Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A 911 Call from the Attic (repost)

Normally I avoid repeating older posts. But James at Grognardia posted about Harn in his series about old Dragon Magazine Ads. A couple of questions came up in the comments so here is an actual play account from two years ago about a Harn game I ran.
My favorite RPG of all times is Harnmaster. For me Harnmaster has a perfect blend of playability and realism. I rarely have the chance to GM the game as the group I play with prefers GURPS. This isn't a big problem as it is my second favorite RPG. It is been nearly 20 years since I last GMed Harn.

A little background on Harnmaster. It is a RPG originally written by N Robin Crossby and the Columbia Games Crew. In the late 90s Columbia and NRC split causing Harnmaster to split into two editions Harnmaster 2nd edition and Harnmaster Gold. Finally Columbia Games put out a 3rd edition that collected errata and added esstential element for a medieval RPG the most important of which was mounted combat! All four versions of Harnmaster are compatible and GMs have freely intermixed rules between them.

Columbia Games

Harnmaster is geared towards playing in a low magic low fantasy medieval world like... Harn. However aside from the dieties it has few Harn centric details and can be used for any medieval fantasy RPG.

Harnmaster has some similarity to Runequest in how characters are presented. Skills are percentile and attributes are on a nominal 3 to 18 scale. Where Harnmaster really excels in its brutally realistic combat system. Harnmaster rules front load all the calculations before you play. Actual play is quick as it involves some rolls and chart lookup. You can see the combat cards here

Skills involves rolling low on percentile dice. Any roll ending in a zero or five is a critical. Whether is it is a success or failure depends on if you roll under your skill.

The combat basic procedure is

1) Side A rolls attack
2) Side B roll defense
3) Cross index the level of success (Critical Success, Marginal Success, Marginal Failure, Critical Failure) on the combat chart and apply the result.
4) If you hit you will get to roll a number of D6. Add the impact of the weapon aspect to the roll. Aspects can be point, edge or blunt. Typically range from 0 to 11. This givesthe total impact of the blow.
5) Roll hit location. You can aim high low or middle.
6) Subtract the Armor in that location
7) If the remaining impact is great than zero look up what type of injury you take for that hit location.

You can take a minor, serious, or grievous injury. You record each injury separately. The nominal effect is rated in injury levels. A S2 result means you have a serious injury with 2 levels of damage. Each level subtracts one from any roll with d6s against your attributes or -5 per level for skill rolls. Aside from the injury levels many wounds have special saves. Shock, fumble, stumble, amputation, and the dreaded kill roll. The type of save and the injury you substained determine how many d6s you roll against the attribute to save.

For example if you took a M1 hit to the hand requires a fumble roll if you were holding something in that hand. Normally it is a 1d6. Unless you have a crap dexterity you can't fail. However in a fight where you took a S2 wound to the chest, a pair of M1 wounds to the thigh, and a S3 gash to the upper arm you are looking at rolling that 1d6 at a +7 modifier. The more injuries you take the worse these saves get even the minor ones.

Healing well, it has a detailed resolution as well. Let's say a severely injured character isn't going to be getting up for the next couple of weeks.

I admit writing it down like this makes it seems very complicated and detailed obsessed. However in actual play it flows very fast without a lot of headaches. This is because of the design of the combat card combined with the fact that the situational modifiers are very few and well thought out.

Two weeks ago I get a call from my friend Josh who lives in Pittsburgh. He wants to try Harnmaster after reading Cow in the Attic. Between family, work, the National Guard, and college he wanted to play an RPG that was utterly brutal and Harnmaster seems to fit the bill.

I readily agreed and went down to Pittsburgh the following weekend. The two of us managed to convince another friend of mine Scott to play as well. He not a big fan of RPGs that have you roll your character but was willing to try.

Lucky for me Columbia Games released an excellent little intro adventure called Field of Daisies for Harnmaster. So I decided to use that. When I got there I offered them to use the pre-gen character in Field of Daises or roll up their own.

So we sat down and rolled up a pair of Harnmaster characters. I decided that Slot #1 was going to be a Shek-Pvar, a Harnic Mage, Slot #2 would be the mage's bodyguard, and if a third player showed up Slot #3 a cleric of one of the good dieties. Now Harnmaster Magic is useful but not overwhelming. The mage + bodyguard combo should be able to deal with Field of Daisies.

Rolling up a Harnmaster Characters involves a lot of calculation and table lookup. Part of this is due to the fact they front load everything to make actual play run smooth.

Here is where 20 years of not actively using Harnmaster hurt. I should have photocopied the tables so that the both players could have used them at the various steps. Another thing about Harnmaster is that attribute dont' gimp your characters. A lot of skills involves averaging three attribute together so low stats are not an issue. Even so there are seven key attributes for these I am generous and have the players roll 4d6 reroll ones drop the lowest and do this 8 times. This is similar to how I did it for AD&D. Josh wants to be the magic user so has a 17 Aura the prime state for mages. Scott puts some great stats into his physical abilities which he his lowest in agility. Agility represent body dexterity, while dexterity represents manual dexterity.

In Harnmaster who your parents are is important for part of the initial batch of skills you get. Odds are you will be a child of a serf. In the 80s when I ran a succession of Harn campaign there were a lot of runaway serfs in the group. Josh parents turns out to be indeed serfs. Scott however rolls a 03 what happens to be a... slave. Scott gets a sour expression on his face at that. I explain that slavery existed in the middle age however it was not prevalent. Serfdom was the order of the day. I told he will still be the bodyguard but he enslaved to the Mage's Guild assigned to protect Josh's Mage.

Character generation proceeds until when we get to the Medical Table. For every roll on the medical table you get 2 points to raise your attributes. There is a 30% that roll will come to nothing. Most results are bad but a few are benefits like left handed which gives you 1 to 2 points of dexterity. Decks of many things anybody.

Josh decides to take three rolls gets no medical traits twice and an allergy to shell fish. Now that may sound silly until you are stuck in a seaside village and all there is to eat is clams.

Scott... poor Scott. He also takes three rolls. First roll he is allergic to fowl. Considering 90% of the population of Harn lives in rural villages this is going to be an issue. Then 2nd roll, ....


His left leg was chopped off when he was young leaving him with a pegleg. Scott throws up his hands and says "I am literally a gimp character." As this was a one shot we decide to go with this. The third roll was No Medical Trait with Scott giving a sigh of relief.

Being Lame meant his final Agility was 3. His normal combat move being a 1 hex and running 3 hexes. An average character would have a combat move of 10 hexes and running of 20 hexes. He not moving fast.

Then they came to the psyche table. Which is just like the Medical Table except it is psychological disorder. You have the option of one roll for +3 to any attribute except will. Josh elects to roll and comes with a No Pysche Trait result. Scott elects to pass.

When the character are finished up Josh has a Pelahn Shek-Pvar (Pelahn= Fire) with some nice offensive spells. A interesting thing about his character was that he was a bastard of a freeman born to a serf mother. Josh's high Aura attracted a travelling mage who decided to buy out his labor with his lord and have Josh trained as a mage. An interesting part of Josh's character was he was able to max out his dodge to above 100%. (Harnmaster allows skills greater than 100%)

Scott had a lame bodyguard. However he has an outstanding calculated Endurance of 19 (on a 3 to 18 scale). In Harnmaster a lot of saving throws are made against endurance. Most initial injuries he won't be effected by as it is impossible for him to fail. And he can last a lot longer in most fights. Scott's lost his leg while young and the same mage who found Josh took pity on him and bought him to serve as a servant. Due to Scott's great strength and endurance he was given weapon training as a bodyguard.

So I thought. Understand I GMed Harn 1st Edition and for this I was using 3rd Edition for the first time. There was an important change to the combat roll that made this not as useful.

For new games I run a combat encounter before starting play so that players can tweak their character before start of play. They found a couple of bandits and it went well. One of the bandits had a sling and inflicted a nasty bruise to Josh's hip. Because Sling bullets are considered fast missile (compared to a thrown axe or javelin) you can't dodge. But you can use a shield to block them. So Josh rearranged his skill buys to boost up his shield and bought a door errr tower shield.

