Saturday, August 13, 2011

I Am a Servant of The Secret Fire

Well, maybe not a servant, but I'm certainly enjoying it so far ;)

I think I touched on 'Trademarks" briefly in another post, but I'm going to delve into them a bit deeper tonight.  They are a sorta like feats.

I'll let the author explain a bit better then me:
Trademarks are the unique elements of a character’s makeup that set him apart from others of his Calling. These abilities, or qualities, are powerful additions to the nature of the PC, so choose carefully. They can and should impact the course of your character’s life, making his path a unique one, especially when combined with his ranks on the Character Wheel.
Some Trademarks are combat oriented, some are non-comabt oriented and some are both.  As  you can guess, some are more powerful then others.  One of my favorites is Holy-Man Training.  It adds Holy-Man prayers (spells) to you character's abilities, tho' he only gains half as many as a true Holy-Man.  Instant Paladin if you add this to a fighter.

A Character starts with 2 trademarks and gains one every odd level.  Humans gain an extra one at creation, for 3 to start.

Characters in The Secret Fire aren't much more special then the average person.  Stats are rolled on 3D6.  The amount of damage a character can withstand is about the same as a normal person, so trademarks can be the difference between life and death.  It's the edge that the players get.

There Are Some Extra Copies of Tome of Horrors (S&W Version) Available

According to Mythmere, there should be an extra 100 or so copies of Tome of Horrors (S&W Version) available for purchase.  If you buy a book (which should be shipping in about a month) you get the PDF for free.  If you buy the PDF directly from Frog God, and follow the instructions laid out by Mythmere, you can decide later to purchase the hard cover and have the price you paid for the PDF applied to you payment.  Not technically saving you anything, but it does let you buy the PDF and see if you want the HC.

Personally, I'm trilled by the PDF myself and I'm eagerly awaiting the hardcover to go on my bookshelf.  I need to review this beast of a book in depth in the future.  It is worth every penny IMHO.  Not sure if I'll be using it with S&W Complete or with Adventurer Conqueror King, but it's definitely going to get use.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Sometimes it Helps to Hold It

The two copies I have of The Secret Fire paperback look awesome.  Hopefully I'll find some time to read this weekend (renovations never seem to end).  Soon I should have my pre-release copy of Adventurer Conqueror King.  I just found out earlier tonight that George Strayton plays in a White Box campaign run by one of the guys behind ACK.  The two games currently on my mind the most.  Go figure.

Think I may need to Frankendragon the two ;)

Or maybe not.  But stealing from one for the other is also fun.

Oh, and just to throw this out there, I don't think I could use descriptors in place of numerical modifiers as The Secret Fire relies upon.  That's one of those things that's been hard wired into my D&D brain.  I don't think it would suffer much from avoiding the descriptors.  Guess time will tell when I get to actually play it.

What Makes an RPG Old School?

What makes a RPG "Old School"?

Is it emulation of one of the older D&D rule sets? How far before the house rules in one of these emulations takes it too far to be Old School? Is The Secret Fire "Old School"?

Is it an older feel to the rules themselves (hard to explain - one of those sentences that either makes sense to you, or it doesn't).

Is it presentation?

Does OpenQuest count as Old School? Basic Roleplay? CoC? Any of the current editions of Traveller?

Is X-plorers Old School?

Edit: Is Old School Hack "Old School?"

Is Old School something you just know when you see it?

I ask because X-plorers and The Secret Fire both seem Old School to me, both were just released (or just re-released in the case of X-plorers) yet I don't hear much about them on the blogs I read. Both are selling well on RPGNow, which is generally the Old School friendly when it comes to sales (compared to DriveThruRPG - both are the same company, different audiences).

I've got thoughts on X-plorers (just got the new PDF) but I'm waiting on the boxed set. I've been rambling about The Secret Fire for about a week so far and I still have more in me. Just a friendly warning ;)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Free Quickstart - The Kerberos Club (FATE Edition)

Ever want to play a Victorian Era Superhero?  What, you never heard of one?  Well, here's your chance to get your feet wet for free with The Kerberos Club Quick-Start Guide (FATE Edition)

From the blurb:

The Kerberos Club (FATE Edition) is a superheroic roleplaying game in Victorian London using the FATE roleplaying game system. 

This 28-page Quick-Start Guide gives you a taste of it, with an introduction to the Club, a summary of the timeline, and four sample characters, ready for play, that each highlight different aspects of the setting and its culture: Lady Constance Davies, the Glaifsantes; Sgt. (ret.) William mac Donald, the One-Man Army; Pale Tom Teach, the Gutter Magus; and Jonus Earl Underbridge, Esq., Troll About Town.

