Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Yes, you need more game crap
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
One of my favorite Ozzy songs
What went on in your head?
Oh, Mister Crowley,
Did you talk to the dead?
Your life style to me seemed so tragic
With the thrill of it all
You fooled all the people with magic
Yeah, you waited on satan's door
Did you think you were pure?
Mr. Alarming, in nocturnal rapport
Uncovering things that were sacred
Manifest on this Earth
Conceived in the eye of a secret
And they scattered the afterbirth
Won't you ride my white horse?
It's symbolic, of course
Approaching a time that is classic
I hear that maiden's call
Approaching a time that is drastic
Standing with their backs to the wall
Was it polemically sent
l want to know what you meant
I want to know,
I want to know what you meant.
Two Unrelated Items
Someone got to my blog recently using the search terms "Ral Partha Frankenstein". That's totally awesome.
Monday, April 28, 2008
link, link, link, link, link
An old chestnut worth revisiting
The Cantrik, or Why I Am Not a Wizard, by Tilo Greenbottle
Fabrica de Herois - scroll to the bottom for a HeroMachine-thingy done in the Bruce Timm style
A Three Bladed Sword! - warning: rest of blog NSFW
Saturday, April 26, 2008
The Economics of Ironwolf
But then I got to wondering, how useful are those 3.5 price limits when using the Wilderlands for Castles & Crusades or OD&D or whatever? Or to put it another way, does 1gp have the same buying power across various editions? I vaguely knew that armor gets more expensive across various iterations of D&D, but does other stuff become pricier as well?
Not being an economist by an means nor a master of subtlety, I tried to use a brute force approach to help me answer these questions. The first thing I did was look up the OD&D price list. Then I looked up the costs of comparable items in every other edition of D&D that I own. Here's the raw data, including the starting money ranges for the original three classes.
To better understand the trends of prices across editions, I decided I needed to examine a test case across editions. Enter Morgan Ironwolf. In step 11 of the character creation example in Moldvay Basic (page B13), Morgan Ironwolf's player spends 110 gp as follows:
chainmail armor (40 gp)
shield (10 gp)
sword (10 gp)
shortbow (25 gp)
quiver with 20 arrows (5 gp)
silver-tiped arrow (5 gp)
50' rope (1 gp)
10' pole (1 gp)
12 iron spikes (1 gp)
6 torches (1 gp)
1 week's standard rations (5 gp)
large sack (2 gp)
quart of wine (1 gp)
wine skin (1 gp)
That's 108 out of 110 gp spent, with 2 gold pieces left in petty cash. Morgan started out with an average amount of gold and got a pretty sweet array of equipment. The only glaring omission is a backpack. Which would you rather have if confronted by a wight, a silver arrow or camping equipment?
Anyway, here's a breakdown of how much Morgan would spend under other editions of D&D, with notes on her starting cash situation.
OD&D: Same starting money, but Morgan can afford that backpack now, because her gear costs 105gp.
Holmes Basic: Identical to OD&D
Mentzer Basic: Large sacks are 1 gp cheaper, so Morgan only spends 107gp. Same starting money.
Rules Compendium: Arrows cost 1gp more, so Morgan spends 109gp. Same starting money.
So far not much excitement in this analysis. But let's look at the AD&D line of descent now.
AD&D1: Starting gold for fighters is upped to 50-200, which is good, because Morgan's kit now costs 122.835 gp. Chainmail shoots up from 40 to 75 gp, which is only partially offset by several other items going down in price. Several items that previously cost 1 gp are now priced in silver and copper pieces, the biggest price cut being for ten foot poles, which now costs 1 cp.
AD&D2: Starting gold still 50-200 gp. Silver arrows, 10' poles, and wine seem to have disappeared off the list. The lack of the two former can be taken as another symptom of 2nd edition walking away from hardcore dungeoneering, while the omission of wine strikes me as some sort of joint BADD/MADD plot. Even without these three items, the cost of being Morgan Ironwolf has gone up to 132.85 gp.
