Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What is going on here?

As reported previously the totally legitimate journalistic venue that is Jeff's Gameblog will be sending a reporter (i.e. me) to cover Gen Con this year. Today I decided to do a little research on the exhibitors, so I would know where to go to get to the Old School Renaissance Group booth and to see if any other exhibitor might interest me. Here's the map and exhibitor list I found.

You know what is bugging me about that list? More than half of the exhibitors don't have anything listed for a website. These people need to get with the program. If you think you're big time enough to go to Gen Con, get yourself a dang website.  I shouldn't have to hunt down info on your company, for crying out loud.  (And if you sent Gen Con a company URL when you signed up but it's not listed, get them to correct the file.)

PS - If any Gameblog readers are going to Gen Con and maybe want to meet up for lunch that Saturday, let me know.  At this stage I literally have no plans beyond pestering whoever is running the OSR Group booth followed by wandering aimlessly about, mouth agape like a slack-jawed yokel.

Edit: I just remembered one other booth I need to stop at.  Inkwell Ideas.  That guy is awesome.

patrons & power

One of the neatest new mechanical toys in the Dungeon Crawl Classics rpg is the rules for magic-users invoking and pacting with demonic patrons.  I haven't done much with them yet, except for a little messing around with a patron in a Gary Con playtest, but I think that conceptually they might be the best new Gygaxian Building Block since the codification of the Feat and the Template in 3E.  I'm all for allowing magic-users to deal with the devil in exchange for more raw power, but I think the patron rules in the beta have two flaws.

1.  Building a patron from scratch looks like hard ass work.  For the full monty treatment you need an Invoke Patron results chart, 2 or 3 new patron-themed spells (in a game where designing new spells is non-trivial), a Patron Taint chart and a Patron Spellburn chart.  Putting that all into spreadsheet fields, that amounts to almost eighty individual blanks you need to fill.  At that point what should be wicked fun starts to look like homework. The prospect of starting on my first custom patron gives me the same feeling I got from trying to make high-level NPCs from scratch in D&D 3.5.  That's not a good thing.

2.  Even though I don't want to add one more item to my checklist of crap need to make a new patron, the patron write-ups should specify the an Agenda for each patron.  From a DMs point of view there's no juice in making a deal with the devil unless the devil is in it for something.  I've found that coming up with ideas for new patrons is a snap, especially when I've written a crapload of demon-themed custom spells.  But unless the patron has something concrete they are trying to achieve in the campaign world there's just no point in putting him/her/it into play.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Mr. T and unidentified jerkwad

Actually I've been following Seanbaby since back when he regularly updated his website.

Monday, June 27, 2011

check out this crazy hag!

That's a Meargh, the sterile matriarch of a clan of Fimir, the beaked, cycloptic, reptilian giants of early Warhammer Fantasy Battles and WFRP.  I didn't really know these weirdos existed until I read a mention of them here.  A few minutes of research revealed that they were intended to be the WFRP equivalent of Runequest's Broo, a signature "Holy crap! That's messed up!" critter, if you will.  The Meargh is the only female Fimir in the clan, so this race reproduces by impregnating human females.  Like I said, messed up.  One of the notions in the back of my head for my Wessex campaign is that human expansion is causing an extinction level crisis in monsterdom, so I may use just one sad, lonely Meargh, all the menfolk of her race long gone.

question re: lack of group

This morning I'm just feeling curious about folks who don't have a gaming group at the moment.  What do you perceive to be the main obstacles to getting a group up and running?

Sunday, June 26, 2011


My birfday was last week and my wonderful wife got me some funky Zocchi dice.  Those are the crystal blue and red ones in the bottom of the pic.  I ordered the 2d7 and a precision edge d30 to complete the set.  It's a little weird that for all his patter about the superiority of his precision edge dice, Colonel Lou only sells d7's as round-edged, pre-inked jobbies.

I inked these dice with an extra fine Pilot brand silver paint pen.  I first tried using a black ultra fine Sharpie, my usual inking tool, but it just didn't show well with these translucent dice.  Unfortunately, I wasn't used to working with a paint pen and made a bit of a hash of it.  The extra paint ought to wear off with use.  One of the d24 has the largest sprue flaw I've ever seen in Gamescience die, such that I feel I'm going to have to sand it before I use it.  The other d24 is just fine, though.

The other dice are Koplow and Chessex blanks.  I've had blank d6's for years.  The blank d8, 10 and d12's I got last weekend in Bloomington, IL.  My excellent local game store, Armored Gopher Games, chose not to participate in Free RPG Day.  Something about not liking the terms for getting the goodies.  Anyway, I really wanted the freebie Dungeon Crawl Classics module and I was going to Bloomington anyway, so I swung by Gryfalia's Aerie to get it.  I only had about 2 minutes to visit their new shop, but it seemed like a nice place.  They had some blank dice on display, so I got some.

The d6's and d8's at the top of the picture are slot and zowie slot dice respectively.  The rules for gambling with slot dice are in Appendix F of the original Dungeon Masters Guide.  The basic deal is that payouts are made against two cherries and anything else or three of a kind, with a sliding scale topping out at three cherries (36:1 payout) for the d6 variety or three crowns with the eight siders (100:1 payout).  I made a set of slot dice once before and they were a big hit with the players, but the ink wore off.  So this time I sprayed the dice with a clear acrylic.

The other dice are attempts to make cheap substitutes for some of the weirdo Zocchi dice.  I plan on using the real deal Zocchi dice myself, but buying enough for everyone at the table seemed costly. The d6's are d3's marked with Roman numerals.  The d10's are labeled 1 to 5 twice.  If I had been thinking I would have put a plus sign on half the numbers, so they could also work as regular dice.  The d8's have a red letter 'R' for reroll instead of an 8.  And the d20's double as both d14 and d16.  Four faces on each are blank.  The fifteen and sixteen are red, to remind you to only use them if rolling a d16.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Revenger cover art

You might remember Melee Resolution from their somewhat successful album Conquer, Withdraw, Surrender or Die! This one is the Resolution's rare self-released EP from their garage band days.  I vaguely recall reading somewhere that the original drummer for MR did the cover design because they couldn't afford to get a professional.  Four of the five tracks are exactly the sort of mess you'd expect from a new metal band trying to find its own sound: a mish-mash of derivative crap with growly vocals I can barely parse.  Maybe if I could find the lyrics online somewhere then track three, "Night Prey", would make some sort of damn sense.  All I can hear is absolute nonsense broken up occasionally by obviously wrong stuff of the "pardon me while I kiss this guy" variety.

