Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Clay that Woke: Minotaurs and...well, more minotaurs!

Well? Shouldn't you?
Hey all! Just wanted to give a heads-up for an awesome Kickstarter campaign going on right now. It's for a game called The Clay that Woke, designed by Paul Czege of My Life with Master fame, and it's all about...Minotaurs! (if you hadn't figured that out already...)

Here's the introductory blurb:
Generations ago four infant minotaurs, a lost species, were pulled from the mud of the eternal river. Over centuries they develop a cultural philosophy to help them live among men: be contemplative, do not want, do not express your emotions, for breaking Silence in such a way is an expression of need. Be courageous. Act with wisdom. Work for justice. Do not use the names of women.

We employ them for menial and dangerous work. Pulling plows. Guarding wealthy estates. And for brutal entertainments.


I was lucky enough to be part of the playtesting for this game, and it's completely unique. The mechanics are "indie" in that they're focused on helping drive whatever narrative the players want to create, but it's also focused on long-term, campaign-style play in a completely intriguing setting: Minotaurs as the working-class in a gigantic, decaying, once-great city; the surrounding jungle, filled with strange powers, a secret war, and more. Silence to be broken; boundaries trespassed; desperate battles, betrayals, pain, joy, and scores of instantly memorable NPC with goals of their own. Just enough detail to set your mind on fire and make you want to fill in the rest through play.

The art is fantastic and prolific, custom-drawn by Nate Marcel in order to project the mood and surroundings; the picture at the top of this post is only the most recent example.

There's fiction, too, and while I know that many of us developed an acute allergy to game fiction in the 90s, trust me, this stuff is good, and truly contributes to the actual play of the game.

Check it out, ask Paul questions, and I'm happy to answer what questions I can as well.



Oh, and I'm quoted in the video... :)


Sunday, June 30, 2013

Lonewolf fan? Look no farther...

I am a Kai Lord. 'Nuff said.
Project Aon has pretty much every Lonewolf-gamebook related thing you could ever want, all in excellent, bookmarked ebooks, all for free, and all with the express permission of the author himself, Joe Dever. Awesome.

Of particular excellence is the Magnamund Companion, a classic example of Gold Age gamebookery. Though, given what PA is offering, we may indeed be headed towards a Platinum Age...

Here are a few images from the Companion:

A timeline of Magnamund



Instructions for building you own Kai Monastery! And then burning it down!


Instructions for building ships! And ramming them into each other!



A cut-out view of the Monastery. You didn't know the Secret Kai Language was Italian, did you...


Awesome color maps of all parts of the continents, uniquely split by what I guess boils down to a giant, salt-water river...

What's particularly cool is Joe Dever's making all of this freely available while still working away on re-publishing the gamebooks in hardcover Collector's Editions as well. The Lonewolf world has gone through several RPG iterations, both from Mongoose. The first was a big d20 tome, The Lonewolf RPG, and the second, after the release of 4e deflated a lot of planned d20 lines from independent publishers, a return to the gamebook's original mechanics: The Lonewolf Multiplayer Gamebook. This line also has the benefit of being entirely illustrated by Rich Longmore of LotFP Carcosa fame.

This first is still easy to get relatively cheaply; the second not so much (in that I'm not willing to pay over $30 for a 72-page book). If anyone out there is interested in unloading the Multiplayer Gamebook volumes  for reasonable sale/trade, just drop me a line!

Oh, and it looks like yet another RPG version is on the way, published by Cubicle 7...

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Jack Vance Memorial Game...

Rhialto Is Dead! Long Live Rhialto!

...wherein our Magicians insult twk-men, interfere in local mating rituals, perform amazing feats of regurgitive magic, and inspire filicide, all before dinner.

As the blogosphere duly noted, master author Jack Vance died a bit more than two weeks ago. The weekend following his death, I hosted a Jack Vance Memorial Game session. Inspired by the coincidental discovery of this astounding Vancian Magic Supplement, (which includes the two perfect stories to read before playing in this particular milieu) and using my large collection of Dying Earth RPG rules and supplements as grist for the mill, I decided we`d play what those in the know refer to as a Turjan-level game using the Original D&D rules. 

All players would be Magic-Users of mid-level: Rolling a d6, 1-2: Thaumaturgist; 3-4: Magician; 5-6: Enchanter. Spells were generated using the list of Vancian spells. All were assigned two Vancian taglines (as per the DERPG) and four magical items chosen by me from various DERPG supplements and the OSRIC magic items list. Otherwise they rolled up characters 3D6 in order, HP according to rules, etc. It's worth noting that Grodram secured a STR of 18, and therefore decided to wear platemail and carry a two-handed sword...