The back story was that Josh was just made a journeyman of the Shek-Pvar and let loose for a year and a day to bring back three interesting magic items and three pieces of lore so that he could become a master. He decided to journey north to his home village of Falkith to visit his father who was a yeoman beadle.

When they got there they first encountered the woodward (the guy who manages the local forest so that people don't strip it bare for firewood and herbs). The woodward had been illegally poaching rabbits from the woods and was cooking one up in the back. When the characters came up the road he doused the fire, rushed out front and started to act belligerent. However the character didn't really take notice and were able to get directions to the manor.

Entering the village they found most of the men of the village and the manor lord (a knight) had gathered on the green and were discussing the disappearance of two serf boys. It been two days and they haven't found any sign of them in the surrounding country side. The lord was in the middle of ordering the yeoman to go to the hundred moot (the village where local court was held) and post notice that the two were runaway serfs.

At this point everybody notices the PCs and started questioning them as to their business. Josh explained about his father and the tension immediately broke. They explained that his father passed away and the current yeoman was his cousin. Note that due to Josh's clothing and the fact he had a armed bodyguard signaled to everyone that he had done very well since leaving the village. The yeoman invited Josh to stay at his cottage. And the Lord congratulated Josh on his success. In honor of Josh's return he ordered that a hog's head and some pork hocks be sent to the yeoman so they could have a little family feast. The lord also invited Josh and Scott over for breakfast in the morning. Note that despite Josh's serf background he represented a source of outside news. So the lord had ulterior motives other than being hospitable.

The villagers concluded the meeting and Josh, his yeoman cousin, and Scott when off to the cottage. There they found a large three room hut where one room was used as the living area, the second as a bedroom, and next to the bedroom was where they kept the family livestock, including chickens to Scott discomfort. After the feast there was talk about what happened to Josh's father. At this point they learned about a local cave that was supposely haunted.

While they were turning in for bed. The eldest son offered his blanket to Josh and Scott. To my surprise the players looked embrassed at this. Apparently I was doing a good job describing the surrounding and they knew that despite being a yeoman Josh's cousin didn't have much. Looking on their character sheets the two realized that they had their own blankets and so graciously refused.

At dawn they awoke. Josh and Scott decided to check out the cave instead of escorting his cousin to the hundred moot. They walked down to the lord's manor to eat breakfast. The manor looks somewhat like a wild west stockade with only one wooden tower. Only the manor house itself was made of stone. When they walked in they saw the alewife (the female servant in charge of maintaining the lord stock of ales, and other liquors). She showed to the great hall of the manor. There they saw the cook preparing breakfast over a smoky hearth along with the lord's old uncle sitting at the table and complaining about everything.

After several minutes the lord came down and breakfast was served. The conversation revolved around news from the outside which Josh and Scott did a great job in making stuff up despite their lack of knowledge of Harn along with the two of them asking about the cave. Every so often the Uncle piped in with his bombastic comments.

Note that I do voices. I am not a professional by any means but I can do it well enough to give each of my NPCs a distinct voice. I don't try to do a true falsetto for my female NPCs I do raise my voice a pitch or two.

They learned that the local cave was considered haunted and nobody ever goes in there. So after breakfast they thanked the lord and decided to go exploring.

Now when a Harn adventure has a cave they have a cave. The floors are uneven they show sudden drops and climbs, tight spots, and passageways going every which way. Field of Daisies was no different.

The front part of the cave was relatively innocuous more of a puzzle challenge than anything truly dangerous. The only part that could serious hurt them was a patch of M'nogi or the Harnic Green Slime. Unlike D&D's slime, the M'nogi was a mushroom with a acid filled interior. If you pick one it is very easy to squirt the acid out randomly often severely burning the character. And if you fall into a patch it was a bad day for everyone.

Apparently the whole "realism" thing that I was doing in my description was really getting to the players in a good way by raising the tension. Much in the way a good GM of Call of Cthulu will do while investigators explore that creepy old house they shouldn't.

Also remember that despite Scott's one leg he has tremendous upper body strength so his climbing and other physical skill were slightly above average.

The climax of this exploration came when they reached a bottleneck. The cave narrowed to a single passageway which dipped down and up again much like a drain pipe under a sink. The effect was that nothing bulky or over 5' in length could be taken. This meant Scott's spear and Josh's tower shield. Luckily Scott had a round shield that could be taken.

So they climbed down and out again where the cave broadened again. Here it opened into a large chamber. The creepiness started to peg too high on the meter as the both of them began to think this whole cave business was a bad bad idea.

It was...

The rear of the cave system was inhabited by two Vlasta or Eaters of Eyes. They are about as big as a chicken with no feathers with claws and a wicked beak. They liked to leap high and get at the face of their target trying to peck at anything especially the eyes.

While setting up the module, I rolled the dice roll to see what type of setup the vlasta would be in. As it turned out there was only one near the PCs.

One proved to be enough.

While the players were debating I started scratching the underside of the table. They didn't seem to notice consciously that I was doing this but the conversation started to take a "Get the hell out of here turn". I then threw some dice and announced that they heard some stone clattering.

They immediately began to retreat back to the bottleneck. It was then I had the Vlasta attack.

After rolling who it will target the thing leaped onto Scott. Scott failed his dodge while I got a marginal success on the hit. I had it aim high and rolled for hit location ...

the face.

We all groaned as the Vlasta had a 70% chance of ripping Scott's eye out on a face shot. Luckily I rolled a 93 so it was a serious stab wound (S2) to the face.

Josh cast a Orb of Zetara which creates a ball of ethereal fire. Normally it is used for lighting but if you hit somebody with it using a touch attack it will burn them.

Scott stabbed at the Vlasta with his dagger. Now understand that Harnmaster has 10 second combat rounds. So it isn't like you are stabbing at your face with a dagger. Rather you have this thing trashing around pecking at you and you try to get a good blow in.

For a defense I choose a counter attack figuring the Vlasta is going all out. Well Scott missed and the Vlasta got a critical success. This time the hit location was in the neck. Scott got a serious stab wound to the neck (S3).

Here where new edition of Harnmaster got me. Harnmaster had shock rolls after every injury. If you failed to roll beneath your endurance you passed out. In 1st edition the roll was whatever injury level you took for that blow along with +1 for every two levels of injury you already had. This was perhaps too generous as it left a lot of fights where both sides unable to do anything because they were so injured.

The new rule for 2nd and 3rd edition. Is that number of d6 you roll is the TOTAL of all your injuries. So when the Vlasta nailed Scott he had to roll 5d6 (S2 in the face + a S3 in the neck) under a 19. And Scott blew the shock roll and passed out.

In the first harnmaster combat ever for these guys one of them gets laid out in two rounds. Understand this took about 2 minutes of real time. Most of that me looking up what the Orb of Zetara did. So it was BAM! and BAM! Scott is down.

Josh punches the Vlasta with the Orb and burns it. The Vlasta then turns around aims high and leaps at Josh. Josh's 100+ dodge saves him. Josh then punches the Vlasta again. The Vlasta counterattack fails and Josh succeeds and again burns the Vlasta. Now the Vlasta has only a 8 endurance so the two minor burns combined to a 2d6 shock roll which the Vlasta fails.

Stunned at this turn of events. Josh begins first aiding Scott, poorly. Then uses a healing salve that allows the wounds to be healing quicker once they get out of the cave. Scott wakes up and succeeds on his final shock roll. If he had failed he would be no condition to fight.

The two of them decide to leave. Then I started scratching the underside of the table which this time they noticed. They listen and heard clattering of more stones. The second Vlasta had heard the fight and was coming to investigate.

The players didn't know there was only one more so decided to get out. However Josh didn't want it following them. So he casted another spell called lake of fire. It doesn't do much damage but it engulf a rather large area in flames. Josh figures whatever out there would be scared off.

He successfully casted the spell and the whole rear section of the cave was brief engulfed in a fireball. They hear the scream of the Vlasta as it runs away to its lair. But they also hear two human screams.

Unbeknownst to the two the cave connects to an abandoned Khuzan (Dwarven) Mine. Off of the main mine shaft the dwarves carved out a series of rooms as a small living quarter and storeroom. In the back of one of the room was a secret room that connected the rooms to the cave. If something would happened in the mine this would be an alternate route out.