The last song on the disc is the whole reason I tracked down a copy of Revenger: a cover of Kiss's "Rip and Destroy".  This is the alternative lyrics version of "Hotter Than Hell" that the evil Kiss robots sing to start a riot in the cult classic movie Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park. The vocals on everything but the chorus are  nearly inaudible, but the playing on it is much better than the other four tracks. Since they come off better playing someone else's song, I think at this stage in their career Melee Resolution's main problem was figuring out how to write original instrumentation. Mixing their sound properly so people could actually hear the lead singer wouldn't hurt, either.  Still, not completely terrible for a self-made first effort.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

grimoire follow-up

Kathleen writes:
I'd also include a field for describing the physical appearance (size, binding material, etc) and condition (stains, scorch marks, loose signatures, torn or chewed pages). That may be more fiddly than you want to get, I realize.
I can see the use in this approach, but my own technique is generally to minimalize visual descriptions whenever possible.  This goes against the grain of most module-writers and their box texts, but those dude were mostly paid by the word.  Personally, I like to paint a picture with as few descriptors as possible, because each player will fill in the rest in their own head.  So for a spellbook I might just say "a musty old tome" or "a scary ass Necronomicon style spellbook" and leave it at that.  If the players ask specific questions then I'll make something up on the spot.

The only time I really like hard specifics is when something can kill the PCs, like deathtraps or something.  Then I'm more than happy to drill down to hard facts.  "But Jeff, that means everyone at the table knows an elaborate description means something deadly is about to happen."  Yeah, I don't care.  There's a million ways you can slant the game in the PCs direction and in the end they still have only so many hit points and they still have to roll saving throws.  As long as the dice are lethal I'm willing to give the players lots of leeway.

A couple folks in the comments on yesterday's posts requested some sample grimoires.  Here ya go:

name: Liber Ivonis
alt name: Book of Eibon
language: original unknown, tr. into Latin
date: ancient
author: Eibon, an ancient, inhuman wizard
blasphemy: A whole cycle of history predated the Garden of Eden, which like Noah's Ark was intended to be a do-over

This first one is a direct Call of Cthulhu rip-off.  All I did was come up with an appropriate blasphemy.

name: 4th Book of Sanchuniathon
alt name: none
language: Ancient Greek, tr. from Ancient Phoenician
date: before the fall of Troy
author: Sanchuniathon of Berytus, translating/interpreting secret inscriptions found on the columns of a ruined Ammonite temple
blasphemy: All gods/angels/etc are ghosts of past kings and heroes

Sanchuthianon of Berytus is cited by a few ancient authors.  In our world he wrote three books (I think they're not extant) translating some weird writing he found in a ruined temple, describing ancient religious practices.  In my Wessex setting his 4th book contained magical incantations from the same source.  The ancients thought he lived before the fall of Troy, but that's probably bogus. The blasphemy is close to Sanchuniathon's actual position in his 3 real books.  He argued that the gods, etc. were simply memories of past kings and heroes.

name: Works of Adamantius
alt name: none
language: Ancient Greek
date: 2nd or 3rd century AD 
author: unknown, quotes suppressed books of Origen
blasphemy: all beings reincarnate up & down the great chain of being

This one I made up, except for the blasphemy.  In a historical fantasy game it stands to reason that some historical figures could be wizards.  This tome assumes that church father Origen (a.k.a. Adamantius) could cast spells and some follower of his wrote down some of them.  The blasphemy is a position Origen actually held, if I understand him right and the translation I read is sound.  Even Satan can eventually be saved in Origen's theology.  I like that a lot.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Grimoires of Wessex

Spellbooks in D&D can be boring.  We live in such a book-rich society, with the printing press and cheap paperbacks and libraries and bookstores, that we forget that at once upon a time the proper reaction was probably more like holy crap! you own a book!  The pre-Gutenberg codex was a work of art, requiring intensive labor to produce.  In some instances they were literally chained to the desk where you would read them, in order to prevent theft of these valuable resources.  For certain milieus a filthy adventurer owning a book is kinda like going over to your buddy's crappy studio apartment and seeing an original Picasso on the wall.  Not utterly impossible, but it makes you want to ask impolite questions like "Is the rest of your stuff cheap junk because you spend all your money on your art obsession?" or "Hey, man, are you some kind of international art thief?"

That's why for my next go at my 12th century faux-England campaign I've decided that spellbooks are basically artifact type objects rather than the users manuals for arcane systems operators they tend to come off as.  The Call of Cthulhu tome rules and Ed Greenwood's "Pages from the Mages" series in Dragon heavily influenced this decision.  As did reading a couple real historical grimoires, the problems surrounding the textual transmission of the works of Shakespeare, unearthed manuscripts like the Dead Sea Scrolls and Nag Hammadi Library, and the enigma of the Voynich Manuscript.

So now I've got a spreadsheet I've been working on, with the goal that each spellbook can be treated as an individual object.  Here are the current fields, with some comments:
common name
alt name - Many of these books have more than one name, which makes tracking them down a big ol' pain in the butt.
language - I don't use read magic for spellbooks.  Instead that spell "unlocks" scrolls and doubles as identify for any magic item that has runes on it.  I think OD&D will back up this interpretation.
past owners - "Your spellbook was once owned by Merlin."  How cool is that?
blasphemy - Spellbooks aren't strictly how-to guides written in a vacuum.  Each comes with a context that a canny reader can puzzle out.  And since pretty much all wizards are cranks, heretics, pagans and/or crazies, this means that one or more passages or implications in a spellbook will offend the sensibilities of the strictly orthodox and question the worldview of the open minded.  The historical nature of my campaign makes this a lot easier to pull off effectively, I suspect.  In a totally made-up world you're going to have to work hard to come up with a convincing blasphemy.  In Wessex I can get away with things like "The Holy Spirit is a woman, God's wife and Christ's mother" or "Satan isn't a rebel, he's God's double agent."  My only concern is that the World of Darkness probably ran this sort of stuff into the ground, making it completely uninteresting to Vampire fans.
comment - vague catchall
Spell 1
Spell 2
Spell 3
Spell 4
Spell 5
Spell 6 - Capping level advancement to 10th means I can get away with pretty short lists of spells.  Just to make life rough for the PCs, fireball will only be appearing in a single grimoire, which starts in the hands of one of the active NPC wizards.  (Active NPC wizards have their own file.)

