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Saturday, June 9, 2012

Tonight's ACKS Game Will Be Live On G+ Hangouts - On Air

In case you missed the announcement on G+, tonight's Adventurer Conqueror King System gaming session will be watchable via Google+ Hangout using the On Air feature.  So, as if I didn't have enough on my plate keeping 5 very skilled role-players engaged I now have an unknown audience added to the mix.

Normally, I'd have a few beers with my gaming session, but tonight is going to be pure caffeine.  Lots of it.

So yeah, 930 Eastern Time on the ACKS Channel.  Or just look for the announcement on G+ from Tabletop Forge.

Tonight's program is rated "R", for language, possible simulated torture, random acts of violence, liberal use of fire, portrayals of the undead, verbal descriptions of gore and other assorted silliness that accompanies "R"oleplaying.  You have been warned.

Tabletop Forge Kickstarter Is Live! (G+ Hangout VTT)

Man, there is just so much good stuff going on at Kickstarter these days it's almost ridiculous!  The thing that sets Tabletop Forge away from the rest is that it's a Goggle App to bring virtual tabletop gaming to your Google+ Hangouts interface.  It literally makes your computer your gaming table, with friends from around the world.

I'm kinda partial to it, but then I've been using the beta for months and I've been watching it progress.  It is great now and it's potential is f'n awesome!  I've been running my ACKS campaign on saturday nights using it (another session tonight) and it's been a blast.  I just need to remember it isn't fully compatible with Safari these days (I need to run it with Chrome or Firefox).  Did I mention it's cross platform compatible?  Yep.  Truly amazing.

I've used Klooge (ugh!), Battlegrounds RPG (perhaps better for board games, still a very nice piece of work), Fantasy Grounds (works better with voice added - trying to plug in your own adventure is insanely time consuming), Maptools (never quite wrapped my head around it), ScreenMonkey (ehh), iTabletop (never became that which was promised) and I am sure one or two others that have escaped my quirky memory at the moment.

The only one I've felt comfortable using to GM with?  Tabletop Forge, and that started with an earlier Beta too.

Where was i?  Oh yeah, the Kickstarter for Tabletop Forge.  TTF will be free to use wether you kick in to the kickstarter or you don't, but there are lots of cool things you can get or get to do if you kick into the kickstarter.  Wanna play in a game session run by Tavis Allison of ACKS fame (great DM - he ran a face to face session of 5e play testing that I played in), Gareth Skarka (Far West), Larry Moore (Barebones RPG) and many others?  Here's your chance.

Wanna give it a test ride for yourself.  Head over to the Tabletop Forge Blog and Click the Hangout button.

Recruiting For the Two Session DCC Arc Begins Tomorrow

It looks like I'll be recruiting for a 2 session Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG Arc.  The post will probably go live on the UA-LC site tomorrow (sunday).  So, yeah, I guess you could say UA-LC is kicking off officially very shortly. ;)

I know we have a few folks that are looking to run games via UA-LC.  I'm going to scour the postings over the weekend and reach out to folks, but feel free to toss your hat in (or remind me and Mike that your hat is tossed in) and we'll get this party started.  The key is to keep things staggered, as the idea is to allow the GM a few weeks off between Arcs (if they so desire).

I'm heavily leaning toward running Traveller: Cowboys & Xenomorphs for my second arc.  That is, assuming I don't have an overflow on the DCC RPG arc.  If I do I may just have to run that a second time (which can't be all bad, as at least with the second round I'd have some DCC experience behind me ;)

Friday, June 8, 2012

Talking About Maps - Cityographer Kickstarter Has Hit Goal

You know what's funny?  I actually forgot I had licenses for both Dungeonographer and Hexographer.  Kinda happens when you change from Windows to Mac and figure 95% of your stuff won't port.  Well, surprise surprise, the mapping programs from Inkwell Ideas install to either OS.  It just took the Cityographer Kickstarter to remind me I had the other mapping programs.

Both Dungeonographer and Hexographer give you random maps that you can tweak (and you can tweak before the random part too).  As I said in my last post, I can't draw a map to save my life, so these two little programs can certainly be game savers for me.

Cityographer is no different.  Or maybe it is different, because it's cities and not dungeons or wilderness.  Still, it's there to help the GM, and as I'm finding, I need all the help I can get.

