Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Rusty Battle Axe Catch-Up Post

Hey, boys and girls.

First of all, thanks to Tim for allowing me to post occasionally on his blog. If he is the host, I must be the parasite. Maybe I’ll change my blog handle to The Rusty Tapeworm.

Secondly, I apologize for my rather abrupt departure from the blogosphere. Yes, I had some concerns about blogging and the public nature of my job, but ultimately the decision to stop blogging came down to time and priorities. Both of my parents have had serious health issues this year and I had some health things, too. On the plus side, I made a decision at the beginning of the year to whip my butt (and the rest of me) into shape and I am well on my way to being healthy, fit, and at my playing weight. However, the better shape I get into, the more time it takes to move to the next level. That, along with some new music endeavors and playing RPGs twice a week most weeks has pretty much consumed my waking hours (and some of the sleeping ones as well). Hence, my decision to cut out the blogging.

I thought about leaving up my old blog without updates, but I had unwisely posted too much related to my identity and my job and so eliminating the actually blog was tied to work concerns. Thanks to the dark magic of the Internet, my posts are out there in the ether forever, but at least the actual blog is gone and it makes it tougher for people to randomly stumble across information.

As Tim has graciously offered Gothridge Manor as a place to post my occasional mindless drivel, I’ll be posting here occasionally.

What I Am Thinking About (RPGs)

Tim, Dwayne and Rob have dropped a few hints that I may up next as GM after we are done with our current adventuring in Rob’s Majestic Wilderlands. I was hoping that Tim would be up next and we’d be doing Hackmaster (4th edition, I think). However, if I am GM and we stick with the general fantasy RPG, I had the following thoughts (and here I am looking for feedback, resources, etc):
  1. Continue with our S&W theme and create a campaign that combines fantasy, the Medieval Central Asia (i.e. the Mongols), and some sort of post-apocalyptic thing.
  2. Continue with our S&W theme and pick up one of S&W campaign settings on LuLu. I see that there is a growing list. Anybody familiar with any of them? Read any reviews?
  3. Same as #1, using Castles & Crusades as the base system (well, my highly house-ruled version of C&C). The plus side is that I already have a lot of the work done. The downside is less sharing of stuff via a blog, PDFs or LuLu if I use C&C.
  4. The same as #1 (or #3) using Byzantium as my base motif.
  5. Some sort of Underdark that would be connected to the Majestic Wilderlands.
The advantage of all of these, except for #2, is that I don’t have to buy anything. With #2, I’d have the relatively small expense of picking up a campaign book, but that expense could grow, as some of the settings already have supplements. I'd have to do some research and work on the other ideas, but I have a lot of background materials in my library already.

Any thoughts about these options? I'm especially curious to hear from Tim, Rob and Dwayne.

It's good to be back. Thanks, Tim!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

That's Not a Centaur and My Back is Sore

The Cast of Players
GM - Rob
Serinvald - mage, Rusty
Oelander - half demon fighter/mage, Dwayne
Ashling - elf, thief/mage, Me

Last night was a bloodbath. It's a good thing we are not playing an alignment based game or we would be in real trouble right about now. It started off with battling a group of evil slaver, cannibal dwarves. Two waves of them. The one thing I am finding is how huge of an advantage it is to have three spellcasters in the group. Each of us has the sleep spell memorized so we don't always have to wait for the right moment to cast it.

After disposing of the mean dwarves we explored the area a little more and found another entrance and explored that. That's when Serinvald shrunk himself down and talked like Stewie from Mad TV. Very funny. ANyways he senses a woman on the other side of the rubble saw a small opening and that's why he shrunk down to see who she was. At first he thought she was a centaur and wanted to help out. When the half woman, half animal revealed herself, Oelander said 'That's not a centaur!' She tried to seduce him and then tried to burn him when he ran away squealing in his tiny voice.

After that we found we were nowhere near the location we wanted to be at. So off we went following the stream to the river. We met up with giant beavers. This is where things started getting ugly. First off Oelander pondered how nice it would be to have a giant beaver pelt. I noticed when we were walking our horses around the beavers were making chittering noises and threatening us with beaver glares. The three of them stood on their damn. Oelander shot at one and missed. I shot at one and killed it. It does get tiresome carrying the group on my shoulders all the time.

