Saturday, December 22, 2012

Undercity of Mog

Campaign ideas evolve as you develop, at least they do from time to time. I was working up a megadungeon environment for Mog when I realized: duh, use the lost river kingdom idea.
So two , yup two campaign ideas in one.

The 20 question style overview is being reworked of course. Having a vast underground ancient metropolis underfoot will hopefully keep players involved and provide a dungeon big enough to come back to time and time again.

Now with something like an undercity there can be vast wild areas, populated neighborhoods, and strongholds. The occupants look look like they are going to be a mix of classic D&D monsters, mutant future freaks,  labyrinth lord lovecraftian supplement, and David Bohman's beastiary for the dismal depths/blighted beyond. A slightly wacky and eclectic mix that will hopefully work to make the campaign a little different from my last one.

Treasures are getting the unique magic item approach from Pars Fortuna along with alien relics and ancient high tech gadgets. Coins are going to be an odd mix of metals and coin types with a mix of coins from different lands and times.

So I'm going to have a swords and sorcery surface world atop a vast megalopolis buried ages past full of unspeakable horrors from beyond, degenerate fey, ancient warmachines and dwellers in the darkness.

Only thing is... how does one map the ruins of something the size of megacity one ?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Real World and Gaming

Recent blog posts elsewhere have got me thinking where is the line in games and history? Wargaming has taken mankind at it worst and made a game of it, there's lots of strong psychological reasons for this and at it's core we like to play with that which intrigues us. Is there a line of good taste?

Are games about slave trading, pogroms, persecution, running a whore house, and drug dealing over the line? If they are how about all the ugliness of war?

After lot's of reflection I think it's really a personal issue. Bithcing at other folks because their personal lines are drawn differently than your own is probably not the best idea but when one puts words down they should be ready for how other read them.

I myself started a project a while back based on real history that was certainly straying far into fantasy. At first blush the idea of post apocalyptic WW-I sounded great ground for sci-fi RPG but the more research I did the more I grew uncomfortable with the idea. While striving for detail to make the setting feel more authentic I became uneasy with the idea. Learning more about the people on both sides of the war made it impossible for me to trivialize the loss and horror of WW-I for me. It was my decision not to finish the project not conversations with other or outraged snerds, just a personal decision about a line I wouldn't cross.

Do I think others shouldn't produce historical wargames or WW-I based games in particular, of course not. After learning more I myself couldn't trivialize the horror of that war with goofy science and mutant trench warfare. It turned out I discovered a personal line I couldn't cross but I can't imagine I'd rail against others who may choose to do so (most of the time).

We play for diversion, entertainment, to come to grips with some aspect of reality, to hone particular skills. What will do the above for each of us is a different thing. We don't all have to agree with what others find entertaining and need not remain silent about it but gaming horrors and travesties isn't wrong we just have to respect each others personal lines.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Questions of Mog, take one

20+ questions for Mog.
What is the deal with my cleric's religion?
There are many gods known to the denizens of Mog and even more religions. Some religions hold sway over whole regions other are but a small band of cultists. Most religions recognize more than one god and only members of mystery cults tend to devote themselves to one patron deity. Clerics can find themselves treated as heretics and sorcerers in areas their gods are little known. The common man knows there are gods as there are also demons and spirits and would rather go unnoticed by all most of the time.

Where can we go to buy standard equipment?
The bazaars of the cities are where one may buy equipment. Shops as you and I know them are few and far between.  Travelling peddlers carry a host of common and unusual goods from place to place.

Where can we go to get platemail custom fitted for this monster I just befriended?
You are joking right? You had best be strong in sword arm or feared for your magics if you hope to travel about with monsters at your side.

Who is the mightiest wizard in the land?
There is some debate there but the two most spoken of are Amrizel of The Magister of Panthoom and The Radiant Green Wizard.

Who is the greatest warrior in the land?
Many claim this title but the mightiest is indeed Kang the Cruel Conqueror of the Five Cities of the Golden Flame.

Who is the richest person in the land?  
The sultan of Zallsibaar.

Where can we go to get some magical healing?
The faithful may find healing in their respective churches if lucky, some witches brew draughts that they sell for favors and pieces of a man’s soul.

Is there a magic guild my MU belongs to or that I can join in order to get more spells?
Not likely. There are covens and orders of various mysteries one might be able to join but no schools for young wizards.

Where can I find an alchemist, sage or other expert NPC?
Any great city hosts many a soul who claims special skills, one has to wonder about ones willing to be employed by wandering marauders and tomb robbers.

Where can I hire mercenaries?
Those who make their living selling their sword arms are common and always looking for work. Few lords can employ vast armies for long so men of arms are always looking for new sources of coin. 

Is there any place on the map where swords are illegal, magic is outlawed or any other notable hassles from Johnny Law?
Yes, customs and law vary wildly throughout Mog. Men of distinction are free to travel with their swords in most places but those that flaunt magical power and arcane devices will be treated as a menace by most.  Foreign Clerics, Technologists, and Psychics are all just as likely to be treated as sorcerors by common men and warriors.
The sword is a symbol of influence and prowess that define one as a man of distinction among the martial cultures of Mog. An oaf or beggar may mark themselves as a thief or upstart by strapping  a sword to their side. Parading about in armor and carrying heavy arms is a sure sign one is a troublemaker.

Which way to the nearest tavern?
The nest taverns can be easily found by the thirsty . Some cities have no taverns at all, but do not despair as those of mighty thirsts may find a variety of dens throughout Mog pandering to other vices. Smoking parlours, gambling dens, and fighting pits abound.

What monsters are terrorizing the countryside sufficiently that if I kill them I will become famous?
There are many monsters wandering the mists and shadows of Mog. A man who rids a dog of all its lice will be well regarded by the dog, for a time.

