Wednesday, September 29, 2010

100 Zombies and 4 Choices

I was browsing the net last night and came across a fun question. Forgot where.

Situation is that you are dropped into the Roman Colosseum with one hundred zombies. You get to have four things to maximize your chances.

1. a Sidekick
2. a Weapon
3. a Song
4. a Hat

Not sure what my answers are yet since I just woke up, but thought it would be fun.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Forgotten Group Dynamics

I played in Rob's monthly game this past Saturday and forgotten a little about how group dynamics can go. The group I play with on Monday night has been together for too long to remember, except Rusty Battle Axe, he's new, but he blends in so much that it seems like he's been there the entire time. I've been trying to shake my anti-social instincts and get out and game among others. It's interesting to see.

Saturday night the group was traveling through a maze beneath an ancient elven temple. Rob just had the party run into us at the beginning so I didn't have to wait in a coconut or any other novelty introduction. Next time I may request my character enter like an 80's rock star floating down from the darken above with fireworks and theme music playing. Anyway.

The group was made up of five party members with Rob DMing. Had a slight age range where I believe I was the oldest player and the youngest was 11 or 12. I used to work with kids for many years so they don't bother me unless they whine. Hunter, talks a lot, but is just excited about the game. I can appreciate that. And he cracked me a up a few times. All the others were adults.

One played a thug, he kept running up to doors and checking for traps and opening them while the rest of the party was way behind or in another room. First, he couldn't detect traps worth a goblin's toe and second I had the skill and the cleric in the party had a Find Traps spell. I'm not sure why the thug was in a hurry since all the treasure was divided up in the end anyway. The only thing I can figure is he was hoping to find an amazing magic item and get first dibs on it or maybe an artifact. But if there is an artifact laying around somewhere usually its guarded by some nasty stuff. And you may need the backing of the party. One incident where the thug knowingly released a gas trap in a room where everyone stood killed the cleric. Rob said some of the most feared words in gaming, "Save or Die!" Cleric didn't make his save.

Now the only healer in the group has assumed room temperature. If this had been a normal group I gamed with I may have given him the displeased elf treatment, but I wanted to see how it worked out. The Monday Night group is very methodical in our approach. There are so few of us that keeping together is vital. As far as treasure goes, whoever it benefits the best it goes to and if none of us can use it or has better stuff we give it to one of our henchmen.

Don't get me wrong, I was enjoying this aspect of the game I hadn't experienced in a while. And the person was playing a thug so one would expect a certain amount of greed and stupidity. The cleric got resurrected. I was a little disappointed by that. Sometimes I think it's too easy to rectify character death. But for the fun of the party I understand why. I'm sure we got lucky as a party in many ways because there were a few encounters that had the potential to wipe out the party. In those times the party came together.

I plan on making a few more games, playing with different people and just see how the group works. Sometimes I do forget just because I am not exposed to it. I can read about it a hundred times, but it's not until you sit across the table and experience the difference does it sink in.

That's my mindless Monday rant. Another game night tonight. I have no idea where we are or what we are doing. Last week we had lots of fun struggling to get Fantasy Grounds up and running right. Have a good start to your week and have fun gaming.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Adventure Begins...How?

As a GM you've spend the last few weeks prepping for a new campaign. The players are rolling their character, buying equipment and milking he rules to get any advantage they can find. With this done, the GM needs to find a reason for the players to meet, to be together and to trust one another with their lives. Some may gloss over this gathering or even skip it. Trying to find new reason for the party members to be together can be daunting and not all the important in the larger picture of the campaign. But I think the introduction into the campaign is important and a GM should take some of that prep time to consider how and why the party is formed.

Relatives: The players know one another because they are family. In this case the GM should develop an outline of the family history. Develop the history enough to sneak some family secrets and rivalries and jealousies. Often overlooked, families can be a great source of inspiration and motivation. If the players are all related it relieves the burden of 'how they met'.

From the Same Village: This version is pretty much the same as Relative above and can be combined. Again the characters come from the same background and shared the same experiences and will probably have similar motives. A couple of locals trying to make it big, trying to break out of the everyday toil of everyone they know.

