite the prejudices of the author and a few rolls that were contradictory or not to my taste. The subtitle of the book, Heroes of Legend, turned out to be very appropriate to the results I got. Gloomspear feels like a big, high-fantasy tragic hero, maybe a bit more AD&D 2nd Edition than Labyrinth Lord, but still pretty damned cool.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Gloomspear's Saga: Part Four

Having escaped from slavers and befriending a dwarf and a wizard, Gloomspear is ready for adulthood (or so we hope). Table 217: Significant Events of Adulthood works a lot like the Childhood & Adolescence chart, right down to the number of events: 1d3. I get a 4 on my roll, so Gloomspear has two events. This time, I roll 2d20 plus his SolMod. My results are 15 and... 15! This means that I need to roll on table 544: Exotic Events twice. Gloomspear will also have to roll up two more Lightside Traits later.

My first Exotic Events roll is a 16: "The character and another player character become acquainted with each other." Cool - this reminds me of the random cooperative character generation that Mongoose's new versions of Traveller and RuneQuest use. I roll a d10 to see exactly how they're acquainted. I get a 9: "One saves the other's life." A roll of a 5 on d6 indicates it was Gloomspear who saved the other PC's life. I like this. Adult events work a bit differently than Childhood & Adolescent ones in that you pick at what age they happened. Let's say this one happened when he was 20 years old.

I roll a 12 for Gloomspear's second Exotic Event, a long and detailed entry which explains that Gloomspear discovered "a waterlogged old chest" with "an apparently drowned animal" inside, that then awakened and became his pet. Well, that's definitely exotic. So, I have a roll on table 759: Unusual Pets up next. A roll of 7 on d20 indicates that it's a monkey, and another roll on table 760: Special Pet Abilities tells me that it's "Telepathic - Can communicate by mental speech." 19 seems like a good age to find a half-drowned psychic monkey, right?

I notice at this point that I was supposed to roll "Noteworthy Items" for Gloomspear's friends, the dwarf and the wizard, by using table 114: Parents & NPCs. Obviously, you wouldn't want to roll up a detailed history for everybody Gloomspear's ever met, so instead, each of his friends will get d3 rolls on the table. The dwarf gets one roll, and the wizard gets two.

To make a long story short, the dwarf (a male) is "persecuted or villainized" for "being involved in illegal activities", namely "organized guild thievery". Gloomspear befriended a notorious dwarven thief when he was a slave. The poor guy was probably in the clink with Gloomspear when the prisoners' amnesty was declared, and ended up enslaved alongside him.

Gloomspear's wizard friend (a woman) is forever telling "tales of a legendary treasure" and has vague hints as to its location. Interestingly, she is also believed to be the destined mate of "some unheard-of god from another land". The wizardess disagrees, but is still harassed and annoyed by this god's followers. Well, whatever else you might think, you can't say this book doesn't provide some colorful results.

Next, I'll finish up Gloomspear, roll up his personality traits and post some final thoughts about Central Casting: Heroes of Legend.

Gloomspear's Saga: Part Three

When last we left our unfortunate hero, he had been released from prison at the tender age of 12, only to be enslaved by a conquering force that reduced his home city to ashes.

Table 539: Enslaved! is one of the more complex entries in Heroes of Legend. First of all, you have to generate your character's owner. So, let's see who bought poor Gloomspear. I roll a d6 to determine gender (getting a 6): a female owner. Next, I roll a d10 to see if this woman is from a different Culture, and get a 3, meaning she's also from a Civilized-Decadent background. Then I have to generate her Social Status by rolling a d20 and adding 83, then checking table 103: Social Status. I get a total of 96, meaning she's Wealthy, but not Nobility. Finally, I need to determine her Occupation on table 423D: Upper Class Occupations. I roll a 7, indicating that she's a Merchant, and then have to roll on table 425: Merchants to see what sort of business she's in. I roll a 16. She's a Slaver.

