Sunday, March 11, 2018

Back in the Habit

Yesterday,  I gamed for the first time since August. I haven't endured a dry spell this long in the 26 years I've been in the hobby.

I rejoined my old group, DM'ed by John Higgins, author of Engines & Empires, but this time we're using his D&D 2018 rules. There were new faces who had joined the group since I dropped out sometime in...2015? I'm not entirely sure.

I rolled a bard, which in John's game is more like the Celtic priest/scholar than the spoony fop of later editions.

As always, this DM's world is richly detailed and focused very much on exploration and expedition. Although he's running Mystara, he's managed to make it feel very much like his own thing.

I have an additional invite to two other games, but I think I can make all of them work. It seems I am fated not to DM again until KantCon, but this is a far better situation than I was in even three days ago.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

In Which I Return to KantCon

KantCon is my beloved gaming convention, one which I attended for 5 consecutive years until last year. A host of personal issues prevented my attendance last year. AD 2017 was an awful, awful year in my life, and I'd rather forget it entirely. As part of that process, I am returning to my convention this year. 

I intend to continue my tradition of running Starships & Spacemen 2nd and Lamentations of the Flame Princess on Friday. Saturday is reserved for running games which I've never run before. Last KantCon I rolled out OneDice Urban Fantasy and Ruins & Ronin. I love the scenario I wrote for 1DUF, despite my issues with the system, but I found R&R to be...well, bland. It might be the scenario I wrote. 

The proposed docket for this year: 

Friday morning: 

Starships & Spacemen 2nd Edition- "Beacon." I usually run the same ship and crew every year (with many of the same players returning to their roles), but given that I was absent last year, I'm going to run a scenario in which the ship has been missing for a year. The players will play a new crew and ship who have the chance to locate and rescue the old one. The results of this scenario will determine which crew I feature in next year's game. 

Friday evening: 

Lamentations of the Flame Princess- I haven't picked which module to run just yet. I'm thinking I might do Something Stinks in Stilton, but I'm honestly not sure if I like SSiS enough to run it. I've already done Death Frost Doom, Hammers of the God, Lamentations of the Gingerbread Princess, and A Thousand Dead Babies in prior years. 

Saturday morning: 

Stars Without Number, Revised Edition "The Tartarus Gambit" 
TTG is a free scenario that I found in my DriveThruRPG library. I have no memory of downloading it, nor do I even remember how I learned of it. Given it's sort of cosmic-horror-ish leanings, I find that to be quite apropos. 

Saturday evening: I have no idea. I'm considering several candidates: All of Their Strengths, the 1st edition of OpenQuest with the dope-ass cover that I love so dearly, or maybe some Savage worlds steampunk zeppelin pirates. Iunno. 

I was even thinking about squeezing in a 5th game. 

Sunday I typically host board games like HeroQuest and The Last Night on Earth. 

July seems like a very long way from now. I'm very excited. 

Monday, February 26, 2018

Some Thoughts from a Classic

So yesterday I saw The Dark Crystal at a theater as part of a limited re-release. The last time I watched that flick, it was on a VHS tape my parents rented from Video Station in like 1986.

Since my brain is always converting things I see or read into gaming terms, I've been picking apart The Dark Crystal for what I can put into a game. Or at least, what I can put into a game in the alternate fucking universe where I can have a stable, consistent gaming group. Ahem.

So, some thinking points:

-The OSR is pretty much all about human-centric games. Here, we have a fantasy world that has several sentient species, none of which are human. In fact, in the interviews they showed prior to the movie, they were pretty clear about the fact that humans do not exist in this world.

-'The gentle ways of natural wizards.' This is only mentioned once. I interpret it as magic being part of the natural flow of the universe, and that natural wizards work within that flow, as opposed to disrupting or subverting it.

-"The old, old magic" and "numbly rehearsing the ancient ways in a blur of forgetfulness." Magic has been around longer than the present civilization. At this point, even someone considered a wise and powerful mystic knows only a shadow of what magic once was.

-Good and Evil are intrinsically connected. The best possible world for everyone is a world where these forces are balanced instead of acting like separate entities, only one of which may emerge victorious.