Before the big beaver hit the water Serinvald remembers he has a potion of animal friendship and befriends the remaining two. Just as we were getting all warm and fuzzy with our new friends several boats of barbarians came row row rowing down the stream. At first I was thinking about talking to them, but then they drew bows and notched arrows. Fine. I stood up on the beaver damn and let loose my very first fireball. Rob made a noise and said "Oh man that's right, you have 3rd level spells." I wiped out the entire group except one. Oelander tried to kill the leader with a crossbow bolt, but missed again. So I had to finish him off. See what I mean? Always carrying them.

Across the stream we see huts and women and children fleeing. They were terrified by my awesome display of power and decided to run. Serinvald told the giant beavers to stop the barbarians until we could walk the horses across and talk to them. This took about a half hour of going down far enough to place we could cross. This stream was more like a small river. Anyways when we round the bend we see two dead beavers, a few dead children and a couple of women. "Way to go Serinvald." I believe was the chorus of the group.

When we did catch up with the women and children at their camp Oelander got tired of playing second fiddle to my competence and decided to turn invisible and enter the camp. He knocked out two guards before getting stabbed in the back by a child. When I walked into camp they all huddled together in the corner in fear. An appropriate response. Serinvald tried to parlay with them, but talks were getting nowhere. All we wanted to know is the location of the keep on the river. So I charmed one of the women and now she is our guide to the keep on the river and good for at least one back massage. It needs it after carrying these guys.

Cool Announcement Rusty's Return

Old Rusty Battle Axe is itching to return to do a little blogging and he ask to be a guest blogger on my blog. I said no, but after he paid me a substantial amount of money and a free pizza I agreed. So look out for the return of Rusty. I heard he's got some new critters in the mix and his insights into gaming are always interesting.

Welcome back Rusty!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Pazio's Gamemaster Cards and Classic Treasures Revisited

This week I have vacation so to start it off I went to the FNGS. They sent me a coupon earlier in the week for 25% off of any one gaming item. I wasn't going to let it expire or even get dusty. I always search the used section first hoping to find a gem in there. If I played Rifts there would be plenty to pick through and a bunch of 3.5 adventure modules, but I wasn't interested in them even at 50% off. So I checked out the new section. Of course 4th edition D&D dominated and a nice selection of Pathfinder. Even though I am not a 3.5 player I've really like the Kingmaker Adventure Path and the quality of the Pathfinder books in general. (The 3rd in the Kingmaker path should be here this week and I am really looking forward to it.)

In Classic Treasures Revisited explores 10 'iconic' treasures; 1. Bag of Holding 2. Cube of Force 3. Deck of Many Things 4. Figurines of Wonderous Power 5. Helm of Brillance 6. Horn of Vahalla 7. Sphere of Annahilation 8. Staff of the Magi 9. Vorpal Sword 10. Well of Many Worlds.

I haven't had time to read too much so far, but it looks very good and the artwork through out is stunning.

The second part of my gaming day sent me to another FNGS and there I bought two decks of Pazio's Gamemastery. Ine was called Dragon's Trove and the other was a deck made for the Kingmaker adventure path so I had to buy that one. There are a 110 cards in the Dragon's Trove and 54 cards in the Kingmaker deck. Again, since I've been grooving with the Pathfinder books lately I thought I would see what these were all about. They are cool regulation sized cards with a picture of an item on the front a sentence or two description on the back with a space for a GM to put in his own details about the item. There is also a line to write an item code. I guess to help keep track of items.

These cards are beatifully done and that's the problem. I don't want to write on them. No way. I understand the concept of these cards, but they shouldn't have made them so nice then I wouldn't feel guilty for writing on them. I would like to see a PDF of these cards to use for internet based games. Then I could write details on the back without worry and reuse them for a different purpose later. When I am playing on FG2 with my group these cards would be a nice addition.

Tomorrow we start exploring the 3rd circle of mages. I have a feeling our luck with these things is going to run out soon. That's why you keep the meat shield in front of you and always know where the closest exit is.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Use of Missile Weapons in Melee Combat

Rob (Bat in the Attic) and I were discussing the use of missile weapons in melee combat. That has occurred in the S&W campaign he is currently running. He said he posted it somewhere and there were many who said no to shooting a bow in close combat. I am one who doesn't see a problem with it. My reasons...