Are there any wars brewing I could go fight?
Sure the masters of the cities are seldom at peace for long.

How about gladiatorial arenas complete with hard-won glory and fabulous cash prizes?
There are the fighting pits mentioned earlier, annual tournaments are also held in many cities. Only Panthoom has a large public arena where combats are fought regularly.

Are there any secret societies with sinister agendas I could join and/or fight?
There may be…

What is there to eat around here?
Locale fare will vary greatly and most men eat common dishes of cereal porridge and simple stews. Anything that flies, crawls, digs, walks ,or does swim is usually served from time to time.
A wide variety of bulbs of broth, chowder, syrups, and ale can be found throughout Mog, the most exotic of all are found stashed in ancient ruins still potable after untold ages,

Any legendary lost treasures I could be looking for?
Yes. Relics of bygone ages are often marketable even of their original purpose is lost to antiquity regardless of superstitions. 

Where is the nearest dragon or other monster with vast treasure?
Who would tell you ?

Who is the most beautiful woman in Mog?
The Queen of the Amazons has many beautiful daughters but the most comely in all of Mog is The White Lady of Torre whom it is said over a 100 suitors have slain each other while dueling for her favor.

How is the Weather in MOG?
It’s drier in the west, colder to the north and hot and humid in the southeast. All about Mog men fear the ghost-mists and the colour storms. Weather while generally bound by the seasons is wild and dangerous.
Who are my fellow adventurers?
The roads, alleys, ruins, and battlefields are host to a wide variety of peoples Men of all Hues, Amazons, Pygmies and Cyclops have been known to take up arms or spell as Warriors, Hunters, and Tomb-robbers.

What does one wear while travelling about Mog?
In the north common garb among men is a loin-cloth, leggings and tunic with a mantle, cowl, and cloak worn as purse and climate allow. Furs and leather from all manners of beasts can be found on less refined persons.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Earthquake !

we just had an earthquake. 4.6 magnitude not all taht far away. felt like  the washing machine was shaking the whole house

Saturday, October 13, 2012

100,000 Pageviews

Woo hoo, 100,000 Pageviews !  Well maybe more, maybe less when you read this but it's near and I felt like point it out. Pretty sweet. While I'm typing the blog is at 579 posts, 99,864 pageviews and 205 followers.

Piles and Piles of Loot

Pile of coin have been in the gaming buzz on the ol'-blog-o-sphere lately and there are a few good point on loot here at the 9and 30 kingdoms on coins. I feel part of the problem with things like having a pile of 2000 c.p. in a room guarded by a pair of goblins or some giant rats comes from a lack of common descriptive terms and picky precision drawn from counting encumbrance by the coin.

Some common and loose terms sounds like the way to go: a couple coins, a handful of coins (also a less easy to gather scattering), a purse, a pouch, a small sack, a large sack (also a pile of coin). How many coins that actually is can vary from game to game and table to table. Loosen up folks enjoy some descriptive variety.

How long does it take to count those coins? A handful in but a moment, a round or two to count out a coin purse, three or more rounds to count out a pouch, a full turn to count a small sack, three whole turns to count out a large sack or a pile sounds about right. If folks don't want to risk their skins counting out the coins they heft the sacks and worry about the accounting later.

Some Nice Chinese Food

When you go out for Chinese Food here in the U.S. of A. you get a meal of mixed cuisines and cooking styles that is a familiar subset of Americanized dishes. Your favorites are usually available anywhere here that has a Chinese Restaurant. Not every place is the same, one of my favorite places is this little hole int the wall place down a flight of steps in a basement in Boston's china-town, it has a lot of Chinese food slop standards and handwritten menu in Chinese hanging next to the counter, the dishes on this menu are a little different and yummy but still pretty familiar to the American fan of Chinese food, that place gets an odd mix of foodies, working men and Asian immigrants.

My absolute favorite dinning experience at a Chinese restaurant was at an unremarkable plaza on Long Island (in New York), it was the weekend of my Grand Parents wedding anniversary and the extended family was packing a couple tables we reserved at the place. It was a pretty typical and boring restaurant on first glance nothing remarkable on the menu. The owner of the place discovered why we were all there and offered us some choice selections form the standard menu but he would be thrilled to offer some kitchen favorites and party foods his family and staff enjoyed. Over the next couple hours a variety of food came out I'd never had in a Chinese restaurant came out heavier on seafood than usually seen and simple but flavorful dishes like a scallop and spinach soup. It was a dizzying array of familiar ingredients in different dishes and entirely new foods.

So, what's my point talking about this here? Well D&D and related RPGs have become a Chinese food of hobbies. Offering the same fair with minor variation again and again a little same-same a lot of the time but with some stand-by favorites. There exists the ability to pull some delights and wonders out of that kitchen and we should be striving for that amazing banquet now and again not the same old comfortable meal,

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Mog, Riperia Redux, Lost River Kingdom?

I bounced a few ideas off my son for the next campaign and got as close to D&D as possible answer from him...sigh. Which led me to ask "Why Son"? to get the answer of "You know me I'm afraid of change"...

Here were the pitches:

Mog: A savage and brutal METAL sword and sorcery world in the ruins of a great civilization. Warriors, Wizards and Psychcs battling it out to forge the next age. embrace the wahoo and corny side of sword and sorcery with a little post apocalypse thrown in for flavor.

Riperia Redux: A feudal realm of knights and bandits finding adventure in border wars, tournaments, and faerie haunted woods. What I wanted in the campaign we've been playing for some time now with the power level cranked down to 5 from the 9 it's at now.