My list of grimoires is approaching 40 total entries, though none are totally complete yet.  That's probably way more than I would need for any one campaign. Eventually I want to be able to hand starting M-Us a print-out of their initial spellbook with all this cool info on it.

best google search term I've seen in a while

"fuck the beer has run out wraeththu"

This Gameblog post is number 2 on the results.  Hope that helped, enigmatic beerless websurfer.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

need a campaign map?

The board from the old Task Force game City States of Arklyrell would do the trick nicely.  Dig it:

I don't actually own this game.  Every few months or so I search through for cool maps.  Anyway, here are some reasons to like this map:
  • The hexes are numbered, which is the key to stocking a wilderness sandbox.
  • Look at all those opportunities for seagoing adventure!
  • Check out those light blue land hexes with the squat buildings on them.  The key says the magic item chits start there.  Those are the most famous dungeons/ruins in the realm.
  • Roc's nets are marked on the map!  That's fantastic!  That's an instant hook for the campaign world right there: everyone lives in the shadows of these giant flying predators.  In Basic/Expert D&D rocs grow up to 36 hit dice in size, way bigger than most monsters.  Even dragons skulk about when B/X rocs are on the hunt.
Given that the whole map sits between the Frozen North and Scorching South, you'd probably want to use a scale larger than 1 hex equals 5 miles.

together, they fight crime!

Ah, the eighties.

Monday, June 20, 2011


The following chart was inspired by and packing my daughter's lunch this morning. Over at xkcd google is normally used for this sort of thing, but for simple web searches I prefer lately.
Peanut butter and honey sandwiches are a regular lunch item for me.  Occasionally I switch it up and have peanut butter and pickles (the sweet kind).  Peanut butter and liverwurst appears on the chart because I'm pretty sure Shaggy from Scooby-Doo mentioned eating such a combination at least once in an early episode.  I really didn't expect to get any hits from the last item listed.  I have, on occasion, used the phrase "like a peanut butter and poop sandwich" to describe a mixed blessing that on the whole wasn't much of a blessing.  It surprised me to find out that somebody else used the term.  I didn't actually look at the results, so maybe they're from me.  I don't recall ever using it on the internet, but who knows?

UPDATED to add peanut butter and banana, Elvis's favorite.

my favorite description of a spellbook

O ay, it is but twenty pages long,
  But every page having an ample marge,
  And every marge enclosing in the midst
  A square of text that looks a little blot,
  The text no larger than the limbs of fleas;
  And every square of text an awful charm,
  Writ in a language that has long gone by.
  So long, that mountains have arisen since
  With cities on their flanks—thou read the book!
  And ever margin scribbled, crost, and crammed
  With comment, densest condensation, hard
  To mind and eye; but the long sleepless nights
  Of my long life have made it easy to me.
  And none can read the text, not even I;
  And none can read the comment but myself;
  And in the comment did I find the charm.
  O, the results are simple; a mere child
  Might use it to the harm of anyone,
  And never could undo it

--from Lord Tennyson's Idylls of the King, Book V: Merlin and Vivien

Sunday, June 19, 2011

you know what I dig?

I dig Bayeaux Tapestry homages.

This one is from the credits of the old Disney flick Bedknobs and Broomsticks, which stars a young Angela Lansbury as a witch who fights Nazis.  I've got a couple dozen gorgeous screengrabs of stuff like this, including one of an enthroned king who is also a lion.

Another great old movie that makes use of the Tapestry is The Vikings.  As the opening exposition is narrated a animated version of the Tapestry shows a longship voyage.  I've got a bunch of these as well.

There used to be a flash-based jimcrack on the web called the Historic Tale Construction Kit which allowed you to make your own Bayeaux Tapestry nonsense.  I used it once to create inserts for my Savage Worlds customizable screen.

Friday, June 17, 2011

nethack? roguelike? help me out here.

Earlier today I was googling for more information on sandestins, a creature type from a couple Jack Vance books.  This led me to a wiki for the computer dungeon-ma-bob NetHack.  While I know my Telenguard from a hole in the ground, I've never tried any of the various "my guy is an ASCII symbol" games.  The ASCII graphics don't do much for me.  A red letter D just isn't a good enough red dragon in my book.  However any graphics at, say, Wizard of Wor or so level crappiness is sufficient for my tastes.

So knowing that I need at least a primitive tile set, am a total newb and would probably be playing on my wife's MacBook, can anyone recommend a specific roguelike?

Wizard of Wor
You are in a dungeon.
There are monsters.
You have a laser rifle.

Mighty Deeds of Arms

I think this'll be the last time I talk about the Dungeon Crawl Classics rpg in a while.  We're running this topic into the ground and there are plenty of other things to talk about.

The Fighter rules include a new mechanic called Mighty Deeds of Arm.  Reading the Fighter section, this looks like a great improv type mechanic that allows you to kick quite a bit of on-the-fly ass.  But then you get to the referee's section on this stuff and suddenly there are all these fiddly charts that totally kill my buzz.

If you've got an opinion on this topic one way or the other, please go to the Goodman Games forums and sound off in this thread I started.

DCC rpg art

Yesterday Norman of Troll and Flame commented in my Gameblog post about funky dice:
My biggest shock, totally dumbfounded about this.

