Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Immersive RPGing

We had our weekly game lastnight the party pulled into a new town and it was a session of Shopping-Quest. While shopping for a chest to store some of the party loot within one player asked " Should we go up a cart size?". Yup undead hordes, an army of darkness and a dragon rider ravaging the countryside (a new development) and buying a larger cart or a new wagon is all important...sigh, sometimes I think I'm not doing things right.

meanwhile in real life:
The baby is fine and dandy. My wife's diagnosis is ever evolving and she needs to know I love her and will be there for her regardless of where things go. (I'm hoping she reads this)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Real Life is strange

Real life can sure be distracting and unpleasant now and again.

Some readers may have noticed a drop-off in my posting rate lately, good old real life is to blame. My wife has been ill for a couple weeks now and after ever progressing symptoms the family doctor told us to get to the Emergency Room so we could get a shot at seeing a neurologist quicker then he could manage to schedule for non-emergency care. We spent all Valentine's Day evening in the ER with our youngest child (the other two were away) before we learned my wife would be admitted to the hospital, the hospital was insanely busy with beds filled in the halls of the ER and elsewhere in the hospital (I'm glad my wife managed to get into a private observation room fairly early on it wouldn't have helped her mood to see the halls it looked like a disaster movie for a while, the staff was surprised even).

The wife spent the remainder of the week in the hospital being submitted to a constant barrage of tests. They even shipped her from one hospital in our state to the neighboring state so specialists could spend more time with her. She was subjected to a battery of tests that subjected her to so many needles you'd think she was being used as a life sized voo-doo doll. I visited her in the hospital twice a day until yesterday morning.

I woke up sleeping on the couch with my baby boy (he's 18 months old). He's been sleeping poorly and really missing his mommy. He had a blazing hot fever. I gave him children's ibuprofen and a tepid bath that he was very unhappy with. Spoke with the call in nurse and she told me everything I knew about treating fevers except for the safe strong dosages for medications to break a bad fever (higher then I thought). The poor little guy was HOT to the touch and not interested in eating but he would drink. I eventually managed to see the Dr in the later afternoon and they ran tests that showed no strep or flu but couldn't' figure out why he had the really high fever (over 104 at one point). I can't manage to see the wife during all this because she's now in the next state over and the DRs think they knew what was wrong with her but weren't sure yet and all of a sudden they are going to be releasing her but have no idea when.

I get home form the doctor with the baby and my parents car is in the driveway, my wife is home (my folks live about 15 minutes from the last hospital). I rushed in with the baby and he was all listless moody and cranky. After a few moments he realized mommy was really home and was going to stay home. His fever went from 103 to 99.7 in a little over an hour. The little guy went from being noticeably unwell to a happy babbling running and playing baby in just a short while mostly because mommy was home, he was getting alternating fever reducers too but we chalk most of it up to mood.

My baby boy is okay, the wife is stable and diagnosed with a mild form of a rare syndrome and is on household rest for at least the next week so we can monitor her symptoms. I actually felt as happy as I did on my honeymoon having my wife home last night.

We had some ice cream and caught the D&D episode of "Community", the wife wished the weekly D&D game was as much fun as the game they had on that show.

...EEEPPPPP... visiting nurse is arriving in about a half an hour and the house looks like a baby, a slob (me) and two teeneagers lived in a small cluttered house and didn't clean the place for a week.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Party Survived the Campaign Didn't

[SPOILERS, vaguely, sorta]

My regular party has been playing through Death Frost Doom lately. They managed to escape the dungeon and down the mountain with only one of their members tumbling to his doom on his steed in the snowy night racing down the mountainside trailing a legion of the dead behind them.

Being the total bastards that they are they decided to lead the horde to the castle (and small town outside it's walls) of a lord they didn't much care about before escaping to more peaceful climes. One of the players was shocked he thought they were trying to lead the horde away from civilization but he was perfectly willing to hop on the riverboat and flaot away while the dead first hit the edge of the town.

So the player with the most deaths, usually because of simply horrible luck but also the occasional bad decision lost another PC and the campaign area was most certainly nuked by undead. It worked almost exactly as I wished it would. I'd gone wrong somewhere in presenting the campaign settign to the players so a good scrubbing of apocalyptic doom and a moving to somewhere else to adventure gives me a chance to "get it right". My sandbox definitely needs some fresh sand.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The kids are going to miss us.

