Saturday, February 26, 2011

Watching the Real Life Ranger

I spent last nite and part of this afternoon watching Survivor Man.  Les Stroud is a modern day ranger.  Less of a showman then Bear Grylls, he spends a week in the wilderness each episode, with just a handful of equipment and no camera crew.

His knowledge of edible plants is amazing, and I enjoy watching him build shelters and fires, and watch him set snares and traps for game.

Just taking a few choice bits and pieces from watching the show should add some nice realism to any wilderness trek in your choice of RPG, and give real flavor to any ranger's skills.

Watching on Netflix on Demand.  God, I love my Netflix ;)

Coming Distractions

As my vacation runs towards its end, I am looking at my upcoming time sinks.

The most immediate time sink is going to be Rift, the latest MMORPG.  The main reason this is going to steal away a nice sized chunk of time is the pure joy in jawing with my circle of friends on a fairly regular basis.  Would that I could coral them for some real RPGing via a VTT, but it's hard to get everyone on a set schedule.  The easy of dropping into and out of a MMORPG session with Teamspeak running does an end run around most needs to set a time / day.

Of course, work is a damn time sink - I need to win lotto or something.  Then I could take over the world!  Heh, or buy an RPG Company for a real money sink ;)

As an aside, just received my set of Tunnel & Trolls UK 1e, Buffalo Castle (UK) and Uncle Ugly's Underground (UK).  I was surprised to see the layout of the T&T UK1e and it's reprint are slightly different, as is the size.  The whole set is in great condition.  Nice addition to the collection.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe... Pick a Clone By the Toe

The next RPG I plan to run is Tunnels & Trolls, but if I were to run one of the D&D clone / simulacrum that are available today, I'd probably opt for Swords & Wizardry (Complete).  It seems to cover all the bases that I want in a clone, and at the same time is very easy to house rule without breaking anything.

Besides, the S&W Complete book is a beauty to behold.  If I were to join a new group (via VTT or face to face), I'd be looking for a T&T or S&W game preferably.

Which reminds me, my next Castles & Crusades session is a week from Saturday.  I'm sure the pricing of the CKG PDF will come up.  Should be interesting.

Rift (the latest MMORPG) went live yesterday for pre-orders.  With Teamspeak  connecting us all, about the only thing missing from our old D&D sessions was the sound of the dice... oh, and a DM directing everything.  Still, we had a blast, even with the ungodly queues to log in.  I went and had dinner during my wait ;)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Mini Review - The Sun Fury Gazette: The Rising Dark Supplement I (Swords & Wizardry)

The Rising Dark was just released a few days ago, and we already have the first release in a line of supplements for it.  The Sun Fury Gazette is 8 pages of free (the price is right) additional information for use a Rising Dark campaign, but it's all ripe for stealing for use in your own campaign world.

The writing is good, but the use of classic (read old) clipart distracts a bit, at least for me.  There is a decent amount of clipart available at sources like RPGNow for fairly cheap that made for products like this.  Just my 2 cents on it.  Again, the price is right, the articles are good... the art distracts.

From the Blurb:

The Sun Fury Gazette: The Rising Dark Supplement I is the first issue of a series of resources for the Rising Dark campaign setting, written specifically for use with Swords & Wizardry and other old school game systems. This first issue is free, and features:

Three new spells presented for use with original edition mechanics

monster stat-block presentations of all the new player character races

additional data on the deities for the world of Agraphar as well as the god of vermin

an article on the kobolds of Agraphar

Future issues will feature more content as well as scenarios for use with The Rising Dark. Enjoy!

Staycation Update - With Norm McDonald

Alright, Norm McDonald is not doing the update - but it sounded good ;)

Anyhow, as the Staycation winds down, I'm looking at what I did, and did not, accomplish so far.

Cleaning?  Check, but much more is needed.  I accumulate way too much junk.

Gaming?  Check, but not as much as I would have liked (only ran one solo so far, but it was a blast).  Still, I have accomplished game related reading.

Adding new time waster to the mix?  Check - Rift (a new MMORPG, not to be confused with Rifts) opens with it's pre-release head start later today.  My old gaming group (and later MMORPG group) is going to see if this is the game that sticks.  My son and I will join them.

I'd rather corrupt my son with real gaming (tabletop RPGs), which may happen sooner then later, as he is definitely paying attention (and ribbing me) when I play my monthly C&C game via Fantasy Grounds.

Ah well, off to babysit my 2 month old niece today.  First time running solo.  Pray for me.  I'd like to avoid the really messy poops ;)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

New Zealand Red Cross Earthquake Relief - RPG Bundle (OneBookShelf)

OneBookShelf (aka RPGNow and DriveThruRPG) is offering a bundle of RPG products for $20 (current value $338.91) to raise money for the New Zealand Red Cross Earthquake Relief.