How the heck is everyone not talking about how great, plentiful, the art is? If we were arguing / bitching / blogging about whether the art was rip off or homage, if retro style is alienating, etc. I'd be down. But dice? really?
Norman's got a good point here. There's a metric crapload of art in the beta rules and most of it is really good. I mentioned in passing some of the pieces in my scrawlings, but a lot more could be said.  For crying out loud, the credits include classics TSR guys like Easley, Laforce, Holloway, Roslof and Otus as well as the best new guys like Mullen and Poag.  This is an all-star line-up!  Though I must admit not every piece is a home run.  I don't like the way Mullen does tusks and fangs, so the interior cover doesn't do much for me.  (That cyclops in the background is super-awesome, though.)  And the faces don't work for me on the illo at the top of page 13.  Still, I like the vast majority of the art.  Even some of the Easley pieces, and I'm not normally a big fan of his work.

I kinda wonder though, are all the studies of/homages to pieces of old TSR art, plus the cartoons, plus the adventure marginalia like in the back of the 1st edition DMG just a little too much?  I love all that crap, but aiming specifically at beardos like me is probably a good way for Goodman Games to go broke.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Spectre of the Gun, session 1

Big thanks to ze bulette for scanning and
uploading this picture, so I don't have to.
So last night we played the first session of the new Boot Hill campaign.  The picture to the left is from inside the book and it just cracks me up.  I showed it to all the guys last night for a laugh.  Carl point out that when the rulebook was new (back in '79) you could probably get that shirt of the rack at Sears.  I countered that my dad probably owned that exact shirt.

Anyway, there were three players besides me last night.  Here's the roster:

Nick played 'Wild' James Riley, a young man with the consumption (i.e. tuberculosis) who, as a lad, was a eyewitness to the infamous Wild Bill Hickock/Davis Tutt shoot-out.  As a result, he idolizes Wild Bill and all the terrible things he stands for.

Carl came up with 'Gentleman' Jim Dunnigan, the black sheep son of a bigwig Texas rancher and the best-dressed cold-blooded killer in any room.

And Wheels rolled up Josiah Donahue, an ex-cowpoke and gunfighter who possesses almost Indiana Jones-level bullwhip skills.

The name Josiah Donahue came off my Random Gunslinger Names table.  Carl named his PC after one of the greatest game designers in history.  And Nick's PC is named James Riley because that's the real name of the gunfighter whose role he played in the first shoot-out of the evening.  The bits about the tuberculosis, the cowpokeyness and the rancher dad came from the historical events as well.  The other character hooks came from a wilden west version of the Deck O' Stuff, but with less equipment and more character concept stuff.  It was neat how the various random vectors produced some intriguing characters.  Other special equipment we used included a roll of Gaming Paper and some blank 1" counters my bro-in-law got me for Christmas (my in-laws are cool).  This was my first time using a tactical display since my 3.5 days but I managed to keep my gorge down.

The campaign is designed as a two stage affair.  The first stage involves wargaming some real historical gunfights, with little or no roleplaying in between the shootery.  This is meant to create background material for the PCs.  Like how Gentleman Jim is now known as the man who gunned down Mike McCluskie back in Newton, Kansas.  PCs can end up one either side of any individual fracas, so some their may be some emnity within the party in stage 2 of the campaign.  Another design goal is to create something resembling a Forgist relationship map by the natural consequences of play rather than fiat.  A climactic shoot-out isn't just about blazing guns.  It's about the past history that got you there and the whirling emotions that lead you to pull the trigger.

Scenario 1 was the Hide Park Shoot-out of 1871, sometimes called the Newton Massacre.  I won't recap the entirety of the historical events, but the guy Gentlemen Jim is replacing basically shows up to Tuttle's Dance Hall, looking to avenge the death of his friend Billy Bailey.  Gentleman Jim's target is the aforementioned Mike McClusky.  Also present are three cowboys who were friends of Bailey's from his range days.  McCluskie is outgunned, but the attackers don't realize that his young ward James Riley is present.

In the actual history of the event, Riley wins the fight clean.  He walks out of Tuttle's with two empty sixguns and everyone else involved is inside on the floor dead or dying.  Nick didn't have the same deathwish as the real Riley and got the heck out of the bar after only firing a few shots.  Because of brevity of the exchange, the positioning of the shooters and the heavy smoke, Wheels's and Carl's PC never get a good look at Wild James, but he sees them clearly before the fight starts.  Interesting.  Now the party includes the man who gunned down McCluskie and the youth who looked up to the dead man as a father figure and the killer doesn't know this.  Even better: Gentleman Jim wasn't actually McCluskie's killer!  One of the NPC cowpokes did the job, but the well-dressed sonuvabitch is taking all the credit!

Less than a year later the three PCs all coincidentally end up in the same posse, riding out of Fort Smith, Arkansas.  At the lead are two Deputy U.S. Marshals looking to interfere in Cherokee tribal business.  Historically, the Bloodbath at Goingsnake (or the Goingsnake Massacre) resulted in 8 out of ten posse members dead and over a dozen Cherokee killed as well.  I had planned this one out as a ten on ten battle with PCs on both sides, but the players wanted to party up and not have so many dang NPCs involved.  So I declared that we would be starting the combat on the second round of gun fire, with have the posse already down.  The players made good use of the terrain and got some good rolls.  Wild James took a bullet in the gun arm, but made out okay shooting lefty.

One particularly neat moment was when Wild James found himself in the middle of the firefight holding an empty gun.  Josie Donahue throws him a spare six-gun, so they are now officially Cool Bros, despite being on opposite sides a few months back.  Best shot of the night had to go to the NPC marshal with the Buffalo Gun.  He hit a Cherokee in the arm/hand at close and rolled so high for wound severity that I ruled the poor bastard's arm practically exploded in a shower of blood and bone.  Then there was the poor Cherokee peace officer who took three shots to the groin before going down.  Long will we remember the Inglorious Fall of the Three-Testicled Cherokee, shot once in each ball before he died.

The whole point of the second scenario had been for the Marshals to arrest Zeke Proctor, a legendary half-Cherokee troublemaker accused of murder.  Wild James turns the tide of history and actually brings him in, earning him the reputation "that kid who captured Zeke Proctor".  Too bad the success of this mission almost assuredly screws up U.S.-Cherokee relations at least as bad as the actual Bloodbath did.

Next session: a good ol' fashioned daylight bank robbery!

my last post on funky dice for a while

Pie charts in two different charts this week. Huh.