Lost river Kingdom: The King's River flows into the ground and is lost in the depths of the earth, the access to the vaults and tunnels carved by the river and an ancient dwarven kingdom are guarded by a small city of gnomes that allow miners and treasure hunters into the depths past their guarded gates.  A Mega-dungeon that is the whole campaign sort of campaign.

What do you kind reader's think of the above?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Coinage, are we cheating ourselves?

Folks want realism or immersion or a fantasy epic that deeply involves the players or escapism and yet over and over again folks want to keep the coinage simple. The bog standard is the familiar breakdown of  10 cp to 1 sp, 10 sp to 1 gp. pretty boring and non-evocative stuff.

If old school rpg is about discovery and escapism where are the Lemurian Shekels and the Goblin Empire's Lead Lupins? Why did the men of an ancient age mint coins in the same metals and denominations as commonly minted in a campaign's modern age?

I'm a victim and perpetrator of this myself while I've got foreign coins those of the campaign homeland are the plain old 10 cp to 1 so, 10 sp to 1 gp and 5gp to 1 pp coins. I do it for convenience but i feel i'm cheating the players a little as they have had no trouble keeping track of Trade Mission gold Tokens (gtk)or Hesparan Royales (GR) worth a base rate of 2/3 a gp or 2 gp. The coins are worth their relative value some of the time or are changed by a trip to the local money changer.

Now a trip to a money changer can be a trying experience. the money changer charges a small cut for his services and always downgrades the coinage to a lower denomination/metal. All foreign gold is returned as silver; if one wants gold coins there is another charge for buying all that gold. It is a mechanism to remove some cash from the players but it also pumps coin into the coffers of the local authorities... something for thieves to seek if they are daring enough.

One reason for the decimal accounting of our fantasy coins is encumbrance sometimes counted in overly large coins weights. Ive seldom seen folks really bother with counting all the coin weights and encumbrance gets hand-waved until everyone is caught walking about with 200-300 pounds of gold in their coin purses. I myself keep a simple 50 coins to a pound of encumbrance regardless of coin size themselves as encumbrance is also how bothersome keeping track of something is and 50 nickles really isn't much more or less troublesome than is 50 pennies so I live with it.

I'm starting up a new campaign soon and there isn't going to be simple decimal accounting of coins but I'll keep the coin metals in the names of the coins. I want escapism and immersion I want the players to feel like they aren't just shuffling about pennies, dimes and dollars. when one finds a stash of 40 Golden Lions they may realize those coins have been hidden away for a century and wonder what value there is in a clay pot full of Brass Minarum. beyond the treasure instantly disappearing into a nebulous cloud of coins that float on the character sheet lost among all the other faceless boring coins.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

On Using Dragons

I hear it time and again in the D&D crowd:"I've played D&D for X-years and never encountered a dragon","I've DM'd for 25 years and never used a dragon.".  Really, wtf folks?

The name of the game is Dungeons AND Dragons; there is an implication that folks will run into dragons now and again. Look at the original rules, a walk outdoors resulted in an encounter with dragons an awful lot of the time according to the encounter charts. In the first basic set we had a few different dragons presented in all their glory. In the 3.x versions dragons ans half-dragons were all over the place. So what's with the "Here There Be NO Dragons"?

In my campaigns I use dragons. My first huge two level dungeon had a red dragon on the second level. I use dragons to indicate an NPC is a bad-ass or a place is dangerous.  White Dragons circling the highest tower of the Snow Queen's Palace, a witch riding a skeletal dragon, A dragon laying beneath a king o his throne are all pretty good indicators of the power of those involved. Dragons are excellent scenery, they are more than a bundle of stats.

The fierce bundle of stats attached to dragons may be why the occasional DM avoids dragons: dragons can be party killers, I'll agree they can be. When played as a bundle of exp waiting to spit out gp or when enshrined as the monster above all other monsters DM's and players are missing out.

Dragons need not be ever present to remind players they are in the game but it sure sets the mood to have one fly far overhead or hear a cow was snatched from a local field last week. Some players might loose focus and go dragon hunting or abandon the adventure to go hide (or level up) before tackling a dragon. Such diversion can be a good thing as the player are chasing a new goal in the first case and reacting to the environment in both. It's bad when players think every glimpse of a monster means a fight is coming: players and DM should be able to do more with the game.

In my estimation young dragons should be encountered far more often than the older apex predator-demigod dragons. A young (and relatively weak) dragon has to aggressively seek treasure and as such will be founds causing trouble. Such dragons should be the ones most often encountered unless civilization has diminished the young dragon population to cut down on the dragon inflicted chaos.
It is these dragons player will test their blades and spells upon: every dragon need not be Smaug or an even more fieree elder worm.

Some argue dragons should always be of demi-god like wrathful power to keep therm important and this why they are so seldom encountered. To such a notion I must ask is every npc warrior Conan in his prime, is everynpc  magic-user 10th level or higher? If they aren't why must every dragon be overwhelming

Beating a dragon at 2nd level with a two handed sword is something a player is going to remember far more then defeating a more dangerous beast that lacks the gravitas of a dragon. Use dragons for the imagery, scene setting, challenge and power they represent.  Don't short yourself and your fellow players for fear of a failed save vs breath weapons.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Equipment Wear and Tear

In real life equipment wear and tear is a big deal. A broken sword can certainly limit the ability to fight, long distance runs with rags wrapped around your feet are no fun. How much wear and tear matters in a campaign should be balanced with the type of adventure being presented. Some argue heroic adventure shouldn't deal with wear and tear as it isn't; flashy enough but I hold that argument is empty as I recall the occasional warrior king to be traveling the countryside with a sword that must be reforged or a weapon the hero depends on breaking at a critical moment forcing the hero to rethink tactics.