3e: Starting gold goes up by a d4, to 60-240gp. Which is good, because a suit of chainmail has doubled in price to 150gp! Morgan's equipment now costs 222.76 gp, requiring a maximum or near-maximum roll to start play with the gear that was easily affordable with average rolls in earlier editions. Quivers and sacks are nowhere to be found.
3.5: Pretty much the same story as 3e, except the total cost is a trifle higher, at 223.06 gp.
I should point out that if go with a chain shirt instead of a whole suit of chain, the 3e and 3.5 versions of Morgan can save some dough. But I think the fair comparison here is a suit of chainmail. Gary makes it explicit in 1st edition that his AC 5 armor is meant to be a whole suit. Until 3e added the chainshirt I think everyone was pretty much on the same page in that regards, except for usual trends in the art to abbreviate the armor.
Now I'll compare a few items that don't count as D&D for some people, but are A-Okay in my book.
Arneson's First Fantasy Campaign: Lack of starting gold and prices for key dungeoneering equipment make a direct comparison impossible, but most of the prices are cheaper than Gary's original list.
Arduin Grimoire: I'll be damned if I can find starting gold for this one. Hargrave gives a dice range for most of his prices. A sword costs 8-20gp, for example. (That's supposed to be 4d4+4, I guess.) I can't find wine, silver arrows, or quivers in volume I of the Grimoire, but everything else would cost between 91.1 and 194.42 gp.
Encounter Critical: Missing some dungeoneering items. The starting gold range for a Warrior of 100 to 800 makes a suit of chain (810 GC) completely out of reach.
HackMaster: Starting gold is all over the map. You can turn in Build Points for 25gp each, but bad die rolls can start you owing money. One time I rolled up this bard with no equipment and over 900 gps in unpaid family debts. Most of the prices for equipment map to the 2nd edition AD&D list, except that armor is very pricey. A suit of chain is 350 gp, way out of reach of the average character. Morgan's stuff would cost 430.27 gp. No ten foot pole!
Castles & Crusades: Generally follows the 2nd edition trend in terms of prices. Starting gold for fighters is 30 to 240gp, getting away from the flatter curve of 5 or 6 dice. My C&C PHB has no silver arrow or iron spikes listed. Buying everything else on Morgan's shopping list would cost 221.96 gp. The C&C Collector's Boxed Set has a slightly different set of prices that also omits quivers and wineskins, with a total cost of 204.96 gp.
Armor seems to be single biggest issue in this test case. How expensive should armor be? Should an average first level fighter be able to begin play in a suit of chain? What does it say about your campaign if nearly every Veteran sports a suit of chain, with some wearing plate? What would it say about your setting if the typical first level fighter wore leather or no armor?
I'm not advocating a right or wrong answer here, but for me personally I think I want starting PCs in chainmail, if that's what they want. I like the idea of handing a newbie a lawful fighter with a sword, a shield, and some chain and saying "Here you go. Basically, you're playing a knight in King Arthur's court. Go do some good deeds or something."
Friday, April 25, 2008
quick note for websurfers
Thursday, April 24, 2008
I think I like where this is going.
"The basic game will only cover a few classes and a few races and only to a limited level. It'll probably be one book with all you need but it doesn't have the variety of monsters, magic, treasure, classes, races, combat moves, crits, skills, talents, proficiencies, Qs & Fs, and so on."
Another cool item:
"Erol [Otus] will definitely do a cover. We like working with him and he us."
XP's are earned "just for killing things and completing quests and that sort of thing."
Here's a useful bit of streamling: "alignment will be more closely tied to honor. infractions won'r be tracked. they'll be deducted from honor."