The wife just brought this to my attention:

Sims freaking medieval is going to be a huge time waster for me and is more appealing then any computer RPG I've seen in many years. Technically it just might be closer to the type of RPG I've been longing for in computer form for a kingdom, forge a sword, brew a potion, go on quests (which aren't always resolved the same way seemingly)... oh yeah.

The Sexualized Female

The Sexualized Female ...yeah that's something...

One darned odd debate that's been floating about RPG-land ...again. Cheesecake pictures of female characters , particularly female warriors are nothing new to our entire civilization. RPGs being part of our civilization aren't too likely to avoid such a thing.

Do a google Image search for female warrior and we get a lot of women in ridiculous armor with under protected breasts and usually bare mid-rifts. Most of them will be more attractive and less physically capable then the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling used to be. It is nonsense, it isn't new and it isn't solely in the domain of RPGs.

So if one is trying to sell an RPG and there is a female warrior on the cover does it make sense to have her be the grizzled doughty veteran on dozens of fights in truly protective armor or a bit of cheesecake?

Ever notice Kathy Bates in an action adventure role? She's got the build of some of the female fighters I've met (well, minus a little muscle) but for some odd reason no one casts her or women of her build as female action stars.

Here's what female action stars look like in film:

Yes it's "the movies" but in the main it's ridiculous. I've could whip most of those women around a room and use them as a blunt object to beat themselves with and I've only got a modest bit of martial arts training. What would happen to most of them pitched agaisnt the foes they face in film is awful indeed (at least half of male action stars would face the same fate).

Yeah I'm a 220+ lb early middle aged man and no one is making me an action movie star either.
Yet pictures of me in armor wouldn't look to be in conflict with popular culture view of Male Warrior. Silly me I've got a cuirass for fake fighting that protects my chest and midsection. Even in fake-fighting the bulk of female fighters who wear armor wear armor that works just like mine. Popular culture doesn't want to look at women in proper protective gear or even recognize it for what it is.

Sexism runs deep in our culture and we aren't getting rid of it too soon. Deciding to market ourselves out of business (as it is) by rejecting popular culture isn't going to win RPG games a lot of new players.

So what to do... well we could be asses and embrace the sexism or just be sensible on occasion and use cheesecake and beefcake sparingly and temper it with authentic and plausible art also. Few female adventurers in leather fetishist armor or plate armor with their breasts and mid-riffs hanging out wouldn't be a bad idea. Male barbarian warriors in fur-banana-hammocks being riddled with arrows would be a good start to stopping the nonsense meme of the fast and unarmored warrior being effective in combat too.

We're all part of our culture, get over it. Don't be awful to each other.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Shore Approach

Not every shore is convenient for a ship to land on or near. Every island can have a number of shores and each may offer different access to a ship wishing to land.

Reef- a reef blocks easy approach to the shore. A ship could be wrecked on a reef if unnoticed.

Sand Bar- shore blocked by a sand bar.

Shallow Water- only a small craft can land on shore.

Very Shallow Water- even small craft will get stuck. Crew must draw near and then walk ashore.

Rocky Waters- Possibly impassible to large vessels and dangerous to small-craft

Rocky Beach- large rocks at waters edge are dangerous to vessels.

Quick Drop Off- Vessels can draw very near to shore but still need small craft if the sailors don't plan on swimming ashore. Anchoring here stormy conditions would be hazardous.

Wild Tides- a seemingly safe landing can be changed suddenly by the shifting tides. Rocks may signal this hazard.

River Mouth- a freshwater water channel feeds into the sea that is wide enough for a ship to enter.

Stream Mouth- a freshwater water channel feeds into the sea that is wide enough for a shallow keel or small-craft to enter.

Contrary Current- the currents are simply uncooperative it is difficult for a vessel to reach the shore. If a vessel pushes on it may find itself getting trapped on shore if it can beat the current.

Muddy Shore- can trap vessels, small-craft or crew if they are unwary.

Swampy Shore- swamps grow to the waters edge and may shelter hazards such as rocks and roots that could trap swimmers, small craft and ships.

Cove- a ship can draw in and anchor safely a short distance from the shoreline. Still need to swim or take a boat a-shore.

Deep Cove- a ship may make landing right next to the shore itself.

Docks- someone in the past has built some form of docks that make landing easy.

Light House- a light house or shore fires mark hazardous or easy approach to shore. Watch-out for wreckers.

Sea Encounters and Hazards

A number of outlined (and system free) sea-going encounters and hazards to add to yuor ocean going adventures and charts.