It's hit it's $10k mark for funding with 5 days to go, so you know it's going to actually "be" ;)

Here's some words from the Kickstarter:

Do your players ever take a game session in a different direction and you need a quick city or village?  Or maybe you want to cut down on your game's prep time by getting some help creating some of the cities or villages in your game's setting?  (Whether you want the system to do 90% of the work or just 20%--customize the results as much as you want.)
Cityographer is the perfect solution for these situations!  You set some preferences for the city you want (technology level, population size, whether the city has a river, if it is on the coast, etc.) on a setup screen and it will randomly generate an entire village or city for you.  (You can also start with a blank map/city.) 
Not only will the program generate the city's map, but it will generate simple floorplans of the buildings, and each building's residents and any important belongings.  If the building is a business you'll also get a list of the staff and a menu or price list of products available.
Further, everything and anything can be fully or individually re-generated or hand edited!  So if you don't like the whole city, just start over.  But if you simply don't like the placement of a few buildings, move them or delete them and add new ones.  If you don't like a particular building just regenerate it or an aspect of it.  For example if the building is an inn, regenerate it or regenerate just the staff or just the price list or hand edit any particular item!

I think I've become a Kickstarter addict ;)

My Rekindled Love For Maps - Thanks to the DCC RPG The Blind Can Now see ;)

Back in my first tour playing RPGs, when maps were made with blue ink and very few actually cared about them except for what they were used for in game, I saw them as art. They were definitely an art form I had no illusions of attaining even a most basic skill in, as I had trouble drawing a straight line on graph paper, but they were most certainly art.

Upon returning to gaming, or at least active gaming, I no longer had the same appreciation of maps as art. There are so many mapping programs available on the computer that in most maps, the art that you find has been put there by the original programmer.

The Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG opened my eyes up again.  I've been following a handful of mappers that blog, as they put up some really nice pieces, but I was no longer seeing them as art.  They were just another tool for use in an RPG.  Then I picked up DCC and nearly had my eyes ripped from my skull.  The adventures have maps that are literally artwork.  Goodman opened my eyes so that the blind could see again.  Regretfully, I don't think any DCC maps are online, so you'll have to peek in your own book (or a friends)'s or at the new adventures to appreciate them.  No worries, there are other great mappers out there.

There are a few folks around that do some amazing freehand maps.  Matt Jackson does some awesome pieces.  Some are quite simple, so are very in depth.  They all have a silent beauty to them.
Matt Jackson's Map From Captain's Logs From the Sandbox 2: The Broken Omnicrys

You also have world design.  Sometimes a map that covers a large section of the world can push your mind to new ideas and campaign thoughts.  I'd love to see the following maps as a fold out wall hanging.
Keranak Kingdom Map for Barebones RPG by Bill Logan

My last example is an adventure map, a small location.  This reminds me of a DCC map without all the extra weirdness that accompanies them.  It is a beauty in it's pure simplicity.  I want a print of this.  Then I want a two week vacation on the island. 

Map from Toys For the Sandbox - Pirate Island by Teo TayoboBato
Yep, maps fuckin' rock again :)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG App For iPad and Android on Kickstarter

This is a little bit different than the other Dungeon Crawl Classics Kickstarters I've mentioned.  The Crawler's Companion is an app for the iPad and Android 2.2+.  I've never found much use for gaming apps in the past, but this one looks great.  I'm already in (did I mention that certain support levels give you free PDFs of Purple Sorcerer's DCC RPG Adventures?)

Here's some of the features listed at the Kickstarter:

Crawler's Companion features include:

  • Funky Dice Roller: D3-D100 and everything in between
  • Critical Hit Charts: All player and monster charts
  • Failure Charts: Fumbles, corruptions, misfires, deity disapproval!
  • Rules Reference: Many topics available for quick reference.
  • Spell Reference and Resolution: Yep, they’re all there! 
  • Multiple Modes: Have the program roll for you, or use it to quickly reference the charts based on your own physical dice rolling

Mini Review - Toys For the Sandbox #22 - The Ritual Space

It's been a while since I reviewed a release in the Toys for the Sandbox line (Heck, they've even added a Sci-Fi line while I've been so neglectful).  At least it's fitting that when I rerun to it, it is hitting all of it's high points.

You know the drill:  The Ritual Space has six possibilities each with three unique twists, so there are 18 ways to play this out.  Would you be surprised if I told you that The Ritual Space deals with "a ritual"?  Yep, it does, but there's more going on than meets the eye.

Hmm, actually, Ritual Space has more than 18 possibilities, as in this release, you can easily have more than one of the possibilities in play at the same time.  Yeah, I'm already thinking of ways to drop this in my ACKS sandbox.

The map, BTW, is extremely well done.  It works as both a map and a piece of art. I'm finding myself verity partial to maps that can double as art after reading the released in the DCC RPG line.  While this map in much simpler in nature than the DCC maps, it's dual nature as a piece of art is much appreciated.  Teo Commons did the map apparently.  Well done Teo. :)

From the blurb:

Toys for the Sandbox is not a module, it is not a campaign setting, instead it is a framework for GMs to use to reinforce their own imaginations. Sometimes players zig when you expect them to zag, other times they take your plot point into a back alley and leave it penniless and bleeding. Each week we present a new location with a map and some flavor text. In addition we add 4 NPCs with a bit of history and a few simple thoughts on how to stat them for whatever game you are playing. There are also 6 plot hooks each with 3 ways to twist them. Added to that there is usually a table or two filled with rumors and encounters.

