Monday, August 31, 2009

'“ninja” was an unknown term.'

Maybe to you, Mr. Edwards. But James Bond had teamed-up with ninjas back in '67.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Shatnerday gets an extra attack each round

Anyone who has stats for this weapon please share.

Friday, August 28, 2009

And now... beholders.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Mutant Future session #4

Last night five brave souls gathered at the Armored Gopher last night to play some Mutant Future. My three groovy MF regulars, Carl, Dane and Wheelz, were all present. Back from exile working nights is the unstoppably awesome Joe. And joining us for the first time last night was Rialla, the daughter of the owners of the shop. Rialla's been present for many sessions I've run at the Gopher, but until last night she always declined my offer to join us. Now she's Spunky the Invincible Wonder Weasel, a nearly blind mutant animal with mental illusion powers and a musket. And she helped beat up the Buggems.

The Buggem Lair is one of the mini-adventures in the awesome first edition Gamma World module Legion of Gold. Because it's not for D&D, I think Legion is often overlooked as a classic in the field of sandboxy adventure. But last night I drilled down on the chapter with the big bug monster lair for some loud, stupid fun.

Here are just a few of the highlights of the night:
  • The Buggems were defeated not by ubermutations or high-tech weaponry, but by good ol' fashion player ingenuity. They smoked the bugs out!
  • I let all the new characters roll on this table for some crazy extra starting equipment, in addition to these tables I had already been using. Dane ended up with a toilet plunger, which he used to plunge out some insectoid larva that had been implanted in some hapless farmers!
  • Joe had the Mutant of the Night. He rolled both the good mutation Dual Cerebellum and the disadvantage Dual Cerebellum (Defective). Basically, he has three brains, one of which is evil. Both Dual Cerebellum entries stress that your extra brain may be located anywhere on your body, so Joe decided he had a spare brain in each buttock. Joe's evil brain had some mental mutations that he wasn't allowed to know about, so much to my delight I had this little chart behind the screen entitled "Joe's Secret Brain". I heartily recommend to all GMs that they have a chart behind their screen just like that; it is pure joy.
  • Dane showed up with two sets of Gamescience dice, apparently taking this post to heart. He even had a sharpie to color 'em. I'm also going to go out on a limb and totally take credit for the fact that Armored Gopher suddenly carries Gamescience dice. I have no evidence that I had anything to do with this development, but as a member of the Blogger's Guild I'm required to assume I'm 1200% more relevant than I really am.
No PC's died and the party scored some high tech guns, so I call that a very successful Mutant Future outing. Next time I need to show up with a proper MF screen, more blank character sheets (we've exhausted my initial supply due to PC mortality!), and more mutation charts. That last item is a result of too many mutations making multiple appearances for the group's tastes. So I'm putting together a compilation of every random mutation chart I've got handy.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

two quick informational items

1) I've got quite a backlog of email at the moment. If you've emailed me in the last week or so and haven't heard from me, I'm not ignoring you. I'm just a bit swamped.

2) Calling all Mutants! Players needed for Wednesday's Mutant Future outing at the Armored Gopher. We'll be starting the mayhem around 7:30, but I'll be there no later than 7pm if you want to roll up some characters.

Monday, August 24, 2009

I'm not exactly sure what this is

Your BrainHex Class is Seeker.

Your BrainHex ClassYour BrainHex Sub-Class is Seeker-Conqueror.

You like finding strange and wonderful things or finding familiar things as well as defeating impossibly difficult foes, struggling until you eventually achieve victory, and beating other players.

According to your results, there are few play experiences that you strongly dislike.

Learn more about your classes and exceptions at

Your scores for each of the classes in this test were as follows:

Go to to learn more about this player model, and the neurobiological research behind it.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

my favorite mechwarrior

From FASA's original BattleTech Technical Readout 3025:
MechWarrior Donald Vincent
Vincent is a roving adventurer. When the Crimson Ace Dragoons, a small mecernary force, was destroyed on Tiber in an assault against House Marik, he managed to escape with his 'Mech intact. Since then, he has served a variety of petty lords and landholders, but his moody nature and violent temper have often cut his employment short. He is most famous for walking his 'Mech through the palace of a former employer after a wage dispute.
Vincent pilots a JagerMech, a 65-ton autocannon platform of a machine that is utterly unsuitable for solo operations. It doesn't have hands, its shortrange weapons are limited, it needs a constant supply of ammo for its for autocannon, and it has the weakest armor plating of any known heavy mech. You can find mechs less half its tonnage with the same armor rating as a Jager. Every member of my old B-Tech crew from high school thought I was throwing my money away when I bought a JagerMech miniature.