This chart is based upon the responses to question #4 in my post last Friday, asking if the weirdo dice used by DCC changed your opinion of the game. I've posted excerpts of all the results counted below the jump.  There's a little room for interpretation as to where certain responses should be counted, but I doubt the general shape of the chart would change much.

When I first heard the DCC rpg was using the oddball Zocchi dice I thought it was a stupid gimmick as well. Playing in last GaryCon's playtest/demo session and reading the beta has completely turned me around. I see several good implementations of these dice. And the idea of having to remember "Oh, yeah. I need to reroll any 8's every time I make this roll" gets my goat.  So for my birthday next week I'm getting oddly shaped pieces of plastic. (Not the first time.)

I can totally empathize with people who wince at the additional cost or the prospect of convincing their game group to buy these dice. Since I run an open game at my local gamestore if I want to run the DCC rpg I'm pretty much setting myself up to buy dice for a whole game group.  But when I think about all the money I've sunk in read-but-never-played rulebooks and used-once-for-that-one-awesome-fight miniatures over the years, my fairly meagre dice collection starts to look one of the better investments I've made in the hobby.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

If you think the DCC rpg is a dice-selling racket...

...there are alternatives to funding Colonel Zocchi's retirement.

My buddy Stuart owns a d6 labeled 1 to 3 twice.  The number is in a weird font so it's easy to pick out on the table.  I'm not sure where to buy one though.

Chessex sells blank polyhedrals.  You could make your own cubical d3.  A d10 numbered 1-5 twice ought to be a snap as well.  The d7 could be d8 with the 8 replaced with an R for "reroll that sucker".  A blank d20 with four or six R spaces could be used for a d14 or d16.

The d24 is slightly trickier.  I'm pretty sure Chessex makes d24's.  I think the non-precision d24's I own are by them.  Another route for a d24 is to number the faces of a d12 "1/2", "3/4", "5/6", etc.  Some rolls you won't need to distimguish which number of the pair you got.  For those times when it would make a difference, any other even sided die could be rolled for high/low. 

(If you don't already own a d30, you need to hop on the bandwagon.)

Maybe someone could talk Crystal Caste to manufacture some of their signature prism-shaped dice to fit the sizes needed.  Or some 3-D printing/fast prototyping people could get on the case.  A sculptor who works with CAD/CAM type software may be able to produce whole new shapes for our random number needs.

Or we could all go back to drawing chits from a cup.  I suppose nowadays instead of cardstock squares we could paint numbers on those little glass beads and put them in tiny bags.


Kevin Cook, the Dice Collector, suggests Shapeways as a place to get weird dice.  Doesn't look cheap, but there's a d7 with symmetrical faces right on the first page.


So you don't have to sift through 27 pages of weirdo dice (though don't let me stop you), here are the ones I found relevant to this discussion:






d24 (Is this one stable?)


Update 3
RPG Shop sells non-precision d10's marked 1-5 twice:

Meet Mr. Selvidge

Tonight is the first session of my new Boot Hill campaign, which I decided to call Spectre of the Gun.  The first phase of the campaign involves recreating some historical Old West gunfights, with the PCs standing alongside or in place of the various actual participants.  I stumbled across this photograph of George Selvidge while researching one of tonight's scheduled shoot-outs.  I wasn't looking for photos and the scenarios for tonight are based upon fairly obscure events, so I wasn't really expecting to find any.

Mr. Selvidge was a member of a posse out of Fort Smith, Arkansas led by a couple of Deputy U.S. Marshals.  Depending on who you ask, they were either ensuring a killer was brought to justice or interfering in tribal affairs/violating a treaty.  Either way, George was one of the many folks who didn't live to see the end of that day.  I figure if I'm going to exploit his death for an evening's entertainment, I owe it to the guy to at least share his picture.

R.I.P. George Selvidge

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Howdy, Massachusetts! Howdy, France!

I wasn't expecting to see either place show up so prominently in this graph of links to the ol' Gameblog.

I'm slightly disappointed in Wisconsin and Minnesota right now. I expected to see them on the first pie.

straight from the shower

Sometimes I get ideas while taking my morning shower. Here's what popped into my head today.
  • A day or two ago some blogger proposed using your raw Dex score as your Ascending Armor Class.  Please leave a link in the comments if you know who I am talking about.  What if we combined that with Damage Reduction armor that lowers your Dex?  Maybe Leather is -1 Dex/-1d4 damage per hit, Chain -3 Dex/-1d6 damage, Plate -5 Dex/-1d8 damage.  Shield users would maybe get a Deflection Save, like a d6 roll. 1 = no damage, 2 = half damage, 3+ no help.
  • I wonder if all the best parts of the cool alt-classes in Monte Cook's Arcana Unearthed/Arcana Evolved could be rewritten as simple templates applicable to basic D&D classes (like my Paladin and Druid)?  You just lay Warmain over the fighter class, Witches and Runethanes over magic-user, etc.
  • If I recall correctly in the Elric stories some demons have gemstones in their hearts. What if that was the source of all gems?  Maybe the world is the heart of a cosmic-scale demon.  Or maybe gemstone mines dig into the corpses of fossilized demons.

Happy Mr. T'sday

Who the heck is Murdock talking to on that walkie-talkie? Everyone is RIGHT THERE.

Monday, June 13, 2011

random picture post attack!

Because hey, why not.

I like it when people post photographs of books on shelves.

Or just the books themselves.

I think this illo is from a Russian edition of The Hobbit.

The front cover to Ultima II is all over the internet. 
It's much rarer to find a scan of the entire wraparound cover.

I was looking at various globe projections the other day.
Can't remember why.

The chart of most popular colors.

The future according to Blackadder.

From the Commander Keen video games, if I recall correctly.

LotFP vs DCC

Is blogger giving anyone else hassle this morning?  This is my third attempt to get a post up today.

Anyway, over the weekend I re-read the free download version of Jim Raggi's Lamentations of the Flame Princess rpg. I was keen to re-examine LotFP in light of the shine I have taken to the Dungeon Crawl Classics beta. Both are grade A examples of post-retro-clone design and I would play either.