I Have The Secret Fire in My Hand!

Feline approved.  Cover is reflective in direct sunlight.  The Secret Fire is flammable, do not place in open flames.  No felines were damaged in the shooting of this picture.  Ashley has no opinion on Role Playing Games, in general or otherwise, but enjoys RPG dice.  Opinions expressed are those of her owner.

Lulu sent my two printed copies of The Secret Fire damn fast.  Nice white paper, large pocket sized, perfect for me to throw in my bag for work or read in the private reading room.

If you purchased a PDF copy of The Secret Fire from Lulu that lacks bookmarking, go to this post on The Secret Fire Blog to find out how to get an updated copy.  The Secret Fire guys (George and the rest) have been very receptive to critiques and their customer service has been top notch.

Rule Correction / Clarification For The Secret Fire

George emailed me last nite to inform me that I was not wrong in thinking that the Luck Throw uses 2D6. Apparently there are 2 typos in the PDF where it states a Luck Throw uses a D12 - and I found one of those typos inadvertently using the new PDF with bookmarks.

So, until the PDF is updated, remember 2D6 for any Luck Throw you may need to make. Now if I can only convince him to use DARO (doubles are rolled over) from Tunnels & Trolls ;)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Secret Fire PDF - Now With Bookmarks!

George Strayton just sent me an updated file of The Secret Fire PDF. Not only is the cover full color now (and sweet looking) the sucker has bookmarks!

Yes, I'm happy as pig in poo! Dancing a jig! All that jazz!

I can wander the PDF as I have a horrible habit of doing and navigate my meandering path. Heck, I found a mistake of mine already that I made earlier thanks to the bookmarks - a Luck Throw is rolled on a D12, not 2D6 - target number is still 7. Hmm, the 2D6 might make for an interesting house rule tho.

George, thanks for listening. My sole complaint (not counting some art - but that is a matter of taste) thus far has been addressed. K, time for me to peruse my newly updated and bookmarked PDF.

No idea if the update is on Lulu yet or not, but I assume it will make its way there sooner then later.

Oh, and the latest Lulu 20% Off Coupon is SINK305

The Secret (Ring of) Fire

Just humming some Johnny Cash in my head right now...

(the rest of The Secret Fire posts)

Alright, enough of that.  Let's talk about wombats.  Or not.  Combat, let's talk about Combat.  None of that AC  or THACO shit in The Secret Fire.  Nope, you gotta roll again your opponents "dodge score".  Which is also how effects like poison, dragon's breath and the rest of them damage you - it's a D20 roll against your dodge score.  So, the to-hit resolution in cobalt is the same system that does away with saving throws as you an I know it - unless it calls for a Luck Roll, in which case its 7 or better on 2D6.
Higher Dodge is better btw.

"What about my armor?" you might say.  Well, ya see, armor (or other types of resistance, depending on the Attack Type,) subtracts from the damage you take (there's always a minimum of 1 point taken).  Feels a bit like Runequest or Tunnels & Trolls.

Armor absorbing damage is important in a game where the PCs can't take as many hits as in the usual OSR type games.  Interesting tweak.  I may need to run a mock combat to see how this works in play, not just theory.

Oh, and my kid passed his First Aid Certification test.  Inching closer to EMT certification.  It's a good day ;)

Ah, heck... enjoy some Johnny Cash :)

Reviews on the Back Burner

I think I've got a bad case of The Secret Fire and the over the counter remedies aren't going to cure it.  I need to let it run its course.  Which means there's still a few more bad blog post titles to come.  That being said, I still want to review the following over the next week or so:

The One Ring - simply because it's Middle Earth, and I dig that.

The Complete Tome of Horrors - because I need to spend more time with its awesomeness.

X-plorers - I just got the PDF and I'm waiting on the dead tree.  Old School Sci-fi

Other stuff that has been sitting and waiting for me to get to it, and the Free OSR Game mini-reviews must continue!

Never Scream (The Secret) Fire!

My Gamer's ADD is really strong, as it effects even the way I read The Secret Fire - I'm bouncing like one of those 10 cent power balls you used to get out of gum ball machines when I was a kid.

So, where's the gnomes? 4e turned the gnome into the unwanted stepchild of D&D, dropping them from the core races and their missing from the core here too. Not that it matters all that much to me as I don't recall ever actually playing a gnome in any edition of D&D / AD&D, but I felt it should be mentioned lest one of those gnome lovers get upset at the omission.