-Keepers of Secrets, prophecies. Nobody really knows what's going on. Not even the one who witnessed the last Conjunction is certain as to what is going to happen. The elder mystic isn't one hundred percent certain what's going on with the shard. Jen finds the ruins left behind by his people and seems to know virtually nothing of their history.

Definitely some appealing ideas for my next game. The world is old, and nobody really knows what's going on. Even the wisest only have a faint grasp on the real nature of things.

Friday, February 23, 2018

AotS: Gallery of Badasses

So, All of Their Strengths is a pretty dope little game. Here are four utterly badass starting characters for it. You should check AotS out. (Disclaimer: I did not write it, nor do I have any skin in that game except as a fan.)

John Doe -  Half-Ghost, Half-Zombie- Double Dead
Built  3
Fast 2
Hot 0
Sharp 1
Scenes: Martial Arts 2, Parkour 1, Biochemistry 2
Strengths: Unkillable (Already Dead), Bond (Horde), Immune (Suffocation, exhaustion, disease, poison, hunger, thirst, age), Morph (Specter), Gift (levitation)
Discord: 2
Weaknesses: Allergy (salt, crossing salt lines, entering or exiting sigils, exorcism), Issue (Rotting)
Gear: Pneumatic punch glove serum injector, embalming serum hypo, thermal sunglasses
Look: John is pale and waxy, like a fresh corpse, with some sickening blue undertones. He has the zombie eyes: milky white surrounded by dark purple flesh. Sometimes he exudes glowing blue ectoplasm, usually when he’s experiencing strong emotions or he needs to look like a badass. He wears all black because of course he does, favoring long coats with hoods. He is never without his wraparound sunglasses, even indoors, even at night, especially indoors at night. He’s bald, but in sort of a Vin Diesel badass way.
Origin: John worked for the Tyrell Corporation, doing research on a new strain of the Z-Virus. During his experiments, he discovered a new type of protein blocker that could potentially vaccinate an individual against the virus. For reasons unknown, Tyrell cut the funding to his project. Out of desperation, he injected himself with the blockers and with the Z-Virus. He did not turn.
While unaware that John had experimented on himself, Tyrell Corporation decided that John knew too much to be left alive. They sabotaged his vehicle, causing him to die in a fiery wreck. Realizing the sabotage moments before being crushed by twisted metal, John’s mind filled with the desire for revenge… enough so that his soul couldn’t rest. He became a ghost… but his body also became a zombie, as his formula only delayed the change in an infected subject until death. John somehow possessed and fused with his zombified body. Now he’s back, and he’s double dead, and Tyrell is going down.
No, John Doe isn’t his real name. You don’t need a name when you’re double dead.

Scarlett – Half-Demon, Half-vampire – a suckubus ?
Built 1
Fast 1
Hot 3
Sharp 0
Scenes: Clubbing 2, Motorcycles 1, Knives 1
Strengths: Gift (Hellfire- Infernal), Power (Punisher), Unkillable (unless horns severed), Immune (fire heat, suffocation, disease, poison, thirst, hunger, age) Gift (Retractable Horns), Gift (Teleportation- Warping, Indirect), Charm (Universal Language), Power (Blood), Gift (Fangs, draining), Charm (Superhuman Hearing, Infravision)
Discord: 3
Weaknesses: Allergy-Peril (Holy Symbols, Holy Places, Holy Water, Holy Weapons), Lose Control-Drain (Blood thirst), Allergy- Drain (Holy Places, Holy Symbols)
Gear: Badass motorcycle, sword-proof trench-coat, pair of silver daggers
Look:.Scarlett looks pretty much like a normal vampire, until she sprouts her horns. The horns themselves are blood red and distinctly reminiscent of fangs. Her wardrobe consists of crimson and black and involves a lot of leather, PVC, and unnecessary buckles. She’s presently rocking the side shave, jet black with a single red stripe. She likes mirrored sunglasses to hide her vampire eyes when she has to.
Origin: Scarlett was already a half-human, half-demon, created by the unholy union of a succubus and a stock broker (two utterly soulless creatures) Scarlett ran away from home and became a stripper. Unfortunately, her club happened to be a freaky vampire feeding spot, like in that one Quentin Tarantino movie*. She ended up being turned into a vampire, only her demon blood got into a fight with her vampire blood and what came out of it was…. well, whatever Scarlett is.

