Saturday, June 30, 2007
S. John Ross has made my day
Asteroid 1618 is being offered at cost. No one makes any money on this product besides the folks at Lulu. That allows the price for a copy to be a low $6.21. If you have any interest in getting one of these (and I won't be offended if you don't, this is some deeply niche stuff we're talking about) then you need to act soon. This version of Asteroid 1618 will only be for sale through the month of July 2007. The PDF version will always be available (here and here, as well as from me via email) and completely free. But this spiffy bound version is a one time only deal. Seriously. We're not the Disney corporation here. This thing is going back in the vault forever after 30 days.
The funny thing is that since this is a print-on-demand product, no comp copies are available. So S. John, the artists, and I all have to pay for our copies. It is cracking me up that even as I type this I have another browser window open where I am paying actual money for a copy of my own module.
By the by, a search on Lulu.com of the term 'role playing' returns 238 products. I'm flipping through the list to see what all they've got. Did you know there's an rpg called Intergalactic Cooking Challenge? I sure didn't. There's a lot of other interesting looking stuff here as well. If you're not digging on my module or S. John's other great stuff, you might want to check out Lulu anyways.
Friday, June 29, 2007
Doctor Who theme-o-rama
If I ever ran a Doctor Who campaign I'd start every session with the theme song. I'd go with either the heavy bass late-80's power metal version or this:
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Star Wars campaign concepts
The pitch: Hey, let's all beat up some battledroids!
Primary inspiration: Clone Wars cartoons
Pros: High action with plenty of Jedi, but room for elite clone trooper PCs and the occasional oddball. That wicked awesome Sith chick as a villain.
Cons: Lotsa fights does not necessarily equal "epic".
The pitch: Everyone is Han Solo and the Empire is the Man.
Primary inspiration: The original film, trashy 70s sci-fi novels
Pros: All the trappings of Traveller tramp freighter play in the the Star Wars universe.
Cons: Fewer lightsabre fights.
Your Own Private Galaxy
The pitch: Forget those guys. Let's make our own Star Wars universe!
Primary inspiration: This post.
Pros: A whole friggin' galaxy to mess around with.
Cons: More prep work.
The pitch: Kick the Empire in the balls!
Primary inspiration: The first two films.
Pros: Every right-thinking human being instantly gets the concept.
Cons: Working in the shadow of Luke, Leia, and Han.
A Parallel Saga
The pitch: Between the movies there was a whole 'nother saga, starring you!
Primary inspiration: All six films.
Pros: An opportunity to participate in the overarching canonical storyline while the Hollywood types are offscreen.
Cons: Easy to get tangled up in canon wankery. The Rise and Fall of the House of Skywalker will be a hard act to follow.
A Long Time Ago in The Seventies
The pitch: Remember how open and wondrous the first film felt? We can bottle that lighting!
Primary inspiration: The original film, pre-Empire novels, comics. The Holiday Special.
Pros: Everything you love about the old film that started it all, with none of the later edits.
Cons: Painfully dated.
So close I can taste it
I am truly astounded by the number of totally awesome illos provided by the supercool people on the Encounter Critical mailing list. S. John Ross, Christian Conkle (a.k.a. Evil Schemer), and Stephen Henderson-Grady (who I don't even really know, but is obviously awesome) all provided some great stuff. And just this morning I got 6 new pieces of art from Doc Rotwang! and his wife!
Early this morning I started laying out my various files as a single document and it turns out I wrote a lot more than the 32 pages I was shooting for. The Vanishing Pyramid, the dungeon that serves as the centerpiece of the module (though not necessarily in the physical center of the text) doesn't even begin until page 43. Wow. This puppy might turn out closer to 64 pages rather than 32.
In my last post on this topic jinnetics asked "What are you using to make your PDFs?" When I got my latest home computer I bought a program from Adobe. It's not the fullsized Acrobat, but it will take most standard filetypes and convert them to a basic, no-frills PDF. I can't remember the name of the thing right now, but it was only like 20 bucks or so. I've used it for a couple of one or two page documents with pretty good results.
Monday, June 25, 2007
I can see the finish line
Friday, June 22, 2007
old Star Wars poster art
Another cool poster with a totally different logo:
A foreign edition poster where Luke and Leia look even less like Hamill and Fisher than the various American posters.