In the end, the group of truculent mages consisted of:

  • Xamruc the Gourmet, played by Jesse
  • Pupericion the Wisemonger, played by Nick
  • Grodram the Grisly, played by Sean
  • Igrex Zed the Colorful, played by Trevor
  • Abador Rex, played by Will

Normally loathe to cooperate, they had banded together to face the threat of Zaramanth, arch-mage of Almery who, displaying perhaps fatal temerity, had decided to locate his new Manse Sabulle, in the Derna river gorge in Ascolais, running through the Great Forest Da. The outline for this potentially radiant stew of conflict can be found in the pages of the first issue of the Excellent Prismatic Spray (known by all pundits and men of style as one of the best gaming magazines ever printed...) As is usual when five erudite and obfuscatory personalities congregate, chaos ensued...

We made it almost exactly halfway through the adventure, and will be finishing up this weekend. Honestly, it ended up being a lot more fun than I`d hoped, especially with me just throwing it at my beleaguered players a few days before we played. Most of them were at most tangentially familiar with the Dying Earth, but with just a bit of guidance, they all jumped in with both feet, slinging spells and taglines right and left.

One of my suggestions, taking my cue from the Rhialto stories, was for each of their characters to consider themselves as the absolute authority on some aspect of magic. E.g., Igrex Zed ended up with the spell "The Gestation of the Ignoble Servitor." He thereby considered himself to be the last word on mephit culture, physiology, psychology, and style. And therefore began working his expertise into every conversation possible. At least until he became distracted by a nubile village maiden, which led to a forest chase and a disagreement with Thrang the ghoul-bear...

I`ve come more and more lately to see ODD as an almost transparent tool or, to paraphrase Jesse, a practical engine of pastiche, and this experience really clarified it for me. Though of course there`s a large dose of Vance in ODD already, especially in the magic, it was effortless to translate DERPG-specifics into ODD terms on the fly. Pure awesome.




Friday, June 7, 2013

DCC RPG: Why the Character Funnel's been bugging me...


I AM YOUR NIGHTMARE AND FONDEST DESIRE!

Okay, so, I've been reading the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG, and thinking about it, and probably dreaming about it, and something seemed off to me. I couldn't figure out what. Then, it hit me: The game is so literally and obviously lovingly culled from the Appendix N source literature---I mean, those spell descriptions alone are enough to bring tears of sorcerous joy to your eyes, right?
 
BUT, the WHOLE IDEA OF THE CHARACTER FUNNEL, while enjoyable from an old-schoolish develop-your-character-as-you-go perspecitve, COMPLETELY VIOLATES THE SPIRIT OF APPENDIX N. None of that source literature, NONE, starts off with the protagonists as, you know, sheepherders or whatever. They all start splat in the middle of their careers (and then jump all over the place, but that's not important here.)
 
I guess as close as I can suss it, maybe a justification would be that the character funnel, in connection to Appendix N, is, tongue-in-cheek, attempting to show just where all those protags came from. I SUPPOSE it's possible that Conan worked as a blacksmith with his father before storming the walls of Valerium. Maybe.
 
I mean, I can't imagine how playing through the character funnel can be anything but slapstick (I'm willing to be corrected), which Appendix N, even though displaying humor at times, is NEVER slapstick; it's anti-genre.
 
I wouldn't necessarily jettison it from the game, but even its declared purpose is to help get you in the mind-set of developing a serial-style character background, where it grows organically from the needs of the moment, but in our group we already do that. So.
 
At most I'd rule one run as zero-level characters (which is a stated option in the rules). Whoever survives moves on to 1st level.
 
DO I LOOK LIKE I EVER HERDED SHEEP??
 

Monday, March 25, 2013

First Flight of the Laughing Buddha, Part 1

Step right up and rub my belly!
Everyone gathered at my house last Sunday morning, and the Traveller campaign began!

Ship: The Laughing Buddha, re-purposed heavy freighter. Re-purposed for what, you ask? Only Naval Intelligence knows and, to a lesser degree, Commander Pinback...

I don't have the deck plans handy, but they'll be added in their own post.

Crew:
  • Ex- Naval Officer Commander Pinback, Ship's Owner, Captain and Pilot
  • Ex-Marine Force Cmdr. Baukin Bahr, Jr., XO and Medical Officer
  • Ex-Scout Rufus Jones, Navigator and Salvage Entrepeneur
  • Ex-Merchant Donovan Braddock, Gunner and General Roustabout
  • Ex-Barbarian(?) J'Imjohtep, Warrior, Sword-wielder, Ass-kicker, Security Chief, and Back-up Gunner
  • Ex-Battlefield Armor Repair Unit RS32H, aka "Jack", Steward and Back-up Engineer
  • Jyro McAllistair, NPC Engineer
  • (One or two other retconned NPC Engineers, TBA)
Our Cosmic Saga opened in the Ragged Edge Sector; Subsector, Mad Dog's Defeat; Planet, Subsec Capital Silver Moon, with Rufus and companions Braddock (Donovan) and J'Imjohtep having come to an agreement with Laughing Buddha crew Cmdr. Pinback and Baukin Bahr about a potentially very lucrative salvage job in the Thunderbelt Asteroid Field.