*I know, it’s a Robert Rodriguez movie, but a lot of people don’t seem to know that.

Abbi- Half-witch, half-mummy, dermatologist’s nightmare
Built: 0
Fast: 0
Hot: 0
Sharp: 5
Scenes: Occult Knowledge 2, Herbalism 2, History 1
Strengths: Power (Ritualist),  Bond (Familiar, cat) *
Discord: 2
Weaknesses: Peril (Fire), Issue/Peril (Guardians of the Afterlife)
Gear: tablet loaded with scans of occult ritual books, herbal concoction utility belt, protective scarab amulet
Look: Abbi is definitely not sexy. She’s kind of green and her skin is shrunken, making her look gaunt and perpetually nauseous. Also, she has no eyes. She usually wears sunglasses. She’s considering having some creepy-ass glass eyes made. In terms of wardrobe, she’s your classic goth, but incorporates Egyptian motifs into her jewelry and garments. She also kind of smells like embalming fluid and grave flowers- but that’s actually because she buys a perfume that smells that way. She was totally bummed that it wasn’t part of the mummification process.
Origin: Abbi was a nerdy goth chick who was into magic, history, and magical history. Also, some band called Clan of Xymox. Unfortunately, her dealings on various occult forums caught the eye of a witch and a mummy, both of whom wanted to recruit her. The witch got to her first, and started the initiation process. As it was close to complete, she was abducted by the mummy, who mummified her… only the witch initiation process led to some unexpected results. The witch showed up to rescue Abbi, and she and the mummy pretty much destroyed each other, leaving a confused, kind of dead, very magical Abbi to go out on her own.

*Having a cat as a familiar is sometimes a problem for Abbi, who has to defer to any cat she has angered and becomes imminently killable due to her Guardians of the Afterlife Weakness.

Karl - Half-Werewolf, Half-Frankenstein. Wolfenstein.

Built: 3
Fast: 1
Hot: 1
Sharp: 0
Scenes: Wrestling 1, Stunt Racing 1, Motorcycles 1, Hunting 1, Extreeeeeeeeeme Athletics 1
Strengths: Power (Morph, Direform), Power (Moonchild), Unkillable (beheading), Immune (exhaustion, heat, cold, disease, poison, age), Gift (Claws/slashing, teeth/rending), Charm (Wolf-Like Senses), Power (Unkillable- modular organs), Charm (Modular physiology) , Charm (Large Frame, Muscular Build),
Discord: 2
Weaknesses: Issue (Visible Stitching), Issue (Lose Control- Fire)
Gear: silver brass knuckles, miraculously durable jeans, totally jacked muscle car with flame decals
Look: In human form, Karl is a huge, hulking monster of a man, with a  semi-flat head (shaved around the sides with long hair on top, worn in a ponytail.) He has visible stitching all over his body, though he usually hangs out in dark arenas and bars where people just assume they are tattoos- or are jut afraid to ask. He likes to wear lots of muscle shirts. He only wears one pair of jeans, which somehow seem to survive his transformations. In wolf form, Karl looks like… well, a stitched-together werewolf with mottled fur of different colors.
Origin: A Frankenstein called Dr. Terwing had an idea: if you stitch together a bunch of dead werewolves, could you create a Frankenstein/Werewolf? Turns out you can. Also turns out that when you stitch together a Frankenstein made out of werewolves who were also various sorts of adrenaline junkies, the resultant Hybrid goes apeshit and destroys your entire lab. And you. And your notes. The good Doctor is gone, and his notes lost, perhaps forever, but Karl (he picked his own name) lives, and the entire Frankenstein community would like to erase this embarrassing abomination.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

My White Whale

Anyone who has read this blog more than twice probably knows that I have been searching in vain (or maybe in vein, ziiiing) for a replacement for World of Darkness.

I want a modern horror game with vampires and werewolves and witches and things.
I don't like classic WoD anymore. I've just plain lost my taste for it.
I tried to like nWoD, but it just didn't do anything for me. Some of the books had cool ideas.
The new Chronicles of Darkness, particularly Beast: the Primordial, had me until I got to all the business about Tilts and Doors and then I hit the spirit manifestation/possession flow chart and I was solidly in "fuck this" territory.