These last two are drafts of poster art undoubtedly done well in advance of actual production. I love how they capture that 70's sci-fi paperback art look.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
table of contents
Shattered Dome key
scan wilderness maps
If I Get The Time
Haunted Mine map and key
additional art - cool pieces coming in from the EC Mailing list gang!
adventure hooks page
generic NPC stats
Wow, that's a lot of stuff. I better go work on something.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
smells like five links
The AfterEllen.com Hot 100 List - a hot celebrity babe photo-list composed by lesbians
The Brothers Hildebrant present: Star Wars
The other Erol Otus fansite - I absolutely adore the bugbear in the minis section
The Maundering Madness of Doctor Mayavale
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
The Galaxy Game
1) Google up a good "overhead" view of a galaxy. Something like this, this, or this.
2) Swipe that pic and open it up in a paint program. Any paint program will do, including MS Paint, which I'm using for my example.
3) Draw some squiggly freehand lines all over the map in some garish color. Don't get too out of control here. You want maybe 10 to 20 discrete areas on the map when you're done.
4) Type a number or letter into each area.
5) Create a key giving some sort of nifty label to each area of your galaxy.
6) Share the picture and key to your own custom galaxy! Like this:
7) Next time your players ask to see your campaign map, hand them a printout of your galaxy!
A- Starclusters of the Exiloids
B- Unincorporated Worlds (per 3rd Treaty of Arethon IV)
C- Reorganized Methanic Empire
D- The Multitude of Microstates (all 10,000 planets or less)
E- Realm of the Cosmokhan
F- Barbarian States (overrun Imperial Methanic colonies)
G- Territory of the Transentient Energy Field
H- Omniprosperity League
I- Unrestricted Trade Region (a vast warzone)
J- Robo-Sun Collective
K- Alliance of Unaligned Nonallies (the name makes more sense in the original Drakthani)
L- Tricameral Sophont Pact
M- The Ruined Worlds
N- Transgalactic Colonies of Humanity
O- Hyperclone Dominion
P- There be dragons here.
Q- Also unexplored.
R- Original Methanic Empire
Extra credit for Traveller fans: Overlay an 8 x 10 numbered hex grid on your map and develop a Universal Galactic Profile system that allows you to provide useful information for each hex. Keep in mind that the 3rd Imperium and all its neighbors comfortably fit in a single galactic hexagon with lots of room to spare.
Monday, June 18, 2007
So, happy Father's Day to me
There's been a bunch of hoopla surrounding this new Star Wars game. Two items in particular have been discussed at length, the size of the book and the industry implications. The odd 9" by 9" size I find utterly charming. This book sits easily in my hands and lays flat. It should be no harder to use at the table than my 3.5 hardbacks. My only concern with the size of the book is that the charsheet in the back isn't very convenient, since it is the same size as every other page. But I'm sure PDF sheets will not be hard to find on the internet.
There's been a lot of buzz about this 'Saga Edition' in the form of the question "Is this the face of 4E D&D?" Based upon an initial investigation, my answer is "Probably not." Every change made in this book looks to me like it was done to make the game more Star Warsy and less D&Dish. Some of the changes, such as clarification/simplification of combat actions might make it into 4E. Others, like the Talent Tree fueled classes, maybe not so much. And using your Reflex save as your Armor Class is a great move, but if I saw such a shortcut in my baseline D&D I would decry it as heresy.
But more importantly based upon my first, casual readthrough I really like this game. A lot. Unlike all the previous Star Wars rpgs, I've immediately got some ideas on what to do with the game. And I don't feel intimidated by either the weight of the rules or the breadth of the included expanded universe materials. Assuming interested players, I very much like the idea of making my next campaign some sort of Star Wars Saga Edition based freakout.
Saturday, June 16, 2007
Ah, hell yeah!
Friday, June 15, 2007
But MERP was our first post-D&D fantasy game that we played for long enough to sink our teeth into the system. My school buddy Dave (still one of the coolest and most talented guys I've ever slung dice with) bought a copy of MERP and ran at least one or two sessions of it. But I quickly found myself GMing our longest uninterrupted go at the game. I ran most of the longer campaigns for that group, excepting Dave's highly awesome 2nd edition AD&D game and his brother-in-law Jim's Greyhawk campaign. Jim was the guy who once decided that my new PC should come into the game pre-raped, but that's another story.