And yet this guy Don Vincent managed to be the only one of his unit to make it out of Tiber in one piece. Dude may have a legendarily short fuse but he's clever enough to escape a massacre while piloting a crap ass mech. And he somehow manages to make something resembling a living as a one man merc unit. That combination of apparent foxlike cleverness, berserk fury, a dangerous past, a sleazy present and a lousy giant robot has appealed to me for over twenty years.

I've often thought that if I ever tried to run MechWarrior again I would position the PCs as new recruits for Vincent's attempt to reconstitute his old unit. The Crimson Ace Dragoons would probably have uniforms (at least as soon as they could afford them) based upon the Crimson Guard from G.I. Joe.

The headgear would be optional. Also, instead of a snake mascot, the Crimson Ace Dragons would have as their emblem a spade from a deck of cards, but red instead of black. Maybe something like this:

But the BattleMechs would probably have something more like this painted on them:

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Shatnerday is breaking my heart

Thanks to Tommy Dye for the link to this video.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Random oni attack! is having an art contest where participants dice up an oni using the charts in the back of Rifts Japan and then draw it. The results are mind-warping.

you can't have too many golem types

This post is in response to Jum's challenge.


No. Enc: 1
Align: Neutral
Move: 120' (40')
AC: 2
HD: 25
Attacks: 2 fists
Dmg: 3d6/3d6 plus see below
Save as: Fighter 12
Morale: 12
Treasure: none

These supernatural servitors are constructed out of the carved knucklebones of 66 large dragons.

Each time a a Dice Golem strikes a character in combat in addition to 3d6 damage the victim must save versus spells or roll 1d12 on the chart below:

1) Randomly determine new alignment.
2) Reroll all stats, 3d6 in order.
3) All gold carried changed to lead.
4) Polymorphed into random wandering monster.
5) Next spell or item used acts as Wand of Wonder
6) Gender realignment (roll d12: 1-9 opposite, 10-11 neuter, 12 hermaphrodite)
7) Swap two random stats (Str, Dex, Con, Int, Wis, Cha)
8) Changed to randomly assigned new race/class
9) Reroll hit points
10) Randomly determine new alignment.
11) Teleported d100 miles away in random direction.
12) Gain random mutation (1-3 Physical, 4-5 Mental, 6 Plant)

The mystical energies of the goddess Eris animate and bind them, so only clerics of that deity can create such constructs. Another cleric of Eris can turn or rebuke a Dice Golem as if it were a special undead/infernal.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Quote of the Day

Hidden somewhere on the referee's map are the treasures, the gold, the magic ring, the laser cannon... Perhaps an ancient magic race created a city or a temple which subsequent ages have buried. The original inhabitants have all died or migrated off, although their magic spells remain in full force. Bands of wandering orcs move into the upper chambers. Giant rats infest the corridors, feeding on the bodies of unlucky adventurers. An evil wizard finds new magic powers in the ancient city, and he sets up his own guards and traps... Dragons and giants loot the surrounding countryside, and over the ages they accumulate fabulous wealth.

-Dr. Holmes, Fantasy Role Playing Games, page 41. Thanks to OD&D Discussion board member aldarron for posting this!

The Sensational Character Find of '09!

Dr. Smarty here comes from the back page of the children's menu at a local cafe. I'm thinking he would make a great Warlock or Psi Witch for a future Encounter Critical con game. Combine him with Weird Bill (obviously a Mutated Pioneer) and Ronald McDonald (a Ninja and, given his pasty complexion, possibly a Half-Zombie) and I'm halfway to a party of EC con characters using only scans of stuff found laying about. I'm sure I can come up with more found PC art if I keep my eyes open.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

this one goes out to my brothers and sisters in the KSC

Mutant Trolls

So a space jockey and a barbarian go into a bar...