"in a nutshell:
critical hits & fumbles
a skill system that actually is integrated into the game
balance between races
more balanced classes
better magic system
more combat options
advice for the 21st century gamer
new monsters & races"
All quotes from David Kenzer in this thread.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
good people, good game, good times
Using the City State setting and those maps was a bit of a risky move. I'm a huge Judges Guild fan, but I only recently got into Bledsaw's Wilderlands. All the players at the table were Wilderlands fans going back decades. Me? I finally bought a copy of the big d20 Wilderlands box set like two weeks ago. (Note to RPG Pundit: Dude, I wish I had taken your recommendation sooner. You were totally right on that one.) Prior to that I owned Unknown Gods (which I loved and used in several Greyhawk outings), Ready Ref Sheets (which again got used in Greyhawk), and a single issue of Pegasus. I have a boatload of stuff Bledsaw published, but little that he wrote.
Still, it was our Bledsaw memorial, so I felt I had to give it the old college try. The table talk occasionally went over my head. For example, the cleric was a Tharbrian human. I have no idea what that means, but clearly the other two players felt that was important to know. And the PCs were surprised to find goblins at night outside the City State's goblin reservation. I didn't know a thing about this goblin reservation, but I ran with it.
We generated PCs using my method in the appendix of Under Xylarthen's Tower. Each player got to make two PCs for this expedition. James Mishler of Adventure Games Publishing ran twin elf magic-users, Periwinkle and Samiam (pronounced "Sam I Am"). Periwinkle was third level and Samiam was second. Shane "Plaag" Glodowski, keeper of the lore at the Judges Guild section of the Acaeum, played Cheis Longshot, an elf swashbuckler, and Bjorn Cold-steel, a dwarf hero. Due to events in play Bjorn gained the additional names of Door-opener and Bull-slayer. John Barns played Algor (later renamed Algar because he got sick of the Al Gore jokes), a third level cleric of Odin, and Harn the Barbarian, a swordsman.
You couldn't ask for a better bunch of guys to play D&D with. They stay focused on the mission and had their dungeoneering act together, but we also had a lot of fun with the roleplaying element. Shane's stupid, filthy dwarf did a good job getting the party into plenty of trouble. The twin elves were like the Smothers Brothers of pointy-eared magicians. And you could tell Harn the Barbarian was just itching to tread the jeweled thrones of the Wilderlands under his sandalled feet.
I'm not going to give you a complete play-by-play. It was a fast and loose game where I spent a lot of time flying by the seat of my pants armed with a half-ass dungeon key and some random die charts. One of my favorite bits of the night would be when Bjorn saved the party from Necro Gas by sticking his finger in the nozzle just moments before one of the elves set off the trap. Necro Gas drains you a level if you make your save and drains ALL your levels if you fail it. I totally made that up. Then I put it in the first level of the dungeon. I'm a jerk sometimes.
Another part that amused me was when one of the elves successfully bypassed the stone demon face that spit fire, only to end up waking up the minotaur on the other side. Most of the party were still on the wrong side of the trap when the minotaur started swinging his bigass flail.
Here's a quick list of some of the things on the dungeon key that the party managed to completely bypass:
- Baba Yaga's three nieces
- The Goblin Casino
- The Chamber of Ten Million Beetles
- The Wretched Kobold Slaves Polishing Smelly Orc-Boots
- The Hidden Realm of the Cyclo-Men
- The dude made out of smoke with lightning for eyes was a spectre of maximum hit points. He was guarding the grave of a dragonlord.
- The staff made out of stone would become of a Staff of Power if stone to flesh was cast upon it.
- The goblins in the red hats were part of the gobbo mafia that ran the casino.
- The purple mushrooms were deadly poisonous. The Red Hat Gang gathers them as tribute to the Three Hags.
- Had you grabbed the Silver Volume without taking the proper precautions, it would have summoned an angry three-headed snake-balrog. Ool Ploonkif does not mess around.
Big thanks to the players for making last night such a kickass time. And thanks to James for picking up the tab at dinner and selling me his extra copy of the Players Guide to the Wilderlands.