Slaves: This one is a good one, I think often underutilized. Players begin the career as slaves, whether they have been recently captured or been slaves all their life. They will have a common goal to be free. A good example is Spartacus. There are a lot of potential adventures leading up to an escape and dealing with a player's master. A twist on this version could be that the master could see the potential of the characters and become a patron. Of course he would get a substantial cut of the treasure, but if you run a game where slavery is an everyday and everyone occurrence than all slave owners do not have to be whip wielding tyrants. For example, most of the players I know that got involved with slavery bought them to release them. Examples of this would be A4: In the Dungeons of the Slave Lords. This is definitely not for every party.

Guildmates: Professionals in the same trade often know one another. They would meet in guild halls, markets or in their travels. Guilds do not have to be focused on a craft profession, but can be for any common interest. Some of the examples I have played in using this have been theme campaigns where everyone played a city guard, a mage or thief. The great thing about these type of campaigns it forces the GM to develop that guild, they way of life in great detail and it often happens with a great deal of assistance from the players.

A Gathering for a Greater Purpose: The Fellowship of the Ring. I don't think I need to explain this further. Tolkien has already done that. One campaign I ran used this as the glue for the party. A party who did not like one another, there were rivalries and hatreds, but because the one purpose was more important than those things they begrudgingly worked together. It made an interesting party dynamic.

Summons by a Lord or Great Power: A lord of the manor, baron, king, priest or a god gathers the players because of their abilities or their potential abilities. This often mingles with the above, for a Greater Purpose, but it is not limited to it. Could be the baron is having problems in the eastern villages with raids and the king recently made him provide double the soldiers so he doesn't have the manpower to deal with the raids. Maybe by chance or reputation the players are gathered to deal with the situation. These can be a one shot or long term situation, but either way it is enough to introduce the players to one another. An example I would use would be King Arthur in the early years. When the Grail Quest began it would fall under the Great Purpose category.

Location, Location, Location: Example for this is B2: Keep on the Borderlands. The reason why the players would meet there is that is happening spot. A place to make a name for yourself. If a village or keep is known to have a dungeon close by and people are hauling treasure out it won't take long before others gather to get their share.

Stranded: I was reading over the latest adventure path for Pathfinder and the initial set up is the players are shipwrecked on an island. So they have to scavenge what they can from what is washed up on shore. I like the idea of that. And the very cool thing about this one is if you need to introduce a new player just have them wash ashore.

Greed: Sometimes it's not difficult or a majestic purpose. It's just money. Don't care about the purpose, don't care about the fame, money is the goal. Money it the end.

In Media Res: Or 'Into the middle of affairs'. Or 'roll initiative'. Imagine the players finish all their little details for their characters and they think the GM is just going to east them into the game with a stroll through town or a tankard at the tavern. Oh no. The GM places them right in the middle of a battle where they must join forces to survive the encounter.

Forgedaboudit: And of course the GM can just forget about romancing the players together and just have them together because that's the way it is. For one shot adventures this is what needs to be done.

A few tips I would give GMs new and old if they haven't tried this before.

- The first is to run the players separately for an adventure or two. This allows them to get a feel for the character, the world and develop a background. So when he joins the party he already has a idea of how he approaches things in the world.

- Second, if you are playing with a point base system like GURPS, allow the players to rearrange points if they wish during the first two sessions. Sometimes the idea they had when developing a character doesn't play out that well with the party. So allow them to tweak it if they wish.

-Third, I think it's the GMs job to develop an outline of the character's background so it fits into the world, doing this of course with the player. And then the player has the outline can fill in the details. This will give the character a knowledge of things so a cleric knows not to pray in the middle of the market because that is against the atheist baron's law. Simple but important things.

-Fourth, don't get too wrapped up in party balance. It may help the player tremendously to have a cleric who can heal them, but if they don't they will have to figure out a solution. Maybe it will be to buy a ton of healing potions or hire a cleric to travel with them. Allow them to find a solution to the problem. Makes it more interesting.

-Lastly, do not get too fancy with introducing new characters into the game. I once had a GM, I won't mention any names *cough* Rob *cough* who tried to introduce my character into the game by imprisoning me in a coconut. I don't think I was too subtle with my critique, "I think that's the dumbest thing I've heard." But I went along with it anyway. The party found the coconut and didn't open it. So I spent the game trapped. Rob tried to get them to 'open' the coconut but the party was having any part of it. Please GMs, do no put imprison your players in food.