The golden crown of Random Character Generation is the Random Mutation Chart. You can end up with awesome mental powers to fry your enemies or somehow you can find yourself allergic to oxygen. You never know how a mutant will turn out. You can end up with an übermensch, a gimp or something in-between. So I've been knocking around some way to integrate random mutations into my D&D campaigns. Here are my thoughts so far.

Mutant as Class – This how the appendix in the back of Mutant Future suggests mashing up your science fantasy and vanilla fantasy. Mutant Humanoid, Mutant Animal and such are classes just like Elf and Halfling. Key parameters (damage, duration, etc) in several mutations are changed to per level variables. For example, something that does a flat 10d6 damage in Mutant Future is now rated 1d6 per level instead.

I’m not keen on Mutant as Class as presented in MF for two reasons. 1) You can’t play a Llama that is also a Lama. 2) Attempting to balance Random Mutations strikes me as just plain wrong. The balance, if any, enters into the picture because you have a chance of rolling Gamma Death Eyebeams but you also have a chance of rolling up Born Without A Face.

Mutant as Race – This is basically how AD&D would do it. I pick Avocado as my race and Ninja has my class and get on with my life. Fairly simple but sometimes I feel pretty strongly that Elf is a Class. Still, I’ve got to admit that at this point if a player told me “I want to run an Elf Thief” I would relent. I’d prefer if the player asked me to run an Octopus or a Balrog or something crazy like that, but I’d let an Elf Thief slide. The platonic ideal of the Elf class may appeal to me, but players ought to get a say in what they run as well. Unless I were to start using a table like this when I DMed:

1) Fighter
2) Magic-User
3) Cleric
4) Thief
5) If Con > 8 then Dwarf, otherwise roll d4.
6) If Int > 8 then Elf, otherwise roll d4.
7) If Con > 8 and Dex > 8 then Halfling, otherwise roll d4.
8) Roll d100 and ask DM to look up result on his Secret Bonus Class Chart.

I haven’t yet figured out whether I really want to do that or not, so I’m going to continue operating under the assumption that the players should get to some choice in PC type. Still I’d prefer not to add one more list of things players have to pick from at chargen. I like chargen as speedy as possible so someone with a dead PC can get right back into the thick of it as fast as dice and pencils allow.

Mutant as Template – This is the approach of Encounter Critical. In EC you pick (or roll) your race and your class and then you may optionally select one or more templates like Cave Primitive or Mutated. Selecting the latter indicates that you will be rolling 1-3 times on the random mutations chart and taking whatever the dice give you. That seems fair. A part of me wants to dictate that all PCs have a flat 1 in 6 chance of starting out mutated, but for some unfathomable reason not everyone likes to roll on those kind of charts. The other issue is that unless you build a Gnu or Aardvark class no one can play a Mutant Gnu or Mutant Aardvark. Or maybe general Anthropomorphic Animal and Ambulatory Plant classes are needed, on top of which you could layer the funky mutations given by the mutant template.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Big Damn Dungeons

The original working title of this post was "Mega, my ass!" But that was way too confrontational for the vibe I like to maintain around here. Like my previous post on 3-D dungeon design, I'm not trying to call anyone out here. God forbid Joe or Mike do anything different on my account. And those of you who have mastered the art of painting dungeons on grains of rice don't owe me a damn thing. I just want to offer an alternative. And that alternative goes something like "Holy friggin' crap! How big did the DM make this level?!"

How big can we make a dungeon and get away with it? I think the answer is a lot bigger than we usually work with. Upping the scale of the dungeon map obviously costs in the ability to graph fine detail, so just deciding that one square equals 30' isn't going to get the job done. Here are a couple ways you can make the dungeon bigger:

Here's a page from First Fantasy Campaign, Arneson's not-completely-successful attempt to organize his campaign notes for public consumption. The level 4 Castle Blackmoor map (at 10' per square) nestles into this larger scale (30'/square) map of the tunnels in and around the castle. The cool thing is that I'm not sure the players have any way of knowing when they've left the dungeon proper. Here's an easy peasy example of how you can use this at home:

Levels 1a through 1e and 2a are all basically one whole page in size, at 10' square. Level 1x is a "crossroads", which you could flesh out as a mini level. One or two dungeon geomorphs would probably be all you need for 1x.