Hmm, for that matter, there are no "half races" either - unless I missed them during my power ball bouncing around the PDF. No half-elves or half-orcs (actually, not sure if I saw orcs at all in the monster section - I'll need to double check that.

initiative - Roll a D6, add your Agility modifier and count down from highest to lowest. Pretty standard. Except that PCs can swap initiative score with each other. That certainly isn't standard. It add a certain amount of tactics to combat that isn't there otherwise. It also means that just because you rolled a sucky roll, if your party needs you to react faster, they'll swap your score to get you there. Pretty neat. I don't believe I've seen that before.

Morale - As far as I can recall, this is missing from most OSR style games (James properly pointed out my error here - its there, same system - I'm going to lock myself in the privy for a 15 minute time out ;). It's nice to see, especially as this is a very lethal combat system. Much easier to chase your adversaries away then killing them all.
It's rolled on 2D6.

Notice that they have stayed away from a unified resolution system? 1D6, 2D6, variable D6, D20. Yes, one die size does not fit all rolls. Nice.

K, lunch time is over. Back to work.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

My Pants Are On (The Secret) Fire

I never promised the Blog Post Titles would be any good, or even funny... just part of the theme ;)

Now I'm going to talk about skills and skill tests.  Most D&D / D20 games use some sort of "roll a D20 and see if you made your target number".  Not so in The Secret Fire - here you roll D6s and the number of dice rolled is dependent on the difficulty of the task at hand.  You are attempting to equal or roll under the relevant ability.

It ranges from 3d6 for an Easy attempt to 7d6 for an Impossible attempt.  If you are trained in the skill in question, you roll one less die (in effect, shifting the difficulty down by one).  I'm surprised that I like this system, but I do.  It makes your actual ability scores important - score of 13 to 15 are a +1 adjustment to other rolls, but as far as skill go, a 15 is much better then a 13.  It also brings back the "bell curve".

Moving on to the random charts, I think they are pretty good in my opinion.  The personality quirks and random equipment help to define the characters.  It's similar in a way to what Scott from Huge Ruined Pile had us roll in his house ruled OD&D game.  Anything that helps to define a character is good.  Would I buy it for the charts alone?  No, but they should port to other games fairly well.

K, lack of bookmarking is really starting to annoy me and my desire to flip semi randomly throughout this PDF.  The hardcopy won't be so annoying, but flipping through a PDF without bookmarking can lead to major frustrations.

Odds & Ends

Lets see - over the past few days I've thrown out a crapload of odds & ends - mostly electronic and computer accessories that I can no longer recall the use for, or wires that I have more then I'll ever need.

I also came across some gaming stuff that I had forgotten, such as my limited edition C&C Player's Handbook with the faux leather cover. some Lejendary Adventures books that I had forgotten about and some other random stuff.  Oh, and I killed a storage box of DVDs by getting rid of the annoying plastic holders they come in. Space is getting to be at a premium.

I installed the two transition pieces for the new floors, finished the last corner of wallpaper, put in (with major help from my father) new molding in the second room (still need another 12' strip it seems), moved the Bowflex to it permanent spot (which the fiancee would rather was in the basement, but the ceiling isn't high enough), move the new desk to its spot, boxed up more games, still need to measure for and order the new closet... I seriously need more time ;)  

We Didn't Start "The Secret Fire"

At some point I'm going to run out of witty blog post titles for this never ending review of The Secret Fire RPG. ;)

Anyhow, back to the game - or rather, the reading of the game.

This definitely has an Old Ones / Cthuhlu feel to it, which helps it read as well as it does.  As I said earlier, it seems to out weird LotFP's Weird Fantasy without straying too far from the fantasy tropes we already know.  I still have an issue with the artwork as it attempts to draw upon satantic imagery when it can (with the exception of the cover art and a few other).  There are much more effective, and potentially less alienating ways to draw upon the Old School RPG style of art.  Not a huge issue to me, but I could have done with less of it.

Saving throws - replaced by a Luck Roll.  Luck Rolls do not change with level, what you need to roll at level 1 is the same as at level 10 (baring the choosing of certain trademarks/abilities or finding an item or such).  I believe you need to roll a 7 or better on 2D6 but I can't find the rule at the moment.  Bookmarking the PDF would have prevented this issue.  Yes, the lack of bookmarking is becoming a real PITA.