Not sure if that last one was a tip, but I was remembering the incident and thought it was funny.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Kingdom Builder

A couple of weeks ago Hannah "Swordgleam" Lipski of Chaotic Shiny Productions asked me if I would do a review on her most recent generator, the Kingdom Builder Generator Pack II and I quickly said absolutely. It's no secret that I am a fan of Chaotic Shiny's products. I did reviews for Tavern Tables and Treasure Hoard Generator, both excellent tools to add to a GMs arsenal. I'm here to tell you the Kingdom Builder Generator Pack II is probably the best one yet.

Like all of Hannah's generators this one very simple to use and provides an amazing amount variety. It uses a nine tab strip across the top to find what you are in most need of to complete your kingdom. And like her other generators you can print and save your results. It generates a lot of good stuff so you're going to want to.

I've broken the review down into the sections of the generator followed by some examples of what you can expect.

Kingdom & Hooks
One push of a button and the outline for a new kingdom is ready. This tab combines most of the other generators and creates eight categories that outline the kingdom.

Kingdom Name: Straight forward results. Some are one work where some are the Holy or the Glorious. Most of the names are pronounceable, but I have to admit there are a few names that came up I think I would hurt myself if I tried to say them.

Ruled By: You would think with a name like Kingdom Builder that you would get a list of kings? No so. There are some interesting variations. In five generated kingdoms I got a philosopher-queen, two kings, an elected official and a minister. I like these variations because it gives a GM a shot of inspiration about the kingdom. A kingdom ruled by a minster would be a very different place than one ruled by a philosopher queen.

Prominent Places: Five randomly generated names for places are listed here. This section helps flesh out the geographical features of the kingdom. There is a tab dedicated to this feature where you can generate up to fifty places. There is a feature where you can select random names or nonsense names or word names. Examples of the random names generated are Crorrana Fen, Nodan Glen, and the Taenen Wilds. Some of the names are difficult to pronounce, but you can generate more than enough to choose from. The word names are putting two known words together. Here are some examples, Starrock Peak, Steelwine Sea, and Pickwaste Canyon. Some humorous results were generated also like Meatlawn Tarn, Wifebank Plain and I kinda like this one Gloommilk Crossing. So like most of the named sections, pick and choose what you like. If nothing else it will get your wheels churning and inspire other names you might not have thought of before. The other feature in this section is you can specifially choose what geographical location you would like named. So if you have a forest, swamp or settlement you're just having trouble coming up with a name with one push of a button you can have five to fifty suggestion waiting for you.

Laws: Two to four laws of the land are generated here. This is a great feature. It lists the crime committed and the penalty of the crime. An example of one is 'the penalty for a previously convicted criminal who steals a sheep is execution'. Wow, that's some hardcore justice there. Law has its own tab and here you can generate from five up to fifty laws. It's a nice addition that can get a GM started on a law system in a kingdom. I'm not sure how often the penalty for a wizard wounding a sheep is public humiliation will come up, but it's there if you need it.

- A landless person who slanders a priest is thrown into the stocks.
- A military officer is caught smuggling wine he will pay a small fine.

Recent Events: Five randomly generated events of what is going on in the kingdom. These generated events give the kingdom a life, a movement that things are happening within the kingdom. I really like this section because not only does it provide further geographical locations it also can be a great source for adventure hooks. There is an Events tab that can create up to fifty events. And each generated event comes in two parts that could either be separate or with some imagination linked together. Here are some examples of what could be headlines in your kingdom. It doesn't take much to see how these could turn into great adventures.

- Near the northern castle a new species of trolls may have emerged and the popular religion is losing followers.
- Several people have vanished near the southwest plains and an important politician has gone missing.
- A giant has been spotted in the southern barony.

Notable Individuals: Three to four interesting characters a generated with each kingdom. These could be high profile NPCs the players interact with or are working in the background. The details of the individuals vary a great deal. A combination of any of the following could be included, profession, friends and relatives, physical description, rumors, and where he or she can be found. Some examples:

- Bat, the Flamboyant, suspicious scholar who is openly feared by the commoners. He has been quickly gaining enemies. He can usually be found at a friend's house. He is stocky with an obvious birthmark and dark skin. The dashing guard captain Anou' is his friend. The secretive priest, Possor, is his advisor.
- Cra'elae, the shadowy, alcoholic adventurer who recently had a sudden change in alliance. She has just gained a significant ally. She can usually be found in the affluent part of town. She is muscular with a pierced nose and tanned skin. The proud magistrate Orachn is her opponent.