In an old dark forest far sits a clearing where nothing will grow. Here long ago a sorcerer from another world began a great ritual. Now he is imprisoned but his mad apprentice wishes to finish it. But he is not the only one. The god-king wants to use the ritual to gain more power. All that stand between them and the last steps of the ritual are the Forest Wardens, an unfinished magic sword and perhaps your party. 

There's a Mongoose Loose - A Quick Look at the Latest RuneQuest and Traveller Editions

As I mentioned earlier, RuneQuest 6 is being released as a $62 softcover book (400+ pages) and for $25 in PDF.  I'm a pretty big RQ fan.  I cut my teeth on the Avalon Hill RQ3 Deluxe Ruleset, then found the RQ2 hardcover and Pavis & Big Rubble Boxed sets for a song and a dance at a convention.  RQ2 became my non-D&D fantasy game of choice for a long time, and I have a huge fondness for it and RuneQuest in general.

The thing is, as I mentioned before, you can get the OGL version of the Mongoose Runequest 2 rules (MRQ2) for a buck at RPGNow.  It's kind of hard to justify $62 for the RQ6 rules, when I can get a highly compatible set of rules for $1.

Then we have Traveller.  Mongoose released the Mongoose Traveller rules in an OGL version, or they made their version OGL, or whatever.  It's described pretty well here, and Far Future Enterprises even allows some "fair use" of earlier releases (GDW era).  There is even a Traveller SRD here.  So even though I can't find a PDF of then core M-Traveller rules, I do have the hardcover sitting on my desk.

Do I need a Traveler5 from FFE as a Kickstarter?  I know it has handily surpassed it's goal, but do we need two versions out there?  Besides, is this the same 5e that was available on CD-ROM, because it it is I have the disk floating around somewhere.  Besides all that, to get it in hardcover (600+ pages) with some extra swag costs $100 on Kickstarter.

Is it just me that sees these price points as a bit out of sync with the already available products that use the same rules (or in the case of Traveller, even the same name)?

I'd like to support both of these games, as I have lots of gaming history with both of them, but they seem cost prohibitive for what they offer, at least to my eyes.

How do you feel?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Looking at Two Dungeon Crawl Classics Kickstarters

Tales From the Fallen Empire
I've posted about Brave Halfling's Appendix N Kickstarter before.  Here's the big update - it hit Bonus Goal Number 2.  That means that anyone that pledges at $20 or more get's 4 different DCC RPG adventures, in print and PDF.  If the next goal is hit ($6k), another adventure in the pot.  At $10K everyone at the $20 or higher level gets a limited edition box for their goodies.  It's an amazing value for your many right now (with the 2nd bonus reached), but it just gets better.

Now Brave Halfling has revealed the bonus goal if $15k is raised:

Hey folks! I am so excited at all of the support! We hit the Basic Goal in just 12 1/2 hours, we surpassed the first Bonus Goal at the beginning of the third day and we are currently less than $500 from the second Bonus Goal! And there are still 26 days left in this Kickstarter! In these difficult economic times, it warms my heart knowing that even the vast majority of supporters who have pledged at the $20 and will be receiving a whole bunch of pdf and print modules! For all of you who have pledged small and large amounts, those of you who have shared this project on your blogs, through emails and through social media - thank you so much!  
As a natural pessimist, I am hesitant to share my plan for an additional Bonus Goal, but the email requests are already filling my inbox - so I will let all of the supporters know about it first. Five years ago, I spent many months working with Gary Gygax on a unique campaign setting for his game, Lejendary Adventures. We shared back-and-forth almost daily about designing settings, npc races, magic item creation, divine beings, etc. Maps were created and art was commissioned. With Gary's passing and the end of his game, I decided to not release this material. However, from the first time I got to read some of the early DCC RPG play-test material, I knew this campaign setting had found a new home! So my friends, if this kickstarter reaches $15,000, everyone who has pledged $20 or more will also receive a pdf copy and a print copy of, Appendix N Adventure Toolkit #5: "The Old Isle Campaign Setting." This product will include a 11" x 17" color campaign map, a digest Player's and Referee's Guide. While all Appendix N Adventures are generic and can be placed into any campaign, they all do have specific locations in the Old Isle Setting. How's that for the first update? :) Again, that's so much for your support!