I tried to use FUDGE to create an urban fantasy/horror game, but I just couldn't seem to make it fit.

I tried making a WoD-type game using B/X D&D rules. Some people liked it (including Matthew Skail, who went on to write The Blood Hack, which is way better than what I wrote) and some people didn't. (JB in particular) In the end, it felt somehow 'off.' The basic idea was there, but something about it...I don't know. Maybe it's worth a redraft.

I tried OneDice Urban Fantasy, but I don't like the system very much. (Though I did run a stellar game with it at KantCon a couple years ago)

The Blood Hack is probably the closest thing I have to a satisfactory replacement, but I found I needed rules for witches and werewolves. I wrote a witch thing, which is in working draft form, but the person I wrote it for is no longer in my life and I find I have little desire to revisit it. I tried to write up some werewolf rules, but couldn't get off the launchpad. (I think Mr. Skail mentioned having similar difficulties.)

I've downloaded Feed and Blood Dark Thirst, and read them a little ,but once again I am looking for a game that has a big ol' supernatural melting pot.

I found Microlight Storyteller, which is a neat idea, but for some reason it doesn't quite do it for me. I think I like light, but not microlight.

I tried to write something up with Fate core, but to be honest I really don't have any fucking idea how Fate works, despite having read it and (tried) to run it. The way I handle Fate, you might as well just toss the books and dice aside and just make a bunch of shit up.

At this point, I'm really not sure what to do. I still have the powerful urge to find or create a game of urban supernatural creatures, but I've been looking for years and I'm just spinning my tires at this point.

And of course, all of this is academic, since I haven't had a gaming group since that steaming pile of a D&D5e game that I was playing in last year, and that situation is unlikely to change. Even if I sat down and pounded out my dream game today, I am writing a game for nobody.

...yet the quest continues. Those windmills aren't going to tilt at themselves, you know.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

He's Got a Poisoned Dagger... I've Just Gotta Fight Him

Assassin, as written, is an awful class.

A thief who gets better weapons, worse thief skills, an insta-kill attack that isn't super likely to work, an overly complicated disguise skill, and your very own set of rules for NPCs attacking you. 

...let me expound on that. If you poison your weapon, and someone within 10 feet notices, they will either call the guard, attack you, or both. Ridiculous. "Hey, this guy can kill us in one hit with his poisoned sword...let's get 'em. You have the ability to turn people nearby into instant vigilantes. 

AD&D 1st edition has a lot of rules that leave me scratching my head, or pinching the bridge of my nose (presumably to stop the blood from gushing out) 

OSRIC omitted this from the poison section of the assassin class, but I was disheartened to see it rear its ugly head in BX Advanced, which I recently purchased. Swords & Wizardry Complete throws the rule out entirely. 

If the assassin has the fighter hold his poisoned dagger, do people notice? Could the fighter get attacked? This rule is specifically tucked into the assassin class write-up...but then, 1st edition was always sort of passively-aggressively discouraging you from using poison. Stick a guy with a sword? Sure, that's life in Greyhawk. Stick him with a poisoned sword? You're the absolute scum of the universe. The S&W companion even adds bonus damage to the attacks of the aggrieved witnesses, so enraged are they by the sight of a poisoned weapon. Le sigh.

Of course the rule is easy enough to toss aside, but... I'm trying to wrap my head around the genesis of the rule. Is there some Vance or Howard story where poison just pisses someone off to the point that they're ready to attack an armed assassin? Help me understand. I need to understand.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Weird Magic: When the Sun Rises for the Last Time

Here's another spell for Raggi's Weird Magic system, introduced in his 2017 Free RPG day submission. It uses the system described  therein. If you don't have it, or don't want to use it, just make this a first level magic-user spell. Raggi's Weird Magic can only be cast by females; use or discard this restriction as you see fit.

As with Raggi's spells and my previous offerings this year, the spell is named after a death metal song.*

When the Sun Rises for the Last Time

This spell literally causes the end of the world.