Okay, so young Gloomspear is enslaved and sold to a slaveress. Next, I'm told to roll a d6 to determine the duration of enslavement. I roll a 4, meaning Gloomspear serves this woman from age 12 to age 16. This also means that some Adolescent Events, which I still haven't gotten to quite yet, might happen to Gloomspear while he's a slave. I also roll a d3 to determine how many "Enslaved! Events" I need to roll up, and get a 6! (Jeez, Zocchi, are you sure these dice are "more random" than the competitors'?) 3 events on the chart, d20 roll for each: 17, 13, 5.

17 means "Character is branded." On a 5 or a 6 on d6, the brand is large and unmistakably a slave brand. I roll a 5. Great. Gloomspear is now literally, rather than just figuratively, scarred for life. Now I have to go to Table 867: Body Locations to see where his mistress had him branded. I roll another 17 on d20, indicating the brand is located on his left hand. I could roll to see when this happened, but it just makes sense to me that he'd be branded as soon as he was bought, so that's age 12 again.

My roll of 13 indicates that Gloomspear was "promoted to a position of authority", and determine that this happened in his third year of slavery by rolling a d4. Gloomspear evidently served his mistress well, and was rewarded with a better position at age 15. Creepy.

"Owner dies" on my roll of 5, and I'm going to assume this happens in Gloomspear's final year of enslavement (age 16). I'm to roll a d6 to determine the consquences, and get a 3: "The owner's last request is that all of his or her possessions be interred in his or her grave. The character escapes." I'm then directed to roll a d8 for the fallout of the escape, getting a 2: "1d6 slaves accompanied the character." Upon learning their mistress' morbid last will, 5 slaves escaped with Gloomspear - possibly ones for which he was in charge.

On to Significant Events of Adolescence! I roll a 4 on d3, meaning Gloomspear gets two rolls on this table. My first roll of 12 indicates that Gloomspear gains a friend, generated on table 750: Others. I also add a Lightside Trait to be rolled later. Finally, Gloomspear gets a break. I roll a 19, indicating "A Nonhuman", determined on table 751: Nonhumans. I roll a 7, which means he befriended a dwarf. 12+1d6 to see at what age he made this friend gives me a 15, so Gloomspear met his buddy when he was still a slave. Presumably, this dwarf was a slave, too, and was probably one of the five that escaped with Gloomspear the following year.

My second roll is also a 12: Gloomspear gains another friend! Certainly beats being cursed or enslaved, right? Another Lightside trait to be rolled later, then. This time Gloomspear befriended somebody at age 18 (the end of his adolescence). I roll a 4 on table 750: Others... it's a "wielder of magic". What kind of spellcaster? I roll a d4, getting a result of 1: "A wondrous wizard." Things started off sword & sorcery for Gloomspear, but his life is getting pretty high-fantasy lately! Heck, he's basically got an adventuring party already.

Next, we'll see what happens when Gloomspear the boy becomes a man...

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Gloomspear's Saga: Part Two

Picking up where I left off, it's time for me to roll up Gloomspear's childhood. We already know he spent a good chunk of it on the streets, even spending a couple of years in prison. Nevertheless, table 215: Significant Events of Childhood & Adolescence ("where the action begins," according to the author) instructs me to roll a d3 for the number of events in childhood. I roll a 5, so I've got to roll up three events. For each event, I roll a d20 and add Gloomspear's SolMod of -3, since he's Destitute. My final results are 4, 8, and 2.

My roll of 4 means that Gloomspear learned an unusual skill, generated on table 876: Unusual Skills. I roll a 2 on d20: "Professional gambling." Well, that certainly makes sense, considering his background. My roll of 4 on the Significant Events chart is also annotated with an [N], which apparently means I will later need to make a check for a Neutral Personality Trait later on. Fair enough. Finally, I'm told to roll a d12 to determine at what age this event happened, and get an 11. This means Gloomspear learned to gamble while he was in jail. Works for me!

