Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

For those of you who are fans of WotC's 4e Gamma World, I'd like to remind you of the wonderful Christmas themed Gamma World adventure that they released last year, The Island of the Misfit Omega Tech, found here

Also, a reminder that James M Ward did "evil robot santa claus" YEARS before Futurama did, as shown below.

I have the adventure it's from at home, but I'm not there, and I can't find the name of the actual adventure it's from, but I'll put it in the comments section when I get home next week.

In the meantime, have a Merry Christmas, or at least accept the wish in the spirit in which it is offered!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Lockpicking made easy

Over on Rather Gamey the other day, Ark was asking how people thought Skyrim would influence pen and paper RPGs.  As I was sitting on my couch this morning, I had an idea - why not use the lockpicking mechanism at my home game?

This is purely conceptual at this point, I haven't had a chance to test it yet, but it seems like it could work.  It helps that I think that the lockpicking minigame is brilliant on it's own, of course.  So my thought is that I save a game in the thieves guild training room, where there is a chest with a lock of each difficulty type to be found.  Leave that game where it is, and continue on with my regular game.  When it comes time for the home game, evaluate the difficulty of the lock, and have the player who is making the attempt have at it with the lock that the GM selects.  Anyone can try and pick a lock, but non-rogues only get one try (one lockpick).  Rogues get an additional lockpick for every 5% they have in Pick Locks (thinking in 2e terms here, adjust as needed for your game system - x number of lockpicks for every x points in that skill, for example). 

Once you use up your last lockpick, you jam the lock, so sorry, better luck next time.

I have a feeling there will be many locks to pick at my next 2e game (evil laugh... EVIL LAUGH!!!!)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Dramatic Interlude: Torvalds and the Blue Grape

So I've started a 2e campaign, as detailed at Rather Gamey.  One of the things Ark used to do when I was a player in his 4e campaign was generate "color" scenes that took place between sessions.  As the GM, he had a good idea of who we thought each of our characters were, and used those scenes to make sure the rest of us understood what we were going on about.  Alot of the solid roleplaying that took place in that campaign crystalized around the depictions of our characters in those interludes.  So I've decided to take a page from his playbook, and I sent out a description of events to my victims... er, players, that takes place immediately following the events of the last game.  They had been tracking the source of the blue lights which a bunch of mind controlled people/zombies kept insisting were the last things they remembered before zoning out.  Instead of blue lights, they stumbled upon a mind flayer and his skeletal minions.  Hilarity and carnage ensued, culminating in Torvalds, the triple-amputee mage destroying a psionic skeleton by punching it with his one remaining limb.

Dramatis Personae:

Torvalds:  Needs no introduction.  Just click on the "Rather" link above.

Chartreuse: Dual Class Ranger/Hot elf chick.  Single minded, kind of violent.  Has vowed revenge for the destruction of her hometown, Honlee, by persons unknown (but she's pretty sure it was Illithids)

Banebeard: Dwarven Temple Guardian Priest: Strode out of the night, determined to use this party as the means to resolving the task his Temple Elders have assigned him - to discover the source of magical energies detected at the now-defunct town of Honlee.  Suspicious of any dwarf that does not use a giant axe or hammer.

Luke Daggerbeard: Of the Havershord Daggerbeards, natch.  Dwarven, definintely.  Fighter, technically.  A little flighty, not afraid to run from a fight.  Does not use a giant axe or hammer.

Towon Lee: International man of mystery/monk.  No-one is actually sure when he joined the party, but it seems as though he's been there all along, and he makes a delightful chai tee, so nobody's complaining.

