reverancepavane: (Default)

[This is mainly to get my idea on record so someone might find it useful.]

I like the Smallville RPG, even though the source material makes me feel less than enthused about doing so (I hold that it is actually a game that transcended it's source material). So I've been mulling over alternative ideas for play, which is difficult, since it really is a nicely integrated game.

For example, the main attributes in the game aren't just characteristics, they are Values (Duty, Glory, Justice, Love, Power, and Truth) and the character can actually play against them by Challenging them.* So in the normal course of play they help you, but when you cross them they have a tendency to bite back.

So simply replacing them with a non-reactive characteristic doesn't seem right. Now with the latest incarnation of Glorantha a character's fundamental runic nature has a greatly increased importance. So it might well be possible to replace these six values with the five elemental runes (Darkness, Water, Earth, Fire, and Air). The nice touch is that elemental affinities run throughout Glorantha when you apply the condition runes. Taking Death for example, which often symbolises violence, you get the traditional various weapon combinations. So someone wielding a spear would use Fire; a sword, Air; a mace, Darkness; an axe, Earth; and a soft/entangling weapon, Water. You can carry out a a systemic replacement of skills with the other condition runes, such as movement (Fire = Ride; Air = Jump; Water = Swim; Darkness = Sneak; Earth = Endure [Hiking]). It also leads to innovative applications such as using Jump to "jump out of the way of the blow" instead of "dodge," and Endure to "block the blow with my shield."

One nice benefit of doing this is that skills now naturally become advantaged and disadvantaged against one another according to the cycle of elemental advantage. Thus Air always has an advantage against Water, but acts at a disadvantage against Earth, so someone with an axe would probably beat someone with a sword who will probably cut a soft-weapon weapon to bits.

That leaves the mammoth in the room with respect to 3rd Age Glorantha. What to do with the Moon rune of the Lunars? Now this is simple, since both Air and Moon are signs of the Middle Air [the realms between Earth and the Sky (Fire)] and each excludes the other. So Moon can easily replace Air (with Death leading to wielding a scimitar and Movement leading to Balance, etc).

But can we carry it further? What if we represent Chaos as a wildcard? And allow it to actually taint someone. What if we allow the player to substitute one of his elemental traits with Chaos. As a wildcard, it can be used in place of any of the elemental affinities because it is not part of Glorantha and therefore not bound by any of it's rules. But it's Chaos, so using it always has unintentional consequences. And people can hide their Chaos taint by simply not using it. Until they need it, at which point is waiting there for them.

Now I have to think of how one can Challenge your fundamental elemental nature, and what the results might be.

[And I still claim they swapped Clark Kent's Power and Truth Values – Truth should be a d4 since it is always getting him in trouble, whilst Power should be a d6 because it is unimportant to him (he is, after all, Superman, and until he loses his power it doesn't really matter to him. But since Superman stands for "Truth, Justice, and the American Way" they probably couldn't make Clark Kent the lying idiot he is in the show. And yes, the game convinced me to borrow the complete series and watch them. And it's a prime example of the failure of the American method of TV writing by committee – any character development in one episode never appeared in the next, leading them to appear even more petulant than the normal instance of teenagers.]

reverancepavane: (Default)

Some time ago I started writing yet another set of D&D rules – for the last three or four campaigns I've had I've used custom sets of rules – as it cuts down on the rules arguments and allows me to create innovative systems to drive play in the directions I want. [Although I admit the last set died stillborn when I got my copy of Blue Rose and discovered that Green Ronin and I had been thinking along the same lines with both the True 20 system and the ideas of feats and levels. It's not the first time it's happened, either. I was disappointed with Earthdawn for limiting itself to commercially available dice. Steam engine time!]

Now I wanted a set of Old School Rules because I wanted to go back and visit the old idea of the megadungeon, because, frankly, I'd grown nostalgic. And I wasn't ready to recreate a campaign since the idea was haunted by the ghost of my players (the last had died a year previously). So I wrote a nice simple set of rules which I liked and tuned them. But meanwhile The Crater seems to have frown into an extended sandbox campaign. Which is not surprising. I like world development and tend to write reams of background information my players will never get to see – they don't need to and it's basically for me. [I'm not really complaining about this, since the advent of the DCC RPG makes me want to use that for some good old-fashioned dungeon crawls. I really do like this game.]

Anyway, one of the things I was playing with was actually defining level as meaning something in the game context, so that places and things all had a level that could be compared directly to player level, so that single "level table" could be used to create most things of importance in a direct sandbox style, (although it is less a case of rolling a distinct level but randomly modifying the level one would expect to meet with an exponentially skewed dice roll). [Note that the system is orientated towards a lot more higher level play than is common in most D&D games, so that I envisage most players will tend to be operating in the 5th to 11th level sweet spot. In fact 1st to 3rd level characters are considered ordinary people (what would be "0 level characters" or "normal men" in most systems).]

Anyway, beneath the cut are my notes for Religious Assets to give you an idea of what I'm looking at with these tables. [When finalised they probably be released for free under a creative commons licence.]