A couple of days ago a peddler was fishing in a pond with his feet in the water. While fishing his feet hit something solid in the musk. He pulled it out and turned out to be a dagger of a dark god named Morgath. It primary power was to instill a compulsion to kill in the bearer to the point where he had to take a sentient life every 13 days. The peddler was greatly disturbed by this, not being an evil man. So he fled into this cave eventually discovering the secret door. He has spent the last two weeks in here trying to resist the compulsion.

However two serf boys from the villages dared each other to go into the cave two days ago. They managed to get all the way into the rear of the cave when they were attacked by the Vlasta. One of them was killed and the other fled further in. The peddler heard this and rescued him. They wound up back in the secret chamber.

However there was enough of the dagger's compulsion on him that the peddler decided tie the body up until he decided what to do. With food running out and the dagger's hold increasing the peddler is on the verge of murdering the child. When Josh casted the Lake of Fire I ruled that the secret door wasn't a barrier and thus the body and the peddler were effected.

Attracted by the shouts, Josh and Scott began searching the chamber. They found the secret door. When they opened they heard the peddler smacking the body around telling him to shut up. The boy is crying that he wants to go home.

The two decided to rush the chamber. They charged in and announced that on the authority of the Mage's Guild the peddler is under arrest. The peddler panics and thinks they are here for him and the magical dagger. He lunges at the box where he is keeping the dagger and is able to retrieve it. Scott steps up and misses while the peddler dodges. Josh creates another Orb of Zetara. The next round the peddlers lunges at Scott.

After the fight with the first Vlasta, Josh takes Scott's shield and never gives it back. So Scott is stuck using his dagger parry or his dodge both of which sucks. He blows his dodge and the Peddler plunges the dagger into Scott's already injured neck getting a Kill result (K4). Now K4 isn't instant death you still get a save. 4d6 roll lower than Scott endurance of 19 not affected by injury. Scott saves so the K4 is converted to a grievous wound (G4). However this wound plus the other neck stab and the face stab combine into a 9d6 shock roll versus a 19 endurance. Scott fails and passes out.

Josh then punches the Peddler with the Orb and succeeds. Josh dodges the next thrust of the dagger and punches again with the orb, succeeding. The Peddler has ordinary stats and winds up failing the 2d6 shock roll (two minor burns M1 each). The Peddler passes out.

Josh then reaches down and picks up the dagger. The compulsion to kill takes hold of him after failing the will roll and Josh plunges the Dagger into the peddler.

Josh did a nice bit of role-playing while he sat in the room considering whether he would kill Scott and the boy as well. The dagger's compulsion was satisfied for 13 days so it was Josh's choice. In the end he sheathed the dagger and wraps it up.

Scott wakes up and doesn't make his final shock roll so he in a dazed condition for at least four hours. Josh goes into the dwarven mine and finds the exit to be blocked by stones. He is able to clear enough to allow the boy to escape. Then returns to the cave and hunts down the remaining Vlasta. I do mean he hunts down. Josh is determined to make the Vlasta his prey. He succeeds in killing the last Vlasta.

When Josh returns to the secret chambers he finds the villagers had cleared enough stone to allow both Josh and Scott to exit by the old mine entrance. Josh and Scott are hailed as heroes while Scott is given a room at the manor to recuperate. Josh decides that he has one of his three items and carefully bundles the dagger. Scott recovers in five weeks with no infections however suffers a loss in Stamina due to the multiple neck wounds and Comeliness due to the facial scars.

Overall the game was a success and the players had a lot of fun.

The Pluses

I had forgotten how much I really enjoyed GMing Harnmaster.

Once again the brutality and playability of combat system pulled the players into the game rather than driving them out of it. When I DMed harnmaster in the late 80s it's graphic nature never failed to make players go "Combat is serious."

I was in a groove GMing wise and managed to build tension. This is my weakest aspect as a GM and I am glad to have pulled this off as Field of Daisies depends on it.

The Minuses

Need to photocopy a lot more charts than I did for character creation. I forgotten I did this for 1st edition.

I also need to create a table of triple values so players can quickly compute the average. For example a total of 42 means the average of three values is 14 the same for 43, 44. For 45 the average becomes 15.

I am not sure about this new shock roll system. I see what they were trying to fix with 1st edition. But this is like way to brutal for even my taste. I may go with a d6 roll based on whatever injury they took that round plus +1 to the roll for each prior injury. So in the first fight Scott would have been faced with a 3d6+2 shock roll instead of 5d6. 4d6+5 for the second fight's shock roll.

Probably use my Majestic Wilderlands instead of Harn for the next game. For two reasons, first my demographics and social structure borrows a lot from Harn already. Second my Harn stuff is not organized for actual play but rather for easy reading. I just don't want to spend the time doing the reorganization when the Majestic Wilderlands is right there in my head and organized in my notebook.

I should have given Scott better Armor and equipment. Despite having one leg, if he was properly armored up he could have shined in the combat situations rather than being overshadowed by Josh. Looks like in Harnmaster proper equipment is essential as it is in real life.

Josh and Scott said that the whole village sequence really drew them in especially the bit about the hog's head and hocks along with the offering of the blanket. Character generation was a bit of
chore. Scott swore if he made another harnmaster character he would never roll on the medical or pysche table again. Both agreed that combat seemed complex but played very fast.

Provided I can avoid things like Cow in the Attic and One legged dwarves err characters I can continue to make Harnmaster a fun experience.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My day at Origins

It was a great experience and the $5 day pass was the right price.

The day started at 6:30 am with Tim coming into the driveway. I wasn't sure what to expect so I packed my roll on kit with my swords & wizardry books, binder, dice box and my netbook. Figuring that we may have a chance of running a game at the open gaming table. In the prior conventions I had considerable down time. I knew Origins was larger but figured we go through the exhibitor with time to spare. Little did I know.

Tim and I drive there in record time, 3 1/2 hours. Along the way he helped me do a first pass on what I wrote on the Scourge of the Demon Wolf. Arriving at Columbus we ran into construction and a detour to the convention but we popped out right next to a parking garage. We find a space the first turn after the entrance.

We some gamers parking so we followed them. We made our way through a skywalk, we blew some search rolls at various points but successfully made our way into the convention hall. We saw a stream of gamers moving into the hall, the closer the denser the tables of gamers gaming became.

We got in line and within 5 minutes had our day pass. I have to say that Origin's day pass is a great deal. You don't get access to any game events but you can participate in the other activities and best of all get to roam the exhibitor hall.

The exhibitor hall is enormous! We decided to methodically work the hall by going up down each aisle roll from front to back. The Troll and Toad booth was in front of us so we went there first as I had my copy of Dune RPG with me. I didn't get the offer I was looking for so we headed to the far aisle. We spotted the Gamescience booth so we made a beeline to it. I got to talk to Lou Zocchi. He is a great guy. He didn't do his spiel but he was glad that I was a licensee of Judges Guild.

In addition to all the dice he had a ton of Judges Guild stuff. He told me how he made a deal with Bob Bledsaw Sr and for payment he took a cargo crate of product and the right to reprint a handful of items. Because of this deal not only I got my second set of sapphire Gamescience dice, I was able to pick up TWO pristine copies of the map for the City-State of the World Emperor, Viridistan, unmarked! Tim picked up a set of Zocchi Dice.

The first aisle we hit had Crazy Egor's, who had a ton of current and old gaming material. I still didn't get the price I wanted for the Dune RPG but it did find decent copies of the old Harnview and Harndex. Mine have long lost their covers and even have a few pages torn. Now I have some good copies.

Heading down the aisle we stop by the side Chessex booth, there they have a big bin of dice where you buy dice for 30 cents, buy a mug, or a even a pitcher. Kelly Anne wanted me to get some interesting dice and I found some interesting two color d20s. We stopped later at the other side of Chessex where I got her some pink dice to use in the Gold Star Anime campaign. Plus some at Crystal Caste. In addition in my Origin's bag there were three tiny d20 (only marked 0 to 9)
Continuing down we stop at Acheson Creations. There they had a ton of resin props. I picked up some fences, log barricades, Chest Piles, and other stuff. Also they have a line of miniatures called Primeval Design. It has 25 mm dinosaur, prehistoric mammals, and present day animals. I picked a package of bears, a major category of animal I was missing. I also picked up a package of five wolves. He has some great fullsize (25 mm) resin dinosaurs.