1. Like most retro clones, combat is divided into 10, 6 second segments. More than enough time for an archer or crossbowman to maneuver into a position where he could fire off an effective shot. I would allow them to take a step back and fire off a shot, but if they had no place to step back and was engaged in close combat then no, they would need to attack with a different weapon.

2. I don't like to get too caught up with realistic combat. If mages are launching fireballs, clerics raising the dead then having someone shoot a crossbow or bow at close range shouldn't be too much of a stretch.

I think this simple one space separation rule adds a strategic value to close missile combat.

On a side note the one rule that we currently use for missile weapons is an ACC rating, meaning you get that number to your 'to hit' for aiming. A mechanic borrowed from GURPS. In GURPS it works well because you have to sacrifice a few precious combat rounds to accumulate ACC, but in S&W since they use 6 second segments its just a free + to hit. I would remove that rule from a S&W or retro clone campaign.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Got My Dice

I just received my prize from the one-page dungeon contest, a set of very kick ass dice. Q-Workshop and Pazio's Runelord dice. Thassilonian runes surround the numbers meaning envy, greed, lust, wrath, sloth, pride, and gluttony. I know I've already thanked whole crew of sponsers, Alex and all the judges, but I am doing it again. It was fun. I did it once and I'll do it again.

Now I am going to go roll up something with my new dice.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Gem Value or How Much for the Shiny Rock?

The adventurers return from their journey with sacks full of gems and jewelry. They sort through, divvy up what they want to keep and then sell the rest. Depending on how detailed a GM wants to get and what system you are playing, I'm guessing most adventurers are not going to have much of an idea the value of gems or jewelry. In most adventures there will be a value listed. There are two emeralds worth 50gp each and a pearl broach worth 100gp.

If you want to keep things simple just give the players the value and when they go sell them that's what they get. I like to add a little texture to this aspect of the game. When I see or list a value of a gem I will roll to determine how close a player can estimate its value, whether they are estimating to high or low. Other factors I consider is the need for that gem in the shop, the honesty of the shop keeper and whether the gem is in fashion that season (those nobles get snooty about fashion trends).

To determine how close a player can estimate the value of a gem or piece of jewelry I roll a d20, usually set the difficulty task at 15 for average gems and add any intelligence modifiers. If the player fails on an even number the player over estimates the value of the gem and a failure on an odd number the player will guess the value to be lower. Anything over a 15 I tell them the listed value. Larger or rare gems the task level is set at 18.

The need in a gem shop is often determined by what is in fashion that season. If emeralds are in fashion the gem merchant will purchase as many of those as possible and may pay a higher price. But should the players try to sell these same emeralds during the next season when the fashion trends have moved onto rubies, the shop will be reluctant to buy emeralds, or offer a low price. The fashion trends change every three to six months.

The honesty of the shop keeper is usually determined on how he is written, but if the players are rude or try to intimidate the shopkeeper will refuse to pay top price or refuse to purchase any gems from them all. And if you really want to keep your players on their toes, my gem merchants belong to a guild so if you piss off one of them good luck finding a place to sell them. The players will be rebuffed or offered insulting low prices.

The players can always try the black market. First they will need a contact and depending on their reputation they will get thirty to forty percent of the value. Once the players are established with the black market they may be offered up to fifty to sixty percent.

I use this same system for jewelry and mundane brick-a-brack. I like it because it adds a little texture to the game besides just dumping the gems off and collecting the coins. The good thing about using this kind of system is it allows the players to develop a relationship with the shopkeeper (good or bad) and more adventures can start from there.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Virus Attack

Virus got my computer this morning. I think it was something stupid I did. So just doing a quick post at work. Have a good weekend everyone and cross your fingers that I can get my compter cured.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

How to Encourage Unarmed Combat

Imagine if you will, a party of intrepid adventurers crowded around a tavern table. The room is crowded with mercenaries, smugglers, merchants, soldiers and a few noble gits that are slumming. Jarl, a massive man, stands by the door not to break up fights, but to make sure fights stay fair.

After a few drinks, one bump, a spilled tankard, a couple insults the brawl begins. How many times has this happened and instead of good old fist fight the players draw swords, weapons or whip out a spell or two.

So how do GMs encourage players to not kill everything? Do we bother? Do impliment some legal penalty? Do we give them bonus in experience points?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Pathfinder's Kingmaker Adventure Path

I've never subscribed or bought an adventure path from Pazio before, but when I read about their new Kingmaker Adventure Path it didn't take me too long to subscribe. My campaigns have always been sandbox style and I am always interested to see what others do and this is one of the few times where a company produced modules in a sandbox style. And before I go any farther I just want to add, though this is written for the Pathifinder rule set I converted most of the first book to Swords & Wizardry with OSRIC influences within a few hours.