So without further ado:

                 Shaking off the effects of the dead Illithid’s mind blast, the party struggled to its feet and began rooting through the corpse, looking for something, anything that would tie it to the tragedy at Honlee.  Sure enough, amongst the bloodsoaked scrolls and potions that lined the inside of the foul beast’s cloak, they found a piece of paper of a decidedly different type of parchment than the others.  Unrolling it, they gathered around. 
                Chartreuse gasped, “It’s… it’s a map!  Of this very area!  And look!  There is a circle around our village!  This fiend must have been responsible!”
                “Let’s not jump to conclusions,” Banebeard growled, “There’s one Mind Flayer here, with a couple o' skeletons.  Tough as them buggers be, how could just one of 'em have committed alla tha' carnage?”
                “Maybe there’s more than one of them?” Luke Daggerbeard chimed in nervously, looking over his shoulder and ready to bolt at the first sign of trouble.
                “Let’s hope so, ye milkdrinker!” Banebeard replied with a guffaw, slapping Luke on the back.  Luke didn’t appreciate the sentiment or the statement, but held his tongue.  Banebeard was pretty intense, and the last thing he wanted was for him to bring up the fact that Luke didn’t use an axe again.
                “Hey guys!  What’s going on?  I can’t see!  Let me see!”
                With a sigh, the party parted and allowed Torvalds, the triple amputee mage, to drag himself forward with his one remaining arm.
                “He’s getting pretty good at moving around with that one arm!” Luke whispered to Banebeard, who only frowned more deeply, his eyebrows gathering like a black, bushy stormcloud at the center of his face.
                Towon Lee politely looked away as Torvalds swung his legless torso around and sat up on his stumps to look at the parchment.  Disability made him uncomfortable – he couldn’t imagine life like that, depending as he did on the proper number of limbs to fight his battles.
                “Huh.  Is this a map?  It sure looks like one, doesn’t it guys?  Guys?  Hey there’s a dead Mind Flayer right here, have you guys checked it for stuff?  I bet it’s got lots of stuff!  Guys?  Well I’m going to look through it, guys!”
                Ignoring Torvalds as he flopped back to the earth to rifle through the Illithid’s pockets one more time, they returned their attention to the map.
                “Isn’t this the same language you saw on the bones of those skeletons, Banebeard?” Chartreuse inquired.
                “Lemme see that,” Banebeard snatched it and pulled it close to his face, squinting fearsomely.  “Aye, that be the same writing, by Moradin’s beard!” 
                 Sure enough, there was writing on the map, in the strange, flowing text that the party had seen inscribed on the bones of the skeletons they had vanquished.  
                “I wonder what it says?”, Chartreuse reached out with a finger and lightly traced the lines.
                Suddenly, a softly glowing blue dot appeared above the map, hovering about six inches from the page, and a hair’s breadth from Banebeard’s eye.  Dropping the map with a bellow, he grabbed his axe from his shoulder, shouting, “Foul magic!  To arms!  We be attacked!”
                Luke immediately raced for the treeline, his sword swinging wildly as he tried to look everywhere at once.  Towon Lee grasped Baenbeard’s wrist, however, and intoned, “Calm yourself, my friend.  There is no attack, merely a misplaced conjuration.  See?  A simple light spell attached to the parchment which even now drifts to the ground like petals blown from a dying flower.”
               Banebeard wasn’t sure what in the Nine Hells Towon Lee was talking about, but the way he said it was calming enough that he relaxed, and replaced the axe in its shoulder holster.
             “What is that supposed to mean?”   Bending, Chartreuse picked up the map and stared at the light, which hovered above the page enigmatically.
            “Uh, guys?  Is the dead mind flayer supposed to be floating?”
            Everyone had all but forgotten Torvalds, so when they turned, they were almost as surprised as he was to see the Mind Flayer rising from the ground.  It still appeared to be dead, its tentacles flaccid, the massive trauma from the battle still dispensing gushes of green blood.  It wasn’t quite floating either, but rather it appeared to be getting pulled up by its neck.  Its head hung down, and it looked for all the world as though it had been hung, and some invisible nooseman was pulling its corpse up from the earth.
            “W-what’s that glowing?”    Luke stammered from the treeline.
Shuffling around to his side of the corpse, they saw a blue glow pulsing just below the skin of the Illithid, right at the lifting point.  The body was now several feet off the ground, but the ascent was slowing.
           “What glowing?  What?  What’s going on?  Wait up, I’m coming over there!”
Torvalds began dragging himself towards the party, trying to simultaneously pull himself forward and look up to see what they were staring at, mouths agape.
           He was almost directly under the Mind Flayer when, with a sick rip, the dead Illithid’s neck split wide, and the corpse dropped with a shower of green blood, directly onto Torvalds.
Wailing plaintively, Torvalds attempted to push the corpse from his body and wipe the massive amounts of blood from his face, “Gah!  I’ve been attacked!  Acid!  Poison!  Zombie Mind Flayers!  Help!  I’VE ALREADY BURNED MY SPELL FOR THE DAY!!!!”
           Towon Lee couldn’t help it.  Years of practicing restraint and discipline could not contain the laughter that welled up within him, and he laughed, deeply and heartily.  It was a strange sound, not one heard very often, and the rest of the party looked at him oddly.
           Distracted as they were, no-one noticed the small, pulsing blue sphere’s light start to dim as it sank back to the earth.  Torvalds, meanwhile had finally extricated himself from the corpse and was staring, entranced by the artifact, licking his lips.
           “A BLUE grape!”, he thought  to himself.  “How DELIGHTFUL!  I MUST have it!”
           Looking surreptitiously at the party, who were still confused and distracted by Towon Lee’s first laugh since joining the party, he dragged himself over to it and held it up, admiring the way it glistened.  Surely this would be the most delicious grape he had ever tasted!
           That very same glistening, meanwhile, attracted the notice of the Chartreuse, who, taking in the situation for a half a second, suddenly realized exactly what Torvalds intended.
           “Torvalds NOOO!!!!!!!”
           Time slows down as she leaps towards him, arms outstretched.  Torvalds, mouth open wide and eyes alight in anticipation of the magnificent feast before him.  Towon Lee, now doubled over with gut shaking laughter.  Banebeard, one giant, bushy eyebrow slowly raising as he turns.  Luke Daggerbeard, moving backwards, startled and preparing to flee.
           The blue marble disappears into Torvalds’ meaty maw, and the jaw snaps shut with finality.  There is a crunch, and Torvalds’ eyes go from delight to alarm.  Blue light erupts from his mouth and engulfs the party.