Suggested conditions for equipment.
Functional: nothing to track, this normal equipment working well and in good condition.

Damaged: the equipment has been subjected to some distress. It should be considered to be -1 in quality; this modifier being applied to all variable rolls when the equipment is deployed.

Worn: the equipment has been subjected to repeated distress. It should be considered to be -2 in quality; this modifier being applied to all variable rolls when the equipment is deployed.

Broken: It's broken. No longer useable for it's designed task.

Quality of Equipment
Not all goods are made to the same high standards. The quality of equipment can vary by source of manufacture and are a great source for what to do with PC funds.

Poor: Low quality equipment. Poor weapons must check vs damage on any attack roll of 1,2,19, or 20 or be downgraded to worn.or break if already worm. Poor equipment costs 1/2 normal.

Common: pretty normal equipment. common weapons must check vs damage on ant attack roll of 1,2, or 20. Common weapons downgrade one factor on a failed save. Common equipment cost normal list price.

Good: decent equipment definetly a cut above normal. Good weapons should make a save on a attack roll of 1 or 20. Good equipment commands a 1.5 to 2 times normal price.

Fine: a notch above good. Afine weapon need only make a save on an attack roll of 1.
fine equipment costs 5 times list price.

Very Fine: top end for mundane gear. Very fine weapons should make a save on an attacke roll of 1.
Very fine equipment costs 12 times list price.

Equipment Repair
A craftsman with a proper set of tools and workplace can repair equipment at a cost of 1/8th per damage factor. Going from broken to functional is 3 steps of repair. A craftsman must be skilled enough to craft equipent of the quality they are repairing to actually repair such damaged equipment.

 Wear and Tear Saves
Equipment save are made just like PC saves. If your game already has equipment saves use those rules with appropriate modifiers. If d20 based I recomend -2 for poor, +1 for good, +2 for fine and +4 for veryfine. Magicla bonuses add ontop of those save modifiers.

Game doesn't have a save. Go by quality of item: Poor 12+, common 9+, good 8+, fine 7+, very fine 5+ on a d20.

If yuo want level based saves use modifiers as per generic d20 saves.

Having equipment cards on mide i relaized there was room to put a check box for condition of equipment and to list the quality of equipment on the card withotu worrying about a player missing those details.Keeping track of such details without cards or detailed equipment sheets might be a chore indeed. For those striving for gritty and realistic wear and tear should be part of the game.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Illustrations on Equipment Cards?

Still pondering equipment cards. I feel their use will add an element of originality to my soon to be renewed tabletop campaign (The old one is in it's death-throws). I'm wondering if the limited space on such cards makes it worth including illustrations. I really liked the simple ones on the old Dungeon! game but those cards included little in the way of stats. I'm not shy on artistic talent but wonder if my time in game development is better spent on words than it would be spent on pictures.

What do you folks think? Pretty pictures, simple pictures, icons, or skip the art?

Silly Trek Test

Your results:
You are Worf

James T. Kirk (Captain)
Will Riker
An Expendable Character (Redshirt)
Mr. Sulu
Jean-Luc Picard
Geordi LaForge
Beverly Crusher
Mr. Scott
Deanna Troi
Leonard McCoy (Bones)
You are trained in the art of combat
  and are usually intimidating.

Click here to take the Star Trek Personality Test

As I was clicking along, I thought I was going to end up a red shirt and wasn't far off.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Variable Ability Bonuses

Consider the impact on D&D-a-like games if ability scores weren't a fixed bonus but were instead a range? Always getting a +3 is predicatble and certainly fun but what if it was a d6 bonus instead?

No fixed bonus in situation would add uncertainty and possibly downplay higher ability scores being a certain bonus.

Dragonfist did something like this years back and it worked to add a little uncertainty and randomness to things.

What if Ability Bonuses were not "Always On"?

What impact would it have on D&D and similar games if ability scores were not "always on"?
DEX bonus to Ac only being counted when a the character was focusing on defense, STR bonus to damage only coming into play when using a two handed weapon... and so on.

Would player choice in active play be more meaningful if otherwise common modifiers were tied to direct play choices and were not always on? Situational modifiers can get picky and forgotten when cluttered among a host of other modifiers but if ability modifiers are only applied on a situational basis they become the scores to modify a situation and there are only a few of those on each character sheet.

Radical crazy, maybe. But without high ability scores being "always on" a player has to make choices beyond character creation and maybe not lean on high ability scores over tactics.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Run Away!

my weekly group of players has shown a decided pattern of late wherein they choose to run way at the earliest signs of adversity. its becoming a real chore to have something interesting happen that they will not drop at some point and wander away from. the pcs are all rich not crazy world shaking rich but ive got a cart full of gold rich nonetheless. i suppose it is time to be hamfisted and have adventure smack them upside the head.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Building an Ultimate Encounter Table

I've been fiddling with encounter tables again (as always) as i find them very useful in an open (sandbox) campaign. A good set of table is descriptive and can really drive a lot of adventure. A proper set of tables allows the DM to present a seemingly complete campaign. wondering about what such a set of tables may include got me thinking on ways to classify and organize tables. So far I've worked out a number of elements worthy of consideration: Activity Mode, Party Size, Composition, Climate, Civilization, Terrain, Season, Weather, and Time of Day.

Activity Mode- just what are the players doing, this should have a major impact on what encounters they have to deal with and makes player choice a major element in what happens to them. Are they Traveling, Sneaking about, Camping, Hiding Out, Exploring, Hunting, In Residence, Engaged in some Industry, or Raiding? Each of activities can bring about a different set of encounters. A party hunting in a dukes forest is going to drum up a different set of reactions and encounter than they would bristiling with weapons to pillage the same dukes holdings beyond the woods.