In the comments to the last post, Gameblog reader culix asked if I would be publishing this adventure. I don't think that is going to happen. I don't have the rights to the maps, for one thing. For another, I have much sparser notes than my last project. But GMs should always feel free to crib stuff from here for use at their own table!
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Bledsaw Memorial Adventure Background
You never particularly liked Six-toes, but he is your sworn swordfriend and needs to be turned back to his normal, non-waxy self. Why he chose to sass that efreeti is still a mystery. He probably deserves his fate, but the wee git was carrying the map to the Treasure Vault of Sittorak. It is now a waxen lump inside a waxen backpack. Six-toes might be expendable to some of you, but you all agree that you need that map!
Upon your arrival at the Wild Boar the one-eyed barkeep directs your attention to a table in a shadowy corner, far from the general hubbub of Bullfrog Bertha's show and the audience of carousing ne'er-do-wells. The figure waiting for you is Hooded indeed, drapped from head to foot in purple robes. Not even hands or face are immediately visible. The black hole where his visgae should be shows little more than an occasional glimmering haziness, a certain faint scintillation that is there for but a moment and then is gone, only to return a moment later. With a guesture Mantlarr beckons you to sit and soon food and drink is put before you. The wizard does not join in you in your refreshment, opting instead to discuss business as you dig in.
It is clear that Mantlarr does not and perhaps cannot speak the Common Tongue, for his speech is a collection of inhuman buzzings and dronings. A jewel around his neck glows as it translates his alien words. "I know the spell you seek, to release your companion from his waxen prison. Cast it I will, in exchange for rendering a service to me."
You exchange knowing glances among yourselves and guesture to the wizard to continue.
"Many worlds have I crossed in search of the Seven Silver Volumes. One of the Seven lies here on your planet. The Volume of Silver made its way into the possession of the wizard Ool Ploonkif. His library is hidden below this place, three levels below the streets of the city. I will lead you to the entrance to the first level. When you return with the book, I will release the six-toed one from his prison of wax."
Imagination, not indignation,
Fun, not fumbling for a rulebook,
Rulings, not rules,
Making it up, not making do with what they give you,
Getting on with the Game, not getting bogged down in BS.
That's what Old School means to me!
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Bob Bledsaw RIP
It is with great sadness that I must pass on the news that Robert Bledsaw, founder of Judges Guild, creator of the Wilderlands of High Fantasy, died this morning in Decatur, Illinois.Judges Guild, if that name is new to you, is one of the greatest publishers of D&D material, including stuff for OD&D, AD&D, and 3.x. They also did an excellent Traveller line, stuff for Runequest, and T&T/Monsters! Monsters! In the first edition DMG Gary specifically thanked Bledsaw:
Bob was at his son's home, surrounded by family and loved ones, and passed on to the Great Adventure peacefully.
Bob was a good man, a creator of worlds, and a great friend.
I will have more details on services and memorials in the morning.
Bob Bledsaw of Judges Guild must also be given credit. He and his associates have certainly contributed to the overall improvement of fantasy adventure gaming, making the undertaking easier and encouraging still more interest in role playing.Best of luck on your new adventure, Mr. Bledsaw. My condolences to his friends and family.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
An Incomplete Pictorial History of Totally Rad Throwing Blade Thingies
The Beastmaster's caber, a hinged throwing weapon.
Prince Colwyn wields the Glaive,
enchanted weapon and the symbol of his kingdom.
(Krull, which I could easily write a whole post about.)
Polaris Spanner about to wreck a robot with his shek.
Xena brandishes her chakram,
based upon a real 'throwing disc'-type weapon from India.
(Xena: Warrior Princess)
Later in the series Xena got a new chakram,
which could break apart into two melee weapons.
That's slightly less historically accurate.
Dark elves of Eberron.
The drow on the left carries the deadly Xen'drik boomerang.
The vampire hunter Blade's throwing weapon,
referred to as a glaive but hinged like a caber.