OBS has done this before, and the bundles have always been well worth the donation, and of course, the donation is for a good cause.

If $20 isn't within your range, you can make a $5 donation (no bundle).

Some of my picks from the bundle:

CthulhuTeck Core Book


RPGPundit's Gnome Murdered RPG

Tegal Manor - Revised and Expanded Edition

Tales From the Floating Vagabond

Supernatural Role Playing Game

(these are the ones that really stick out for me)

Mini Review - The Rising Dark: An Introduction to Agraphar (Swords & Wizardry)

I'm always a sucker for a new campaign setting.  Even if I never use it as written, there are always ideas for me to steal.  As far as resources go, they are more valuable and flexible then an adventure.

The Rising Dark: An Introduction to Agraphar is a campaign setting for Swords & Wizardry (but usable with you OSR ruleset of choice with little issue).  It is sandboxie in nature, which is always a plus in my book.

So, what do we get for our investment?  5 new races, 27 gods (some of which give their clerics special abilities - which is nice to keep things unique), magic use that can be detrimental depending on the roll (referred to in the rules as Corruption), maps, a breakdown of localities, an adventure, lots of adventure hooks.  All in all, theres a lot packed into 48 pages.  Not bad at all for $2.99.

From the blurb:

The world of Agraphar...a young land, center of an eternal conflict between chaos and order. Will you join with the forces of Ymaltar, the Sun Fury who stood strong against the darkness and created the world, or side with the darkness, trumpeting Dymachas and the lords of chaos in their quest to extinguish the creation of the Lord of Order?

A complete adventure setting compatible with the Swords & Wizardry rule system and sufficiently mechanics-lite to be easily adapted to other fantasy RPGs
Designed for the GM who is interested in a new setting that provides a sandbox setting for adventures, but doesn't overwhelm with detail.

Features:27 new gods
Corrupting magic
Aasimar, satyr, tiefling, gnome and faerie character races
A Gazetteer of northwestern Tariach
Hand-rendered maps
A detailed adventure location in "The Doom of Zeramath"
New monsters
Plot ideas and advice

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Trollish Taproom - A Closer Look at Spite Damage

Spite Damage as a concept is great.  Each 6 rolled on a d6 is damage that makes it thru, even against the side that wins.  In a Tunnels & Trolls game with a GM and a full party, it adds to the drama and the tactics of the party.  It also makes the Poor Baby spell even more valuable then it was before.

In Solo Play, spite sucks.  Big time.  Unless you are willing to declare it is a player ability only, and deny it to the monster side of things, it makes the solo adventures unplayable.

Look at it this way.  Each encounter a player survives, he carries over his spite damage to the next encounter.  The next adversary will be fresh.  Spite was added to prevent the endless combats of evenly matched and armor opponents, but instead it whittles the player down to nothing as the adventure goes on.

This problem goes is worse with the 7e rules of T&T - monsters no longer lose attack dice as their MR goes down, just Combat Adds.  So yes, even more potential spite damage.

Pretty much every T&T solo published by FBI is pre-T&T 5.5e - pre-spite in other words.  They are not balanced for spite, and they are not balanced for monster's not losing combat dice as their MR gets whittled down.

This was all pretty obvious as I sat down to game last nite.

So, if you are going to run any of your 7.5e characters thru an earlier solo, these are my recommendations:

- Only your PC's attacks generate spite.  It won't make much of a difference, but every little bit helps.

- Damage to a monster's MR results in a loss of CA and Combat Dice (if appropriate)

- As long as you CA are appropriate for the adventure, you wont need to worry about adjusting monster MRs - 7.5e characters tend to be more powerful then earlier editions, but solos are balance against CA, so it all works.

Taking a Look at Chivalry & Sorcery

I never had a copy of Chivalry & Sorcery.  I had heard about it when I picked up roleplaying back in the early 80's, but no one in my group owned a copy.  Heck, no one in my group had seen a copy outside of a game store.  I do remember the ads in Dragon Magazine.  The ads seemed to me to infer the game was damn complicated.  The ads were probably right.

So, here we are, nearly 30 years later, and I am the proud owner of a previously owned copy of Chivalry & Sorcery.  It's a beat up copy, that appears to be well used, but I question how well read it actually was.  It seems that a previous owner underlined and otherwise marked up the first 10 1/2 pages and then just stopped.  Which I can understand, as this looks like a textbook, and the font is damn tiny.

Unlike Tunnels & Trolls,  this is not a line I'll be looking to complete, but I did need to actually see what all the fuss was about.

I'm not sure if I'll ever read thru this whole thing myself, but if I do, it will be in very small chunks ;)

The Trollish Taproom - More Thoughts on the Frankentroll

I figure I'm on vacation for a week, a Staycation if you will, so besides cleaning and gaming, I need to think about how I want to run my upcoming Tunnels & Trolls campaign.