At the end of the first aisle was Politically Incorrect Games, Tim saw hooker dice for sale, they were sort of interesting with two dice with different suggestive silhouettes in place of the one. He didn't get them.

Coming back up the second aisle we stopped at Chessex and then at the end of the aisle there was Dungeon Decks. They are also lead the Game Publisher Association. We got useful information about both. The Dungeon Deck is very interesting and the cards include a small but complete dungeon maps that work with dungeon tiles or dwarven forge. They have a Camp Encounter deck they are releasing at Gen Con which I am going to snag. Basically it is a deck to use when the party encamped. Something that I would like to make more interesting. (insert evil laugh)

In the third aisle Chimera Hobbies had a wall of books including copies of my Thieves of Badabaskor and Points of Light II. If you see them at Gencon buy some. In the next two aisle I picked up some more resin miniatures including a full scale bridge and a bookcase. I like to collect props that I can throw together to represent an encounter in a medieval fantasy world.

In the third aisle I got to talk to Steven Chenault of Troll Lord Games and Tom Tullis of Fat Dragon Games. Both are great to talk too and was able to correct Tom's lack of a copy of Majestic Wilderlands. I was impressed that he makes all his dioramas by using an old fashioned ruler and protractor.

We ate some lunch and I stopped at a booth where they had D&D Miniatures. I was a bit disappointed in the selection. Obviously people picked through leaving only the unpopular models. However I did find a ton of giant beetles and got ten of them. I will use them for mass insect encounters.

I told Tim I will be there awhile, when he came back he told me he lined up a game of Tunnels and Trolls with Ken St. Andre. Now Tunnels & Trolls, is a RPG that I normally play but when Ken St Andre is offering to gamemaster a game you just leap in. What was a bummer that he actually had trouble finding players leaving only Tim and I in the game.

Tim played a human fighter and I played a human wizard. The session was a ton of fun. What was best was listening to the enthusiasm that Ken has for his setting Trollworld. It is off-beat and a bit zany and I could tell why a lot of people had fun with it over the years. Now that I played Tunnels and Troll I can understand it's appeal. I have to admit it's system of ever increasing stats is nifty.

The dungeon itself involved a lot of puzzle and traps. Tim and I are not the greatest at this. Our strength are mostly in the roleplaying department. But we struggled through with some help from time to time from Ken. Tim became stoned, then a dwarf, and at the end he weighed over 8,000 lbs. Ken said that the heaviest dwarf he had ever seen.

We hit the Kenzer Co both where I got the author of Hackmaster Basic to sign my book. Everybody was nice and Jolly Blackburn was great at answering my questions about the parts of Hackmaster combat I didn't understand. I also picked up four back issues of Knights of the Dinner Table that I was missing.

We wrapped up the trip by eating at this place called Grandma's Kitchen or something similar. Their steak was great and tasted just like it was cooked on a backyard grill. A good backyard grill. Tim had the best apple dumpling he ever tasted. We got home at 11, tried but pleased at completing one of the best convention trips ever.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Off to Origins

Road Trip!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

First Session of GURPS was great!

Resuming GURPS like putting on a nice comfortable pair of slippers. We were a little rusty but soon we were in the thick of the action. The campaign is set in the City-State of the Invincible Overlord. This time I am not the referee, my friend Tim Shorts took up the reins.

Tim decided to start game off with a bang with me, Paltar Longshanks, and Dwayne, Cal, woke up blindfolded and chained in somebody's dungeon. Cal is a Mage of the Order of Thoth and a member of City-State's Guild of Arcane Lore. Waking up he used his locksmith spell to free him and myself. Then wandering in come Robert, a poor servant to the big bad that owned the dungeon. We quickly figured out from Robert's description we were dealing with a Medusa.

Without weapons, and warned that "she was coming". We were chained up again and put on our blindfolds again. We felt this monstrous presence pass by us and I got chills when she said to me "You are the one.". However with Cal's locksmith spell available we both were not quite sweating it yet.

She left and once again Cal freed us both. However the use of Locksmith four times it quite fatiguing for him so he had to rest for 40 minutes. GURPS Magic requires expenditure of fatigue which is based off your health (D&D's constitution). GURPS attribute are very roughly scaled like D&D with 10 the normal and 15 on the high end. Palter had a 11 strength, 13 dexterity, 10 IQ, and a 10 Health. Pretty good for a starting 100 pt GURPS characters. I min maxed a bit by taking two points of Striking Strength which increased my weapon damage, but not any strength rolls. I rationalized it as Paltar spending much of his left as a mercenary.

We only get 20 minutes into the rest period when two guards come into the room. Cue the battle music as we get into our first GURPS combat in a year. The combat system is one of the great things about GURPS. It can be straightforwardly simple or use the full monty of detail. We are a full monty group.

We heard the guards coming so we stood there with loose blindfolds and grabbing the chains. The guards checked us over and one was getting suspicious. So in the first second Cal fires off a Blindness spell. He knows it to the point where he can cast it with a small gesture or incant. The guard start screaming "I'm blind, I'm blind". Paltar was holding a loose piece of chain, stepped forward and cracked it across the second guard's chest causing him to fall back three feet.

We fight back and forth the next few rounds and all seems lost when two more guards come running in. Luckily one of them had my spear! While Cal was casting Sunbolts, Robert the Servant, joined our side and began stabbing guards.

Then I remembered something in Martial Arts that could help. I found the rule on doing a sweep maneuver basically trying to kick or push over the target. So I grabbed the spear and kicked at the guards legs. I succeeded despite the minuses and he failed his defense badly leaving me in possession of my spear again.

I then proceeded to run it through the remaining guards in a series of all-out attacks opting for two attacks per round. The big risk is that I forego any defense roll but the situation was such I could take on the one guard and then pivot and get the other guard from the side. With Cal and Robert continuing their fights I was in position to quickly end the combat.

Unfortunately we attracted the attention of the Medusa, I maintained to make a saving throw against my health and not be petrified into stone. But Cal was down to 1 fatigue, and then she geased me to seek the Column of Conquest in the Cave of the Bev'el. An ancient race of demons imprisoned by the self sacrifice of a legion of dwarves.

The medusa let us go for me to fulfill the quest. What followed was a nice bit of roleplaying where I was still playing Paltar but with a very singular focus. Dwayne played Cal well suckering me into the guildhall and enlisting the aid of his fellow mages to dispel the geas.

We reported what happened and learned a few interesting things that we will need to follow up on.

Tim gave me an an excellent character background to work with. He is a master of doing this far better than anything I do. I am not going to post details yet until I understand how this works out with Dwayne's characters. Plus we have an old friend returning to gaming. This GURPS campaign promises to be very interesting.

This is the first GURPS sessions where we tried our new XP system. Basically whatever skill you used you get the roll 3d6 and if you roll higher then you get a single character point. It like old Runequest and it is designed to make character progression more natural for the way we play GURPS. We tend to roleplay each day with some sessions only covering a single day's worth of game time. This results in characters zooming from zeroes to GURPS style megaheroes in a game year or so.

In addition to the skill rolls, there will be lump awards given at the completion of a major goal. Some are character driven other stem from the events unfolding around us. This session I got a point in the Kusari skill for the successful use of the chain in melee, a point of spear, a point in the sweep technique. Eventually I can raise this high enough to negate the -3 penalty it imposes when you use it. For now I will need another point to get it down to -2.

Monday, June 20, 2011

More musings on Paladins

Posts on Knights and Knaves and Swords & Wizardry forums ask what do Paladins do with evil humanoids (orcs, goblins, kobolds, etc).

The answer can be either devilish difficult or simple depending on the work the referee did or did not do while preparing his campaign.

For my campaign, the Majestic Wilderlands, the answer would hinge on whether the prisoner is an innocent or a knowing follower of evil . Being innocent meaning that the person was doing his or her duty the best way they knew without evil intentions.

I generally use only two of the humanoid races; orcs and goblins. Like all the races, except Elves and Men, they were twitsted from Man by the demons in their search for the perfect servitor race. This plot point allows me to stack the metaphysical deck to have both shades of gray and clear black & white answers. While the demons could not take away Man's free will, they could and did twist many of the new race's psyche to the point where a typical member's action are considered evil by the other races. The two races most afflicted by this are the Orcs and the Goblins.