Reefs- without caution a vessel can be driven onto a reef. Perhaps becoming trapped or even worse floundering and sinking. This will likely doom the crew to drowning or being battered against the reef if the seas are rough enough. Fishing will often be good near a reef.

Water Spout- a waterspout forms capable of sweeping sailors off deck and into the waters (those in rigging are almost certainly doomed). The sails are surely damaged and the vessel itself may be damaged.

Dolphin School- a dolphin school will follow the ships for hours or even days. Sailors who fall overboard may be rescued. Sharks will be driven off and encounters with other sea life may be mitigated.

Sudden Squall- sailors in rigging may be in danger. Strong chance of oncoming weather change.

Sandbar- usually only scrape bottom of boat but this can be a warning of a larger and more hazardous sandbar. May trap or flounder ship.

Giant Squid- will generally ignore ship but may snatch a few sailors from the decks before retreating. It will not stay to fight unless compelled by magical influences.

Sirens- will sing to draw sailors overboard or tempt the ship to be piloted into a nearby hazard.

Mermaids- a number of mermaids are sighted following the ship. With a good reaction they will defend the ship from sea monsters or warn about other hazards for a few days. on a bad reaction they may guide the ship to it's doom or tempt sailors to leap overboard to their doom.

War Canoes- savages or orcs attack the ship in a number of large primitive war canoes.

Sharks- sharks follow the ship for a few days. They will attack any sailors who fall overboard and may harass any small boats that launch while they follow. They will drive off schools of fish and may drive off other encounters.

Pirates- A ship or 2-4 longboats full of pirates. A ship may feign to be a merchant vessel prior to attack.

Raft- a raft with castaways. The cast aways are either survivors of a wreck, mutineers consigned to doom at sea or hapless victims of a pirate raid.

Raft, Ghoul- It will appear to be a raft of castaways but all onboard are dead (perhaps with a chest or other visible wealth to draw the greedy). Under the raft are a pack of ghouls ready to pounce.

Dragon Fly-by- A dragon flying high overhead. It may ignore vessel or possibly take a peek at the vessel in curiosity before moving on.

Hostile Squadron- 2-4 vessels of a hostile nation.

Patrol- 2-4 vessels of friendly nation patrolling the waters. They will be looking for pirates and smugglers.

Vortex- The ship is drawn to the exposed sea bed which will eventually close dooming those that can't escape.

Compass Malfunction- compass will be working improperly may throw the vessel off course for 2-7 days if navigation aided by compass.

Sea Snakes- little danger to the vessel unless it is becalmed unless one falls overboard or sailors are attempting to fish with nets.

Storm Damaged ship- a storm damaged ship is sighted limping along the sea. There will be a desperate captain and crew happy to be saved.

Rudder Comes Loose- the ship will be unable to maneuver quickly or well until repaired or replaced.

Rigging Fault- a sailor may fall from the rigging or people on deck may be harmed and possibly swept off deck.

Merchant Ship Approaching- A merchant ship is sighted and it is moving to match course and meet ship.

Merchant Ship Fleeing- A merchant ship is sighted and it is clearly avoiding the party vessel. Could be smugglers or simply cowards.

Ship Towing Another Vessel- a ship is sighted towing another ship. The second ship will either be clearly damaged or under-crewed. They could be pirates or buccaneers.

Plague Ship- a seemingly under-crewed vessel is sighted. It may have warning flags it may not. The ship is packed with dying victims of a plague that will surely spread to those that board it.

Ghost Ship- an odd vessel is sighted. It may appear recently abandoned or be
clearly crewed with undead.

Lost Ship- a strange ship from some exotic land (or time) any who stay on board for too long will be lost with the vessel and will either be displaced in time or vast distance.

Turtles- a school of sea turtles is spotted they are edible and may be trapped by nets.

School of Fish- a school of fish is sighted. Fishing will supply the crew with 1-3 days worth of food for each day the school can be followed and fished.

Flock of Sea Birds- a Flock of seabirds is seen. May be a harbinger for a weather change or a nearby school of fish.

Shore Birds- may be from a nearby rookery. They are often edible and a sure sign of a nearby island. If a rookery each hunter can gather 2-5 days of food per day. 10% chance of despoiling rookery each day.

Carrion Birds- land is nearby as is something they would be feeding on.

Whale Sighted- a lone whale is spotted in the distance. If followed it may lead the vessel to a school of whales.

Whale School- a school of whales is spotted. Some may attack vessel (or launches). Will drive off a school of fish, may be followed by sharks.