The new video game Darksector seems to feature a dude
with a cyborg arm and a glaive/Xen'drik boomerang.
Friday, April 18, 2008
Some really awesome people worked on this first issue. Doc Rotwang! did some fabulous illos, including the cover. (My graphic here is kinda crappy. The actual art looks a lot better.) You can order your own copy through lulu. Right now Fight On! is only available via print-on-demand but a PDF option is in the works so that folks living outside the US won't have to sell blood to cover shipping costs.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
When in Doubt, Hack: A Motto to Game By
Last night I started re-reading my back issues, something I do every once in a while. I thought I'd share a couple of my favorite panels. First off, from the Origins '03 Special, is a panel that perfectly encapsulates what it would be like to have me in your game:
From that same issue, here's much of the current 4E controversy in a nutshell:
Okay, I changed that one slightly. But only a little. The original talks about HackMaster version 4.25. Brian's line "4.25 is like" is the only alteration.
My alltime favorite KotD panel comes from issue #10. The set-up here is that Bob's dad has once again forbidden him from playing HackMaster. In order to continue to score experience points and treasure until the situation blows over, Bob hires a temp to play for him. The little guy passes Brian's quizz on rules knowledge. But Dave wants to know if the kid has the sand to run with his crew:
I should try Dave's hypothetical on new recruits to my games.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
I am a horrible parent.
The internet being what it is, I went out and googled "spock jedi" and immediately grabbed this image:
My daughter, who is watching a cartoon in the same room asks me "Daddy, who is that?" I was dumbstruck. Holy crap, my daughter has no idea who Spock is. How did I allow this gaping hole in her education?
The next shipment from Amazon is definitely including the boxed set for Star Trek: The Animated Series. She has an aversion against "shows", her term for anything that isn't animated. Old Lone Ranger episodes are about the only shows she will watch.
I'm back. What'd I miss?
Monday, April 07, 2008
man, this dream I had
In my dream 4e wasn't even the big talk of the convention. Instead, the most popular item by far was a new computer game being played in a room full of laptops. It was a crappy little browser-based jobbie kinda like Urban Dead but with graphics like Ultima III or an old Intellivision game. In this game you started out as an extremely puny dungeon monster. My initial character was a rot grub. You wandered a huge dungeon inhabitied by other players' monsters, sneaking/fighting/negotiating for food, water, and treasure, building or locating a lair, and setting traps. The twist was that every time you leveled, you mutated into a new monster type. I was on the worm/serpent/wyrm track, so when I got to level 2 I turned into a small but poisonous snake. Another guy next to me was on the dragon track, and had leveled up to a stegosaurus, while a third dude had started as a "dungeon cow" and worked up to minotaur, then a D&D-style "iron bull" gorgon. Periodically, the server would generate a party of random AI adventurers who laid waste to the dungeon until the players teamed up to drive them off.
If anybody has heard of a game like this, with the "turn into a better monster" feature, please let me know. If it doesn't exist and you're a game programmer, please steal this idea!
The dream ended when I overheard someone in the hallway say "The MC for the Blogging and Gaming panel no-showed. Who can we get on such late notice?" That's when I knew I was dreaming and woke up.
Sunday, April 06, 2008
Local Item: Armored Gopher sales
five links, get 'em while they're hot!
Uncyclopedia Explains It All - it's amazing the things you can find while googling something as innocent as "spork"
Midkemia Press - Still selling copies of their classic book Cities for five bucks plus shipping! By email I was told they had only " a couple" left in stock, so don't delay.
Buddy in Hong Kong - with thanks to Settembrini
Holmes as a Complete Game - another great Dragonsfoot thread
"Barons by the Grace of God"
The discussions center around a certain signeury of St. Aliquis. If no such barony is easily identifiable, at least there were several hundred second-grade fiefs scattered over western Christendom which wee in essential particulars extremely like it, and its Baron Conon and his associates were typical of many similar individuals, a little worse or a little better, who abounded in the days of Philip Augustus.The book first came out in 1923 so any similarity in name between the lord of St. Aliquis and the greatest barbarian in ficition is no doubt a coincidence.