Definitely gonna run with the stable of 10 characters fro each player to choose from, using the keep 3 of 4d6 method, with TARO.  I want my players to be above average... they are heroes.  Death will still come easy... it is Tunnels & Trolls after all.

Thinking of using the total AP earned for level determination from 5.5e, but stat gain as per 7.5e - assuming it doesnt get too confusing.

Stats as per 7.5e

SR as per 7.5e

Missile combat as per... I don't friggn know.  It get's changed more often then my 8 week old niece's diapers.  There has to be a workable method.  This requires some thinking.

Classes and talents as per 7.5e

Actually, if in doubt, using 7.5e I think.

Warriors will gain CA as per my chart from an earlier post.  Paragons do not get the bonus, so it should be a decent boost to warriors.

See?  I'm thinking...

Heh ;)

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Trollish Taproom - I Survived The Dark Temple and All I Got Was This Pair of Ogre Gloves!

Well, not exactly.  I did get some other loot too, and some of it may be useful at a later point, but none of is was that overpowering type of loot the earlier solos were known for, like excessive combat dice weapons.

So, what did the Man With No Name (I forgot to name my new PC, so he will now be "Joe" from A Fist Full of Dollars) get for surviving these adventure?

A 4d6 Katar that can hit magical creatures as if it were magic

A pair of Ogre gloves that add +1d6 to unarmed combat

A potion of Curare

About 1700 gp, 487 sp and 11 gems of unknown (unrolled) quality

Oh, and about 2013 AP

This is how I ran the game:

PC creation was 4d6 (drop 1 die) with TARO (only the TARO get rolled over, not all 4), rolling up a stable of 10 PCs - Human Only - 7.5e Stats - I put the highest stat in CON - Figured longevity at its best.

With my 6th character I had 2 TAROs and all stats were 12 or over, so I went Paragon.  Woot!  Still, most adventures don't allow much, if any magic, but still fun to roll.

I used spite for the Player only - T&T solo combat is deadly enough without spite for the adversaries.

My single fudge was with the mental combat encounter - I don't think any non-pure caster could win as written, and no one would put a pure caster thru an adventure lacking a Spell Matrix.  So I made myself make a level 2 Saving Roll vs luck as per the T&T 5e rules to peel of 1 of the 3 mobs first.  Yeah, not quite within the rules of the solo, but something that may have worked with a GM.

The Dark Temple was a very entertaining solo to go thru.  Well written and fun.  Took me nearly 2 hrs from start to finish.

I did run it as a hodge-podge of 5e and 7.5e, but that worked okay.

I think I will treat level as total expo earned, but use the 7.5e method of spending AP to raise stats.  Need to pick an adventure for tomorrow now ;)

Mini Review - Kingmaker (An OSR Adventure)

Dungeon crawls are nice and all, but an adventure that is driven by roleplay and character interaction (along with some combat - can't forget that) is comparatively rare in fantasy roleplaying.

An adventure that can kick off a campaign for first level characters, that doesn't include a single map (although it does include generic tokens for combat if desired) is a wonder to behold.

Kingmaker is all this and more.  It has a plot full of intrigue and plot twists, but it is easy from the GM to follow.  As always, I look at these adventures in terms of both D&D and converting to Tunnels & Trolls - and this could probably be converted on the fly.

Nicely done with simple but evocative artwork.

From the blurb:

"Tragedy has fallen on the Kingdom of Ambarge-the King is dead; long live the King!  But the kingdom's woes have only just begun, for the crown prince, the King's sole heir, is nowhere to be found.  The fate of their kingdom rests on the deeds of a handful of wayward pilgrims that walk a solitary road in a remote land."

Kingmaker is a single session, first-level adventure, designed to drop into any campaign. But this is not your average kobold lair. Kingmaker is an intense standoff with high stakes and tremendous repercussions as it falls to a band of first level characters to decide the fate of thousands.

Mini Review - Battlemap - Dark Crypts (Chambers

I don't use battlemaps, but I do use maps for battles.  See, my gaming is over Virtual Table Tops.  So I need to either struggle to draw one on my own, using one of the many programs I own but don't fully understand - or I need to find one on the 'Net and make it work for me.

Today, I really envy those that can play on a regular table top.

Dark Crypts - Chambers is a collection of 4 battlemaps for use in your table top RPG settings.  They look damn good.  I'm sure there is a way to covert these to a format I an use with a VTT, but if I was running a face to face game I'd be building an adventure around these.  They are meant to be used.

Lord Zsezse Works also offers a free T-builder Lite, so you can work on building and printing out tiles of your own design.