Returning to the starport after recruiting some Engineers for the newly-recommisioned ship, they noticed the freight elevator was ajar. Scans of the ship's computers and onboard surveillance showed nothing amiss, but J'Imjohtep, Braddock, and Rufus went aboard while Cmdr. Pinback called the starport security. Braddock and Rufus went to their cabins to grab firearms (the Planetary Authority forbade all weapon-bearing) while J'Imjohtep grabbed his broadsword (really more of a bastard sword) from where he had left it in the cargo bay. As he moved in to check the Engineering sections, an unfamiliar alarm began to sound, and a bullet ricoccheted off the bulkhead from the open hatchway to his right. Ducking into cover by the catwalk ladder right next to the hatchway, he narrowly avoided getting shot a second time. He swarmed up the ladder, moved silently onto the catwalk, and got the first real glimpse of his attacker, who was standing next to what looked like an open compartment in the floor, maybe 1x2 meters large. Seeing his chance, J'Imjohtep leapt down and took off his assailant's gun arm with a single blow of his sword.

Then, things got complicated...

Coming up next: Robots, Mining Companies, and Alcohol...

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Dagger: The RPG for Kids (apparently my kids...)



"Be sure they notice our cool t-shirts!"
My five year-old twins (fraternal, in case you're wondering) had their first RPG experience this last Sunday, playing the excellent Dagger RPG by Brave Halfling Publishing. There's both a free, condensed, b&w version, or a color version with a few more useful pages for all of a $1.00 (worth it.) This is a game made with young kids in mind, and AFAIC, John hit it out of the park with this one.

The game is really a stripped-down version of early D&D--stripped down meaning no stats, only one saving throw, only four character classes (knight/wizard/elf/dwarf). Well, and an optional halfling. I got the twins (Nate and Sam) thinking about their characters the night before, so on Sunday they were ready to go: Nate wanted to play a knight named...Nate. Sam wanted to play an elf named Spike. At this age, they love to write anything, and the character sheets were perfect:



Spike the Elf


Sammy actually first wanted to play a wizard, but we were using the figure stand-ups and map from the Pathfinder Beginner Box, and the only male wizard was an old guy, which wasn't doing it for him. He finally found a pretty bad-ass elf, made even bad-asser by the fact that he had a wand and could cast...MAGIC MISSLE! 











Nate found a stand-up knight with a gigantic shield shaped like a lion, and it was love at first sight.
Nate the Knight

I used descending AC because it was easier to tell them the AC of the monster they were fighting and then have them find the number they needed to roll to hit. I also let them roll two dice for HP and pick the highest one, 'cause I just can't play without at least one house rule. Or, actually, two. It wasn't completely clear to me from the rules how many times a magic-using character can cast their spells, so I limited it to once/spell/encounter. That magic wand needs to recharge, you know...

As for the Adventure, Nate the Knight was summoned to the throne room by King Kesher. He explained that their elfish ally, the Elf Queen, had had her magic bird stolen by Garg the Ogre, who wanted to eat it to gain magical powers. Nate was given the quest to rescue the bird and slay the ogre, which he promptly accepted. Accompanying him would be Spike the Elf, one of the Queen's favored heroes.

At the entrance to Garg's cavern lair, they were taunted by some goblins whom they promtply slew. Faced with the choice of an open doorway or a stairway leading upwards, they chose the stair, went up it, and then crept down a short corridor. Ahead, through an open doorway, they heard some strange scuttling sounds. Spike strode boldy ahead, and his torch revealed a large room completely covered with spider webs, especially the ceiling.

This was interesting in that they weren't sure what to do--there was no immediate threat, only a mystery. I told them they could do whatever they wanted; what did they think their characters would do? So Spike decided to touch a hanging bit of web with his torch. It flamed up and out, and something moved through the webs up above from the middle of the room over towards the door where Nate was standing. The dithered a bit more, so then the (surprise!) spider dropped a coil of webbing around Nate and began wrapping him up.

Though they could now see the spider, Spike decided to shoot an arrow at the strand of webbing and see if he could cut it in half to set Nate free. Um, awesome, so yeah, do it! Roll that twenty-sider! He rolls a 19... 

With Nate now free, they make short work of their foe, and then it was time for them to go over to their grandparents' house, so we paused the adventure. 

It was a blast. Could we have done it using ODD, or B/X, or whatever? Sure. However, Dagger had it all laid out already, all the changes I might've made, and a few good ones I probably wouldn't have. 

The other great thing about the game is it's easy reskinnability (I leave with a neologism...) As John points out in the $1 version, let the kids play whatever they want. Just use a current class as a base and tweak as needed. Play in space. Play in the time of the dinosaurs, pirates, pokemon, whatever. And of course, the rules can be used to good effect in adult groups, too. Simple, fast, flexible. Worth every dollar. :) 


Friday, March 8, 2013

The Best RPG Deal on the Internet: AS&SH, Is Now Even Better!

What do ghouls do during the daytime? Play AS&SH, of course!
Seriously, if you haven't already picked up the pdf version of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea, go get it now at RPGNow. For the rest of this week it's only...


$7.50


That, my friends, is a crazy deal. It's like buying a Cadillac for the price of a Yugo.

(graphic demonstration)





I think I've made my point.