The benefit of subscribing from Pazio was not only did I get the books at a discount I also received the PDFs for free. So if you are planning the purchase this series (and you should) I would defiantly go that route. The books are top notch quality. I like the perfect bound so I can find them easily on my already crowded gaming shelf. The entire book is in color and the artwork is great. The only personal think I didn't like was the anime influenced pictures. Not a big fan. But like I said that's just my personal preference. The layout of the book is simple and everything is easy to read. The one problem I did have with the layout is the main map is on page 14 so while I was reading through the book I was always going back to hunt for it. I would have liked to have seen it on the inside of one of the covers or a centerfold.

More on the map. It is a hex grid map which all respecting sandbox maps should. Each hex is equal to 12 miles (sound familiar Rob?) and locations of interest are denoted by various symbols. The map is okay. It doesn't have a lot of personality to it. It looks nice, but bland at the same time, like someone made a beautiful looking dinner, but didn't season the food properly. When I got book 2 in the series then I found out why the map was so empty. The second book fills in the southern section of the map.

I waited until I got first and second part of the adventure path to see what direction they were going in. The first part is called Stolen Land by Tim Hitchcock. It sets of the area where the players will start their adventuring career. First level newbs standing outside of Oleg's Trading Post having no idea what they are about to get themselves into. Basically the adventure breaks down into the main plot and side quests. The plots are well developed and the side quests are fun and useful. Not only can these side quests score the players a bit of money, but they may also find an ally or resource that will come in handy later. I won't go into much detail here about the adventure itself, but I think the first book succeeds in setting up the players to possibly become rulers of their own land. But I wasn't sure how that was going to work until...

...I read through the second part in the adventure path, Rivers Run Red by Rob McCreary. The second book introduced the kingdom builder mechanic. Your kingdom gets its own character sheet! I love that. It breaks down what influences the players' kingdom positively and negatively. This is worth the price of admission alone. Also inside is a city builder grid, but ignore that. It's not good. I think it was meant to be a visual tool, but its way too simplified for my tastes.

The second book is set up like the first. There is the main plot and side quests. All very interesting. I think they are more creative in the second book and have a lot of leeway for a GM to play with. The addition to the second book is the problems the players are going to have to deal with when they are developing their kingdom. And this is where brute force is not always the answer or in some cases the worst answer. These encounters are interesting and depending on the patience of your players can be downright annoying, but who said running a kingdom would be easy.

In both books there are mini bestiaries in the back. Some of the monsters are in the adventure some are not. Either way it's nice to have a few new strange critters in a GMs arsenal. Also, both books have a short piece of fiction. Calm down. Stop your hissing. They aren't bad at all. I found them fun to read. But if you don't like reading it you don't have to. It's not like its WoD fiction.

As a GM I definitely run this adventure path for my group. With the kingdom builder element it adds an elements that probably is not seen in most games and I think a fantastic addition. I look forward to the next four books and glad I took a chance on this adventure path.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Kingmaker Review Coming

I was writing a review for Pathfinder's Kingmaker adventure path when time caught up with me. I'll post it tomorrow.

Tonight is our Monday night caming session and since I was dealing with getting a car towed near the end of the game last week I have no clue where we left off. I wonder if Rob had me just stand there like a statue like in the Gamers movie.

Two of my adventure modules are nearly completed. Doing the last round of edits and then the dreaded layout part. I like doing the layout and I hate it at the same time. I makes me swear...a lot.

Have a good Monday folks.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Sleep Spell. To Tweak or Not to Tweak?

In the Swords & Wizardry game I am currently entrenched in, Gmed by Rob from Bat in the Attic infamy, I'm finding this 1st level spell to be overly powerful for my tastes and I am the one casting it. Putting to sleep a room full of goblins is fun, but not very sporting. There is no saving throw. I like the premise of it, but think for a 1st level spell it's a bit too much.