First off, the caster must gather a congress of 101 sentient beings, not including herself. She must inform them, in no vague or uncertain terms, of her intent to immediately bring about the end of the world and the obliteration of all sentient beings. The 101 there gathered must agree unanimously. Among the 101 there must be at least one elf, dwarf, halfling, or whatever 'major' races appear in your campaign. If you do not use nonhuman characters, there must be representatives from at least four nations. There must be at least three clerics of different faiths, none of whom count toward the race/nationality requirement.

 The members of this congress must agree of their own free will; they cannot be under magical or psychic mind control, nor can they have been coerced into agreement. They must willingly understand the choice they are making and the ramifications thereof, so it's not possible to use children or the mentally unsound. If even one member of the congress disagrees or agrees under some sort of pressure or compulsion, the spell fails and you must immediately roll on the failure table twice and take the worst result. If you don't use the Weird Magic system, just give the caster a level drain or have her head explode or whatever fitting punishment the DM comes up with.

The spell must be cast at sunrise, with the entire congress within 300 feet of the caster. It otherwise fails to function.

If the spell is successfully cast, the game world has one day before the world ends. It unfolds in the following sequence:

1. All members of the congress, and the caster, immediately die. Their souls are completely obliterated and nothing can restore them to any semblance of life. They cannot be animated as undead. They likewise do not proceed to any afterlife that may exist.

2. Cleric spells cease to function globally.

3. All beings in the region understand that this is the last sunrise, that the world will end in a day. They don't know how they know, but it is certain. They will feel a compulsion to complete the one thing they most want to do in the next day and will do anything in their power to make it happen. Obviously it must be a desire that can be fulfilled in the next day. If they have no such desires, they simply seek to make the most of their last day: spending it with loved ones, eating favorite foods, etc .If an individual desires to resist this for some reason, they may save vs. Magic, with success allowing them to act as they please.

4. Just before the next sunrise in each region, living animals and humanoids turn into pillars of salt. Plant life withers into blackened husks. Undead crumble to dust or dissolve. Self-aware but nonliving things become inanimate shells. Food and forms of sustenance rot.

5. After the living things in a region die, all man-made structures in the region crumble to ruin.

At the terminus of the spell, the entire planet is devoid of life, a crumbled graveyard from pole to pole. The dead planet will continue to orbit its star until said star goes nova. (This spell does not hasten the end of the star)

There is no way to stop this spell once it has successfully been set in motion. The only way to escape the apocalypse is to somehow leave the planet or the plane of existence. Return at a later time is certainly possible if the individual has the means to do so.

Weird Magic Failure Table:
1- Nothing happens, and this spell is erased from existence. All scrolls crumble, pages in spellbooks are rendered blank, and it is wiped from the mind of the caster and anybody else in the world who happens to know it. Attempts to research this spell, or to create one similar to it, automatically fail. Additionally, all clerics the world over know the caster's identity and that she tried to end the world with magic.

2- As above, but the clerics of the world do not gain any special knowledge or even know that anything happened. (The spell is just obliterated from the world)

3- The caster and the congress die, but the spell does not otherwise function.

4- The congress and the caster still die, but the world doesn't end and magic isn't affected. However, all beings the world over experience a feeling of peaceful contentment for 24 hours, and all fighting everywhere stops. Normal emotions and conflicts resume in each reason as the sun rises, though individuals remember this feeling of contentment and may or may not desire to return to it.

5- The spell functions normally, but the caster does not die, nor does she become a pillar of salt. She becomes the sole inhabitant of the world. In addition, she no longer needs food or water, and in fact cannot die. She loses all ability to use magic or magical items. She is left to wander an empty world alone. If somehow rescued from the planet, these consequences do not fade and cannot be in any way reversed.

6-  The congress and the caster still die, but time is frozen. The planet remains fixed in place, and all regions will experience whatever time and weather conditions presently exist there forever. (Sunrise at the origin of the spell, winter where it's snowing, etc) Clerical magic still works. Spells that alter time or weather no longer function. (haste, call lightning, etc)

7+ - Roll a d6 and consult the chart above. Failing at this spell does not incur lesser consequences.

*I had to look up death metal song titles on the internet, as I don't listen to death metal and am not familiar with bands or songs of that genre.