As you can see there is fodder in there for interplay among NPCs. This is one of my favorite elements in the Kingdom Builder Generator.

Army: Every kingdom needs an army. There is some great stuff included with the personality of the army itself. What they are known for, what weapons they prefer and an estimate of troop strength. I like that it also includes what tactics they favor and if there are any current issues with the troops.

- Caenmor's army relies heavily on powerful infantry and the use of slings. They are known, to a lesser extent, for using orcs. They are famous for their terrifying armor and flashy tactics. Each corps contains 15 battalions of 350 soldiers. Currently, they are are having supply-chain problems.
- Fraz's army is famed for its quick moving infantry and the use of dirks. They have a highly informal chain of command, with ranks based on family connections.

Current Fashion: This is a nice touch for role-playing. Not normally a consideration when drudging through the intestines of a mountain, but what's more embarrassing than using last year's 10' pole. Keep up on the trends of what people are wearing so maybe you can be one on the useless people who gain notoriety by doing nothing. Seriously though, I like this addition. It adds an element I rarely think of when gaming. This is also another one that has its own tab so you can generate five to fifty styles if you wish.

- The fashion features crude, form fitting dark gold and dark blue garments. Tops are typically cropped with plunging necklines. Bodices are also customary. Diadems are popular accessories. Embroidery and pockets and chiffon are staples of the style. Upper and lower classes wear very different clothing.
- This style emphasizes pleated, billowing pale violet garments. Top are typically long sleeved with high necklaces. Brooches and headbands are popular accessories. Bright green, violet and gold are also common colors. Young adults and elderly wear very different clothing.

There is one more tab that no kingdom can be complete without. Flags. I could go into a whole Eddie Izzard skit about flags, but I won't. If you have seen Hannah's random generator for coins the flags work on the same concept. You can specify what type of flag you want whether is square, swallowtail, or gonfalon is your choice. With all the options included in this one you can pretty much make any map you want. And you can also import you own pictures to customize your flag even further.

There is so much talk about building a campaign world, the time and work that a GM is required to put into it before one session is played. The Kingdom Builder Generator can get things started by producing kingdoms even before you have a map drawn. Game system neutral so it can be used for Swords & Wizardry, OSRIC and 4th edition D&D if you so choose. Hannah's asking price for this is $3.95. With the number of hours this will save you when creating a world this is a steal. Its real simple, if you are currently building or plan on building a campaign world get the Kingdom Builder Generation Pack II.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Spell and Potion Components

I don't think I ever played in a game where I needed to keep an inventory for spell components. It is one of those parts of the game, like weapon speeds, that never got used. Swords & Wizardry doesn't mention components for spells. Neither does Labyrinth Lord. OSRIC includes it to mirror AD&D as does Castles & Crusades. Resource management is not high on the entertainment list.

But...I like to use them as an enhancement. Spells can be cast as described in the books without components. But should a mage have the big toe of a fire salamander then maybe the fireball does an extra dies of damage. If the mage has a the crusty bits from a eyes as a dryad awakens then maybe his sleep spell will effect creatures higher than 4HD or add an addition die to total affected. I love using bits of critters for other stuff. In HackMaster they call it the yield. The great thing about this is once you get the players into it they may think of things you hadn't considered. "What if I use a displacer beast tentacle when I cast a Blur spell?" Instead of giving a +2 to armor class I may grant a +4. When components are used in this way they are consumed upon use. They are a one shot nitro injection.

As mention above what I like about opening this door in my campaign is it allows the players to be creative and add to the world. I went through the monster manual and picked out a few of them and described what part would enhance what spell. This opens the door to other knowledge the players can learn, maybe through rumors, books they find and the players have another source of income they can exploit.