The Montage System - a random way to hand wave certain situations.  Well, really its more then that, but in other games, it would probably be a hand wave with maybe a die thrown to see in generally how well it goes for the PCs:

However, there may be times when the party (or the Master Creator, TSF speak for DM) may wish to speed up play and instead call for a quick resolution. Rather than simply handwaving the situation (which is, of course, a perfectly acceptable option), the MC can instead employ the simple universal method outlined below. Note that this system works for multi-aspect events (such as parley, wilderness travel, etc.) rather than single actions (such as picking a lock — use a Skill Check in that situation). You can even use it for combat, especially when wandering monsters appear, if you are trying to speed up play for one reason or another. But note that, depending on the roll, the outcome could prove extremely beneficial, wildly disastrous, or anywhere in between, for the player characters. Which, of course, is what makes it fun. 
The Montage is a way to “play” through events that would take a lot of real time, even though they may take anywhere from a few minutes to a few days of game time; yet everyone agrees these events should only take a short amount of real time. The system can be used for random engagements, and everyone rolls using their prime stat (Critical Failure means death, Complication means wounded, etc.).
Is it something I would use often?  I'm not sure.  Generally speaking, if something is worth resolving, it's worth playing out, either via combat or role play.  Still, this may fit well for certain groups.

More later, with another bad blog post title ;)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Monday Movie Nite - The Seven-Ups

Roy Schneider plays the lead role in this gritty NYPD cop drama.  This is one of those movies I've been told to watch for the last 15 years, so I finally picked it up at Amazon.  Not bad (not as good as Fort Apache: The Bronx IMHO) but it does have the best (and possibly longest) chase scene I've ever seen in a movie.  If you know any of the major streets and locations in the NYC area, its even that much better.

The Seven-Ups squad itself would work pretty well in any modern RPG - either as something for pliers to belong to, or as an adversary.

Back to reading The Secret Fire.  More on that in the morning.

I'm On "The Secret Fire"

Yeah, i could start numbering the posts, but what's the fun in that?  Yes, more of my thoughts and observations on The Secret Fire RPG.

Just so y'all know, I was not a Kickstarter supporter of this project.  Truth to tell, the webpage (and yes, the associated blog) did not excite me.  Lot's of advertising talk, light on what was actually going on.  The Gail Gygax endorsement didn't excite me (she killed Legendary Adventures before I ever got to enjoy my books), but Monte Cook having good things to say did.  So, I went into this kinda neutral.

I'm also one of those fine folk that has asked out loud if we really need more retro clones and the like... it hasn't stopped me from buying them, but are the really needed.

The Secret Fire isn't a retro clone.  It gladly borrows and steals from D20, FATE, possibly T&T and I'm sure others.  It is solidly D20, and if you've played D&D in any of its incarnations (even - GASP! 4e) you will probably be comfortable with the system fairly quickly.  

I've been reading this like I read most RPGs these days - I jump around like a Mexican Jumping Bean.  As was pointed out by a poster on RPG.Net, the PDF lacks bookmarks.  How the hell do you put out a 310 page PDF these days without bookmarks?  I fully expect that will change in the near future, and the file will be updated with bookmarks.  If it isn't, I'll be here to rant.

That being say, I'm enjoying this immensely, even without the ease of bookmarks to enable my haphazard jumping thru the virtual book.  

Did I mention I just ordered 2 dead tree copies from Lulu?  Love those 20% off coupons ;)

Dinner calls.  More rule observations later tonight if all goes well.

Does "The Secret Fire" Out Weird LotFP's "Weird Fantasy"?

I like Raggi's Weird Fantasy RPG and own the boxed versions of both the Deluxe and Grindhouse Editions.  While I may not agree with all of the changes Raggi made to the classes and races, I always figured I could house rule them to a state I was comfortable with.  Besides, the tone of the game did have a nice horror feel to it, especially in the Referee Book.

I think The Secret Fire may have outdone Raggi on the "Weird" axis.  Case in point.  TSF changes many of the D&D spells we know and  gives them a twist.  Sometimes they are easily recognizable, sometimes it takes a little work.  As an example, I'm going to show what all the CLW, CSW, CCW and Heal spells turned into - one simple, yet powerful and disturbing spell:

Mend (Life)
Circle: I                                   Casting Time: Move
Range: 5 feet (1 square)          Resistance: Willpower
Area of Effect: 1 Creature       Duration: Instant
Description: Your allies thought you mad when you asked if you could make small incisions on each of their limbs with the Brand of Mantheris. As you concentrate, holding the Brand gently in your grip a few inches from your ally’s wound, a tentacle of blood streams from the Brand toward his body, which spasms painfully as the blood forces its way into him. At first, there is only suffering; then his injuries begin to disappear and relief spreads across his face. You are grateful that you had properly attuned the Brand to your ally, as the use of this power on the un-attuned can lead to injury and even death. 
Mechanics: By briefly laying hands upon a living creature, the cleric channels positive energy that cures 1d4 + Wisdom adjustment Stamina. The amount of die increases by 1d4 for each level, up to level 4 (4d4). At level 5 the die increase by one size (4d6) thereafter continuing to add 1 die size each level, up to 4d20 at level 9.
-At level 10 the Holy-Man may use a mend prayer to perform a miracle once per day. A miracle fully heals the creature chosen, regardless of amount of healing done. Any other uses of Lay Hands on that day are rolled as normal for a Level-10 Holy-Man (4d20). If this ability is performed twice in one day for any reason, the gods consider it arrogance, and all life from the caster is transferred to the injured.
-This prayer will not affect creatures without corporeal bodies, or creatures that can only be harmed by iron, silver, or magical weapons.
-The reverse of the prayer, rend, inflicts the same amount of damage on a successful prayer attack against the target. Because the subject is less willing and the intention more severe it takes a full Action to complete a Rending prayer.
-A critical miss while performing rend results in inadvertently requesting your Deity strip the intended amount of life from your body, and transfer it into the target as healing.
That is a disturbing reworking of the healing spells from D&D.  It scales very well and is limited to one casting per day (unless you want the gods to kill you).  Screwing it up can have deadly consequences.  Definitely a "Weird Fantasy" vibe if you ask me.  This is just one spell of many that have been reworked into a similar vibe.

Did I mention that spells that have limited durations count down in "real time"?  If a spell lasts 10 min/per level, that's 10x minutes at the gaming table, not game time.  Certainly makes bookkeeping easier and encourages the players to keep the pace of the game moving,

I haven't even touched on the races or classes yet, have I?

Count this as the beginning of the review process.  This is going to take some time, as this isn't the usual clone or house rule revision that we often see.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Closing in on a Review of The Secret Fire RPG

Of the GenCon timed RPG releases, The Secret Fire is the one I find the most interesting thus far.  That may change once I get thru the whole thing, but for now it is an accurate statement.  The most anticipated, by me, was The One Ring, and I'm sure if it wasn't for TSF, I'd be immersing myself in Hobbits and such right now.  No worries, I'll be returning to The One Ring shortly.

Now, back to some more perusing of The Secret Fire (which was originally billed as Legends & Labyrinths - not a bad choice ether).

Stamina Points (which apply to each Wound level) do not increase as you gain levels.  So, no Hit Point issues of the 9th level fighter surviving a 100' fall because of his Hit Points (he may now survive it for other reasons).  Oh, and high level combat is no longer a war of attrition.  Well, at least not of HP.

As Padre pointed out, do we really need Man-Boob Satan on the second page?  It doesn't add anything (unless you are going for Raggi Shock Value, in which case this is a "fail") and may give a wrong opinion of the rules.  Not a real issue, just a question.  I mean, is this what one needs to include to prove Old School Cred these days?

About Energy Points (this is the "hook" in my opinion, and something I really like so far):

In THE SECRET FIRE™, Energy Points (EP) represent a character’s daily energy level ,which can be spent in a variety of ways (called Special Effects), as a free Action, both within combat and without.The heart of the roleplaying system of TSF lies in the use and acquisition of Energy Points.

It's a way to make feats and feat like abilities and the like flexible as well as a resource to manage.  You can regain your spent points quicker through actual role playing your character.  A role playing game that actually rewards role play.  I'm having one of those "duh!" moments.  So obvious.  So overlooked.

Digging Deeper Into The Secret Fire

So, The Secret Fire is D20 based, but it strays far and afield while still feeling vaguely familiar. Here's some quick observations:

6 stats, rolled on 3d6 - assigned as the player wants.

Four basic classes and the ability to multi class.

No HP as we know it, but wound levels and wounds.

Five spell levels, gained in the first 5 character levels.

Combat and non-combat abilities that seem like a cross between skills and feats.

A pool of points that can be used for special abilities, and the pool is refilled via role playing situations that fit the character but may not be directly beneficial to the party.

Just some stuff that came to mind as I sit at my in-laws ;)

Saturday Nite Movie - Fort Apache: The Bronx

My first time watching this was shortly after being assigned to the 42 Precinct in the Bronx as a rookie.  It was pointed out to me that many of the scenes, including the scenes taking place with outside shots of the station house, were filmed in the 42 Precinct.  My VHS tape made the rounds of my fellow rookies and never made it back to me.  I finally bought DVD copy.  It arrived this morning and me and the lady watched it tonight.

It was just as good as I remembered.  This is how a cop movie should be, characters instead of bullets, story instead of mindless action.

Of course, I was told numerous times by my son, who was not watching the movie with us, to stop pointing out the locations that I knew... sorry, couldn't help myself ;)

Paul Newman was awesome BTW ;)
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