           These are your heroes, and they are about to get into A LOT of trouble.

           Stay tuned for the further adventures of the Companions, as they race towards doom... er, ADVENTURE!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Gaming Theory

Last night, I picked up a copy of Sorceror, an indie game published by Adept Press in 2002 that was written by Ron Edwards, winner of the 2002 Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming.  This reminded me of how much I enjoy his articles.  I'm a member of The Forge, his forum for game development, although I don't feel as though From The Ashes has developed to the point where I'm comfortable sharing.  I also take time as often as I'm able to read through The Archives for discussions on Game Theory and other various and sundry topics related to RPGs.  A couple of my favorite articles include:

Fantasy Heartbreakers
More Fantasy Heartbreakers

And there are some selected articles Here

I still examine games (and GMs) through the lens of his GNS Theory, even though he's since abandoned it in favor of the Big Model.  GNS just works for me, especially as I GM - I can watch my players and, by figuring out which style of gaming they play, determine what it is they're looking for from my game. 

So if you've ever thought about RPGs, I mean really THOUGHT about them, take some time to get to know Mr. Edwards!

Monday, November 28, 2011

You know you've hit the big time...

I got my first referral from a spam url!, I hope you get lots of business from the huge crossover crowd that I'm sure exists between the role playing game community and those in desperate need of dental implants!

This post is for you!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Gamma World... Is Here! video edition

This octopus walks on land!!!

This jewel wasp turns a cockroach into a zombie which incubates a wasp egg

Giant Centipede vs. Snake - FIGHT!

xkcd shows us the money

This has absolutely nothing to do with roleplaying, but I have to say that I am simply flabbergasted at this.  I'm a huge fan of xkcd anyways, but this... this takes it to another level.  Do yourself a favor and click ze link

Monday, November 21, 2011

Gamma World... Is Here! cont'd

Seriously, why are we playing games??!!  Fact is stranger than fiction*!!!
*unless you count landsharks.  That's pretty weird.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Savage Worlds Presents... The Brain That Wouldn't Die!!!!!