We really liked MERP a lot, even though we had some trouble with the crunchier mechanics like the Movement & Maneuvers charts. The ability to tap directly into the world of Tolkien appealed greatly to Dave. He was the kind of guy who loved the appendices with all the genealogies, Elvish language materials, and such almost as much as the actual tale itself. Me, I like The Hobbit a bit and The Silmarillion a lot, but I always got bogged down in The Two Towers. It was only within the last five or six years that I've read the Lords of the Rings from start to end. I still haven't seen the second or third movies.
So when I ran MERP I tended to run it as D&D+. For which it works just fine. This game was written well before the solidification of the idea that mechanics had to be ruthlessly tailored to genre expectations. So instead of some sort of epic storytelling extravanganza, MERP was a fairly crunchy but chopped-down version of Rolemaster. Like RM, the game is almost entirely percentile driven, with classes, levels, skills, and races/cultures used to trick out your character. Spells were power point driven. The classes available are Warrior, a spell-casting Ranger, Bard, Wizard, Scout (thief), and Animist (cleric/druid). Classes didn't get ad hoc special abilities, instead they got access to different spell lists and per-level bonuses to different skills.
The skill list was long for kids used to D&D's lack of skills, but compared to many systems nowadays it was refreshingly light. You didn't have to develop separate ratings in both longsword and short sword skills, instead you could take ranks in 1-Handed Edged Weapons. We liked that a lot. The only oddity was that armor required skill to wear effectively and was broken up into Soft Leather, Hard Leather, Chain, and Plate subskills.
Combat used charts similar to Rolemaster's infamous to-hit and critical charts, but far fewer charts were involved. The result was combats running a lot more hassle-free, but still being able to enjoy some pretty wicked criticals. Spell went from first to tenth level and you learned them in lists. So if your wizard knew the Fire Law list when he reached the appropriate level to cast fireball he already knew how.
As kids used to Expert D&D's 14 levels and AD&D's unlimited advancement, the fact that the game kinda topped out at tenth level seemed a bit weak to my group. But nowadays MERP looks compact and self-contained. You can do all your standard dungeon mungery inside a tight little system. I think it would be aces as a system choice for someone wanting to run Harn or maybe Kenzer's Kalamar setting. A faux Arthurian game could probably flourish under these rules. It wouldn't be Pendragon, but maybe more like the film Excalibur.
The MERP line had a lot of really good supplements. I only used two in our short campaign, Bree and the Barrow Downs and Hillmen of the Trollshaws. One MERP item, Terry K Amthor's Court of Ardor, is a significant collector's item nowadays. It's a noncanonical campaign setting south of the region of the novels. And I've heard it's pretty spiffy.
The Barrow Downs were an interesting ride. The Wights that live there are badass. My group decided to try looting a barrow mound at about 3rd level or so. On paper that was extremely unwise, like taking on Doctor Doom when your team consists of Howard the Duck and Bucky.
But Eric, one of our resident munchkins, had the world's greatest elvish crossbowman. He tricked out his elf's dexterity and bow skill to the maximum allowed by the rules. The he bought a crossbow, which under MERP is +25% to-hit at short ranges, and a single Mithril crossbow bolt. Between all the bonuses for dex, skill, the point blank crossbow rule, and the mithril arrow, Eric's 3rd level elf had a to-hit bonus akin to a god. And the mithril on the arrow allowed him to score vicious crits against undead types.
I had seen Eric's elf in action among some hill trolls. His modus operandi consisted of firing his one awesome crossbow bolt and then hiding out the rest of the fight. He outright killed one of the four rampaging trolls, which was quite a piece of work. The rest of the party only overcame the other three by use of poisoned blades. Poison wasn't going to work on an undead, so the party basically gambled their lives on the suppositions that A) there would be only one wight in the tomb they cracked open and B) Eric would kill it with one crossbow shot. Anything else and they were hosed.