I'm currently in at $51 myself.  I'll raise that to $200 if we get within spitting distance of $15k :)

There is another Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG Kickstarter - Tales From the Fallen Empire: Swords and Sorcery Setting.  The funding goal for this is $4,500 and it currently sits at $4,332 with 42 days to go.  This one will also reach goal (and a couple of bonus goals too I expect)

1OO years have passed since Mankind revolted and slew the Sorcerer Kings of old… Now, the survivors of seven kingdoms begin to start new lives and hopes on the ashes of old. However, even as life continues, an ancient and forgotten evil stirs awaiting its moment to strike against mankind. 
 Join the struggle for survival in a war-torn land where new empires arise to impose their will upon the masses. Vicious warlords fight to control territories carved out of fallen kingdoms. Imposing magicians emerge claiming the legacy of the Sorcerer Kings. High Priests of long forgotten gods and goddesses amass wealth in the name of divine right while Warrior-priests, devoted to a banished god, patrol the lands bringing justice to people abandoned by their rulers. 
Within these pages is a detailed post-apocalyptic fantasy setting taking you through an ancient realm that is fighting for its survival and its humanity. Seek your fortune or meet your fate in the burning deserts of the once lush and vibrant land of Vuul, or travel to the humid jungles of Najambi to face the tribes of the Man-Apes and their brutal sacrificial rituals.
Tales From the Fallen Empire is a post apocalyptic swords & sorcery setting created for use with the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG by Goodman Games.  It introduces new classes, an alternate way to handle the 0 level character funnel, setting inspired spells, new optional rules for swords & sorcery play and more.  Tighten the straps on your sandals, grab your weapon, and head forth into a land of trouble and turmoil. Adventure  awaits those foolhardy to enter the wastelands or for those who fear not the unknown. Pledge today to begin the adventure in the fragments of the Fallen Empire.  
Setting Features 
Within the campaign setting you will find:  6 new classes: Barbarian, Witch, Draki, Wanderer, Man-Ape, & Pirate.  Adding more choices for play in the setting and within the DCC RPG. 
A revised Wizard Class (The Sorcerer) - A fiendish master of the arcane who draws energy from the living to perform powerful magics. 
New Spells - Magic inspired by ancient Babylonian & Egyptian folklore and mythology 
New Creatures - Monster befitting to classic swords and sorcery.  Battle savage dinosaurs,  ride into the unknown on a war trained moa, or match wits with the tribal man-apes of the southern jungles. 
Survival, racial trait & scrounging rules - Optional rules for your Tales From the Fallen Empire or DCC campaign.  Designed with the system and setting in mind. 
A detailed setting inspired by the works of Fritz Lieber, Robert E. Howard, Lynn Carter, H. P. Lovecraft, Roger Corman, and Michael Moorcock

Win a Free PDF Copy of Barrowmaze!

Hey!  Someone else is running a contest and they're giving away a copy of Barrowmaze in PDF (or if you already have that, a copy of Portal 2).  I have Barrowmaze and it's an excellent megadungeon.  The crowd funding for Barrowmaze II has gone exceedingly well.

So, what do you need to do?  Go to The Delvers Blog (which is celebrating it's 100th post) and solve a riddle.  How hard can that be? ;)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

How to Handle a TPK - Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG Style

Continuing my Random Quest throughout he Dungeon Crawl Classics RPGI have decided to take a look at page 306 (for those playing along at home):  Questing for the Impossible

Although set up as possible quests, these really are more like adventure seeds.  Some, like Heal a terrible poison or disease or Remove a curse, are events that may occur as the PCs try to save themselves or one of their party members.

Nothing quite motivates one as survival does.

My favorite is this one:  Total Party Kill.  I want to pull this out in the next game I DM and a TPK happens.  It doesn't have to be DCC... and rpg will do.

Total party kill: Don’t end the game! Transport all the player characters to Hell—where they can give in to Death’s demands or try to fight their way out!
This is epic!  Damn, I almost want to kill off my PCs now...

RuneQuest 6 is Nearly Here, But at a Price

Lawrence Whitaker recently posted at The Design Mechanism Forums  that RuneQuest 6 should be available some time in July.  And there was much rejoicing.

Then I saw the pricing, and I was hit with the sticker shock.

$62 plus shipping for a 456 page soft covered book with black and white interior art RPG.

$25 for the PDF.

Isn't this for all intents and purposes the same game as Mongoose's Legend RPG?  The same game that's a buck in PDF?  $19.99 in softcover.

I mean, I got the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG in hardcover for $39.99 and the page count is similar to RQ6.

Maybe I'm spoiled, but $62 seems to be an awful lot for a soft cover book, no matter the page count.

$25 for the PDF is on par with the DCC RPG, so it's steep but doable.  Still, Legend is available for $1.

Even if RQ6 is more complete than Legend, I'm not sure if I can justify the difference in price for something that is essentially very similar if not pretty much the same game.

I guess I'll be waiting for the reviews on this one, as it is priced out of my impulse buy zone.