That roll of 8 indicates that Gloomspear had a religious experience, also at the age of 10 (while he was in jail, learning to gamble, natch). This gives me a check for a random Personality Trait later, and I'm directed to table 541: Religious Experience. I roll a 16, which means that Gloomspear "uncovers the activities of an evil cult" while in prison. I roll a d6 to see what that means, and get a 6: "Others shun character because of this, possibly out of fear of the evil cult." So, I'm thinking Gloomspear found out about some kind of nasty secret society among the inmates, and his fellow prisoners preferred not to know about it. Interesting.

My third roll for childhood events was a 2: "A Tragedy Occurs." This entry has an [R] after it, which means I'll have to check for a random Trait later. I'm directed to table 528: Tragedies, and roll a d20, plus Gloomspear's SolMod, resulting in a 17: "War ravages the character's homeland." This happens when Gloomspear is 12 (almost out of prison), and I have to roll a d6 to see exactly how tragic this is. I get a 5, which means Gloomspear suffers 1d3 additional Tragedies. Man, this kid could not catch a break! I roll a 4, so I get two more Tragedies. Here we go again, d20 + SolMod: 5, 11. 5 means the "town where the character lives is wiped out". Normally, if the character lives in a city, only the neighborhood where he lives is destroyed, but on a roll of 6 on d6, the entire city is razed. I, of course, roll a 6. So, I guess that amnesty was declared because the city was doomed anyway. That roll of 11 indicates that Gloomspear was sold into slavery! So, the kid gets thrown into jail, and then when the war starts to go badly, amnesty for all prisoners is declared just in time for the conquerors to slap the chains back on him.

Next up, we'll see what table 539: Enslaved! holds for Gloomspear...

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Gloomspear's Saga: Part One

Previously, I introduced you to my fighter, Gloomspear. Now it's time to see where he's coming from. I've unbagged my battered copy of Central Casting: Heroes of Legend and broken out some Gamescience dice for maximum randomness. Let's get to work.

I can skip the first table, 101: Character Race, because I already know my character is human. Kind of a shame, really, because the chart has a couple of interesting possibilities (like Beastman or Reptileman) alongside the usual Elf, Dwarf, and Halfling. Ah well.

Next is 102: Cultural Background. I roll and get a result of 10 on a d10 - Gloomspear is from a "Civilized-Decadent" culture, and is native to the Urban environment. "Fictional examples of decadent Culture include: Robert E. Howard's Stygians, Michael Moorcock's Melniboneans, Fritz Leiber's Lankhmarites and Raymond Feist's Tsuranuanni of Kelewan." Never read any Feist myself, but nice! Gloomspear's a city boy. This gives me a Culture Modifier Number (or CuMod) of 7, which "will be used later to modify other die rolls". Right on. Gloomspear would also get a -10% chance of going insane, and some urban survival skills if he were being created for a game that used such things. Since Labyrinth Lord doesn't have systems for skills or insanity, I can ignore these modifiers, but can keep them in mind for roleplaying purposes.

I roll a 32 on d100 for table 103: Social Status. Even with my CuMod of 7, this nets me a result of Poor. I have a -1 Social Level Modifier (SolMod), but my survival skills increase, and I'd get a chance to get Dagger and/or Brawling skills, if applicable to the system. So, Gloomspear's from the mean streets of a decadent city. All well and good.

104: Birth Legitimacy is up next. Rolling a d20 and adding my CuMod of 7, I get a total of 15. Your character is illegitimate only on a modified roll of 19 or higher, so he's legit. Gloomspear has no LegitMod.

Since Gloomspear is of legitimate birth, I skip to table 106: The Family. It's d20 + CuMod again, and get a total of 24. "None known - left to fend for self. Change Social Status to Destitute." All right, so he was of legitimate birth, but spent his childhood as a homeless street urchin. Going back to the description of Destitute, he automatically gets Dagger and Brawling skills, and (being from a Decadent culture) has a 60% chance of having Underworld Experience. I roll a 40, so yep, I'm going to be rolling on that table next. I'm assuming my SolMod would also change to -3, the default for Destitute Social Status, though it's not explicitly stated as such.