Surprisingly, this plan worked! The mound they selected was small and contained only one wight, which Eric promptly shot dead. For 3rd level characters they made a bigass haul of loot, too. The next and final adventure of the campaign involved a sorcerer-haunted tower. The players throught they were clever when they found a secret entrance into the basement of the tower. They assumed that the wizard lived on the top floor. Wrong. He lived in the dungeon below. When the dude popped off a readied fireball everyone in the party took a 'C' heat critical. It wasn't a Total Party Kill, but close enough it soured the players on MERP. The same thing happened with this bunch when we later did a Call of Cthulhu campaign. One bad run-in with the Spawn of Tsathoggua and they were ready to play something else.
Which brings me around to what I still love about MERP. It's like CoC at its best: a very upbeat, fun game about fighting evil at nearly impossible odds. MERP is hard. Crits and fumbles mangle a lot of PCs. Average orcs are 3rd level and the game has no half hitdie kobolds on which to cut your teeth. Hell, Dave and I ran a test combat where a milkcow kicked a first level elf warrior's ass. FYI If you've never lived among livestock animals, a cow kicking your ass is totally realistic.
Like CoC spells can be as frustrating as they are helpful. Spellcasting is slow and easy or fast and error-prone. A first level fire wizard knows how to Boil Water and that's it. My players were much smarter dungeoneers for having struggled in Middle Earth. In order to be really successful you've got to think strategically just as much as tactically.
You know what I like?
Thursday, June 14, 2007
two quick links
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Odinsday Update #6
Here's a picture of a Viking babe I found:
That picture is not directly relevant to the subject at hand. But, hey, Viking babe.
Below the line is the email I sent to my players earlier today.
Before I get into the weekly fluff, here's a question for all y'all. Is this module we're doing working for you? The find-the-clue aspects of the adventure have not been resonating with me and I can't quite make up my mind about the new monsters. There's a fine line between clever and stupid and I'm not sure where these monsters are in relation to it. I worry they're too much clever and not enough stupid. Unless there is a strong objection I'm going to hack the lower levels of the Ziggurat in a way that lets us hopefully end the adventure next session. Any objections?
Since you aren't currently welcome at the Keep, you'll have to stay elsewhere between visits to the Sunken Ziggurat. The civic-minded among you might opt to stay in Bartertown and help with the rebuilding after the savage duergar attack a few weeks ago. You're welcome to stay at the farmstead of Ollie Back-breaker, a jolly old fellow who lives on the very edge of Lord Beppo's lands. He likes getting visitors and hard-eyed adventurers like yourselves are handy to have around with all these evil spirits on the loose. He'd much rather feed fellow Northmen than be food for some damn ghost! A third option would be to hike back to Ingvoll, closest proper Viking settlement from the Keep. It's in the wrong direction but it also gives you the opportunity to spend d4x100gp on debauchery. Let me know where you stay prior to the next session. You can split up if you have varying interests. I'm not the kind of DM who is going to pimp you over every time your PC wants to go to take a leak without an armed escort.
It seems that Zoyd Sampson is the sole survivor of the poorly-organized and poorly-led Anti-Duergar Punitive Expedition. He stumbles out of the forest covered in blood and mud. He's wounded, diseased, poisoned, and hallucinating. He keeps mumbling something about 'the doomlizards'. Since Zoyd isn't on Sigurd Half-Jotun's grudge list he is nursed back to health at Beppo's Keep. Whether he will recover by next Wednesday is solely a function of whether Jason can make it to the run. Jason, please don't take my abuse of your character the wrong way. I'm just trying to come up with exciting adventury-type reasons why your guy is out of the action while you are unavailable.
As requested, Druzella the Witch sets up a meeting between Erik (and anyone else who wants to be there) and Stinky Murgo, an officer in the hobgoblin mercenary contigent currently camping in one of the caves of the Canyon of Chaos. The meeting is at the pond in the center of the Canyon, at a spot with some crude wooden benches and a totempolish sort of idol erected around a fire pit. This place is apparently considered neutral ground by most of the monsters living in the caves. Here are the going rates for hobgoblins-for-hire:
A basic company of 20 hobgoblin Warriors 1 costs 400gp per day of short-term service
Up to 2d4 companies could be ready to march in 3 weeks (the session after next), each week of delay adds d4 companies.