Party Size- a definite impact, some encounters will be missed or avoided simply by party size. An Individual or Pair is going to have a different experience from a small or large party, as would a caravan, or army.

Composition- is the party On Foot, Mounted, Mixed (with some walking and some riding), A wagon Train, Water-Born, or Flying?

Climate- pretty obvious stuff here is the region generally Cold, Cool, Mild, Warm, or Hot?

Civilization- how dense is the local population and how is it organized? Urban, Rural, Borderland, Frontier, Wild?

Terrain- Lot's of room here in fantasy lands beyond the obvious: Mountains, Hills, Swamp, Plains, Forest, and Desert. What about Faerie Forests, Dragon Wrack, Mushroom Forests, and Shadowlands? don't gorget the impact of civilization on the terrain which can be reshaped to include Pasture, Fields, Worked Wood, Road, Village, Town, Metropolis, Castle, Ruins and Monuments.

Season- often ignored but the world is a different place when it's Winter, Spring, Summer or Autumn.

Weather- maybe a variable condition, or a predictable one that will certainly impact what those out and about have to deal with, Is it Cloudy, Windy, Rainy, A cold spell or a heat wave; all those conditions will impact what is roaming about and who is doing what.

Time of Day- time of day if broken down by the hour or broader periods of Dawn, morning, Afternoon, Dusk and Night will impact sights to be seen and encounters, not just likelihood and frequency.

Certainly a lot of ground there and not every combination need be considered but if many are a richer experience may be developed that describes the campaign setting and drives play.  Combining most of the factors above would result in over a quarter million tables alone...

What goes on the cards?

So what goes on those equipment cards?

Ideally every darn thing you can squeeze on them but depending on the rules the utility may be variable. for weapons we have damage rating, encumbrance and range if applicable; if your game has weapon vs AC mods should this go on the card? Should notes that vary the weapons effectiveness in situations and tactics be included? Item value? Item AC and HP if your system uses them? Should all items have saving throws listed?

In an ideal world I'd want a lot of that on a weapons equipment card but in an ideal world no one would expect me to scribble it all down for Lord Dark, his 3 Leutenatns of Looming doom and their faceless squad of dungeon guardians on a useable set of cards... oh whait, they should if we are using equipment cards.

hmmm... still more to ponder.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Pondering "Equipment" Cards

Keeping track of character equipment, weapons, armor, and loot is initially as simple as a list. Problem is a list only includes what it's author details. We end up with weapons and armor described on sheets apart from mundane gear, food and water (arrows too) reduced to hash marks on another area of character sheet and a vast accounting of every coin ever discovered by the character and all held together by an ever expanding backpack (if the player remembered to purchase one for the character). Throw in encumbrance to that book-keeping and a few things get missed.

I've long pondered using cards to solve this matter. A card can include every bit of info a game system requires (hopefully). A card is tangible, it's hard to argue one can haul about the 40 or so cards in a stack all in one little belt pouch and move about unencumbered. There are a few issues with cards however: they can get lost and you need a lot of them.

Cards can get lost. A player loses his character's stack of cards between sessions and they lose a lot of their precocious gear. Loss of equipment is a fate worse than death of a PC for many a player. One could argue a stack of cards does however encourage one to actually keep track of the precious goods. A little back up accounting can help but in the end cards can be lost.

The number of cards needed can be quite cumbersome if one really keeps track of what is needed.
A simple equipment list for a lowly fightign man could easily read:
Helmet, sword, shield, leather armor, boots, trousers, tunic, boots, water-skin, knife, tinder box, 50' of rope,30 g.p,15 s.p.,45cp and a weeks rations. That's 14 cards... or is it? Where's the character's loot carried, should those rations actually be 7 cards (collect yourself a days food and tell me it's not a noticeable amount of stuff), how many coins to a card?. With a card based system you have to wonder what's really worth keeping track of on a card.

With cards however we do get the visceral thrill of picking up your loot and digging through the pile of loot. Having cards to split up and argue over makes the treasure "more" and it also get's rid of the nebulous "party treasure' accounting I've often seen where a cloud of coins seems to magically follow a party around.There's no cheating involved when a player suspects the party member with twice as many cards as they have is pocketing an unfair portion of the loot.

Cards also allow for easy accounting of incomplete information. A card can describe an item without revealing it's true function with more detail than what a player actually writes on a sheet. Adm can even scribble in little codes for keeping track of magical treasures without requiring the player to scribble down an items serial no on an equipment list.

Just a little bit of pondering on the use of cards I felt like sharing. Cards have to be stored, legible, and durable too.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Mundane, Monster, or Magical?

When building an adventure or an entire setting I'm always wondering how much of things that are magical or mundane I should include. Describing a setting has a lot more to it than simply rolling out lines of descriptive dialog. Encounters describe the setting as much as they provide opportunity for challenge.

When including encounters that are meant to be descriptive over tactically challenging the DM has an opportunity to offset other encounters. An endless stream of mostly hostile oddities serves to enforce simple game playing and serves to diminish anything unique in a host of magical monsters.

If your game takes place in the dung age (for example) encounters presented to display the setting over a tactical purpose lifts the background into the foreground and accents the more intense tactically challenging situations. Filthy harlots, processions of lepers, and roadside prophets (typically with no more power than their ravings)are a strong offset to wandering sorcerers,misplaced drakes, and misanthropic humanoids that do more than an enldess stream of encounters that pop out exp and gp when they are bashed by the PCs.

Encounter tables as usually presented focus on the  intense and immediately dangerous and this really reduces opportunity for exploration and discovery. Random encounters with hostiles present little more then speed bumps that consume resources and delay progress if that's all they ever are.