Aside from the obvious differences (DCC rpg wants you to use funky dice, LotFP's art will creep up your soul) I made two basic observations.

1) DCC rpg is designed with a lot of razzle-dazzle.  This is most obvious in all the new tricks the various classes can do and the spell charts.  Heck, running a magic-user with all the extra rules (the spell charts, mercurial magic, spellburn, corruption, spell duels, demonic patrons) could push the play experience completely outside what you consider normal D&D. I've got no great problem with MUs as written in earlier editions, but if you want weirder and less Vancian magic then DCC is your huckleberry.

2) Assuming you aren't weirded out by the artwork then LotFP shines as pretty much the tightest version of D&D ever.  This virtue comes across most clearly in the section devoted to what I call "operations", i.e. how to open a door or check for traps or crap like that.  Most reviews of most D&D descendants (and many whole games!) completely skip this stuff because it's usually boring to read, but in actual dungeoneering play these mechanics are crucial. LotFP delivers the best, most coherent set of operations rules I've ever seen.

Again, I like both these games.  It's really a matter of what best fits your particular game scene.  If you've got players who like to wrestle with new mechanics and you don't mind risking that maybe the game will fall apart under the weight of a bunch of new-fangled widgets, then DCC rpg looks like a rip-roaring good time.  If you want a rock solid design that isn't going to trip up the players with too many moving parts, then go with LotFP.  DCC rpg appeals to my inner adolescent, with lots of imagined explodey noises and splattering blood.  LotFP comes off as the more grown-up option, working efficiently so I don't have to work hard.  Of course, the latter feeling might be muted if I had the fullblown version in front of me with all the tits-and-gore artwork.

Part of me wishes I could just cut and paste together a hybrid between the two games, but I'm not sure that really work for me.  Each has been designed with its own ethos and I don't think they would ever blend smoothly.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

the first FRPG campaign setting

Okay, not really.  But I'm thrilled that someone on the ol' internet finally posted a scan of one of the original maps from the imaginary lands of the Brontës (Charlotte, Emily, Anne and their less famous brother Branwell).

As far as I can tell no dice were rolled for the adventures set in Angria and the Glass Town Federation.  Rather the operations were more a combination of the world-building every DM would recognize and fan fiction incorporating prominent figures of the day.  More info here.

Friday, June 10, 2011

DCC rpg inspired scrawlings

My notes from one quick readthrough.

My scanner plate is a little bit shorter than the page.  Missing from the bottom of page one is "p39 badass pipesmokin' dwarf illo" and "'rare elven adventurers' my ass. 1 in 5 starting PCs!"

Also "Spell Duels - I heartily approve!" and "needs a rule 'fire cancels ice' and etc."

As I tweeted earlier, DCC rpg is looking a lot more like what I wanted to see out of HackMaster Basic.

I'm just curious...

Quick survey time.  Everybody and their grandma has been talking about the new Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG beta that dropped this week.  (Get your own copy here.) I think the Old School Ruckus will be talking about this one for a while, so I'm going to start small.

One of the weird things about this game is its use of d3, d5, d7, d14, d16, d24 and d30 type dice.  Personally, I currently own some d24s and a d30.  The d24 I got for a game that used a lot of 4d6 rolls that I thought was too tame.  I never ended up running that game, but I've still got the dice.

I know quite a few gamers.  Lots of these people treat dice like magical totems.  Many of them collect dice.  But the only folks I know that I suspect own everyone one of these dice are Kathleen and Josh.  And I'm pretty sure they didn't have a d24 until I gave one of my spares at a con.

So here's today's survey for anyone caring to weigh in:

  1. Of the set [d3, d5, d7, d14, d16, d24, d30] how many of these dice do you own?
  2. If you own any of them, which ones do you have?
  3. If you wanted to get some or all of them, where is the first place you would look?
  4. Does the need for these funky dice change your opinion about trying the DCC rpg?
My own answers are:

  1. Two
  2. Some d24s and a d30.  (The d24s I got for a game that used a lot of 4d6 rolls that I thought was too tame.  I never ended up running that game, but I've still got the dice.)
  3. I'd ask my local FLGS if they could get them in.  If that wasn't feasible I'd got to either Gamestation or G-Squared.
  4. I am not discouraged. Maybe some of that old "what the crap is this?" magic can be regained this way.  I dunno.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Haunted Towers

Old towers are not quite as popular adventure sites as stinky subterranean tunnels, but they have there place in most campaigns.  In the molden days tower modules included The Ghost Tower of Inverness tournament module, as well as some options from Judges Guild.  Lara's Tower and The Tower of Indomitable Circumstances seem to come from the same la-la land from which all the weirdest JG stuff emerged.  Indomitable has a great premise: a junior god is testing the party to see if they would make good apostles.  If they survive their reward is being shanghaied into a new religion.  The tower attached to Tegel Manor is pretty good, as I recall.  I've got a copy of JG's Dark Tower around here, but I don't think I've actually read it.

So on my Wessex map I've got a mysterious Tower of the Red King that I really need to flesh out.  The magical and sinister Red King rules a tiny island just off the coast.  So here are my questions for you nice folk:

1) In your experience, what is the best map of a tower you've seen in a fantasy rpg product?

2) What tower-based adventure have you seen that takes best advantage of the tower's shape and height?  Just cramming a dungeon into a small outline and going up instead of down seems like lazy design.

But then again I'm looking for stuff to rip off, so I can't knock lazy design too hard.

here's a couple of videos

First up is a videogame trailer that my buddy Dave recommended I check out.  Reminded him of the good ol' days, he said.

That enemy pilot should be fired.  Everyone knows at that range you would kick.  Those things have crap for leg armor.

Next up we have a perfectly cromulent D&D campaign setting hidden in an episode of the original Transformers cartoon!  Our heroes arrive in "California maybe" at around the 3:10 mark.

Don't miss the big reveal in part 2.

A brief write-up of the World of Menonia can be found here.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

J.D. cracks the code?