Each company requires at least one officer. A hobgoblin Warrior 3 officer costs 60gp a day. An elite hobgoblin Fighter 3 or Marshal 3 costs 85gp a day and expects a 1/2 share of any pillage.
5 companies will require a senior officer. A hobgoblin Warrior 6 will cost 140gp/day and expect a full share of treasure. A hobgoblin Fighter 5/Dragon Samurai 1 or Marshal 6 costs 185gp/day and requires a full share as well.
If you hire at least 5 companies the price for the basic troops goes down to 100gp per day per company.
Everyone will require a half-day's wage in advance.
As previously established in the campaign it is possible to travel from the Keep to the Canyon (or vice versa) in a few hours.
My numbers are based upon AEG's Mercenaries, by the way.
If Doug is planning what I think he's planning, feel free to consult a copy of B2 The Keep on the Borderlands when drawing up any plans. Not that the module exactly reflects local conditions. Instead think of the module as an intelligence summary. It's been a while since I checked out the Keep myself, so it will take me a while to answer any questions about.
Quick question to the audience: which of the following looks like the coolest pic for a hobgobbo merc?
This Roman Hobgoblin by Claudio Pozas fits in very nicely with the alt-history flavor of the campaign.
I had klingon ronin in mind when I first noted hobgoblin mercenaries in my dungeon key. The armor looks vaguely Japanese to me and I love the alien leg structure. This hobgoblin is not just a guy with latex on his face!
I love this picture, but it's almost too good for my needs. This guy's awesome helmet implies a whole alien hobgoblin culture. That pic would be aces in a rich setting like Tekumel or Glorantha, but for my little campaign it's a bit overwrought.
Monday, June 11, 2007
Uh, anybody know who that woman is?
Cheapies and freebies
Quote of the Day
The original comics creators invented gods and monsters; forged universes; played havoc with the forces of reality itself.
Their descendents use what their forebearers made to do a passable imitation of TV serial dramas.
Take your pick.
--anonymous commenter at the Absorbascon, on the state of modern DC comics
Saturday, June 09, 2007
I smelled Chuck Norris because the voices told me to
Fwd: I smelled a noodle because I'm sexy and I do what I want.
Fwd: I yelled at my science teacher because I'm sexy and I do what I want.
Subject: I ran over a stuffed animal because Big Bird said to and he's my leader
Work the 3 tables below, then: type out the sentence you end up with in the subject line of a blog post and copy this text. Also, link back to the blog you read it on. DON'T LEAVE ME HANGING ALONE!
Pick the month you were born:
March--------I karate chopped
May---------- I jumped on
June---------- I smelled
July-----------I did the Macarena With
August-------I had lunch with
September---I danced with
October------I sang to
November----I yelled at
December----I ran over
Pick the day (number) you were born on:
7-------my cell phone
9-------my best friends' boyfriend
11---- ---my science teacher
14-------a stuffe d animal
18---- ---a spoon
19------- a smurf
20-------a baseball bat
25-------a football player
31-------A homeless guy
Pick the color of shirt you are wearing:
White---------because I'm cool like that
Black---------because that's how I roll.
Pink----------because I'm NOT crazy.
Red-----------because the voices told me to
Blue----------because I'm sexy and I do what I want.
Green---------because I think I need some serious help.
Purple--------because I'm AWESOME!
Gray----------because Big Bird said to and he's my leader.
Yellow--------because someone offered me 1 ,000,000 dollars
Orange --------because my family thinks I'm stupid anyway.
Brown ---------because I can.
Other---------because I'm a Ninja !
None----------because I can't control myself.
Now type out the sentence you made and put in your subject line and copy the text of this post.
Don't forget to link back to the person that tagged you!
Thursday, June 07, 2007
also, five links for everyone
compiled Warlock invocations
Holy crap! It's Mazinga!
Aldreth - fantasy powered by Classic Traveller!
Requiescat In Pace: John M. Ford
a map for Pat
GMs, you want to freak your players out? Use this baby as the world map for your next campaign of Gamma World or Rifts or whatever.
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
some RPG news
- Star Wars Saga Edition is out and intitial reports are very favorable. This might be the Star Wars rpg that I actually A) buy and B) run.