The other aspect of the game this can enhance is alchemy/herbology. The potions are like spell, can be made like right out of the book, but let's say the player come across a patch of Blood Drops, small red flowers that only seem to grow near gallows. If a alchemist adds the Blood Drops to a healing potion it adds another die of healing (this one is from my upcoming adventure, Knowledge Illuminates). So adding these small details, enhancements, whatever you would like to call them can add a nice depth to a section of a campaign that is often overlooked.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Red Box Game Day (or How I Learned to Love the Bomb)

Apparently today is Worldwide D&D Game Day. Specifically D&D Red Box Game Day. I was invited to go to two such events today and passed on them both. I didn't know about this game day until Thursday. Today was be an S&W game I rarely get to attend so when I heard it was going to be D&D day I was disappointed. Kinda like when you've been waiting to watch your favorite TV show and instead its political season and all that's on are empty promises. I guess this post is going to be a bit pessimistic, but I was looking forward to the game.

Nine times out of ten I don't care what system it is. I just like to play. But I just couldn't bring myself to agree to go to the game days today. I've played 4th edition about half a dozen times, have the core books and even bought the 2nd DM's Guide (which is not bad at all), but it's just not a system I enjoy. At all. WoTC is doing what they did to Magic the Gathering, they have a core set of powers (spells), but then keep releasing more and more expansion books (decks) until there are so many that it's difficult to keep up. And difficult to find two players that have the same amount of books. The referee would always have to dictate which rulebooks are allowed in play.

I think with the Red Box they are trying to simplify the game so it's not so overwhelming to new comers. Simplify in rule and cost. I mean think of it, a new person coming into gaming and they stand in front of game shelf and see 2 DM Guides, 2 Players Handbooks, and I think 3 Monster Manuals. Those are just the core books. And each one of them comes in at just under $40. Not to mention all the other books. One thing WotC does is put out product. I guess the Red Box is the solution to this glut of books and overwhelming expense that it would get someone started with D&D.

I'm glad I bought the original core books. I do use them as reference sources now and then, but I would never DM a game of 4th edition and as I started in this blog, I will even pass on a day of gaming if that's what is being played.

So today I am making it my own personal game day. I will use the time to finish a few adventures I am working on using Swords & Wizardry and OSRIC. I need to do something with Labyrinth Lord because I am late to that party but really like the system. So even though I am not gaming today I'll be trying to spark interest in gaming in my own way. Make an adventure. Infuse it with the excitement I have for the game and the excitement I have for a good story.

All you 4th editioners enjoy your game day. Maybe next year I'll crash your party with an Old School gaming day of Swords & Wizardry, OSRIC, Labyrinth Lord...

Monday, September 6, 2010

Game Night & Other News

Another Game Night comes to an end. No, Ashling did not turn anyone else into a sea creature. We cleared out the hill fort, a group of ogres and some gray ooze proved to be the most challenging tonight. Ashling nearly died by friendly fire. Other than that the hill fort is ours. That was the easy part. Now comes that second stage of the game I spoke about in an earlier post.

So the hill fort has all the creepy crawler, cultists, and critters out. We need to rebuild it. Which we will need workers. Which we will need the guilds' permission. It will require the rulers of Gormia to know what is going on, which will have us standing in front of nobility that will demand things of us we will more than likely not want to give. So we are thinking of alternative plans. Ones that suit our needs better.

As far as game nights it was very mild. Not too many snarky comments. We ended early with a cliff hanger.

Other News:
Gave my adventure, Knowledge Illuminates, to the others to give it the once over. With the three of them going over it I feel pretty good all my dumb stuff will be found and excavated. Then it will be given to my wife for the old line edits. She is Zorro with a red pen. I am looking for a few simple art pieces to add. Rob completed the maps. Will need to do a few tweaks, but they look great. I'm looking to put this adventure out in the beginning of October, RPGNow and Lulu. Right now the prices look to be $4 for the PDF and $8 for the print copy. It's coming in around 14 pages right now. I'm not expecting giant sales, but I plan to do this. I've got two more in the hopper pretty much done. So prepare to be bothered by me talking about them a little more.

Also, like Rob, I plan on letting you know what the sales are in print and PDF. I think its interesting information and I like to hear that kind of stats I will bore you with them. If anyone has any questions ahead of time please drop me a line. Having this Monday off was a huge bonus. Enjoy the rest of week folks.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Clearing My Blog House

I got to sit down today and go through some of the blogs for more than a hurried 15 minutes in the morning and discover a bunch of great new blogs out there. Problem was my blog roll was stuff with a bunch of dead weight. Any blog that had not posted in as least two months was unceremoniously dumped. "Produce or die!"