There of course has to be a balance between the mundane (setting specific) encounter and the more magical and monstrous ones. Too much mundane and we lose the magic that draw us to the games; it's really a balancing act to keep the players anticipating what may come next.

A setting full of weird isn't weird in the slightest. A hundred different crawling things with no reason to be all slip and slide into each other and each unique creature becomes another hostile creature to be beaten or fled, little more. The weird.magical, and monstrous all need to be balanced by the mundane.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

A Proposed and Incomplete Farming Mechanic

A proposed and incomplete farming mechanic cobbled together after a bit more research in medieval farming. I've gone down this road a bit before and realized a little need as the PC's in my weekly game have decided to claim a village as their own.

Yield in bushels= ((1d6 per seed bushel sown)+Land Quality + Seasonal Modifiers)/2
Roll a control die (1d6) and if this number is greater then the no of bushels sown the yield is halved.

Seasonal Modifiers haven't been fiugyure out yet but it's safe to keep them in the -4 to +4 range.

Land Quality is rated as per a D&D stat.

After each growing season a plot of land must make a saving throw with a negative modifier equal to the bushels of seed planted. A failed save downgrades the quality of that plot by the no. of seed bushels sown.

Land save is 10+

How much hood do people need to eat ? 12-24 bushels a year in corn (grain) and legumes (beans and peas) seems to be the answer. STR x 1.5 seems to do the trick, characters that don't each this much have an increased chance of illness.

Land can yield 1-3 harvests a year depending on land,climate, and farming techniques used.

Land recovery, each season a plot is fallow a save can be made for that plot to upgrade the land quality by 1 for a plot downgraded due to a failed save from an earlier plot season.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Xarcosatron Tables 0.2

I've been tinkering with an app on my smartphone on and off for the past couple months during the occasional spare moment to generate settlements for Carcosa-ish settings.
The following tables are pulled out of the data sets for the program.

Feature/Mood of Place

1  Secluded
2  Hidden
3  Isolated
4  Sheltered
5  Dirty
6  Cramped
7  Partly-ruined
8  Old
9  Dingy
10 Fortified
11 Decrepit
12 Shabby
13  Half-Collapsed
14  Overgrown
15  Decorated
16  Colorful
17 Drab
18 Ramshackle
19  Muddy
20 Crowded
21 Small
22 Large
23 Crumbling
24 Alien

Type of Place
1-2 Camp
8-9 Village
10-13 Citadel
14-15 Tower(s)
16 Monastery
17 Caves
18 Catacombs
19-21 Castle
22 Dome
23 Pits
24 Mines

Population Quirk
1  Devout
2  Honorable
3 Crazed
4 Deranged
5 Desperate
6 Diseased
7-8 Starving
8-9 Hostile
10 Generous
11-13  Demented
14-15  Greedy
16 Morbid
17-19 Poor
20 Gregarious
21 Nervous
22 Bawdy
23 Brave
24 Cowardly

Population Alignment
1-3 Lawful
4-6 Neutral
7-9 Chaotic
10 Mixed

1-2 Black
3 Bone
4-5 Red
6-7 Orange
8-9 Yellow
10-11 Green
12-13 Blue
14-15 Purple
16-17 Jale
18-19 Ulfire
20-21 Dolm
22-23 White
24 Brown
(roll d100 for leader's color 25-100 same as population)

Population Type
1-9 Men
10 Bandits
11 Berserkers
12-13 Cultists
14-15 Nomads
16-17 Primitives
18 Monks
19 Amazons
20 Pygmies
21 Cannibals
23 Raiders
24 Slavers
25 Brigands
26-27 Hunters
28 Scavengers
29 Pilgrims
30 Mutants

Domination Descriptor
1  lead by
2  ruled by
3  controlled by
4  enthtalled by
5  dominated by
6  enslaved by
7  protected by
8  worship

Leader Alignment
1-5 Same as population
6 Opposite of Population
7-8  Lawful
9-10 Neutral
11-12 Chaotic

Leader Traits
1  Hateful
2  Paranoid
3  Greedy
4  Slothful
5  Lusty
6  Debauched
7  Ambitious
8  Brave
9  Corpulent
10  Elderly
11  Cowardly
12  Vain
13 Flamboyant
14 Youthful
15 Joyful
16 Extravagant
17 Sad
18 Haughty
19 Pious
20 Mad

1-5 Chieftan
6-10 Noble
11-12 Prophet
13-22Fighter, level 2d6+1
23-28 Sorcerer; level 2d4+5
29 Mutant
30 Monster


Chatting the past Wednesday during our weekly RPG session we strayed into the subject of the zombie apocalypse. We quickly came to the realization that a rational discussion of Zombies quickly makes the zombie apocalypse not so much material for enduring fun. Yeah it would really rot to be next door ot the toxic waste dump/funeral-home/morgue/secret military base right when the zombies come stumbling forth but eventually things would get under control and calm down enough for us to see the rise of a greater horror... PETZ: People for the Ethical Treatment of Zombies.

In the real world the zombie apocalypse would definitely spawn the likes of PETZ and ruin the fun of shooting your neighbor's dead cousin in the head.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Darn You DCC

Character funnel ... oh yeah, if the players are a bunch of unlucky rubes. I ran my group through the introductory DCC scenario and 14 out of 20 zero level schleps managed to survive the adventure.
I've now got 14 1st level characters on my hands. I should have expected it the sample introductory scenario isn't too far removed from some of my own endeavors (aside from being skimpy overall) so my veteran players with decades of experience and even the two kids who have been playing with us for years pulled through losing 1 character each, only the newbie lost two characters.

Tonight I'm letting them boost all those characters to 1st level with... a "one year later" scenario. I'd initially planned on 5-10 characters...