In the Majestic Wilderlands, the vast majority of orcs have surrendered to their heightened aggression living evil lives. Some argue that it not fair to judge them as it was the demons that caused them to be this way. But then it is pointed out that there are orcs that managed to control their anger and choose the way of right. However difficult it is to overcome, orcs have the free will to choose good or evil. Just as other races have their own burdens.

Imagine a society where 90% of the adults abuse, and terrorize each other. The reason for this is that orcs were created with 10x the aggression of normal humans. Without a great exertion of will, the slightest provocation will set off the cycle of abuse for an individual orc. And it something they can't turn off, only master if they are tough enough.

The only reason they function as a society is that the demons also heightened the dominance/submission reflex where they will submit to a clearly dominant leader. The demon intended for them to be that leader but since their imprisonment in the Abyss, the orcs made it work on their own. Because of their heightened aggression they are unable to function or meaningfully interact with normal human (or demi-human) society. Relations will typically break down into conflict. The dominance/submission reflex also why orcs are often successfully controlled by an evil overlord type.

Goblins face a similar but different issue with their hyper focus on a single task or small detail. Unlike the orcs, circumstances has resulted in some regions of the Wilderlands having goblins as a functioning part of civilization. However their barbarian cousins are every bit bad as the orcs. focusing on survival above all else regardless of the impact of their decisions on their neighbors.

Orcs, goblins, and other sentient races with similar afflictions have been dubbed the monstrous races by the philosophers and sages of the Wilderlands. For the fire few centuries after the Uttermost War attempts were made by the Elves to integrate them into their civilization or at least provide homelands where they can live without interference from other race. But these attempts failed and a war started that has raged off and on across the millenniums. Both sides seeking the annihilation of the other. And generally the monstrous races are on the losing end as the tide of civilization sweeps across the world.

So what does this mean for the paladin?

The killing the monstrous races usually carries little moral issue with the paladin. The members of the races have choosen evil and reap the consequences. However unlike a normal fighter, a paladin is the servant of his god, he is not alone and as long as he relies on his faith, use wisely the abilities granted him, he will be able to save the truly repentant among the monstrous races. The rest will be slain for the evil acts they have done.

A point was raised in the post about using prisoners as trap detector and other hazardous tasks. A paladin views that as cruelty and a callous disregard for life, a paladin would not condone such an action and will opt to kill the prisoner cleanly.

This is not the only way of handling the issue. Just an illustration of the solution I came up with many years ago when the question came up in my campaign.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Ready for the DCC RPG

I went up to Book Galore for Free RPG Day. Along the way I stopped at Gold Star Anime and picked up a set of Zocchi dice. At Books Galore I bought this month's Knights of the Dinner Table and a d30. Fortunately I avoided Tim's experience. Kelly Anne bought a bunch of new d20 and d12s for her hairstick projects. Including some interesting mini dice.

So now I am set with my Zocchi dice and don't have to complain anymore.

For Free RPG Day I picked the DCC RPG Adventure Starter which I surprisingly liked a lot. Usually intro adventures are OK but not only did Goodman Games give a intro adventures they squeezed a second on in for 5th level characters. So you get to try out the full level range. The adventure themselves are very evocative. I see the authors been reading their National Geographic as I recognized one room from a particularly memorable issue about ancient China.

The other one I picked was the Pathfinder Adventure "We be Goblins". Basically you play a bunch of goblins off on an adventures. It looks fun and may use it for a one shot.

Plus I got a rock making kit for Father's Day, when we were at A.C. Moore, a craft store. This has a mold for 8 rocks that you cast using casting plaster. I managed to make a batch tonight and it wasn't too hard. Need to thin out the mixture as I had some bubbles appear in the several pieces. Also found the perfect shade of green for orc skin so I don't have to mix it up anymore to finish the remainder of my orcs.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Playing hokey from my writing. Painting Miniatures.

When I got my Dwarven Dungeon Accessories I went wow my other stuff kinda of sucks now. Then Chicago Wizard had a bunch of posts on him painting miniatures. Luckily for me I still had most of my original Grenadier along the boxes are long gone. I think some of the foam I use to line my storage cases is still vintage.

This is basically what I used for the last 25 years for dungeon props. A long time ago I picked up a bunch of resin and plaster furniture and used them ever since.

So it time to break out the paint brush after a twenty year hiatus. Amazingly about 2/3rd of the paints I had stored were still good enough to use. Although all my metallics are were done for. Thanks to the ongoing craft fad Jo-ann and Wal-mart had a variety of inexpensive acrylics to stock up with. I also snagged a set of generic brushes from Wal-mart and some nice detail brushes from a model/art store in my town.

Then it was down to business. I focused on the stuff I used the most figuring it give me the most bang for what little time I can spend doing this.

First I painted up a bar set I had forever. Note that the tables are from Mage Knight. If you ever run across these get them. They are durable and look good. I uploaded the full resolution picture so you can see the details.

And would you know it the flash revealed some areas I missed behind the barrels. I also painted a resin fireplace. Once neat think was the detail on the flames which I had to be careful with. Painting flames was a challenge as I never done it before. I started with a layer of red. Then a thin layer of orange letting it pool and finally a dry brushing with yellow.

The desk on the left is more recent. I think needed to use a more yellowish white for the paper. The text was done by painting thin lines across the page and then putting two or three small gaps with white. I didn't try to totally white out the line. The smudged remains of the black enhanced the illusion of text.

Next I did some of my "official orcs". At one point I got over a dozen similar orc figures and they became my generic orc horde. Now they are getting some color. Later I pulled out all my plaster firepits and p
A closeup of the orcs. I guess I nailed the skin color as a lot of the gamers at the last Gold Star Anime session were complimenting on how orcish they looked. I used a drab light green mixed with a small amount of brown. Of course my campaign being the Majestic Wilderlands and the City-State these guys had to be from the Purple Claws.

The first figures I did was three of my "official peasants" figures. I got nearly two dozen peasants in storage. One the table are three plaster barrel things. Never figured out what they were supposed to be. So I painted them brown, gave them a rock gray base, and a brass rim. Over on the left is a brazier I painted. I actually started it in the late 80s but never completed it. Now it is tone. Finally I painted the five resin full beds. I debated what to do with the folded blankets. Then I remember the blanks the Happy Whisk gave to my boys two years ago and made them double sided quilts. I took the top color and added white to form the second shade. The bed on the left was a bit of a challenge as it had straw from it's mattress sticking out all over the place. Finally there were the three chests I painted. Two are plaster and the last is a metal miniature from somewhere.

In all this took about eight sessions about three hours each. With a session a week. Right now I finished prepping the remaining "official orcs" and two more tables with food modeled on the top.

As for my writing, I been somewhat more regular. Not as fast as I like but getting a solid three hour session a week in. The painting has been surprisingly enjoyable and I plane to continue with it.

Could use any tips you got so feel free to comment.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Delving into the Dungeon Crawl Classic RPG, Part III

Onto the Character Class in the Dungeon Crawl Classic RPG

The classes parallel the four basic classes of Dungeons & Dragons but there are important differences.

Like the D&D version, the Cleric is the second best fighter in the game. Also greater emphasis is placed on the cleric being a follower of his deity. Several of the mechanics reflect this. We also learn a little more of the cosmology behind the DCC RPG. The influence of Michael Moorcock can be seen in the big role that Law and Chaos plays.

Cleric basically start off by knowing a limited amount of spells (four for first level). The first spell of the day is cast at no penalty but successive spell casting carries a penalty. This penalty can be reset the next day or by performing the correct sacrifice for his deity. In addition if the cleric rules a natural 1 then he ticked off his deity and must roll on the Disapproval Table. Results range from the penalty reset being delayed a day, the cleric unable to turn for a few days, or endure a test of faith.

The different alignments turn different types of creatures, Lawful Clerics can turn undead an demons, Chaotic clerics can turn angels, etc.

The healing ability of clerics is made an ability in it's own right. However the amount of hit points healed is effected by cross indexing the cleric's and recipient's alignment. Some will view this as an unessecary complication. Using successive Lay on Hand incurs a -1 penalty to the next check.