Water Supply Sours- something has polluted the ships water supply. It will only be possible to save 10-30% of the ships water supply.

Food Stores Spoiled- Rot, mold, weevils or rats spoil the ships food stores. Only 10-30% of the ships food supply can be saved if quick action is taken.

Grog Turns- the ships precious supply of grog turns, at best it is vinegar. A mutiny could follow if steps are not taken to correct.

Illness- an disease appears and quickly spreads among the crew (not likely if vessel hasn't been in port in past 3 weeks).

Scurvy- crew begins to sicken. Only possible if crew has been eating poorly.

Duel Between Sailors- two crewmen challenge each other to a formal duel.

Fight!- a number of sailors engage each other in a brawl. The brawl will last until one sailor is badly hurt, tossed overboard or killed if it isn't broken up. A loyalty check may keep the fight to little more then sour words.

Mutiny- a significant portion of the crew is unhappy with the captain and attempt to takeover the vessel.

Thief- there's a thief on board stealing from other sailors, the ships stores or the captain's cabin.

Stow-away- a stow-away is found. Could be a foolish youth, a beggar,a thief or possibly a family member or lover of one of the sailors.

Icing- a sudden cold snap coats the decks, ropes and sails in ice. The ship may be damaged and sailors are in jeopardy of falling from the rigging or overboard.

Becalmed- no wind or current of note for 1-6 days.

Contrary Winds- the winds are against the plotted course for 2-5 days.

Cross Current- an unexpected current draws the ship off course for 2-7 days.

Sargasso- calm waters overrun with troublesome sea plants. A sailed vessel will be slowed some but a rowed vessel will be drastically slowed for 2-7 days.

Flotsam- floating debris a possible sign of nearby island and or a shipwreck.

Lights- lights are sighted at night. Could be nothing a warning, cast-offs seeking rescue, wreckers or pirates seeking to lure a vessel to it's doom.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

An Island Map

Here's an island map for folks out there to use in island hopping adventures.

(Click for full size)

Copyright: This map may be reproduced for non-commercial use as long as the work it's used with states "An Island Map by James D. Jarvis, Feb-2011"

Yeah, I know, real fancy legal-mumbo jumbo there.

I could imagine this used with straight up old school games or maybe some danger-island sort of adventure. If anyone uses it let me know with a comment here.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Treachery in Dreamland

Last night I had a two pretty vivid dreams.

The first and longer was a dream that shifted from personal experience to audience. It was a political thriller with two viking realms initially involved in battle but somehow a truce stopped the fighting and there was a great celebration while the kings/nobles tried to hash out terms for an enduring peace. Some element of the opposing side wasn't looking for peace however as they were seperating out the best warriors on the "good-guy" team and murdering them while the massive and noisy celebration raged. It was swirling epic of swordplay, political wrangling and an action thriller. That sucker would be a great RPG adventure.

The second dream...well it wasn't so inspiring for adventures in RPG land: I was a camera man for RENO-911 as if it were legit.

Friday, February 4, 2011

living in the snowpocalypse

My posting has been a little lower the past several days as like many people in the U.S. I'm dealing with a LOT of snow. Spent 40 minutes before work today standing in snow up to my hips using a flexible 11-12' long stick I've got and dumping snow down on my face (I've got 4-5 more hours of that to go). I've been shoveling the 10' high piles of snow pushed up by the plow from one spot to another to make more room for more snow. I've gotten used to the cold; it's 2 F outside and while it's undeniably cold it isn't unpleasant anymore. So snow removal and (painfully slow) work on a NML:Mutant Front project is cutting into my posting and blog reading time. Can't wait till it's warm for a month so I can appreciate my hundreds of feet of driveway again by having nothing to do with it for weeks on end.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Why's The Bad Stuff Always Happening to Us?

I've had players ask: "Why's The Bad Stuff Always Happening to Us?"

My simple answer is: for the same reason they don't make Indianna Jones Movies about the semesters where he teaches a course or is on a expedition where there are no Nazis, Cannibals, Evil Cultists or Ancient Astronauts.

The more complicated answer is because the PCs the players are playing are often freak-show murderous misanthropic sociopath kleptomaniac outsiders and the universe reacts to them appropriately. What sort of good things happen to A Dwarven Berserker, Half-Elf Thug, Cowardly Archer, Degenerate Warlock with dragon motiff garb sporting a Ming-The-Merciless Do and a Mean as Heck Woodsman who meet at the local pub and decide to go rob a few tombs or kill a few orcs for coin?