Yes Wizardawn, Yes.

Hello, sorry for the public comment, I liked what I saw and eagerly await what may follow. Feel free to use the graphics for a project on your website all I ask is a mention/credits for what I contribute (which you've done) and a head's up so I can take a peek at what you've done (not that I'd be likely to miss it I enjoy your site very much).

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Ultimate Mutant Adventures!

The harried mutant master has gained a useful set of tools for random adventure generation thanks to wizardawn. It's a set of adjustable generators for ruined cities, large modern/futuristic buildings, star-ships and colony ark-ships. I've already put the ruined city one to use myself.

Each one can be set to a custom game from Wizardawn (Broken Urthe), Mutant Future or Classic Post-Apocalypse. It's possible to adjust type of currency, levels for the adventure, what sized HD the game uses (in some cases), the size of the entire map is adjustable by number of tiles used. One can set the first most likely occupant and second most likely occupant alog with the chance of "visitors" from surrounding terrain, along with a number of probabilities for occurrences of traps, loot, and  enemies. There is some minor variation between each style.

It's a very useful tool for any ref and certainly worth utilizing.
The link: , this takes you to Wizardawn's RPG page. The Ultimate Mutant Adventure is in the list of Generators, one of many sets of tools so generously available on that site.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Back to the Ruins

Our latest Tuesday night game found four daring scavengers delving into the ruins of the Mutant Future. Two veterans from the Mutant Box campaign Izzy (pure human)and MechaUnit 127 (android) were joined by Tom a (pure human) and Felix the Tiger (mutant animal). Service to the Quintus is long behind the ruin roamers and the high-tech enclave they were raiding happily escaped long ago the characters found themselves exploring an extensive set of ruins.

The ruins are proving to be looted and used many times over since the great war, the robot-rebellion, and the psychic wars. The pickings have proven to be better then expected with the party finding a couple of caches of Uranium and some crossbow quarrels where they didn't expect them. Savage rats of no more than a foot long charged the party when they were leaving one ruin but were easily delt with fleeing after the death of one raucous rodent. The party later decided agaisnt exploring the upper story of another building when they spied at least a hundred bats sheltered through a hole in the floor above them.

Deeper into the ruins a party of coyote-men were spooked off of a rich looking multi-story ruin. The party was almost caught with their pants down splitting up a back pack on of the coyote-men had dropped when they were assaulted by a trio of naked skin sealers who had descended from the floor above. This fight saw Izzy deploying his vibro-dagger and mechaunit 127 had to discharge his plasma pistol 4 times to dispatch the foes. The fight and exploration ended there for the night.

It was fun playing Mutant Future again and the players are eager to play for a while ("let's play a whole campaign","I forgot how much liked this").
I'm using a lightly edited ruined city generated here :

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Gnomish Snail Jousting?

Gnomes Jousting on snails, good idea or a little crazy?

Here's the scribbles for the idea I madly whipped up last night while watching Glee with my teen daughter. Gnomes with pointy caps charging each other on valiant war-snails can't be all wrong can it?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Cargo Cults of Yesterday

Once upon a time every group of D&D players were not at all unlike a cargo-cult. Each group of players had very limited contact to the game and only a handful of game products by which to relate their common experiences. Meeting up with other D&D players was very much likely to result in a clash of cultures. We each had different entry points and very different cultural backgrounds even though one wouldn't think that would be the case.

 My introduction to D&D was purchasing the original basic set in a chain hobby shop. I had some experience with games from Avalon Hill but in the main I was totally ignorant as to what D&D actually was when I first purchased it (I had imagined it to be a skirmish game that allowed one to play surviving characters in further exploits) and was totally blown away when I realized what the game actually was. The folks I initially played D&aD with were my family (father, younger brother, uncle and grandfather), a neighbor kid, and a schoolmate along with some of my father's co-workers. These co-workers were a couple of older teens (5 or so years older than I) and two experienced war gamers (neither of which had played any D&D); so there I was at 11-12 years of age DMing for a group that varied in age from 10-60 and I was their introduction to D&D and RPGs. For some odd reason all my first games took place on dungeons that fit huge sheets of graph paper setup so that 1" = 10 feet and players ended up building a dungeon map/board in scale as we went along. It took me more then a year to make sense out of the sample dungeon and the module included in the basic set but we all still had fun. Hideously powerful monsters weren't uncommon and players won by trickery and guile far more often than they would have prevailed by successful hit rolls.

We moved when I was in 8th grade and I met several new D&D players and experienced the clash of cultures that was present when cargo-cults bumped into each other. One group of players had tons of high level characters who ruled nations and they knew their game as "The Wars", another group hardly knew the rules at all and played in a game utterly dominated by DM fiat. I played with both groups and the differences in play were amusing (one group didn't know waht an Ogre was). I had little experience with characters over 4th level in my own games as we played about twice a month and even clever players had a hard time staying alive so my experience with high level play started in the deep end. I ended up poaching a couple players from the dm-fiat campaign as I paid some attention to the game rules and gave the players a fighting chance. I had to explain to one group of players that character ability scores were rolled with 3 six sided dice and not on 1d20 (they had been re-rolling scores of 1-2 and 19-20 and found it annoying).

 I also joined a briefly lived D&D club; this club was very interesting as pretty much everyone owned the 1st or second basic set and possibly a few AD&D books. A couple of the players had older brothers who had been playing D&D for whole year or two longer and they helped us out but generally stayed out of the club games as they were for younger players (some of them having moved on to Traveller and Runequest becasue they were more sophisticated than D&D). New concepts leaked into my play such as critical hits and hit locations. It was in this campaign where I had the only character (who was totally average in scores except for a fairly high CHA) to survive from the beginning of the game because I understood encumbrance and movement rates: you don't have to outrun the thief and MU, you just have to outrun all the fighters in the party wearing plate and carrying thousands of gp when the party decides it's time to run.