Over at A Paladin In Citadel a classic topic came up: how sucky shields are in D&D compared to their general usefulness in actual pre-gunpowder warfare.  I'm personally a fan of Trollsmyth's Shields Shall Be Splintered! rules, but as a practical matter it is just one more crazy house rule my players can't ever remember.  Some days they need to be reminded of the Big Purple d30 rule even though that sucker is sitting right in the middle of the table the whole durn session.  And I already have enough crazy new stuff to explain to newbies as it is.

But over at A Paladin In Citadel commenter and fellow Tape Leg enthusiast J.D. Higgins came up with a simple solution:
You could always just rearrange the AC table:

Unarmored: AC 9
Leather: AC 8
Chainmail: AC 7
Plate&mail: AC 6
Shield only: AC 5
Leather + Shield: AC 4
Chain + Shield: AC 3
Plate + Shield: AC 2
That looks pretty dang slick to me.  For you modern gamers with new-fangled upside-down armor classes that would be Leather +1, Chain +2, Plate +3 and Shield +4. For my own platemail-free campaign I'd have to goose the numbers, but it would still work. A bonus effective is that small and large shields become super-easy to implement, AC-wise: Buckler +2, Small Shield +3, Shield +4, Ridiculously Oversized Shield +5.

The big downside I can see is that the ACs for countless published NPCs will be wrong.  Any other issues I'm overlooking?

Eldritch Druids of Wessex

When I needed a paladin class for my Wessex campaign I went back to the original published version of the class as my starting point and trimmed it down a bit.  Today I'm going to do a similar thing to the Druid, starting with the Druid class rules in Eldritch Wizardry and building a prestige class style template that can be overlayed onto one of my four basic classes.


class requirement: magic-user or changeling
alignment requirement: Neutral
ability score requirement: Wis 12+, Cha 14+
equipment restrictions: only use leather armor, wooden shields, sickles, scythes, scimitars, spears, slings, staves, clubs and flaming oil
basic advantages: +2 saves vs. fire, learn secret Druidic language & script
advanced advantages (level 2+): identify plant/animal/pure water, pass without trace
advanced advantages (level 6+): immune to charms from dryads, nixies, etc., assume animal shape 3 times per day (each shapechange cures 2d6 damage)
expulsion: harm an animal not in self-defense, harm the woods

I cut the ability to learn a crapload of new languages, as I don't even use language rules all that often.  Also gone is the idea of advancement by combat and the strict hierarchy.  I think I still have a Great Druid running the show, but in Christian Wessex the druids are going to be an underground organization without the luxury of being that finicky.

At some point I may import some or all of the druid spells into the game.  Joining the druids would be a good way to get access to those spells, but they wouldn't be mechanically exclusive to the class.  Like the cleric list, they would simply be added to the one bigass spell list available to anyone who can cast spells.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Kirby drawn Mr. T! Yeah!

My buddy pat sent me this panel from an unpublished comic.

Monday, June 06, 2011

a couple Boot Hill questions

Which do you like better for the title of a campaign that focuses on professional gunslingers, "Live by the Gun..." or "Spectre of the Gun"? I like the latter a lot, but an unnecessary Star Trek reference will probably be seen as evidence that I'm planning a bait-and-switch. One of my players either has a running joke going or else is convinced that at some point the game with go multigenre. Given the kind of things I normally run I really can't blame the dude.

Can anyone recommend a source of good, detailed Old West tactical maps, gridded out to 1 square equals five or ten feet or so?  The only module I own from the Boot Hill line is the referee screen/mini-module combo. Do any of the others have decent tactical maps?  Any place else I should be looking for that kind of thing?

Saturday, June 04, 2011

revised Boot Hill PC generation charts

2nd edition Boot Hill has this weird glitch when generating PCs.  The issue is that the stat charts are designed for generating ordinary, non-kickass inhabitants of the the wilden west.  For PCs you roll percentile dice like everyone else, but then if you roll a low score you get a bonus to the roll.  The bonus is on a sliding scale, so that the lower you roll the bigger the bonus.  The idea seems to be that Blume and Gygax were okay with a random NPC having a Slow speed or Very Poor accuracy, but they had a certain minimum awesomeness in mind for PCs.

I'm okay with this set-up, though I'd be okay with sucky PCs as well.  The problem is in the execution.  Rolling an 01-25 for any stat nets you a whopping +25 bonus, turning the roll into a 26 through 50.  But rolling a 26-50 gets you a +15.  So someone who rolled a 26 ends up with the result of a 41, while someone who rolled lower can end up with a 42 or higher.  That's arbitrary, unfair and dumb. And I hate having extra unnecessary steps in chargen. It makes me feel bad when I slaughter the PCs. The solution is to sit down and write separate charts for the PC-types only.


01-10  Above Average +2
11-35  Quick +4
36-55  Very Quick +6
56-75  Fast +9
76-85  Very Fast +12
86-95  Lightning +15
96  Greased Lightning +18
97  Greased Lightning +19
98  Greased Lightning +20
99  Greased Lightning +21
00  Greased Lightning +22

ACCURACY (roll one for GUNS and once for THROWING)

01-10  Average +0
11-35  Above Average +2
36-55  Fair +5
56-65  Good +7
66-80  Very Good +10
81-95  Excellent +15
96-98  Crack Shot +18
99-00  Deadeye +20


01-15  Average 13
16-45  Above Average 14
46-65  Sturdy 15
66-78  Hardy 16
79-85  Strong 17
86-95  Very Strong 18
96-98  Powerful 19
99-00  Mighty 20


01-10  Average +0  +0
11-55  Above Average +1  +3
56-75  Brave +2  +6
76-85  Very Brave +3  +10
86-98  Fearless +4  +15 
99-00  Foolhardy +5  +15


01-10  No Experience -10
11-40  One Gunfight -5
41-60  Two Gunfights -5
61-75  Three Gunfights +0
76-85  Four Gunfights +0
86-91  Five Gunfights +2
92-95  Six Gunfights +2
96  Seven Gunfights +6
97  Eight Gunfights +6
98  Nine Gunfights +8
99  Ten Gunfights +8
00  You Done Lost Track +10

As you can see, the stat mods in Boot Hill can jump around.  Apparently surviving that seventh gunfight is a big deal, but the difference between Fearless and Foolhardy is minimal.  I'm tempted to smooth them out a bit with some intermediary results but that would produce some egregiously long charts.  I like giving players brief chargen handouts, not vast sheafs of overwrought charts.  I keep the overwrought charts behind the screen.