PDFs and the Art of Art

Some folks love the art in their PDF game books, others just don't care.  For some publishers its a high priority, other's are happy to use clipart.

Here's where I fall in the scheme of things as a customer:

1 - The Cover is Where it's At - Since you can't flip thru a PDF like you might a book at the bookstore, your cover is the first impression.  Sometimes, its the only impression.  Make it count.

2 - Don't go Crazy on the Pages - Some publisher's like to make the page around, behind, below their text all supped up with background art and such- DON'T!  It can cause issues with certain e-readers (the Amazon Kindle / Kindle DX comes to mind, but it messes with others too).  It wastes my ink if I want to print out the pages.  Last, it can make some products a real pain to read.  This last part applies to print books too.

3 - Less is More - Remember, if I decide to print your product out, the art is going to kill my ink.  Black and white art is fine.  Less shading and filling is better.  Heck, if you can give me two versions (one for printing, one for on screen reading) so much the better.

4 - No Art is Better Then Crap - If you aren't an artist, don't know one, can't afford one, use some of the great clipart that is available.  Or avoid the art altogether.  Trust me, no one wants to see bad art in an otherwise good product.

5 - Don't Forget the Tablets - As iPads and other tablets take off, more and more RPG PDFs (and other e-reader formats) are going to be read on electronic devices.  White Haired Man and Greg (He of Boundless Creativity) are already taking that into account, and I expect others to soon follow suit.

Just some of my thoughts.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Trollish Taproom - From Yassa Massa! to Spirit Mastery

Troth asked earlier this week if 2nd level Spirit Mastery spell in the 7e Tunnels & Trolls rules had it's roots in the 2nd level Yassa-Massa! spell from earlier editions. So I opened up my copies of earlier editions to take a peek.

These are copied word for word, tense for tense, punctuation for punctuation, capital letter for capital letter, etc. So yes, earlier editions were a bit unclear...

T&T 1e: Yassa-Massa! To be used only on previously subdued monsters / foes. Total strengths I.Q. & Charisma. Will permanently enslave monsters with with ratings lower then the above total.

T&T 2e: Yassa-Massa! To be used only on previously subdued monsters / foes. Total strength, I.Q. & Charisma. Will permanently enslave monsters with with ratings lower then the above total.

T&T 3e (1st UK ed): Yassa-Massa! Previously subdued Monsters or foes are permanently enslaved if their Monster Ratings are lower then the combined Strength, I.Q. and Charisma of the caster. Monster must have surrendered or lost half his Constitution or M.R. for Spell to work.

T&T 4e: Yassa-Massa! To be used only on previously subdued monsters / foes. Total strength, I.Q. & Charisma. Will permanently enslave monsters with with ratings lower then the above total.

T&T 5e: Yassa-Massa To be cast on previously-subdued monsters / foes. Will permanently enslave if victim's ST, IQ and CHR are less then that of the wizard, or if the MR is less (and remains so).

T&T 7.5e: Spirit Mastery This spell enslaves its target to the caster"s will for as long as the total of the caster's INT, WIZ and CHR are greater than the combined total of those three attributes for the target. If the victim has a Monster Rating, it's MR must be less than the caster's total for INT, WIZ and CHR.

So, basically, in 1e the foe had to be subdued first. I'm no expert on the earlier T&T rules, so if there are subdual rules in in T&T 1e I can't find them. It's also poorly written and typo'ed, but it was a work in progress back then.

As for 2e, again with the subdued condition I can't find, but at least the spells power can be figured out now.

UK 1e makes sense, explains the condition the monster / foe must be in for the spell to work. I could use this spell

4e is the same as 2e - same problems.

5e is the same - how the heck do you do subdual damage in Tunnels and Trolls editions 1-5? Hey, found an answer dating back to 2001 from Tori Bergquist- I suspect this houserule was well in use, just never made it to the rules. 5.5e has info on "Pulling your punches", but it isn't what the Yassa-Massa spell needs to fulfill it's requirements.

7.5e changes the name and no longer needs the foe to be subdued, which is good, as I don't think 7e has the rules for it either (I'm too tired to check). Oh, and it replaces STR with WIZ in the spell power. Oh, and it may not be permanent - watch out if your WIZ drops during use.

So there you have it, the evolution of a Tunnels & Trolls spell from 1e to 7.5e.

QuickStart - Shadowrun

Shadowrun is one of those games that I picked up when it was first released, back in the Silver Age of RPGs.  I loved the ideas and setting, but was never able to ween my players off of AD&D at the time.  It's gone thru some changes and editions.  Now, Catalyst Games gives us the Shadowrun Quickstart rules for the 4th edition.

You get an adventure, pre-gens and a striped down version of the rules.  I haven't picked up Shadowrun since the first release, so I can't tell you how much they pare off from the latest edition, but they give you what you need to run a quick session.
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