Thanks to Realms of Chirak and Akratic Wizardry  for the scoop :)

No Fire, No Torture - Some More Thoughts on Session 4

We ended session 3 of the ACKS campaign having wrapped up a major story line. We also ended it leaving much of the usual end of adventure maintenance questions to be resolved in the following session (two weeks later). In retrospect I should have suggested that most questions / purchases / acquisitions be handed through our forums on the Obsidian Portal site in between sessions. Live and learn.

Surprisingly session 4, once we got things in motion, is the first to lack both flaming oil and torture (or the threat thereof). Yes, I have a party of Jack Baurs. It could be worse ;)

I've really warmed up to the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG method of awarding expo. I may need to crunch out a conversion of it for ACKS.

Oh, did I mention that the Appendix N Kickstarter for the DCC RPG is closing in on it's 2nd stretch goal? Sweet!

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Grumpy Dwarf Digs Into D&D Next and Pulls Out LotFP Weird Fantasy!

Not a Dwarf, But Apparently the Source of This Article's Inspriation

Yep, The Grumpy Dwarf here.  I know, I've been missing since shortly after the DnD Next Public Beta released.  Hey, everyone is entitled to go off on a bender once in a while.  This article is by Rodney Thompson.  

Conventional D&D wisdom tells us that the maxim "the numbers go up" is an inherent part of the class and level progression in D&D. (uhm... it certainly has been since the dawn of D&D) While that might be true, in the next iteration of the game we're experimenting with something we call the bounded accuracy system.  (is that like "a bounded servant"?  cool!  I call dibs on the first slave!)

The basic premise behind the bounded accuracy system is simple: we make no assumptions on the DM's side of the game that the player's attack and spell accuracy, or their defenses, increase as a result of gaining levels (o-kay.  I know the whole thing about assumptions and asses, but are we really going to forego combat progression?). Instead, we represent the difference in characters of various levels primarily through their hit points, the amount of damage they deal, and the various new abilities they have gained. (so, no more equal progression advancement chart like in 4e?  is that "Taps" I hear in the background?) Characters can fight tougher monsters not because they can finally hit them, but because their damage is sufficient to take a significant chunk out of the monster's hit points (wasn't that usually how it worked?  at least for fighters.  everyone else kinda fell behind in the THAC0 chart) ; likewise, the character can now stand up to a few hits from that monster without being killed easily, thanks to the character's increased hit points (but shouldn't the monsters' damage be increasing at the same rate as the PCs?). Furthermore, gaining levels grants the characters new capabilities, which go much farther toward making your character feel different than simple numerical increases. (interesting in theory at least)

Now, note that I said that we make no assumptions on the DM's side of the game about increased accuracy and defenses. This does not mean that the players do not gain bonuses to accuracy and defenses (urh?). It does mean, however, that we do not need to make sure that characters advance on a set schedule, and we can let each class advance at its own appropriate pace. Thus, wizards don't have to gain a +10 bonus to weapon attack rolls just for reaching a higher level in order to keep participating (i think i see where were are going with this, and it is most certainly not 4e); if wizards never gain an accuracy bonus, they can still contribute just fine to the ongoing play experience. (BINGO!  They have decided to lift the core concept from one of the newer OSR games - LotFP Weird Fantasy!  Fuck D&D Next! - grab the original here for free, or get the whole thing with art and probably the best Referee book full of GM advice offered ANYWHERE!")

This extends beyond simple attacks and damage. We also make the same assumptions about character ability modifiers and skill bonuses. Thus, our expected DCs do not scale automatically with level, and instead a DC is left to represent the fixed value of the difficulty of some task, not the difficulty of the task relative to level. (i never understood the scaling DC anyway, as it offered a net sum increase in chance to succeed compared to the character's advance of ZERO)

We think the bounded accuracy system is good for the game for a number of different reasons, including the following:

Getting better at something means actually getting better at something. Since target numbers (DCs for checks, AC, and so on) and monster accuracy don't scale with level, gaining a +1 bonus means you are actually 5% better at succeeding at that task, not simply hitting some basic competence level. When a fighter gets a +1 increase to his or her attack bonus, it means he or she hits monsters across the board 5% more often. This means that characters, as they gain levels, see a tangible increase in their competence, not just in being able to accomplish more amazing things, but also in how often they succeed at tasks they perform regularly. (this is all fucked up.  it should scale with level based on class and increase at a slower rate than most gamers are accustomed to.  and i still expect more powerful creatures to be harder to hit, just as players are going to be gathering new armor and magic to make themselves harder to hit)

Nonspecialized characters can more easily participate in many scenes. While it's true that increases in accuracy are real and tangible, it also means that characters can achieve a basic level of competence just through how players assign their ability bonuses. Although a character who gains a +6 bonus to checks made to hide might do so with incredible ease, the character with only a naked ability bonus still has a chance to participate. We want to use the system to make it so that specialized characters find tasks increasingly trivial, while other characters can still make attempts without feeling they are wasting their time. (you know what?  i'm not even sure what this all means.  chance to participate?  why do i feel we are in the NEW Little Leagues, where everyone gets a trophy.  there may be times where your character doesn't brin gthe right skills to the table.  so be it.)