I played Savage Worlds for the first time last night, and I have to say, it was quite enjoyable.  Having no idea what I was doing, I decided to keep it simple and design a specialized character based on a strong, simple concept.  We were playing the Superhero variant of the game, and thus was born The Brain.  The Brain began life as one Joe Smith, an average fellow who was at the wrong place at the wrong time and was struck by a bus and lapsed into a coma.  His friends gathered at his bedside in the hospital, and were all affected by whatever it was that gave them superpowers.  Joe Smith as a person was lost, as Joe Smith's brain became self aware as it's own organism.  The Brain had the powers of Flight, Mind Control, Telekenesis and Heightened Awareness.  Rising from it's bed, the Brain was disgusted to find that it was tied to a body, which it refers to as, "The Husk" and is, unfortunately, necessary to it's continued survival.  So essentially the Brain floats around, dragging the body which it looks at as an unfortunately necessary life support system.  Still wearing the hospital gown (open at the back, of course), and with IV tubes still dangling from its arms, the Brain set off with it's companions to rob a Seven Eleven, and then a Bank, killing and maiming as they went (yeah, so we didn't actually turn out as "superheroes" in the most literal sense of the word).  The Brain's forte turned out to be controlling other people, which it did with aplomb, until it encountered a pair heroes affiliated with the local chapter of this world's equivalent to the Justice League and their psychic backup.  The team of villains has retreated with several thousand dollars, or several hundred thousand dollars (we haven't counted it yet) to plan their next step towards world domination.

As far as the system goes, I really liked the inventiveness of the "exploding" dice routine, which made for some truly remarkable situations.  There didn't seem to be a sense of scaling - we were fighting schmoos that were knocked over by a stiff breeze until we were fighting gods that were impervious to... well... just about everything.  I have a feeling that was more situational that system related, though.  My only real system criticism was that using the cards for initiative seemed somewhat... gimmicky, and didn't seem to add anything to the game.

Overall a very fun night, though.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Oh 2e, how do I love thee, let me count the ways...

In addition to starting character creation for Ark's Stars Without Number game, we cracked the books and started building characters for an upcoming 2e game that I'm about to start running.  I was born into this world of Dungeons and Dragons in the time of 2e, and it will always hold a special place in my heart.  Which is unfortunate, because it's grown up to be the redheaded stepchild of the D&D community.  Not old school enough for the grognards, but too old fashioned for the Pathfinder generation.  Which is unfortunate, because it had some really great ideas.  I love non weapon proficiencies, and THAC0 just make sense to me.

Yes, as Ark reminded me (several times) the books were not laid out as well as they could have been, but that's more an impediment to getting started - once you move past that, of course the armor prices are on a different chart than their respective armor classes!

Anyway, I've got a great idea for a campaign, and I'm looking forward to running them through it.  The greatest joy of the night, though, was our resident powergamer trying to min/max his way out of fantastically average stats, finding out he had 4 hit points, and one spell that he could use once per day.  You are not a hero, you are not special.  You are a dude who picked up a sword.  Now go out into the world and make something of yourself!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


It's funny how the nature of a game can shape its goals.  In the original D&D, the purpose of the game is mainly survival for the first few levels.  You're no hero, you're just a schlub that happened to pick up a sword or a spellbook and stumble from adventure to adventure.  The mortality rate is shockingly high, so high that you wonder how desperate life must be in that world that adventuring is considered a viable career.  You start out with essentially no difference between your player and your character, and over time, you build the skills you need in order to become the person you want to be.  Over time, this evolved, to the point where in 4e, you begin the game as about the equivalent of a fourth or fifth level version of your 1e character, and build to godlike status as you go.  Correspondingly, the goalposts shift from mere survival to legendary quests.  It's sort of like how bank robberies, once the staple of comic books, have been replaced by near daily threats to the universe - that sort of thing just doesn't cut it for today's audience.  Going to the caves on the outskirts of town to find a lost child and bring them back isn't fit for a 1st level 4e character, unless there are firebreathing kobolds that have kidnapped them.

Not trying to turn this into an edition war post, just that as the game evolved, so did our expectations for what a game of D&D means.  4e being more combat heavy that previous editions, focuses all of it's powers on building the better kobold-killer, whereas I remember spells in 2e that were ludicrously useless, but added to the flavor.  I think that the NonWeapon Proficiencies were some of the greatest things ever introduced to the game, because it forced the characters to think about what their characters did when they weren't killing things.  I hope that when 5e comes around, they put some thought into that, and, now that they have devised an incredibly well balanced, finely tuned combat system, can turn to the role playing aspects of the game.