- According to a credible source at Citizens of the Imperium, Traveller 5 is not coming out this month as originally planned. Look for a beta release of some sort later this year. Based upon a few snippets of insider info, I'd say this delay is definitely for the best.
- No sign on the horizon of Phil Reed completing his Four Color open FASERIP project. The last communication from him on the official message board is from May 19th, where he seems to indicate that he was almost done at that time. You got our money, Mr. Reed. Howzabout finishing up your end of the bargain? Pretty please?
- Worldwide Adventure Writing Month seems to be going swimmingly, both in terms of general participation and the amount of work I've complete on my own adventure. It's not too late to jump on board!
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
Monday, June 04, 2007
Behold, the Orchestra of Fear!
Giovanni Diablo had been an unsuccesful solo villain for several years when the Conductress recruited him. His powers are impressive but a glass jaw makes him an easy target for two-fisted superheroing. Giovanni claims he was given his magical violin by the Devil himself.
The Orchestra of Fear is Little Boy Blue's third gang. He was originally part of the Midget Mob, a small (heh) group that for a time terrorized the happy harbor town of Argenta. While in the klink he was busted out of jail by Mother Goose and shanghaied into her Crime Rhymers gang. It was she who gave him the outfit, the codename, and the sonic disruptor trumpet. Little Boy Blue managed to escape the last big dust-up with Captain Groovy (RIP) when the rest of the Rhymers were sent up the river.
Mr. Smooth's previous gimmick was that of a kung fu master who carried and used a bewildering variety of exotic weapons. The Conductress gave him the Saturnium saxophone and challenged him to defeat his foes with only one ungainly weapon. Truth be told, Mr. Smooth does not know how to play the horn he carries, but he can sure beat your sorry ass with it.
New old videogames
One of the neat features of this game are the NPC adventurers. Each player controls their own character but can recruit an NPC that follows them around. In the above graphic the guy with the axe and the dude with the sword are the players. Swordy has a cleric following him around, while Mr. Axe is accompanied by a barbarian babe with a crossbow. My favorite NPC was probably the Fire Ninja.
Also note the hostile Easter Island head. The monsters in this game are awesome!Here's the Swordsman with his NPC buddy, Large Redheaded Barbarian Dude. This game features a surprising number of bear fights. More games should feature bears attempting to maul the good guys.
The asteroid in question is the last fragment of planet Aldaria, which was blown up a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Most of the survivors of this catastrophe live in two domed cities, as elsewhere the atmosphere is thin and getting thinner. Monsters and mutants roam the land between the domes and lurk in the towns that are falling to ruin for lack of their own atmo-generators. A few brave folk live outside the city, working hard to retain the biosphere of their planetary shard.
I envision the whole thing as one of those toolkit adventures that don't try to tell a story, but equip the playgroup with many different avenues for adventure. My models for this approach are things like The Village of Hommlet and the old Judge's Guild book Verbosh. Those adventures offer themes, a prior history of the region, and a snapshot of the present. Everything else is left up to the iniative of the players and the inventiveness of the GM.
I've got several pages of notes that I've been working on since December of last year. So far I've actually written a little over four pages of complete text and finished one map. I've still got a long way to go to reach the 32 page goal, but if I get around to writing up everything scrawled in my notes I shouldn't be wanting for material. At this point time is a scarcer resource than crazy stupid ideas.
Sunday, June 03, 2007
Sir Mix-A-Lot and Archie have at least one thing in common.
Truly, it takes a philosophic mind equal to the calibre of Messrs. Andrews and A-Lot to feel such warms regards as the object of their desires recedes from view.
Friday, June 01, 2007
One of my all-time favorite quotes
Know, O Prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the rise of the Sons of Aryas, there was an Age undreamed of, when shining kingdoms lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars - Nemedia, Ophir, Brythunia, Hyperborea, Zamora with its dark-haired women and towers of spider-haunted mystery, Zingara with its chivalry, Koth that bordered the pastoral lands of Shem, Stygia with its shadow-guarded tombs, Hyrkania whose riders wore steel and silk and gold.
But the proudest kingdom of the world was Aquilonia, reigning supreme in the dreaming west. Hither came Conan the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the earth under his sandled feet....