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...


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.