Clerics can also call on their diety for divine aid. This is basically a set of guidlines for allowing anything can go divine intervention. The major limitation of using this is that -10 is added to spell check penalty afterwards so you better make your request a good one.

Next is a listing of the dieties of the DCCRPG. For the most part they fit the Swords and Sorcery feel of the game quite well. Also in the list is Lovecraft's Cthulu. Many people will wonder why Cthulu is listed as a neutral god. The basic reason is that Cthulu is neither lawful or chaotic, he just doesn't care about such issues, in fact is indifferent to the whole situation or the dealing of the mortal races.

Next the Fighter

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The end of a campaign

Unfortunately Rusty has too many family issues to commit to a weekly gaming session much less be a gamemaster. So we ended the Castles & Crusades campaign after the completion of the first Splinters of Faith. We did quite well and each of us had an important contribution. I, playing an illusionist, was damn lucky to have used my Prestidigitation cantrip on turning the key in the lock of a chest. It turned out to have a poison dart trap. Later when we emerged from the dungeon, Tim, playing a Bard, and me convinced the bandits outside that a pair of pewter goblets was the "big" treasure that was found.

So now Tim is going to referee City-State using GURPS. I had a 100 pt character named Paltar Longshanks that I made up earlier. Using the Archer template as a starting point, I created a all-around fighter type that is handy to have in the wilds. He wields a spear, shield, and longbow. I had to fuss around with his armor given my limited budget. Wound up with a Medium Shield, a pot helm, a thick leather tunic, mail sleeves, a studded leather skirt, and heavy leather leggings.

Given that Dwayne made a mage of the Guild of Arcane Lore (a conclave of the Order of Thoth), I made Paltar a bodyguard in the guild's employment.

If you are interested in his sheet, you can download it from here.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

More D20 Hairstick creations

Kelly Anne has been working hard on her hairsticks and has another d20 hairstick for sale. There would have been two but the first one sold within hours of it being posted. Go Kelly Anne! She has started to play in the bi-weekly Tuesday S&W games I am running at the Gold Star Anime. Interestingly enough her character, a Human Burglar, is wearing a pair of hairsticks. I was asked how much damage they do. So...

Hairsticks, weight 0, 1d3.

She already used them to fight her way out of being swallowed by a Giant Toad.

Hairstick D20 Aurora Sparkle In Swarovski Crystal On A Violet Glitter StickA sky-streaked blue d20 die with a mysterious purple shimmer under argent numerals centers the D20 Aurora Sparkle Hairstick, the violaceous hues carried out with a brilliant violet Swarovski crystal bicone and sparkling birch wood stick with a shimmer of metallic UV-resistant outdoor acrylic under a glimmering mist of blue-violet glitter under a clear polyurethane gloss, the die set off with a pair of silver Tierracast pewter heishis and celestial bead cap.

The D20 Aurora Sparkle Hairstick is 7 5/16" in length with a usable length of 6".

Friday, June 10, 2011

Who needs another D&D?

Al of Black Gate asks a very good question, How badly do I need another D&D?

The short answer is you don't, given the assumption that most of you reading this are playing some form of D&D or at least another RPG.

However if you are a publisher you may need another D&D very badly. And that what sets up the conflict. As Bob Bledsaw of Judges Guild, Mayfair Games, John Adams of Brave Halfling and Joseph Goodman of Goodman Games found out, when you don't have clear control over the core rule set your efforts are at the mercy of other people.

Unlike Judges Guild and Mayfair Games, recent publishers have more options in regards to how to deal with the situation thanks to open gaming. Namely the option of creating your own RPG. If you look at most of the big d20 companies still going to day they used the d20 SRD to develop their own system (Mutant & Mastermind, Castles & Crusades, True20, etc).

The catch is that once you branch out you are faced with growing your audience. And for some this is a challenge they rise too. For others it is one that cause them to crash and burn.

There is no right or wrong with this situation only that that choices have various consequences. If you are going to publish a ruleset be prepared to grow your audience and that the synergy of supporting the original edition is going to be lessened.

As for my personal view, I don't really want to try to grow an audience for a ruleset. While I like complex or interesting rule systems, I don't like designing them. The only reason I came out with a rules supplement in the first place because I been gaming for 30 years and managed to come up with a useful rule every other year or so. So it added up. I marvel at guys, like Clash at Better Mousetrap Games, who can sit down and whip an entire system, multiple times.

So when I started writing for RPG, I resolved not to write my own retro clone. Since that my view slightly modified, only because I get tired of having to flip through both my MW Supplement and the SW Core book. So at some point I may do a combined player's handbook but it very low on the priority list.

Delving into the Dungeon Crawl Classic RPG, Part II

One of the reasons for this series of posts is to help me learn the DCC RPG by ensuring that I read each section throughly. There are plenty of interesting mechanics and for my Lands of Adventures series of setting I always planned to do some oriented to specific sub-genres of fantasy including Swords & Sorcery. Reading about what other think of the Swords & Sorcery genre helps me hone my own ideas.

After the initial section comes one of the only big missteps of the beta. The big page of black with white letterings dividing the major sections. As pleasing it looks, it doesn't help people to use this for playtesting as anything they print will need to avoid these pages or go through a lot of ink. This one is one page 8. There is a nice bit of flavor text on the page.

Following this is another full page illustration, again it is evocative and captures the spirit of the of game. The lady in the picture has more clothes on than two of the figure which is a welcome change from the usual chainmail bikini pictures we endured over the years.

Now we come to what will be another controversial sub-system. The character creation funnel. You generate up to 4 zero level characters and run them with other characters of the party and see who survives to first level. I can see it working but... the referee is going to need some more tools than what is given here. First I hope in the full rulebook they give some space to discussion plausible scenarios for having such a gaggle of people tramping on an adventure. Second they discuss alternative starting point.

From running the Majestic Wilderlands for 30 years the problem is that ANY fixed method of starting character gets to be old in the long run. The key is to have a variety of methods to start off a campaign and varying them over time. RPGs should discuss a variety of starting points in order for it not to become a one trick pony.

With that being said I think the funnel will work as described in the hands of an experienced referee and certainly you not investing much time into making each characters so the game will get off to a quick start. The random background table even fixes the issue of having to buy equipment.

The ability Scores are unique to DCC RPG, the six chosen are Strength, Agility, Stamina, Personality, Intelligence, and Luck. Luck is an important score used to influence the dice rolls of the game in a variety of ways.

The Ability modifiers in contrast pretty much echo those of the d20 system. +1 for 13 to 15, +2 for 16, 17,and +3 for 8. Minus modifiers start at scores lower than 8. We also see the first of the humorous cartoons that are liberally sprinkled throughout the book.

The section goes on further to explain the luck score and the things you can do with it. One really cool think is that the modifier for Luck will effect different things for different characters. You roll on a table which give the exact situation your luck modifiers works for (or against for a low luck). It also uses the first of the non-standard dice the d30.

Saving throw are straight from d20. I alway found the d20 setup to be the more straightforward of all the version of D&D and glad to see it used here. You get a number of language equal to your intelligence modifier including common.

Next it explains what goes into a being a level 0 characters. 1d4 hp + Stamina mod, 5d12 copper, -100 XP, One random piece of equipment, One random occupation which determines what wepaons you can use and give you a trade good, and +0 to all attacks and saves.

We get to use a d100 on the occupation table which ranges from Alchemist to Woodcutter. Trade Good include things like a flask of oil, a Pony, Lantern, a Sow, Silk Clothes, Badger Pelts, etc. This table is a key reason why I think that the Character Funnel would be a extremely fun. Rolling on the table may look like extraneous fluff but when you look at what they actually include you start see the possibilities.

Next after a brief talk about Weapon Training and Trade Goods, we come to alignment. It is Micheal Moorcock' Law-Neutral-Chaos full bore and what defines the supernatural in the DCC RPG. I like some of the things included in Neutral like Cthulu, and the Old Olds. While it not how I would run things in my campaign I think it will work for the DCC RPG.

Next we get an Easley full page illustration with a warrior of law about to lay some smackdown on a orcish minion of chaos.

Next the games goes into Level advancement with particular attention paid to how you go from zero-level to first. Interestingly enough reading the Choosing a Class section I don't see anything about mandating race as class.