The DM's monster roster expands, never contracts. Although low-level characters probably don't stack up well against higher-level monsters, thanks to the high hit points and high damage numbers of those monsters, as the characters gain levels, the lower-level monsters continue to be useful to the DM, just in greater numbers. While we might fight only four goblins at a time at 1st level, we might take on twelve of them at 5th level without breaking a sweat (listen, large numbers of low level creatures should always put the party in fear.  Ever hear of "overbearing" at WotC?). Since the monsters don't lose the ability to hit the player characters—instead they take out a smaller percentage chunk of the characters' hit points—the DM can continue to increase the number of monsters instead of needing to design or find whole new monsters (awesome!  "Hey guys!  Guess what's for dinner?  Orc!  Yep, just like the last few sessions.  I like Orc.  It does a body good! ;) Thus, the repertoire of monsters available for DMs to use in an adventure only increases over time, as new monsters become acceptable challenges and old monsters simply need to have their quantity increased. (amazingly enough, this is how it work in previous editions)

Bounded accuracy makes it easier to DM and easier to adjudicate improvised scenes. After a short period of DMing, DMs should gain a clear sense of how to assign DCs to various tasks. If the DM knows that for most characters a DC of 15 is a mildly difficult check, then the DM starts to associate DC values with in-world difficulties. Thus, when it comes time to improvise, a link has been created between the difficulty of the challenge in the world (balancing as you run across this rickety bridge is pretty tough due to the breaking planks, especially if you're not a nimble character) and the target number. Since those target numbers don't change, the longer a DM runs his or her game, the easier it is going to be to set quick target numbers, improvise monster attack bonuses and AC, or determine just what kind of bonus a skilled NPC has to a particular check. The DM's understanding of how difficult tasks are ceases to be a moving target under a bounded accuracy system. (i think once a DM gets a handle on any RPG system, his ability to improvise improves.  I suspect this will make little difference for improvisation purposes over the long run, but it certainly may drive certain 4e players absolutely insane.  Pull up a chair and watch the excitement!)

It opens up new possibilities of encounter and adventure design. A 1st-level character might not fight the black dragon plaguing the town in a face-to-face fight and expect to survive. But if they rally the town to their side, outfit the guards with bows and arrows, and whittle the dragon down with dozens of attacks instead of only four or five, the possibilities grow. With the bounded accuracy system, lower-level creatures banding together can erode a higher-level creature's hit points, which cuts both ways; now, fights involving hordes of orcs against the higher-level party can be threatening using only the basic orc stat block, and the city militia can still battle against the fire giants rampaging at the gates without having to inflate the statistics of the city guards to make that possible. (is the dragon's AC really going to be that poor?  what ever happened to their AOE Breath Weapon?)

It is easier for players and DMs to understand the relative strength and difficulty of things. Under the bounded accuracy system, a DM can describe a hobgoblin wearing chainmail, and, no matter what the level of the characters, a player can reasonably guess that the hobgoblin's AC is around 15; the description of the world matches up to mechanical expectations, and eventually players will see chainmail, or leather armor, or plate mail in game and have an instinctive response to how tough things are. Likewise, a DM knows that he or she can reasonably expect players to understand the difficulty of things based purely on their in-world description, and so the DM can focus more on the details of the world rather than on setting player expectations. (so, that dragon is wearing chain mail?  how about that grey ooze?  what is the ghost wearing?)

It's good for verisimilitude.  (does anybody EVER use this word in a normal or even abnormal - conversation?) The bounded accuracy system lets us perpetually associate difficulty numbers with certain tasks based on what they are in the world, without the need to constantly escalate the story behind those tasks. For example, we can say that breaking down an iron-banded wooden door is a DC 17 check, and that can live in the game no matter what level the players are. There's no need to constantly escalate the in-world descriptions to match a growing DC; an iron-banded door is just as tough to break down at 20th level as it was at 1st, and it might still be a challenge for a party consisting of heroes without great Strength scores. There's no need to make it a solid adamantine door encrusted with ancient runes just to make it a moderate challenge for the high-level characters. Instead, we let that adamantine door encrusted with ancient runes have its own high DC as a reflection of its difficulty in the world. If players have the means of breaking down the super difficult adamantine door, it's because they pursued player options that make that so, and it is not simply a side effect of continuing to adventure.