So, since Gloomspear has been caught up in the world of crime, I'm directed to section 534: Underworld Experience. 534A: The Wrong Path will tell me what led Gloomspear to this lowly state. A simple roll of the d10 gives a result of 9: "The character is forced into a life of crime by criminals who threaten his loved ones." Well, Gloomspear never knew his family, but apparently somebody must have been taking care of him for his early childhood. This is a little weird, but workable.

Next is 534B: Type of Crimes. A 1 on d6 gives me "Petty theft. The character and several pals steal things they want or need. They act in violation of any organized thieves guild." I'm envisioning a sort of Oliver Twist situation.

Finally, I'm to roll on table 534C: Underworld Events d3 times. I get a 6 (three events!) and then roll 14, 18, and 8 on a d20. 14 is "The character discovers that several items taken in a recent heist are 'cursed'. No fence will take them and even the owner is making no attempts to recover his property. It seems impossible to dispose of these items or even lose them. Select 1d3 items on Table 863: Gifts & Legacies, then determine the alleged curse on the owner of the items on Table 868: Curses." Damn. Well, I'll get to that in a minute. 18 means "The character's thieving skills improve by one Rank." Gloomspear's a fighter, not a thief, dammit, and this indicates to me that if you're not using a skill-based system, it's probably best to pick your class after using this book. (Maybe I'll use the Advanced Edition Companion rules to multiclass him as a fighter/thief.) Anyway, my last roll of 8 indicates that "The character is imprisoned for a crime. Select the crime on Table 875: Crimes, then determine the length of imprisonment. After being freed, the character goes straight, but maintains his underworld contacts." Wow. All right, so I've got a lot of rolling to do.

863: Gifts and Legacies is going to tell me what cursed things Gloomspear stole. I roll a 4 on d3 (2 items) and so roll a d20 twice: 18 and 20. 18 is "A sealed trunk. There is a 60% chance that it contains 1d3+1 additional items from this table." 17. Yep, it contains (roll of 6 on d3) four freakin' additional items. All right, fine: 15 ("A musical instrument"), 5 ("A tapestry"), 10 ("A sealed bottle, determine contents") and 20 ("Roll again. The resulting item defnitely has both magic properties and some great significance to the character's destiny and the over-all scheme of things"). Jeez! So I'm rolling for two magic items, one that was in the chest, and one that was separate. Okay, I get a 12 ("A bound wooden staff", whatever that means) and an 8 ("A locked or sealed book"). Let's say the book was in the chest. Clearly, Gloomspear robbed a wizard, and nobody is willing to touch his ill-gotten (and reputedly cursed) magical wares.

And what exactly is that curse? A roll of 16 means "Character is subject to fits of berzerker rage" and gives pretty detailed rules on exactly what that means in combat (it's pretty similar to the barbarian class' "rage" ability from 3rd edition D&D). I'm told to roll a d10 (getting an 8), which is the "strength of the affliction", meaning that if I roll under that number on d100 when combat begins, Gloomspear flips out Wolverine-style. I also have to make this check any time he's wounded, a companion is wounded or killed, or if Gloomspear or a companion is insulted during combat. Yikes.

I still have to roll up Gloomspear's time inside, starting with table 875: Crimes. We already know he's been involved in petty theft and robbery, but let's see what landed him in jail. A result of 6 on d20 means it was "Offending an influential person." This means he's imprisoned for d10 years. I roll 9. Nine years in the clink.