Move the expectations for a game of D&D beyond character advancement, bring them into the realm of character development!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Old School

Much is made of the whole "Old School Renaissance", and I am greatful for its existence.  I think that there is value in looking back on what came before, and not forgetting where you come from, so to speak.  I think it's important to look at things as they are, though. 

Near as I can tell, the "Old School" is representative more of a mindset than a system in particular, which makes the abundance of retroclones bewildering, to say the least.  Rules-light is attractive, but let's face it - some of the stuff that our forefathers abandoned was jettisoned for a reason - it didn't work the first time around. 

I play a Labyrinth Lord campaign, and I love it.  I enjoy the back to basics approach that forces me to rely on my wits rather than powers.  But there are things in it that just stick in my craw - the Charisma modifier doesn't change whether you've got a 13 or an 18, for instance.  The insane area of effect for the Entagle spell (80 ft in diameter!).  Using a chart to determine hits instead of THAC0.  That sort of stuff.

Yes, there were great things about the original games, and lord knows we wouldn't be here without them.  I'm all for us keeping that flame alive, and not marching blindly into the future of collectible cards and paid downloadable content.  But let's not forget why we left some of that stuff behind to begin with, huh?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Everything Old... er, Classic, is New Again!

I just found out over the weekend that White Wolf is dusting off it's Old World of Darkness, slapping a fresh coat of paint on it and giving the optimistically titled, "Classic World of Darkness", a fresh look just in time for the system's 20th anniversary.

I'm pretty happy about that, all things considered.  Vampire and Wraith interested me more as settings than games, but Mage and Werewolf were fantastic games, and overall the Old... er, Classic World of Darkness was a great example of product and line development, as well as a cautionary tale about reaches and grasps.  The system's greatest strength was it's depth of background and the interconnectedness of the whole thing, with the backstories of the various factions weaving in and out of the others'. 

Unfortunately, they couldn't keep their stories straight.  One book would contradict another, which would then be invalidated by a third.  Which is fine, when you're dealing with deep conspiracies and the like, but the end of it all really got to me.  After years of mapping out every single detail of the World of Darkness, White Wolf put out it's Time of Judgement series, which amounted to them abdicating responsibility for their creation and saying, "how this story ends, the story we've been telling for the last several years at no small cost to you the consumer, yes the ending is up to you, because really, this is YOUR story."

Maybe it was my fault, for having unrealistic expectations for it all - I was suckered by their frankly masterful mixture of mechanics and narrative, and started treating it more like a work of fiction than a game.  I wasn't reading Blood Treachery to find out the stats on the Vampiric Mages, I wanted to know what happened in the war between the Tremere and the Order of Hermes!

Anyways, I'm looking forward to some new stuff from them, and was very interested to see that they will be offering these new books on a print on demand basis from DriveThru RPG.  Interesting times, to say the least

Monday, October 17, 2011

FtA: Preliminary list of human mutations

Originally I was going to make the mutations in From the Ashes be primarily mental, I think I had a vague notion of there being psychic energy leaking from the brains of the PCs, and using that as an explanation for how their actions would have a direct impact on the world.  I still may go that route, but I don't think I'm going to limit the mutations to mental only, but rather use a mixture, in order to NOT BE FAITHFUL TO GAMMA WORLD  IN ANY WAY SHAPE OR FORM.

This is the preliminary list of mutations for humans that I've come up with, more to be added soon, and then it's on to the challenging stuff - plant mutations.

Extruding skeleton
Suction cups
Enhanced Attribute
Perfect Balance
Enhanced Sense
Hear Radio Waves
Sound Imitation
Poison Immunity
Third Eyelid
Spray Musk
Photographic Memory
Empathic Control
Mental Shield
Lie Detector
Energy Absorption
Energy Bolt
Energy Detection
Energy Shield
Analyze Mutations
Danger Sense
Density Increase
Matter Transmutation
Matter Warp
Pain Tolerance
Mental Blast

Sunday, October 16, 2011