Got rid of the feedjit thing. Was sorta creepy, but interesting in the beginning, but its novelty wore off. So it got tossed in the burn barrel.

I'm going to try and do more updates on the products I've purchased and even though I can't do a review of each one I buy I would like to set up some type of simple rating system, one through five stars/dice/monsters who knows. If anyone has a suggestion on how I can do this please let me know in the comment section.

Knowledge Illuminates is on the final rewrite for me and then I give it to a few to go over it and make sure I didn't miss anything. This will be my first module I put up for sale on RPGNow and possibly Lulu. Still getting the handle on the layout part. Seems like it moves on its own sometimes.

Hope you all are enjoying a great weekend. I have another day off tomorrow so I am happy. Game night tomorrow night and then next Saturday I'll get to attend Rob's monthly game session in Edinboro. Have a greeat weekend folks and if you have any suggestions how I can do the product with the simple kind of rating with it please let me know.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Always Pay the Elf

The following is a scene from our Monday night game when my character Ashling finally got to collect on a debt long owed to him.

Our latest adventure brought us back to Gormia, the place we tucked tail and ran. It was the first time I tried to run a scam. It worked and then it went to hell. I over estimated the intelligence of the Warden and his crew. Those half-wits had no interest in the book I copied. But I brought back what they wanted. I brought back the book and the money. As I stood in the courtyard surrounded by his minions he laughed at me when I demanded my payment. All of them laughed.

The Sleep spell took out all the goons in one shot. It was just me and the Warden. Before I could press for my 150 silver he attacked. I managed to move out of the way and shoot him with my crossbow, but that did little to slow him so I ran. I ran out of the courtyard, through the streets, out the gate and into the countryside. And I haven't done it since.

Gormia looked smaller now. As I stepped off the ship with my new apprentice Plaive my feet already started walking back to where the Madmen and the Warden lived. Oelander and Syrinvald knew what I planned to do and did not ask to go and did not ask the details. As we neared their lair Plaive asked what we were going to do. "Give him a lifetime of nightmares," I answered.

Two guards stood at the gate, Plaive slept them and we did not break stride. Inside the courtyard there were twenty more men. I slept the majority and my apprentice used his final sleep spell for the rest. I miscalculated which wing of the old guard house the Warden slept in and met a small army of men. One man I asked told, "The Warden's in the east wing with his lady if you know what I mean. I wouldn't go disturbing him now if you know what's good for ya."

As I made my way up the stairs of the east wing a single guard appeared at the head of the stairs. I pinned him against the wall with my knight killer crossbow and Plaive finished him off with a deft strike to the heart. Outside the door I could hear the Warden with his woman. I walked through the door and as she sat upon him I turned her into creature of the sea, a squid. With the power of Wave I command the squid to hold the Warden down as he screamed.

He thrashed with desperation. He managed to free himself and he scrambled naked and lay against the wall. I let loose my guardian spirit upon him and watched as the green globe consume his strength as it covered his body. He convulsed and foamed at the mouth as the spirit fed. Before he lost consciousness I recalled the spirit and knelt beside the whimpering man and removed my helm. "You owe me 150sp."

The Warden's voice trembled as he told me he had money in the chest. I had to tell Plaive three times to get the money. He stood their slack jawed staring at the writhing squid and hovering globe above my head. When he did finally open the chest he said, "There's a lot more in here." I told him one hundred and fifty silver pennies, no more, no less. I want what I am owed.

The Warden's eyes finally flickered with recognition. I pointed toward the bed, "You'd better get her to water before she dies." We left behind the Warden, his terrified screams did not carry far in the thick stone building. Plaive said little as we walked. When we reunited with our party, Oelander and Syrinvald met us at the gate with horses and supplies. Plaive offered me the silver, but I shook my head. "It's yours." He looked confused, "But why go through all that just to give it to me?"

"It was money owed. A debt must be repaid by coin or blood. Lesson one apprentice, always collect your debts."

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Computer Problems

Hey folks, just wanted to drop a line and say I've been out of comission due to computer problems. I'm hoping to get back in a day or two.