Time to head to table 540: Imprisoned! I'm a little unclear as to exactly when this happened in Gloomspear's life, though. Normally, you only start rolling for this sort of thing when you're generating the character's Childhood and Adolescent Events, but I was directed into this whole Underworld Events sequence before I even got that far. I'm going to go ahead and say Gloomspear is imprisoned in childhood, and am directed to roll a d12 to figure out how old he was when this happened. It turns out that he was locked up at age 10. Damn. I get d3 rolls on the Prison Events table, and roll a 6 again. Three events rolled on d10. My first roll is a 2: "The ruler of the land declares a general amnesty. The character is freed after serving only 1d10 X 10% of his sentence (do not make any more rolls on this table)." I roll a 3, and Gloomspear lucks out, only serving 30% (roughly three years) of his sentence. He is released before the age of 13 by a kindly decree from the local despot, and so is spared some of the cruelties of prison life.

Whew. So, after stealing some cursed items from a sorcerer, then being sentenced to jail for insulting his betters, Gloomspear's been scared straight. Where was I again? Oh, right, I was rolling up his family, and it turned out that he didn't have one. The next applicable table is 109: Time of Birth, but the reader is directed to make his own table if he deems it relevant. I don't.

Table 110: Place of Birth is next. I roll a 14, which indicates Gloomspear was born "In a cave" and gives him a Birth Modifier (or BiMod) of 5. Interesting, considering he's a city boy. I'll have to come up with a reason for that. The next table is 112: Unusual Births. I'd say being born in a cave is already interesting enough, but let's see what happens. A d100 roll of 77 plus Gloomspear's BiMod of 5 yields two Unusual Occurances, to be generated on the next table, 113: Unusual Birth Circumstances. I get d100 rolls of 32 and 74. The first indicates that "Water froze or boiled by itself" and the second that he was "Born with a curse (go to Table 868: Curses)." Foiled again.

So, back the Curses chart for Gloomspear. I roll a 3 on d20 this time, meaning that the poor guy "will be responsible for the untimely death of his lovers. When an event indicates a love affair, go to Table 545: Death Situations to determine the cause of death." Maybe this is an allusion to the destiny-affecting magic "bound wooden staff" he later stole? Could this curse at birth be tied to the berzerker rage curse he later acquires from robbing the wizard? Is he doomed to kill the people he loves? Hey, maybe the cursed staff's actually a spear? (No wonder they call him Gloomspear!) I'm getting a real "tragic hero" vibe from this guy now; too bad I gave him that goofy smirk on his character sheet.

Next is table 114: Parents & NPCs. Remember, Gloomspear never knew his parents. However, we know that somebody he loved was being threatened to force him into a life of crime during his childhood. So let's say that somebody found this cursed, abandoned child in a cave, then brought him to the Decadent City and raised him there, until he ended up on the streets. I get a roll of 9 on d20 for table 114A: Occupation, which means this kind soul had one occupation. Another roll on 423: Civilized Occupations (which has the inexplicable Ayatollah Khomeini illustration I referred to in my previous post) indicates he or she had a Middle Class Occupation, to be rolled on table 423C. A roll of 13 on d20 means that Gloomspear's caregiver was "An overseer". Another roll on 423A to determine what type of workers he oversaw directs to yet another table (422A, Barbarian Occupations). I roll an 18, indicating that they were Craftsmen. Yet another roll, this time on 424A Craft Table I, will tell me what type of Craftsmen: 10 on d20 means they were "Rope and Net Makers". Yeesh, that was a lot of rolls for a meager result. I should have just handwaved it and said he was a kindly puppet maker or something.

Still, I'm impressed: Gloomspear's already pretty damned interesting. Next post, I'll get into his Significant Childhood events, as if he hasn't already had enough of those...

Friday, March 5, 2010

Introducing Gloomspear

This is Gloomspear the fighter, a character I made for Labyrinth Lord. I rolled 3d6 in order and named him using my Core Names table. Check him out:

So far so good, right? Sure, his Hit Points roll could have been better, and he looks kind of like Saladin as played by Inspector Gadget, but his stats are well above average. He certainly seems to be a cheerful guy. His future is wide open, but it's his past that he needs to worry about. Why?

He's about to go through this:

"This book contains everything you need (except dice) to create detailed character histories and includes guidelines and rule materials to accomodate any FRP game system."