Friday, June 03, 2011

beer update

Back in April I solicited Gameblog readers for new beer suggestions, as I am a novice in the field. Based upon telling you I like Guiness and recently tried and enjoyed a Newcastle Brown Ale, you all suggested a great many beverages to try. A few people also suggested I check out, which has been very useful in smartening me up on the subject. Wikipedia also has a beer portal that I found helpful at times. Anyway, here are my results of a month and half of getting beer instead of soda pop when dining out, as well as hitting up local merchants that will sell you six-packs that you can fill with whatever singles are on the shelf.

Any English-style brown ale, porter or stout I've tried has been a solid hit for me. Last week I tried a bottle of Samuel Smith's Nut Brown Ale and it was either the best or second best beer I've ever had. Newcastle and Guiness still remain excellent choices in my opinion and are much easier to obtain locally than many others in there respective categories. I was at a drugstore the other day and there were twelve-packs of Newcastle in the refridgerator. And Guiness seems to be the default "neither American nor pale" on-tap option at a lot of places. By the way, does anybody else think bottled Guiness and the tap variety taste noticeably different? I like the bottled stuff but it seems better from a tap. Or maybe I'm just tricking myself, getting into the scene more than the drink.

Since my last beer update the family and I took a weekend trip to Indianapolis to visit the Children's Museum there. That's a heckuva cool place. My wife and I went once before we had our daughter and loved it. While we were in the Big City I decided we should eat lunch at someplace spiffy, so we went to the Rathskeller. I've never seen them outside the Midwest, but around these parts instead of going to stereotypical fancy French restaraunts, normal folks tend to go upscale by visiting German restaraunts with lotsa dark wood and shelves festooned with Old World knick-knacks. Jumer's in Peoria, Illinois was the closest one when I was a lad. We'd visit there only for very special occasions. They had a stuffed bear in one hallway and a faux suit of armor holding a halberd. And really great sausages, as I recall.

Man, this post has gotten rambly. Anyway, the Rathskeller had a killer beer list. I was overwhelmed by the available choices, so I just picked the first one my eyes alighted on, which was Orval Trappist Ale. I assumed that the Trappist part meant that a bunch of German monks brewed this stuff the same way they had for centuries. Turns out I was part right. Orval is still made by Trappist monks, but the monastery is in Belgium, not Germany. Either way, it was a truly exceptional beverage, the only one I've tried so far that is in the same league as Samuel Smith's Nut Brown.

Upon returning from Indy I started fishing around for a cheaper alternative to Orval, the way Samuel's Smith is great but Newcastle is a cheaper but still enjoyable brown ale. So far the best resemblance I've found is in New Belgium Abbey. Colorado-based New Belgium seems to be the hippiest brewery around: they're employee owned and eco-friendly. Their Abbey dark ale is one of the two new beers I've tried where I could see myself buying a sixpack to take home, as opposed to just an occasional one-off drink.

New Belgium's flagship brew, Fat Tire, was recommended by several folks in the eariler beer posts. (I haven't had a chance to try New Belgium 1554, which was also recommended.) I tried Fat Tire and didn't much care for it. In fact, I haven't had much success with anything you could call a red ale, amber ale or pale ale. India Pale Ale, which I know a lot of beer nerds love, is particularly harsh on my tongue. I'm new to this and still filling out my vocabularly, but I'm thinking that anything with too much hoppiness is putting me off. Does that make sense, given I seem to like dark ales a lot better than lighter ones?

I've found two exceptions to this simple "Dark good, light bad" set-up. Anchor Steam Beer is the other new (to me) beer which I'd buy a six-pack to take home. Since I was having no luck with lighter-colored beers, I really wasn't expecting to like it. I tried it mainly because "steam beer" (a.k.a. "California common") is the only truly American beer style I have been able to identify other than "American adjunct ale", which I'm pretty sure is's polite term for the watery stuff we call beer that all the other countries laugh at.

The other lightly colored beers that interest me are witbiers. As I understand it, Blue Moon, pretty much the one mass-produced American beer I've ever drank more than one of, is based upon the witbier style. So I've tried several more legit witbiers. I can't quite bring myself to say I like them, but I don't hate them. All that I've tired so far have this weird sour note that's muted in Blue Moon and I'm not sure if it's an aquired taste or just something that hovers on the good/bad line for me personally.

One oddball beer I tried is Professor Fritz Briem's 13th Century Grut Bier. Devised by some sort of German beer R&D guy, it's an attempt to recreate a pre-hops beer recipe. It came in a large bottle so I split it with my buddy Pat. We both agreed it tasted like fermented sweet pickle brine. It wasn't bad, just weird. Another weird one was New Grist, which uses sorghum and rice as it's basis. I swear to Grodd, if you poured this stuff into stemware and hid the bottle you could trick people into thinking it was white wine. Not bad, but I don't see the point, unless it was designed for people who are allergic to both gluten and tannin.

So that's everything I've learned so far about the wide world of beer. I now know enough to have some embryonic opinions, a few ideas for what I want to drink next and a couple of "regulars". Thanks again for all the advice.

One last question for those in the know: Are Black & Tans (a mixture of one part stout and one part something lighter, like Bass Ale) considered gauche? I ordered one with supper at an Irish type pub on Monday and as I was drinking it I started to wonder if a Black & Tan was considered as crass as mixing white wine and red in the same glass. I won't stop getting them now and again even if they take away my Beer Snob license, I just like to know when I'm committing transgressions against good taste.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Hey! A stupid picture post!

I have no idea who these guys are.  Those outfits make them look like they just stepped out of a Moebius comic. 

This is a cubic zirconium recreation of the Tavernier Blue, the stone that was probably cut down to make the Hope Diamond.

More dungeon adventures should involve boats.

Artist rendition of Zarmina, a.k.a. Gliese 581g, with Earth shown for scale.  It has been posited that the world may be ice-covered save for a portion of the hemisphere always facing its sun due to tidal-locking.

I'm definitely using this guy as a saint in my Wessex campaign.