 Near the end of highschool I discovered a group of football player, biker, burnout, C-Bers mostly a couple years olde r than I also played D&D regularly. Two of these fellows play D&D with me to this day. This group of players had critical hits and fumbles, they also gained a level after each successful adventure and would cycle through DMs. They had 25th level paladins with +6 holy avengers and ability scores over 20 (they didn't seem to understand experience points) but really liked the game and several of them ended up playing in one of my longest running D&D campaigns where we played twice a month for 7-8 years. I recall killing 3 dragons in one session of a game run by a DM in that group without having to roll a single die...sometimes I look back at that in ridicule, other times with gleeful nostalgia.

 As the years rolled on I would bump into plenty of D&D players but I noticed a familiarity in campaigns and player expectations that were missing in the earlier days (and man oh man would I tire hearign about peoples 25th level multi-classed paladins). Availability of products and more available contact between gamers was creating it's own gamer culture. Gone were players who didn't know how saving throws worked, or how to calculate AC, variants were so common they seldom needed much explanation.

With the modern internet the last culture clash came about the time third edition D&D came to be as players who had managed to be isolated discovered the game had changed when they weren't looking, and all the changes were not for the better.

 Eventually the time will come when no players remain who was part of a cargo cults. No one will ask "what's an Orc?, everyone will know dwarves are bothersome scottish/norse greedy drunks and dark elves are leather fetishists into spiders. Maybe there are cargo cults out there yet reaming to be discovered huddled around a table with only a single twenty sided die used by a half dozen players all passing about a handful fantasy paperbacks who have yet to discover they have been playing the game wrong...

Saturday, April 28, 2012

[OT] Keep The Zombies Away

We had to bury our old cat today. Morgan was an 18 year old medium hair tortoise shell calico that has been suffering from kidney disease and being old as heck for some time now. I dug the grave on a little hillock just a few dozen yards from the river in a sunny spot. The teens are way for the weekend but the toddler is home so we brought him down to explain what was going on and why we were burying the cat (in a box). After we placed the cat in the hole and filled in the dirt I dragged over a couple logs to sit on top of the grave until the earth hardens and the toddler agreed that was a good idea becasue it would keep her safe and buried so we could keep the zombies away.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

What's Going On In the Dungeon? (part One)

You've got a dungeon, it's full of monsters... but what's going on down there?

while it can impact the setup up of a dungeon without a doubt the going's on in the dungoen will impact how play evolves and is impacted when the PCs descend the first staircase. Here's a few notes on general goings on for now:

Civil War- Two factions are at war with each other, there will be traps along seemingly open travel routes, fresh barricades, patrols, heavily armed (or dangerous) bands of combatants, frequent patrols, and sentries near borders. Delvers may find stockpiles of food and weapons, battlegrounds full of fresh corpses, an explosion of dungeon vermin feeding on the freshly dead and forces on edge that will be difficult to surprise. There should be opportunities to exploit the situation, perhaps a side can be joined or a treasure left unguarded?

Menagerie- this is a mad wizards zoo. The dungeon is here becasue a Wizard did it. the dungeon is here to either grow monsters, collect loot from hapless delvers, or hold the wizard's collection(s) of oddities. There may be clean-up crews and guards along with apprentices and colleagues on site. Oddities are unlikely to be undefended and some of the occupants may long for escape with the assistance of the PCs.

Home Sweet Home- This is where the monsters call home. There will be a dominant faction of occupants going about their normal lives all others within will be minions,guests, pests, or thieves and the dominant faction will react to them appropriately. PCs may be able to strike a deal with the occupants to clear out some troublesome creatures or find employ as mercenaries. If the outer perimeter can be breached with little incident the party should have greater opportunity for stealthy thievery with less threat from wandering monsters of unexpected sort.

Prison- It's a prison. The occupants are either jailers, prisoners, or vermin. Depending on the nature of the prison there may be little to loot and it may be possible for PCs to find themselves trapped within. There may be factions within the prison population, VIP prisoners that will offer reward to liberators and possibly future henchmen of worth to be recruited. There will be regular patrols and procedures of the jailers to deal with and the whole problem of how to get in and out without being noticed.

Mining- The dungeon is a mine currently being exploited by one or more groups. There will be invaders, claim jumpers, miners, and possibly slaves to deal with. Stockpiles of ore (or whatever is being mined) will be present as will supplies and tools for the miners. Monsters within the dungeon will be employed in mining, defense, or pests interfering with operations. Miners may be very happy to have adventurers on hand to clear out some troublesome invaders. Maybe the PCs can take over the mine for themselves?

Catacombs- the dungeon is a collection of crypts, it's a resting place for the dead. An abandoned an old catacomb is familiar dungeon-fare filled with undead, traps, and tomb robbers. A catacomb in use will have funeral processions, vagabonds hiding in secluded corners, serve as a meeting place for illicit business and may house secret cults going about unusual rites not generally approved of by society outside the catacombs. The normal users of the catacomb may well be common folk that will not take kindly to bands of "adventurers" looting the remains of their ancestors and loved ones.
while the dead are supposed to stay put in a catacomb the place is not necessarily abandoned or under-used.

Wilderness- the dungeon is a subterranean wilderness occupied by a varied host of creatures. Tribes of creatures will still be hashing out their territories and relations with other humanoids. Fearsome monsters may lurk that are unknown to most occupants and the by-ways and passage ways will not be regularly patrolled or known to any. A dungeon wilderness presents room for exploration,exploitation, establishing allies, and finding employ for PCs. There is no established order and no dominant factions.