Another way you could got in making your dungeons bigger is to do a "dungeon wilderness". I first encountered this idea in Uncle Gary's D1-2 Descent into the Depths of the Earth. Dig it:

Whole dungeons can easily fit into one hex when your scale is one mile each! Obviously the dungeon becomes an even bigger logistical challenge if you're going to underground for weeks or months. Wise players might want to adopt a protocol like "If we go 1000' with no change in a corridor, we immediately turn around. Exploring that passage can wait for a dedicated expedition."

Another nifty example of a vast underground wilderness (almost Journey to the Center of the Earth in scope) is the Underworld of the computer game Ultima V. I wasn't fond of U5. It seemed like a step down from the pinnacle achieved in its immediate predecessor. But the first time my rowboat went over a waterfall and ended up in the renfair fantasy equivalent of the Land of the Lost? Priceless. To this day I still fear mongbats.

Finally here's a cheap trick for making your dungeon more spacious:

The main difficulty here is that in the middle of a run you might forget that room 10 and room 7 aren't really 30 feet away from each other. That can be very important to remember for teleport, locate object, rings of x-ray vision, etc. For low level dungeons it's not as critical. My own copy of Keep on the Borderlands is marked up to add about 300' between many of the caves.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

this one's been on the tip of my memory for years

a random XP chart

I really love the random NPC level chart from volume I of the Field Guide to Encounters and I am seriously considering trying something like it in my next World of Cinder outing. For starting PCs, no less! But there are two things I don't like about that chart. First, rolling d00000 is a terrible pain in the ass (and no, I'm not buying the special HackMaster crit dice) and second, a random table that hands out levels does not take into account wonky XP charts. I don't think it's fair that a Thief (xp to level two: 1,251) and an Elf (needs 4,065 for L2) both would have the same chances of starting out at high level. So here's a first stab at an alternative chart.

Random Starting XP Chart (d100)
01 - 0xp
02-09 - 2,100xp
10-27 - 4,200xp
28-63 - 8,400xp
64-81 - 16,800xp
82-90 - 33,600xp
91-95 - 67,200xp
96-98 - 135,000xp
99-00 - Roll again on Chart 2 below.

Random Starting XP Chart 2 (d100)
31-55 400,000xp
56-75 500,000xp
76-85 600,000xp
86-90 750,000xp
91-94 900,000xp
95-97 1,000,000xp
98-99 1,100,000xp
00 1,200,000xp

This chart lines up pretty closely with the Field Guide version, if you play a fighter. Basically, each step on the chart is +1 level if you play a fighter, with a couple of exceptions on chart 2 where you are actually 1xp short of leveling.

If I implemented this chart there would be one downside to starting with a big ol' pile of XPs. Characters that level up in play would be allowed to roll on something like the Mutant Future Experience Level Bonuses chart:

d100 roll - bonus
+1 damage in melee combat
+1 attack per round
21-00 +1 to a random ability (Str, Dex, Con, etc.)

So you might have a party with a wide level spread, but as the wimps catch up they will pick up some bonuses that the top dogs will not have.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Shatnerday will crush you!

Trivia: Today marks one year of Gameblog observance of Shatnerday.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Congrats to Mythmere Games!

Swords & Wizardry wins Best Free Product at the ENnies.

Get your own copy here.

Rules for that ol' Kirk charm

And now, an excerpt from Emmet F. Milestone's "Kirk on Karit 2" from Different Worlds #4.

When a personality character meets a strange personality character of the opposite sex for the first time, a Romance Roll must be made for each of them. Romance Rolls are made in accordance with the following procedure:

1. Romance Rolls are made in order of the character's Charismas, with rolls for the highest characters being made first.

2. The players rolls 4d6 and adds his/her character's Luck modifier. If the sum obtained is less than the Charisma of the character of the opposite sex, the first character has fallen in love. Note that Kirk has no luck in love, so his Luck modifier is never added in a Romance Roll.

3. A character will not fall in love with more than one character of the opposite sex during the course of a single adventure.

4. If, during the course of a single adventure, a character of one sex has already fallen in love, the game-master rolls 1d6. A score of three or more indicates that no more characters of that sex will fall in love during the scenario, except as the result of a successful Pass.