I was thinking of tweaking the sleep spell. Don't throw things at me. Seriously, it's not all that bad. Here is my proposal for the spell. At first level it won't be as effective, but it will grow in power with the magic-user in later levels. A magic-user can only affect creatures of the same hit dice or lower. The number of affected hit dice would be a d4 for every level of the mage. Example, a 2nd level mage is battle same said goblins he rolls 2 d4s get a total of 5 therefore he can knock five little goblins down. Say the mage it ninth level battling a group trolls that have HD 6+3. That mage that could not normally affect them with a sleep spell now rolls 9 d4s, and rolls a total of 24. He can put to sleep 4 trolls.

I go back and forth about allowing a saving throw. I am leaning more to allowing one because there is no reason why there shouldn't be. Pretty much every other spell a player or monster is permitted a saving throw.

So there is my question, to tweak or not to tweak the sleep spell? I like my version because it is still effective and helpful at a low level without being overly powerful (like I believe it is written now) and is still useful at higher levels.

Again, please, don't throw things at me.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Death of a Henchmen

Tonight Shang Hi died. Alas, I did not know him well. Actually I still not sure what his real name was. Edwin I believe. Edwin a faithful follower pressed into servitude and sailed to a strange land. He took it well. That man sure knew how to carry a torch and lug supplies through perilous places. But it was not battle, nor trap that claimed our beloved Edwin, but a trapped book that Rusty Battle Axe ordered him to hold. Flames erupted around Edwin, his scream only lasted a moment before he crumpled to the ground in the smoldering mass. His black skin blistered and slid from the bone. By the gods, he was still alive. Rusty Battle Axe rushed forward in what I can only assume was an effort to help Edwin, but the mage decided to put the henchmen out of his misery. Edwin died.

Now it must be decided, not if we should bring him back, but how. There is much debate whether to resurrect him or reincarnate him. The random property of reincarnation does make it interesting, but what if he comes back as a squirrel or moss. This is no good because we would need to kill him and try again until we got something we liked. This would cost too much. So resurrection it is. Rest easy for now Edwin, tomorrow there will be a torch to lift to light our way and a heavy sack to tote through the bowels of some demon cavern.

First Homemade Dungeons

When I first started making my own dungeons it was pretty exciting. It was the first time I realized I could 'do it'. Make my own thing. Back then we didn't know the adventures sucked and frankly we didn't care. We were rolling dice (any that rolled off the table did not count), spilling pop on the carpet and too poor to buy pizza. It wasn't uncommon to play a marathon session until the DM passed out. There were no cell phones, texting, video games, and no personal laptops to distract us from the game. It was what we waited all week to do.

My first dungeons consisted of a Manila folder with a graph paper map taped to the inside and some random tables taped to the other side. The maps were basic. Boxes connected by hallways. Once in a while I would go nuts and make a slanted hallway. Pits were often a common feature. Usually I would roll a d6 and that's how many pits I would put in. Throw in as least one place where there was a secret door. It didn't matter that it made sense. It just mattered that it was there.

Room descriptions were basically who lived there, one feature of the room, maybe there was a table or chair, then the treasure, where it was located and if it was trapped.

Populating the rooms was done by hit dice usually. I'd go through and pick out all the 5-7HD creatures and start picking out which ones I wanted in which room. These were very static dungeons. The creatures just stayed in their rooms waiting for the PCs to arrive and take their treasure. There was no parlaying with them you just rolled to hit. Back then everyone had every special ability, AC, HD, and damage memorized. Even though I was making my own adventure it never occurred to me to make my own monsters.

After populating the dungeon I would use the treasure type given with the monsters and roll to see what they had. So there you have a bunch of ogres sitting on a pile of gold with 2-8 potions. I'd roll on the DM Guide tables to see what powers the potions had and if there was a magic item roll to see what it was. Another thing that never occurred to me at the time was if an ogre had a +2 club in his treasure it just sat in a chest or on the pile never to be used by the ogre. Don't know why, but of course eventually that changed. The location of the treasure was in a locked chest. And none of the monsters ever had the key. Not sure how they looked at all the pretty shinies.

And lastly experience points were handed out in great gobs, if the characters survived. Back then PCs only had one gear and that was forward. Retreat was not an option. Kill and take the treasure was all we knew.

On a side note one of the most important things I learned was to have a cool dungeon title name. Even if it was like every other dungeon out there if it had a cool name people wanted to go through it. I would reserve seats when I would DM my Taps Six Dungeon. The title meant nothing really, but everyone wanted to go through it to find out what it was all about. It was about kill them all and take their treasure.