If your character survives to 1st level, you can choose a class. Your free will is constrained by the fatalism of the dice; pick a class that suits your randomly determined strengths and weaknesses. The demi-human classes of dwarf, elf, and halfling may only be selected by characters whose 0-level occupation was of that race.
Read that carefully, the demi-human class are limited to only those races but the reverse is not mentioned. No where it says you MUST pick your race's class. I am not sure if this was overlooked or is intentional. Personally I think it would be cool if was intentional.

I read up on the issue on the DCC Forums and it turns out that the intent is race as class. However the comment was made by Joseph Goodman that having other racial classes is within the spirit of the game. For example a Dwarven Runecaster. His current feeling is to leave it up to the third party publishers to flesh out. Mmmmm

Next we look at the individual classes.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Delving into the Dungeon Crawl Classic RPG, Part I

You can download the DCC RPG PDF from Goodman Games, as #61.

First the Cover is very evocative. When an adventurer facing a challenge of crossing a chasm to get to the dungeon door.

Next the is a b/w full page Mullen's interior cover. Showing orc/goblin/hobgoblins standing outside of their cave. Plus some type of one-eyed giant. It set the town as the creatures are obviously dragging in slaves into the area. Interestingly one slave chain is a group of brownies.

Also setting the tone is the sub title "Glory & Gold" won by Sorcery & Sword. The use of a full page illustrations is a theme repeated throughout the rulebook.

Next is the introduction and credit, right off we are told that the beta rules are an excerpt, however they touch every area that the DCC RPG is meant to cover. Also that it is still a work in progress. And it is good to know that there will be a third party license for those interested in publishing for the DCC RPG.

Next we get some of the enthusiasm I saw in the alpha playtest documents. Some may view it too much of a joke like how Hackmaster 4e presented. To me it shows the fun and exuberance that Joseph and his team feel for what they are trying to. Free from adhering to the D&D 3e vision, or the D&D 4e vision, they are getting to go full bore on the type of fantasy THEY like. It is a bit zany and crazy and they are going to have fun even if it means that a door explodes out it's jam, smashes into you, and kills you before you step a foot into the dungeon.

Now this is NOT my type of fantasy, I mostly try to run a game where adventure is found in the conflict of culture and religion. I was always more a fan of Tolkien than Moorcock. However I do appreciate the sentiment, understand it fairly well as I grew up with the stuff, and I love the enthusiasm. After 30 years of gaming, I find myself more attracted to games with a community of gamers that have a great sense of fun and this has it in spade.

Next we get another full page Mullen Illustration wwith a dragon having a field day with some adventurers. Interestingly the dragon is using spells and not it's breath weapons.

Now we come a section on the Core Mechanics of the DCC RPG. While there a lot of old school attitude the heart of it is the tried and true d20 system of 3.X, sort of. There are many differences in the detail but the general gist is that you are going to be rolling a d20, looking for a high roll and try to beat a target number.

Next Joseph highlights the difference from both D&D 3.x and AD&D 1.0. No feats, prestige classes, attacks of opportunity, or skill points. It has ascending AC, yay!, and uses a d20 roll high beat a target to resolve most actions.

The next section highlights the additions the DCC RPG brings.

  • Cleric turns a wider range of creatures and it depends on their religion.
  • All spells require a spell check, i.e. a skill roll, to succeed, spells have variable result based on a chart.
  • The magic system isn't quite fire and forget, the Wizards may keep their spell after a successful roll, or lose it for the day after a failure.
  • Clerics have repeated penalties for successive casting of the same spell.
  • There are critical hits and some types of characters get better at them the higher level they are.
  • Finally there is a burn ability mechanic that can influence a dice roll. Luck is mentioned.

Finally Joseph tells us that he going to be using the Zocchi dice as part of the mechanics, d3, d5, d7, d14, d16, d24, and d30. That he has plan to make them readily available from Goodman Games and that for now there are other sources from which you can buy them.

This is the first "hump" that a DCC RPG has to overcome to attract gamers. The initial impression is nearly always negative. It is a gamble by Goodman Games to do this. Skipping ahead a bit the main use of the Zocchi dice is to reflect increasing ability to get better criticals and better results on various tables.

The use of the Zocchi dice is has two implications in terms of mechanics. First you won't be using a bell curve to roll. Every number has an equal chance of coming up. Also you will have a wider RANGE of results when you use the bigger dice.

That could make the difference between acceptance or rejection of the zocchi dice. We will have to wait and see.

Then we wind up with another full page illustration this time by Roslof, it is sad that he passed away recently, but it is great that he getting a showcase for his work. This show an adventuring party with all four classes represented descending the stairs into the dungeon, I guess they figured out how to cross the chasm. What nice is that they are not muscled models and that their outfits look sensible for the occasion.

Next time we dive into Character Creation.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The DCC RPG Playtest is out.

Download it from the beta playtest page.

I tested printing it using the booklet feature of Adobe Reader and it was very readable. It will take about 42 sheets of paper printed front and back.

Joesph Goodman is also continuing the lessons of the Dungeon Alphabet. The illustrations in the playtest document are kick butt.

It is however not the full game, as far as all the spell and monsters, Goodman Games is upfront about that in the introduction. You should be able to run a short campaign from Level 0 to Level 3. The good news is that all the mechanics come into play from the start. So by playing you will get to experience what makes the DCC RPG unique.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

High Fantasy, All the time.

Jgants over on the RPGSite asks,
Am I the only one that ever gets sick to death of playing nothing but high fantasy games filled with elves and wizards???
My answer is no. It no more boring than the fact that the planet Earth only filled with a single sentient species known as humans.

The trick is to figure out what cultures and sub cultures exist within your setting. That the stereotypes are just a baseline and that true situation is one of incredible diversity.

One way I generate diversity is think of the implications of the supernatural aspect of the game rules and do a what if. Extrapolating the possible effects on the different races and picking the ones that are the most gamable, interesting, fun, and fit with what I want out of my campaign.

If you have trouble doing this then have your players help by running a campaign to flesh out one or more aspect of the setting. Have everybody be a member of the thieves guild, a beggar, everybody from the same neighborhood in City-State, a city guard, etc, etc. The results are surprising and often useful as background for the next campaign. If something is precluded by the situation in the current time period then pick a time in the past and run a campaign then. Use that as background for your "present day".

Now I do run other genres and enjoy refereeing or playing them. But I stuck with the Majestic Wilderlands for fantasy games, because long ago I figured out that with a whole world at my fingertips what I can do is unlimited.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Mermaids of the Caribbean

This weekend my sons and I saw new Pirates of the Caribbean. The movie itself was a fun watch, neither the best or the worst of the series or the genre. However it did have a standout moment in how it portrayed mermaids. Pretty much after watching On Stranger Tides you won't look at mermaids quite the same way again.

Mermaids have the torso of a woman and the lower body of a fish. They live in schools of 4d6 mermaids. They are capable of limited bursts of great speed allowing them to leap out of the water for 60 feet.

They can execute a charge with the leap to grab an unlucky sailor and drag him down to the depth. The mermaid rolls against AC 10 (effected by the target's dexterity modifier). If the mermaid hits, the target must make a saving throw or be dragged into the water.

In concert, three dozen mermaids have enough strength to capsize a large ship.

The mermaid can use seaweed as an entangling rope. It has a range of 20 feet. The mermaid needs to hit AC 10 (target dexterity modifies) and like the charge the target needs to make a saving throw or be dragged to the mermaid.

Mermaids have an enchanted voice that allows them to cast mass charm 1/day.

A Mermaid's kiss allows a target to breathe underwater as long as the kiss continues.

Mermaids are known to use these abilities to drag sailors down into the depth, drown them, and feed on them.

Mermaids can be attracted by a sailor singing in the area in which they frequent. A mermaid brought onto dry land will have her tail transform into a pair of legs. Legends has it that mermaids use this ability to venture onto dry lands in search of mates. Male children are left with their fathers, while females are taken back at the age of six to be raised in the sea with the mermaid's school.

Majestic Wilderlands:
A mermaid's tears can be harvested for 4d6 x 10d worth of components. The mermaid is aware of her tear's potency will resist any attempts at forcing her to cry. Half the value of the tears if not given willingly.