When one character is in love with another character, the first character will try to make a Pass at the beloved character as soon as a convenient opportunity arises. Passes are made in accordance with the following procedure:

1. The player announces that his/her character is making a Pass at the beloved and rolls 1d6. The player then adds character's Charisma and Luck modifiers to his/her die score.

2. The player controlling the beloved character rolls 1d6 and adds the character's Mentality and Luck modifiers to his/her score.

3. If the number obtained for the beloved character in step 2 is less than the number obtained for the Passing character in step 1, the Pass is successful and the beloved character falls in love with the Passing character.

4. Note again that Kirk's never lucky in love, and can't add his Luck modifier to these scores either.

5. Passes can be made by characters who are not in love in order to achieve their own ends.
That last line amuses me to no end.

These rules were written for Heritage Models' proto-rpg/minis game Star Trek: Adventure Gaming in the Final Frontier but the work needed to apply these rules to D&D etc. is pretty minimal. Ignore Luck, change the Mentality bonus to Int or Wis and Bob's your father's brother. Some groups might wish to adapt the straight rules to less hetero-normative play.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Lack of Quorum

Last night Jum had to work late, Wheelz called off sick and Carl ended up unexpectedly in Chicago (“Woah! How did I get here?”). That left me with one player for my Mutant Future game, Dane. As a normal rule of thumb I won’t run a role-playing game for just one player. Without a second player it just feels hollow to me. The genetically mangled horrors I had planned for the group will just have to wait two weeks.

So instead we scoped out the shelf full of boardgames that the nice folks at Armored Gopher keep on hand for just such emergencies. We settled on an oldie but goofy, Tom Wham’s Snit Smashing. This was Dane’s first encounter with a Tom Wham game and I almost used that Obi-Wan line about taking a first step into a larger world, but then I realized that would make me the grey-haired space hermit. I like Dane but I’m not taking a lightsaber to the face at the end of act 2 just because Joseph Campbell said so.

While I’m a fan of Mr. Wham’s work, particularly Mertwig’s Maze and King of the Tabletop, I had never played Snit Smashing before, so Dane and I started out on a level playing field. That was a mistake. We should have flipped the map over and played Snit’s Revenge so that I would an edge on Dane. But instead Dane had to witness a brief glimpse of my deep, dark secret: man, do I suck at boardgames. I lost, but I had fun doing so.

After the game we chitchatted for a while. Apropos of nothing, Dane asked me about my line of work. When I told him that I worked in debt collections, mostly mortgages these days, he inquired about any insight I might offer into the present financial situation. I have lots of opinions. Whether any of them qualify as 'insights' is questionable.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

five links, Blacula, five links

Chris Pound's Name Generators - probably linked here before, but a classic

Polytheism - a brilliant essay from Alexis at the Tao of AD&D

Gamma Trollword - Did you know you can get a post-apocalyptic version of Tunnels & Trolls? I didn't.

How to Make a Fantasy Sandbox - straightforward advice from the expert

Zamgrh - a language constructed around the limited speech capabilities of the zombies in Urban Dead

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

On System

I know I can’t be the only one tired of comparing one retro-clone to another, one edition to another, retro-clones to the editions they ape, and different entire games to each other. There’s lots of useful discussions to be had in this vein, but there’s also a lot of internet monkeys flinging poo. I know because sometimes I allow myself to be one of them.

What I would like to propose is that those of us running some recognizable version, variant or direct descendant of D&D to stop doing this. Not just the poo-flinging, but that we stop discussing editions of D&D as if we were art critics comparing individual sculptures in some snooty gallery. My main argument here is not the usual “Can’t we all just get along?” or even “Won’t someone think of the children?” Instead I would like to suggest that the very concept of ‘system’ as it is usually applied to D&D is an unhelpful shortcut. System is an illusion.

D&D (at least prior to WotC’s 3rd Edition) is made up of a variety of mechanical components but the idea that they cohere into a single system seems like an article of faith more than an established fact to me. Additionally, the intellectual framework underpinning the importance of system implicitly establishes system as a thing unto itself, as if it possessed its own agency. Yet a close inspection of individual playgroups and their usage of varying interpretations and house rules denies any authority that system-idolators might wish to claim. Within the narrow context of “D&D type games” (a label I will not define here), system just doesn’t matter.