Yes, that's right, this is Central Casting: Heroes of Legend, Paul Jaquays' batshit crazy lifepath book, which I recently managed to pick up for a song on eBay. I don't know much about it, but I do know it has a picture of Ayatollah Khomeini in it for no reason whatsoever.

So wipe that crooked-eyed smirk off your Saturday-morning-cartoon-looking face, Gloomspear. Things are about to get real.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Black and White and Red All Over

Over on Grognardia, James Maliszewski recently made a post lauding the look of Labyrinth Lord. (Ahh, alliteration!) I have to agree with him. Though they lack the slick, glossy look of most RPGs these days, they really are striking books, and look especially good if you have both the core rules and the new Advanced Edition Companion.

Tough Steve Zieser's artwork certainly has its charm, I think the real strength of these covers is the color scheme; or rather, the lack of one. The choice to go with red type on top of high-contrast pen-and-ink work was a good one, I think. Though I doubt it was the intent of the creators, they remind me of the gritty, DIY aesthetic of early punk album sleeves, like something the Subhumans would use as an EP cover.

Interestingly, the image I posted here is the only RPG cover my wife, who is something of an ex-punk, has ever said anything positive about. Makes me think that Zak Smith might have been on to something when he suggested "DIY D&D" as an alternate name for "old school" or "homebrew" games...

Friday, February 19, 2010

I Have a Dream

Goblinoid Games' Labyrinth Lord is a retro-clone of "basic" Dungeons & Dragons.

Goblinoid Games' Mutant Future is a Gamma World-inspired RPG that is fully compatible with Labyrinth Lord.

Mutant Future has stats for laser guns.

You realize what this means, don't you?

Brothers and sisters, at long last, the age-old dream can be realized.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Lorded Over

The siren call of which I spoke almost a year ago is something I'm hearing again. Back then, it spurred me to set up a Dragon Warriors play-by-post, which has been a lot of fun to run, but has its own problems.

With my recent acquisition of quality old-school style products like Labyrinth Lord, Stonehell Dungeon, and The Dungeon Alphabet, I'm back to seriously considering running a Dungeons & Dragons campaign again, but this time using the Labyrinth Lord rules (based on the "basic" version of the game) rather than 4e. Specifically, I want to run a game focused on a megadungeon, the boomtown surrounding it, and rivalries among the bands of adventurers delving into its depths. I have some neat little ideas that I think will give my own spin on an well-worn concept.

What I'm currently trying to figure out is how to do it. I could try running it at the local comics and games shop, but I'm about to start playtesting something that will take at least a few weeks (that's literally all I can say regarding that subject), and I also want to give the new Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space game a fair shot. I wouldn't be running Who, but it's difficult to see how I could finagle running a game on one night and playing on another in the week. Players have enough difficulty pulling off one night a week, myself included, and that's assuming they'd even be willing to give something so old and crusty a shot. I doubt they'd be interested for even a short game, let alone a setup that would require as much long-term investment as I'd hope to be able to get.

What to do...?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Gamma Gamma Hey

I've seen a good deal of buzz around Wizards of the Coast's upcoming D&D "red box", which apparently attempts to simplify 4e for new players and will follow a release strategy similar to that used by TSR with the Mentzer-penned version of basic D&D.

This October, Wizards of the Coast is releasing a "D&D Genre Setting" boxed set for Gamma World, using the 4e system. Oh, and there will be booster packs of randomized Mutation and Tech cards.

Let the wailing and gnashing of teeth begin!

But hey, it's nice to see the boxed set making its long-delayed comeback, right? And between these boxed sets and the impending release of Dark Sun, it sure looks like WotC is trying hard to win over fans of the TSR era.

(Honestly, I'm not sure what to make of this announcement. On the one hand, if you were ever going to make a game with randomized player abilities on cards, Gamma World would be the one with which to do it. I will admit it appeals to my love of randomness. On the other hand, I have never been a fan of "booster packs". I also wonder how, and if, this card-based character generation would integrate with the D&D Insider online tools.)