Mermaid: HD 2; AC 4[15]; Atk fangs (1d6); Move 1 (Swim 18);
Save 16; CL/XP 4/120; Special: Breathe water, Charm, Entangle with Hair, Charge and Grapple

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Blackmarsh SRD Updated

I updated the Blackmarsh SRD which you can download from here. RPGNow customers will also be able to download the new SRD from their accounts.

The Setting Reference Document has been updated to Revision 9. This contains some edits submitted by ptingler over on the Original D&D Discussion Forum, (appreciate this). I also reworked the paragraph mention Delving Deeper to be more generic. Finally I appended the Open Game License and made it clear that the entire document is under the Open Game License.

There was some question over the revision numbers. Each file has their own revision number which don't match the other files. In the case of the PDFs the revision number indicates more the Layout version.

I will be updating the print files over the next couple of days with the edits also adding Swords & Wizardry to list of products that Blackmarsh works the best with.

So you walking along a path see some white flowers and BOOM!

There is a real flower known as the Gas plant who's flower excludes a flammable gas. Don't believe me? Just watch this video by my wife, Kelly Anne.

Just add a giant size version and when the party comes along with lanterns and torches.... I think you can take it from there.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

And the Three Castles Award winner is....

Michael Curtis and the Dungeon Alphabet.
Grognardia has the scoop.

Congratulations, Michael and looking forward to seeing what else you have up your sleeves.

And as for me, I have at least Blackmarsh, and the other projects I am working for the 2012 awards so we see how it goes then.

Friday, June 3, 2011

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Monster I Review

SJ Games just released Dungeon Fantasy Monster I for GURPS. The Dungeon Fantasy line implements the GURPS system to run dungeon crawls in a style familiar to most D&D gamers. It is somewhat high powered with 250 pt characters compared to the normally recommend 150pt characters for regular GURPS campaigns.

Part of the increase is that the character are somewhat more survivable and each of the templates cover one of the traditional niches in a dungeon party. The line has been supported by 12 books so far and most of them have been excellent in quality.


There was no monster manual. Scattered throughout the 12 books were various creatures one could use but nothing systematic.

Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 1 is designed to cover that lapse. It is written by Peter V. Dell’Orto and Sean Punch. There are thirty monster with each author contributing 15 from their personal campaign. That gets +1 old school bonus from me. There is a chapter on Monster Traits which means more options to personalize monster. And the at the end there is a index to all the monsters in the DF series to date.

Overall it is a very good product, 5 out of 5 starts. The format and advice is outstanding a 1000% improvement over previous GURPS bestiaries. The collected index of all DF monsters is very handy as well.

It's only quirk, if you can call it such, is that the monsters are drawn from the author's home campaign. Which generally means that they are crafted to the specific circumstance of the author's setting. For example one of the two really likes to mix his Cthulhu with his Dungeon Fantasy :D. But sometimes it means an interesting take like the bugbear, or a lot of experience with a standard monster like a troll.

This quirk can be a major plus for many gamers, in the revival of older D&D editions several products, including my own, include monsters that are product of a specific campaign. Many gamers look for this and is an important reason to buy them.

Also this quirk means that these creatures are developed from actual play. Which gives credibility to the excellent advice found with each creature.

I recommend this highly for GURPS Fantasy referees, and recommend legacy D&D gamers to take a look as well. The interesting monster descriptions and much of the tactical advice can be used for those games. You see a preview which has a complete entry here.

I would like to see future DF monster supplements to continue to include treatments of standard D&D style monsters like the Troll entry in this one.

Finally, I have a sneaking suspicion one of the authors subjected their party to the Tomb of Horrors, Horrid Skull anybody?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Blackmarsh Status Report

It been nearly six weeks since I released Blackmarsh. So how is it doing? The primary goal of Blackmarsh was to release a setting that is completely under the OGL. What little expenses I incurred would be recouped by the profits on the sale of the books.

So far there are over 1032 download of Blackmarsh and the current pace of 5 to 6 copies a day shows no signs of abating.

Over 248 of you download the Blackmarsh Setting Reference Document.

I sold 45 copies of the Blackmarsh book which more than recouped my minimal costs (art). The ratio of 45 books sold against 1032 downloads does seem a little discouraging but after talking to some of the retro-clone authors, ratio would be typical of anybody doing a OGL PDF/Commerical Print project of general interest.

One welcome side effect is what appears to be a 33% increase in sales of Majestic Wilderlands. I sold 26 copies in the last six weeks compared to selling 26 for the entire 1st quarter of 2011.

Since Blackmarsh is clearly an OSR product and not a rule book, the number of downloads may prove interesting as to the current size of the market for older editions.

I want to thank Tim, Dwayne, Rusty Battleaxe, John Adams and everybody else who helped with this project. And most of all to everybody who bought or downloaded a copy. Also since my last Blackmarsh report Akrasia posted a review. Appreciate the kind words there.

As for future planes for Blackmarsh, the only thing on the plate is adding Swords & Wizardry to the list of supported system. It doesn't mean much changes in the the text, Blackmarsh is statless but reinforces the idea that Blackmarsh is usable with all older editions.

If nobody picks up on the OGL material, I may do an expansion of my own later in the years. For now I am content to see what people do with it while I work on Scourge of the Demon Wolf, and the How to Make and Manage Fantasy Sandbox book.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Sailors on the Sea of Five Winds

Chicago Wizards talks about adapting Battlestar Galactica to the fantasy genre. He asks for ideas about running it as a sandbox. It just so happens I have notes for such a campaign.

My Majestic Wilderlands supplement is set in the year 4436 BCCC, three years after the Judges Guild start date. However my personal campaign is up to the year 4452 BCCC and there been considerable changes wrought by various players groups over the years.

One of was campaign that included Tim of Gothridge Manor and Dwayne of Gamer's Closet. Tim played Draco-lindus a mercenary captain, and Dwayne played William Enderil, a merchant adventurer type. During the course of the campaign Draco-lindus became a Duke of the City-State and wound up conquering the Kingdom of Antil with Overlord as an ally in 4442 BCCC.

Which brings me to the Sailors of the Sea of Five Winds. For past century the Kingdom of Antil played City-State against the Empire of Viridistan to maintain their independence. Now with Viridistan in the midst of civil war there no nearby power that can check City-State's ambitions. In short the Antillians are screwed and their way of life is about to come to an end. Their only hope is that much of the southern half of their Kingdom is only readily accessible by ship. And it going to take time before Draco-lindus and the Overlord to build enough ships to take the remaining strongholds.

The surviving nobles, and refugees have come to the conclusion that there is no hope in remaining. To preserve their ancient heritage they will flee across the Sea of Five Winds and build a new home in the southern lands of the Wilderlands. But exactly where? Thus enter the player characters.

They will be part of an expedition across the Sea of Five Winds to find a suitable territory for colonization. Their initial target is somewhere along the shores of the Ament Plains. Between Antil and the Ament plains are several hundred islands largely uncharted. They have one year to establish a route and return. Then led the exodus to the the new land.

For those familiar with the Wilderlands (any version) know that the Sea of Five Winds has a dense concentration of islands filled with strange ruins, and unusual monsters. While the campaign has a definite three part structure, the exact shape of the journey is very much in the hands of the player characters.

Part I is the initial exploration and finding the safest route. The players have one year to do this as this is how long before everybody estimates Draco-lindus and the Overlord will have enough ships to conquer the southern half. They start at the citadel of Mysk marked with a yellow dot.

The subpart are;

The voyage through the Sea of Five Winds which will involve much island hopping looking for anchorage and resupply points.

The exploration of the Ament Plains finding a suitable location for colonization perhaps an ally or two among the barbarian tribes.

The return voyage with possible complications caused by the initial passage.

Then Part II is the gathering of the rag-tag fleet. The main challenge of this will be the faction among the surviving nobles, priest, and refugees. The player characters will have unite them in the face of impending conquest. Then there is the second voyage across with possible threats from anybody in the Sea of Five Winds who don't desire the passage of the fleet.

Finally Part III is the landing and colonization of the Ament Plains. Dealing with a ancient threat that has long dwelled in the plains. Plus the fact there are already people here to begin with.

So that my idea for a Battlestar Galactica type campaign for fantasy.