Gary Gygax never played AD&D as published, so why the hell should we care so much about that system? Or why should we give a rat’s ass about cleaving unto the systems offered by the lesser lights that followed him? Furthermore, I reject as ridiculous any argument that the original Gygax campaign ever played OD&D as published. Have you read OD&D lately? I can’t believe that anybody can play it as it appears on the page. It’s a goddamn mess. A glorious one, full of wonder and mystery, but a mess nonetheless.

A parable: Adam and Eve are walking in Eden. They hear the distant thunder and trumpets that indicate God is passing through the far side of the garden. They go to see Him but since God has a much higher movement rate, He’s gone by the time they get there. Instead the two find some big footprints He’s left behind. “Here is God!” says Adam, gesturing towards a footprint. “No, here is God!” says Eve, pointing to a virtually identical footprint further down the trail. They proceed to argue over which footprint 'is' God. Meanwhile, the Serpent is laughing his ass off because not only have Adam and Eve mistaken signs of divinity for the divinity Itself, they’re so worked up they’ve completely forgotten the simple fact that they live in Paradise.

Brothers and sisters, it is time that we stop arguing about the stupid footprints. My advice to anyone currently fretting over which edition or retro-clone or whatever they should use is to just pick one. It doesn’t matter which one. No matter which one you pick D&D isn’t there. It’s your job to take that text and turn it into D&D. Interpret, interpolate, edit, house-rule, mangle, spindle, mutilate. Run that text into the ground. Import crap from other editions, other games. Break it and remake it in your own image. Only once you have your own version of D&D up and running does D&D in any way exist. The texts are mere echoes, shadows of someone else’s D&D. Use them to bootstrap your own D&D into existence. That’s all they’re good for.

If you meet Gary Gygax on the road, kill him.

Monday, August 10, 2009

inking GameScience dice

My recent visit to Games Plus affords me an opportunity to share with you the method I've developed for inking GameScience dice. Last year I switched exclusively to GameScience as my dice of choice, as explained here. One of the big differences between GameScience and its competition is that the dice come with no pigment in the numbers, so they have to be "inked".

The traditional technique is to rub a crayon repeatedly across the number and then wipe away the considerable excess with a tissue or paper towel. That's why old boxed sets use to come with crayons. There's nothing particularly wrong with doing it the old way, but it could take a while. Also, the GameScience d10's have this circular groove that can catch some of the crayon and be a pain to get out. Like this:

So I developed an alternative to the crayon. I start with washing the dice in some water with just a touch of dish soap.

I wash the dice because they are manufactured using an injection molding technique. Injection molding often requires the spray of a release agent on the inside of the mold before the plastic (or whatever) is squirted in. This helps the finished product separate cleanly from the mold, the way a little butter in a pan helps keep the food you're frying from sticking. Washing the dice gets that agent off of them. At least that is true assuming a release agent is used. I don't really have any information on that point, but serious miniature painters recommend washing your figures for the same reasons.

I pat the dice dry with a paper towel then let them air dry for a few minutes.

Instead of a crayon, I use a Sharpie Ultra Fine Point permanent marker. I've seen them for sale at office supply stores, department stores and even the home office section of my local drugstore. You can get a pack of several colors for a few bucks. I usually use black but sometimes I select a color that contrasts the dice.

The neat thing is that the Ultra Fine Point fits right into the groove of the numbers. Two or three passes through the groove is sufficient to coat the entire recessed surface of the number as well as the walls of the groove. Just trace the number as if you were writing it, reverse direction and write it backward, then write it forward again.

Tip #1 - If after three passes you can still see the color of the dice in the number, you're probably pressing too hard. Ease up a bit and try again. If that doesn't work, you might want to switch to another color, probably black.

Tip #2 - If you color outside the lines, do not panic! Wipe away as much of the stray ink as you can with a paper towel and possibly a little saliva, but don't fret if a smear is left behind. Any ink not in a groove will be gone after only a few sessions of use.