This feeds in with the earlier point about DMs and players understanding the relative strengths and weaknesses of things, since it not only makes it easier to understand play expectations, but it also ties those expectations very firmly to what those things are in the world. Now, we want to avoid situations where DMs feel bound by the numbers. ("Hey," says the player, "you said it was an iron-bound wooden door and I rolled a 17, what do you mean I didn't break it down?") We hope to do that by making sure we focus more on teaching DMs how to determine DCs and other numbers, and letting them adjust descriptions and difficulties based on their needs. (dude, it's made of pine, not maple - sorry!)

Listen, you want to see D&D done right, with the core idea of this article?  Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy - its linked up above.  Raggi did it 2 fucking years ago.

Brave Halfling's Appendix N DCC Adventure Kickstarter Hits First Stretch Goal!

So, Brave Halfling hit it's first stretch goal about 48 hours after taking it's Dungeon Crawl Classics Appendix N Kickstarter live.

May I say it?

Holy Crap!


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Mini Review - DCC #68 - People of the Pit (Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG)

I've long been a fan of Cthulhu Mythos in my Fantasy RPG gaming.  It keeps players honest ;)  The creature that is the main event in People of the Pit is certainly mythos inspired, and that is a good thing, as it is pulled of perfectly.

DCC #68 breaks with recent tradition, as it is 32 pages long (30 pages after front and back cover are removed from the count) and I can easily see this taking a session and a half or even two to complete.  You do get a nice amount of gaming for your investment.

I'm trying to think of what I can say about People of the Pit without giving too much away.  Lets see, there are deformed cultists, there are some new creatures for the PCs to kill (or be killed by), there is the tentacled beast on the cover (I think the cover fails to covey the actual terror this tentacle beast is).  Oh, and a TPK is certainly possible.  I don't want to say likely, but more likely than the previous adventures in the series or in the DCC RPG book.  It will certainly weed out the men from the boys.  Or women from the girls.

There are some player handouts.  I loves me some player handouts.  I'm waiting for a DCC adventure with a players handout booklet like the old Tomb of Horrors.  There, my suggestion.  I'll take credit for it when someone runs with the idea ;)

If I have one complaint, its the art.  As far as I can tell, there are no prints available for any of it!  It's not like I'm going to print a piece of with my inkjet and hang it on my wall.  I want professional art prints damn it!  The player's handout for area 4-9 NEEDS to be a print.  The maps need to be available in prints.  Joseph, how many peasants do I have to sacrifice to the Funnel before we can get some of this art work available as prints?

Did I mention it is a fully bookmarked PDF?  Well done.

People of the Pit is a 1st Level Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG adventure.  It's a great piece to put your funnel survivors through from DCC #67 - Sailors on the Starless Sea.  Well, so long as they aren't too worried about surviving to level 2 ;)

From the blurb:

It has been years since the last virgin was sacrificed: and now the pit beast awakens once more! Every generation it stumbles forth on undulating tentacles from its resting place deep below the great ravine, its towering blubbery mass ravaging the land before returning to slumber for decades. But this time is different. The Great Beast strikes with intelligence: bands of faceless gray-robed men emerge from the tenebrous depths, herding the beast’s roaming tentacles before them. The enigmatic people of the pit live despite the passage of ages! The earth shakes each night as they herd the primordial tentacles ever further, while the villagers ask: is any man brave enough to put the sword to this menace?

Review - Never Unprepared - The Complete Game Master's Guide to Session Prep

When Martin from Gnome Stew offered to let me see a pre-release copy of Never Unprepared: The Complete Game Master's Guide to Session Prep, his timing couldn't have been better.  I had three sessions of my new Adventurer Conqueror King System game under my belt and my party was ready to leave they starting town.  My intention is to run this campaign in a sandbox style and the prep was both overwhelming in the amount of time it required and underwhelming in the return I was getting on my prep time.  Having the chance to evaluate a book on session prep while at the same time possibly improving my own methods could possibly kill two birds with one stone.  Talk about synchronicity.

So, what are my impressions of Never Unprepared?

First, Never Unprepared is far more than merely a GM's guide to session prep.  Many of the methods within are perfectly suitable for anyone looking increase their creativity, especially writers.  I guess in some sense, that is what GMs that prepare their own material are - screenwriters for actors that are going to riff off of your creations and possibly take your stories in totally new directions.

Even if you are working off of the material of others, or integrating the work of others into your own campaign, you need to know it well enough that it all works.  Just like stopping play to look up a game rule can take your players out of their immersion in the game session, so can having to reread every room description as your players encounter them.  As the author says in the book, dead airtime on the radio causes listeners to change stations.  The last thing you want is your players "changing stations" and playing Angry Birds on their phone as you try to read a room description or fill in the blanks.