This is one of those grand overview books that can reward GMs without wholesale adoption of 13th century feudal France as your campaign model. There are plenty of little bits that can be swiped to add just a little gloss of medieval verisimilitude to a campaign world. I particularly like the chapter on the Tourney, which describes a more rough-and-tumble affair than the romantical notions that show up in a lot of gaming.
And the map of the castle is awesome:
The title of this post refers to the family motto of the lords of St. Aliquis "which meant that they obeyed the duke and his suzerain, the king, very little, and, we fear, God not a great deal."
Saturday, April 05, 2008
The Great Spork Migration
I'm sure the changes at both restaurants can be easily explained away by market factors. Maybe fewer people eat fried chicken with forks, making the tines of the spork unnecessary. Maybe Taco Bell got a good deal on the sporks. I dunno. But seeing no white sporks at their usual haunt and then the next day seing black sporks in an unexpected place leaves me with the distinct impression that the sporks all went over to the Dark Side.
If I could draw or photoshop worth a darn, this post would end with a picture of Darth Vader holding a glowing red spork.
EDIT: Thanks, stuart!
Friday, April 04, 2008
Look out! Ghouls!
In fact, we've been playing with a lot of rules that I never used as a kid. When Pat's assassin hit 2nd level I cracked open the training rules and made him pay through the nose. When the PCs and some gnolls tied for initiative, we actually used the weapon speed rules for tie breaks. Next session we may even use the weapon adjustment for armor class charts. Individually, none of these mechanics add much to the game. That's why we ignored them all back in the 80's. But I'm having fun messing around with them now. And it keeps the players guessing a bit as to what is going to happen next.
Is it just me, or all ghouls one of the all-time 1st level PC killers? Three attacks per round combined with save or be paralyzed is pretty hardass. Add in that sleep and charm are useless with the fact that turning them isn't easy at level 1, and you've got a relatively common monster that can easily score a total party kill. There's a single surprise ghoul in at least two old modules I've rune: N4 Treasure Hunt and N1 Against the Cult of the Reptile God. I've ran both modules and both ghouls nearly destroyed the party in basically throwaway encounters. In fact, if I ran N4 again I'd probably cut the ghoul or demote him to a cannibalistic zombie. Meanwhile, T4 puts four ghouls in the crypt, and that's not even the hardest encounter in the module.
N4 Treasure Hunt is a fabulous little module for starting a new campaign, by the way. I've ran it twice to good effect. The players start as zero level nobodies who must fight there way to 1st level. There's these little charts where the DM tracks the behavior of each player and assigns them a class (or multiple classes for demi-humans) and an alignment when they reach first level. ("You used the bardiche for most of the combats, you snuck around a bit, and your alignment tended towards evil. By my tally you can be either a Lawful Evil monk or an assassin of any Evil alignment. Make sure bardiche is one of your weapon proficienies.") You can run the adventure with absolutely clueless newbies and skip most of chargen. The adventure takes place on an island that can be dropped into any convenient sea. If the adventure goes well the PCs end the adventure on a boat, so you can start the next adventure at a port of your choice. Good stuff.
Thursday, April 03, 2008
Holy crap, polka!
This morning I planned on blogging about last night's session, but before I logged on I accidentally stumbled upon the greatest TV show in broadcast history: Big Joe's Polka Show! It's a show about polka music run by a guy named Joe, in case the name of the show was too subtle for you.
Wednesday, April 02, 2008
even more five links
Best post-Seanbaby analysis I've seen. - Don't miss the scholarly exchange in the comments section.
I like swords
In the Labyrinth/Cidri homepage
Aaron Thorne's Random Dungeon Generator - dungeon stocking charts for Tunnels & Trolls.