Tip #3 - Do the d20 and d00 last. The smaller numbers require slightly finer manipulation and the practice of doing the bigger numbers first will help you get your technique down. I often do the other dice then take a short break because my left hand (which I hold the die with as I ink) is a little cramped up after the first five dice.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

good place, good people

On Saturday the Rients family adventured in the City-State of the Invincible Daley, also known as Chicago, Illinois. After our visit to the awesomely cool Shedd Aquarium, we made our way across town to Games Plus in nearby Mount Prospect. This was my first time at Games Plus, but I had heard through the grapevine that it's one of the best nerd shops in the state. It did not disappoint. The only comparable shop I've seen is the Source in St. Paul, Minnesota. Just to give two examples of the righteous selection they have in stock: if you ever wanted to get in to Star Fleet Battles, they had pretty much the whole line including all the figures (more fleet boxes than I realized were in production!) or if Palladium is your bag they seemed to have nearly every book they ever published. I kinda wanted to pick up Rifts Japan after reading this article but I couldn't find it hidden in the huge pile o' Rifts!

Next to several shelves packed with Dungeon Crawl Classics was a HackMaster display that also had some stuff for OSRIC (the 1st edition AD&D retro-clone) on the shelf. This was the first time I had seen OSRIC material for sale at a brick-and-mortar store, so that was pretty cool. I ended up getting the first module in the Advanced Adventures line, Matt Finch's The Pod-Caverns of the Sinister Shroom and the OSRIC monster book, Malevolent and Benign. Games Plus also stocks Gamescience dice, so I got a purple set of polyhedrals.

Pod Caverns came out back in 2006, before the old school renaissance went to hell in a hand-basket (or so the critics say). After a quick read-through I really like it and would definitely use it in my own campaign, whether I was using OSRIC/AD&D1 or not. The maps aren't marked as thoroughly as I would like, but there's nothing stopping me from correcting that myself. Malevolent and Benign I haven't had a chance to look at yet, but that Pete Mullen cover is wicked awesome!

While the store was great, the best part of my visit was the people. I had a great little chitchat with Michael "Chgowiz" Shorten and Marv, a.k.a. Finarvyn, the dude behind the OD&D Discussion boards. It was extremely cool of both these guys to take some time out of their days just to shoot the breeze with me for a while. We talked about getting together again under circumstances where we would have time to play a game, maybe at GaryCon. In fulfillment of a previous agreement, I swapped Michael a copy of the Miscellaneum of Cinder for a copy of the latest version of his Ultima-themed Swords & Wizardry rules. He also threw in a copy of the Swords & Wizardry Quick Start and I gave him one of my homemade Encounter Critical booklets. He said he could find a home for a few more copies, so I gave him the three extras I had with me. I managed to get one of the EC books into Marv's hands as well, so if he changes his board's name to EC Discussion you'll know who to blame.

I had met Michael once before when he came down to Winter War. At that event he struck me then as a fun, enthusiastic guy with a big heart and this get-together only confirmed my earlier impression. And I really liked Marv as well. The easy-going, level-headed way he runs the ODD board is a reflection of how he is in person. I'd definitely sling dice with either of these guys, or just kick back and have a beer with them. And I don't even really drink beer.

Saturday, August 08, 2009


Thursday, August 06, 2009

The One Hundred and One Deaths of Putrid Joe

As a general rule, I'm not keen on online gaming. It's just not my bag. My reaction to the new Zork game was much the same as this guy's. I've played a little of the ultra-silly Kingdom of Loathing. I did a little MUDding back in college. But the only online game that has held my attention, and even then only on an on-again/off-again basis, is Urban Dead, a browser-based zombie apocalypse MMORPG. What can I say? I just dig playing a mindless zombie, causing havoc among the survivors in a quarantined city. Sometimes I even go for supplementary amounts of wild ass.

Here's a typical screen from the game. Click for a bigger view.

Can you stand the head-explodingly awesome graphics? My main character is called Putrid Joe. Here's his character sheet:

I only recently joined the group called the Feral Undead, but I'm not sure it's doing anything for me. I like playing straight out "feral" zombies, i.e. part of the unaffiliated, uncoordianted loners that sometimes join the large mobs and sometimes go solo.

Putrid Joe was directly inspired by this still:

While I've played some survivors, I quickly figured out that I like being one of the slobbering ranks of the undead a lot better. Recently one mad scientist type shouted at me "Get out of my safehouse, you rotter!" before one of his buds chopped me up with a fire axe. I got right back up and went back to committing mayhem. Joy.