How are the tools that are presented to you?  Excellent.  You probably don't need to use all of the methods presented, and you will certainly be adjusting and tweaking what is presented to conform to your style of creativity and game mastering needs, but the tools and techniques are extremely useful.

For me, the Creativity Heat Map is probably the most novel and striking part of the book that I read.  By knowing when your mind is at it's most creative, you can actually plan your brainstorming (an excellent technique to develop game ideas) for the most effective times.  This is something I'm going to be filling out for myself over the coming week.  It should lead to great insight into myself in addition to helping me harness my creative energies.

As for prep to make my game sessions run just a bit smoother, I'm going to put together a cheat sheet of sorts that will cover any combat situations that causes the group to stop and find an answer during play.  Although I am fairly skilled at making decisions via DM Fiat when needed, I'm finding that special actions or non standard uses of skills during combat (or even common spells) are causing rulebook flipping that could be avoided by a simple one line summary on a cheat sheet.

Not that there isn't a load of other stuff that I'll be stealing for my game prep, as the different templates that are mentioned and described (Session, Scene and Specialty) are going to improve my organization by orders of magnitude.  Which of course will go hand in hand with the methods used to actually think up my players' encounters and locations.

That's what makes Never Unprepared an excellent resource. You can take from it what you need now and add more techniques later.  This is certainly the book's strength, as it is very modular in this sense.  For me, I can already see which techniques will have an immediate impact on my creativity and in smoothing out our session play, techniques I can implement with minimal effort.  I'm also thinking about which bits and pieces I may add to my game prep style down the line.

Never Unprepared is a set of tools for you to use to improve your GM prep time.  Only you know which tools will work best for you and your style of prep, but rest assured, there are tools in this toolbox waiting to help.

Appendix N Adventure Toolkits (DCC RPG Modules) Hits Basic Kickstarter Goal in 24 Hours!

Brave Halfling should be proud of themselves - they hit their basic goal for the Appendix N series of Dungeon Crawl Classics adventures in 24 hours.  The next 29 days are there to reach the stretch goals, and I think there is a very good change all will be hit with the great start out of the box.

Oh, and I guess that means I'll be creating a version of Tenkar's Tavern for one of the future adventures, as my pledge is now for a funded project.  Woot!

Alright, I have some reading to do do today.

Laters :)

Session Recap and I Need to Take a "Prep" in the Sandbox

Session Prep really is turning into a four letter word, but I'll get back to that.

Last night marked the return of one of our group's original players to the group, which puts the current number of PCs at five.  It also adds a cleric to the mix, which is the first healing that they'll have that doesn't come from potions or rest.

There was a crapload of in between session stuff -  the usual mix of spell acquisition for the casters, equipment shopping for the fighter and thievish folks and gladiator games for the gladiator in the party.  Well, not FOR him.  He just spent all of his loot arranging for, putting the purses up and throwing the general party in the surrounding town area for the gladiatorial games.  A fun time was had by all.

As I've mentioned in the past, I'n running my current ACKS campaign as a sandbox style, or sandboxie, game. I'm not so sure it's the purest sandbox out there, but it works well for it's purposes so far.

One of my players hit me with a ton of inquisitive emails prior to the game session. Thankfully, one of players had some thoughts on where he felt the party should be heading to during the night's game play.  Literally minutes before the game (as I was out most of the day) I reread some adventure info the party was likely to stumble upon while making the trek.

I use a combination of adventure sources for my sandbox.  I have some megadungeons planted, some smaller ruins of my own design, and handful of story hooks and dungeons from one sheets and the like.  I've been a big fan of adventure seeds and such since my early days of DMing, when i ran a sandbox styled campaign without even knowing that was the label.

So, forewarned with a probable route and destination for the party, I pulled out my notes and refreshed myself.  The Gnomes from Christian's 000 Hex Series made an appearance, as did one of the NPCs.  I had already planned on using a One-Sheet in the area where they planned to cross a large river - I just didn't expect it to be yet.  No matter, they are doing well, especially as they have the extra body in the party now.  They've already fought and defeated a handful of ghouls, including one that was "cut" in half by a coffin lid that the party's warrior was intending to use to pin her to the side of the coffin (natural 20 with 18 strength.  ouch!)  eat, I think it's playing out well so far.

The problem is the prep.  Prepping for a sandbox isn't like prepping for the next installment in a 12 adventure chain.  It's more like having the chain's links scattered across a board and watching your players randomly assemble it.  Knowing and preparing for everything they could possibly do is an enormous, and probably futile, task.  Conversely, not being prepared enough can lead to silence at the gaming table as you try to recall, remember, create or stammer your way through the next encounter.

I'm very thankful I'm pretty good at improvising in general.  That being said, my party is definitely keeping me on my toes ;)