Phrase of the Day

"supplementary amounts of wild ass"

That's lifted from a description of the hunting & grazing habits of the Khormusan culture of Paleolithic Egypt in Michael A. Hoffman's Egypt Before the Pharoahs. I hereby challenge all Gameblog readers to try to use this phrase at least once today, either on the internet or in passing conversation.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Bookmarks. You know, for books.

I prefer "found object" bookmarks over the intentionally designed kind, like if I get a book at a brick-and-mortar store, I usually end up using the receipt as my bookmark. Here are a couple of my favorite bookmarks right now.

My extremely cool in-laws slipped this little note into the birthday card they gave me:

Like most rectangular slips of paper I've requisitioned for these purposes, I fold it in half down the longer axis when in use.

Here's the bookmark I've been using lately for larger books:

That looks like several playing cards, but it's actually a packaging element for a fancy-pants electro-gizmodic edition of Uno. I don't think it's any better than the regular version of the game, but the string of fake cards on the box is kinda cool.

five links, ahoy!

The Rozz-Tox manifesto - A classic

A call to action - Mr. Rob Conley offers some excellent advice.

The One Page Dungeon Contest PDFs - Every DM should have a copy.

Paratime Design - Cool dungeon maps released under Creative Commons (non-commercial). Somebody should be stocking these maps!

Monday, August 03, 2009

Hargrave's Ultimate Attack

I've been looking for his spell ever since RPG Pundit mentioned it in passing on his blog.

Heretofore Magik of this order has only been legend

Tokkrang's Star Bore
This newly discovered spell requires 250 mana points to fire, but once so done, a 3' diameter by 10,000' long "star bore of energy" erupts from the mage's bare chest! This rainbow-hued energy stream will fire continuously for 1d12 seconds, each second pumping out 200 HP worth of damage to all in its path. The wizard who uses this attack will, once done, instantly fall into a 1D100 month long hibernation; he won't starve or die of thirst, he just can't be awakened, even by mystik means. For each single second it is in use there is a 5% cumulative chance that the effect will consume the magician's body, leaving only carbonized bone, which means instant death, or course. The firing will continue to its ordained conclusion, even if it is only emanating from a soulless and blasted skeleton. No known mystic defense will stop this attack, though some might reduce its effect a tiny bit. This most awesome of attack magiks requires 13 full years of arduous study and the expenditure of 1,000,000 Gold Sovereigns in materials to learn.

Man, what a way to go! Imagine stopping an army marching in a line with this baby! The quote is from The Black Grimoire, the third book of Dave Hargrave's later Compleat Arduin game line.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Have you seen this?

A couple months ago Thomas over at Original Edition Fantasy posted Aaron Allston's extended stat chart from Wrath of the Immortals.

I'm normally not that interested in the whacked out high end of D&D, preferring to whack out on the lower levels. So I might have seen this chart before and not paid any attention to it whatsoever.

I think this chart cought my eye this time because I've been seriously considering making a high level killer dungeon, something in the Tomb of Horrors genre but with a higher monster:trap ratio. This is one of those "well, I've never done that before, I wonder if I can?" sort of ideas I get sometimes. I wouldn't actually use the chart above, it's just thinking this idea has me surveying the field of crazy high level D&D.

If I did make such a dungeon, it wouldn't be suitable for a Fight On! article or lulu publication, since I would totally be using material from Arduin and other ridiculous high level sources. So it would be a free PDF and maybe some outlaw ashcans.

Top Ten Awesome Rings

10) The Cross of Lorraine ring worn by Magnum P.I. and his 'Nam buddies.

9) The Thing Rings. Maybe the Thing cartoon was lame, but a set of rings that can turn you into the world's coolest rock monster? Priceless.

8) This one ring made by some evil dude.

7) The Scarlet Pimpernel's Ring. You have to be a pretty badass swordman to pick a cute little flower as your emblem.

6) The Ring of Gaxx. It's okay. Gary sent us.

5) The Phantom's Skull Ring. I'm not a huge Phantom fan but a ring with a skull on it is a classic.

4) Ming's Ring

3) The Mandarin's Rings. Not only does each one zap you with a different laser beam, but in classic D&D fashion the Mandarin swiped them off of a corpse. Of a space dragon.

2) Dracula's Ring. You know this is legit when both Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee wore a version of this baby.

1) Green Lantern's Ring.