Religious Assets )

reverancepavane: (Skraling)

Thinking seriously (again) about doing an Old School campaign, albeit one that has been heavily modified. One of the things I'm thinking of doing is eliminating the Strength bonus to weapon damage. [pause for effect] Well, not really. What I'm thinking of doing is integrating the strength bonus in with the weapon choices available to characters.

Essentially, the damage that a character causes in combat is based primarily on their class. Fighters do d10 damage, clerics do d8 damage, thieves do d6 damage, and magic users do d4 damage. If they wield a weapon in two hands, then they get a damage boost of one step, so a normal fighter wielding a greatsword will do d12 damage and a normal magic user using a staff will do d6.

The damage bonus from strength is applied to this value. Thus a magic user with a +2 damage bonus wielding a 1H would do d8 damage, and a cleric with a -1 damage bonus would also do 1d6 with a 1H weapon.

So not much of a change from normal, really. However the difference is that this damage is actually what determines the weapons that the character can wield. Thus the aforementioned magic user would be able to wield a longsword (d8) in one hand. The cleric on the other hand would only be able to wield a club (d6) damage.

This is because strength allows you to wield larger and heavier weapons more easily. If the weapon does not suit your strength and reach, you will be very ineffective in wielding it. Conversely a weapon that is inadequate to your strength and reach means that you won't be able to gain the full effect from using it.

Does this mean that fighters with a high strength bonus wield supermassive two-handed weapons in one hand? Well no. It just means that the weapon they do wield can be used better. This system innately assumes that fighters wield the best weapons in the game. Thus the ultimate 1H weapon for a human-sized character is in fact the Bastard Sword (d10). Increasing the damage bonus simply means that the character can wield it more effectively when battering you into submission.

Classes will also gain damage bonuses as they increase in level. I'm unsure at the moment whether these should be applied in the same manner as the strength damage bonus (affecting the weapons that may be wielded), or act as a permanent bonus (so a dagger wielder with this kind of damage bonus does d6 because they know where to attack). What I may do is allow either approach, so a character can learn to wield a larger weapon or use a smaller weapon more effectively.

For reference the damage caused by swords are Greatswords (d12), Bastard Swords (d10), Longswords or Broadswords (d8), Shortswords or Smallswords (d6), Daggers (d4) and Knives (d2). Other weapons follow a similar scale, although they may lose a step for a special ability (frex a Spear, which would normally do d8 damage, actually does d6 damage but can attack at reach [and more importantly keep an opponent at reach]). Similarly creature size (and thus weapon size) will alter weapon damage accordingly, so a shortsword (d6) for a Fire Giant (+3 Size) would be a Greatsword (d12) for a normal human (albeit a clumsy one because the furniture would all be wrong - but capable of being adapted by a skilled weaponsmith).

reverancepavane: (Default)

Some really nice RPG rules are on sale at DriveThruRPG at the moment, so if you wanted to pick up a cheap PDF of them you might want to visit there "Try a New Game for a New Year sale," where the following are $12 a piece:

  • Arcanis (the one I don't have)
  • Artesia (nice game system and world explanation based on the comics of the same name; love the world and it's in depth history)
  • Ashen Stars (Robin Law's Gumshoe game of the future where you play bounty hunters)
  • Blue Rose (the game that started off True20 and stopped me developing my own D&D variant; less high fantasy and more adventure/romance)
  • Buffy RPG (enough said)
  • Burning Empires (based on the Burning Wheel system and set in the Iron Stars comics universe it has an interesting character development system in an interesting feudal Sf universe; although I want to play a game on En Garde using this as a base rather than use it as is)
  • Cthonian Stars (the first part in a Cthulhu comes back near future SF trilogy; much less cyberpunky than Cthulhutech and closer to it's Eclipse Phase forebear)
  • Conspiracy X (X-Files before there was the TV show)
  • Dark Ages Vampires (one of the last incarnations of the Vampire RPG before it all changed)
  • Fantasy Craft (yet another 3e clone; not too bad, has nice pictures along the page tops and bottoms, which, given that that is what I most remember of it may tell you something about how memorable it is in the crowd of like product)
  • Icons (a really simple superhero game designed to get back to the basics of 4 colour comics with lots of Old School random generation)
  • Legends of the Five Rings (the latest and highly polished edition of the excellent game based on the CCG set in a pseudo-Japanese world; the 4th ed looks good so far)
  • Legends of Anglerre (the FATE system, as interpreted by the creators of Starblazer Adventures, adapted to the world of 1970s British Sword & Sorcery comics)
  • Macabre Tales (the other one I don't have)
  • Mouse Guard (a truly excellent and highly recommended game based on the excellent Mouse Guard comics; not only useful for playing Meeses with swords, the basic system has been adapted for a variety of other genres including cyberpunk and fantasy adventuring, and I suspect was a primary inspiration for Apocalypse World and the other story games that spun of that; and apparently it's great for playing with your kids if you want to carry on the gaming tradition)
  • Mutant City Blues (Robin Laws Gumshoe-based police investigation set in a world where limited superpowers exist)
  • Mutants & Masterminds Heroes Book (the latest edition has markedly changes from the first edition clone of 3e D&D applied to superheroes and become it's own game system in it's own right, but you can still see it's antecedents; also the same system as the latest official DC superheroes game)
  • Outbreak Undead (actually this has been sitting on my "get a round tuit" pile for some time)
  • Requiem For Rome (Vampire, after it changed, in Imperial Rome; I can't help feeling that given Roman mores, vampires would be extremely detested for what they did with their mouths; although Divia was always my favourite vampire in Forever Knight)
  • Spycraft (a D&D 3e based espionage game, although the designers had the good sense to role it back to the unambiguous morality of the cold war years of the 60s that made Bond famous)
  • Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies (pirates and adventure in flying ships; based on the PDQ system; still quite a favourite, although I'll have to see when the new edition of Dead Inside is released)
  • The Laundry RPG (excellent BRP-based game based on The Laundry series by Charles Stross where intrepid geeks of the government battle both K-Thuloid incursions from beyond this universe riding the mathematics into ours and modern matrix management in the British public service)
  • The Savage Worlds of Solomon Kane (applying the Savage Worlds system to the world of the Solomon Kane books)
  • Traveller (the Mongoose, and sixth, edition of the first popular SF RPG, it is subtly different and yet still based on the fact you start adventuring once you retire)
  • Werewolf the Wild West (Cowboys vs Aliens Ninja Zombies Vampires Werewolves, except that the werewolves are supposed to win)
  • Wild Talents (the powerful and versatile One Roll Engine applied to Cold War superheroics; this is really a powerful engine, although I'd actually recommend the many variant campaigns available, especially Progenitor, over the default, which is mainly suggestions of how to run a superhero campaign rather than a campaign itself)
  • Witch Hunter (witch hunting in colonial America; it may be the period of history and location or the topic but it never really appealed personally).

All in all, some excellent games offer, many of which I thought highly enough of to get physical copies of. Now if only I had waited...

reverancepavane: (Skraling)

Here's a little something that came to me recently. I don't know how much use it will be to anyone else, as it relies on stuff I haven't published concerning my home brew of Ironclaw for my Dragon Isles campaign. [A pseudo-Glorantha, since my original Runequest campaign started seriously diverging from the original back in 1978 (so much so at a Gloranthacon I had actually forgotten that iron was considered extremely valuable), and so I made the break official a few years back, especially in light with the increasing fanaticism of the Glorantha lists.] And given copyright and trademark problems with both will probably never get published.

Anyway here is The Way of Right Action. Something that probably would work for a race that would never get played (but the fact that there exists a mechanism to do so means that the game physics of the universe are functioning well).

The Way of Right Action — The Dragonewt Cult of the Dragon Isles )

reverancepavane: (ale)

I'm thinking that for my next fantasy campaign, which will probably use modified BRP rules (all that's left is the hardest part - hacking a suitable magic system), of introducing Birth Caste. Not sure whether it will be random or whether I'll allow the players to choose or some combination of the two). What do people think?

Anyway, caste will be determined before characteristics are rolled. Normal characteristics are rolled by taking 3d6 of a 4d6 roll (it doesn't have to be the best three if players want), but the characteristic that is associated with the character's birth caste uses all 4d6 of the roll.

The castes are (in rough order of social standing):

  1. Noble (CHA): This is the ruling caste - those who have a native right to rule. It does not mean that they get to rule, merely that their childhood has exposed them to the art of rulership, and given them an air of authority and command. Naturally, there are relatively few members of this caste.

  2. Warrior (STR): The warrior or military caste are those who were born to fight and who have a strong martial heritage. Not all soldiers are warrior caste (in fact comparitively few of them are), but those of the warrior caste who take up arms are naturally expected to excel at them. The Hindu kshatriya caste is the prime example of this caste.

  3. Priest (INT): The priest or scholar caste is a caste of learning and education. I'm thinking of a world where the temples (of the core civilisation of the campaign) are primarily involved in many matters of learning and teaching rather than devotion to some supernatural entity. Although this does not preclude their learning the art of magic). Like my old campaign, the gods will probably be unreachable and unknowable - if they do exist in fact. And this hopefully will breed many different philosophies, some orthodox, some heterodox, and some outright heresy. [And yes, I do want priest-engineers and priest-scientists.] The Hindu example of this would be the brahmin (and yes, I have intentionally placed them beneath the kshatriya, despite the fact that they teach they are higher - I see arguments developing as to which of these two is the higher caste).

  4. Artisan (DEX): The artisan caste are those involved in the crafting and manufacture of goods. There is a strong aesthetic ideal that runs through this caste (and therefore through all artisans), that what they produce should be functional works of art. The crude manufacturies and factories are for the peasants who cannot afford better. That includes the munitions-quality armaments thay are equipped with. Many of the magic swords and armour of That Other Game™ are actually the products of artisan swordsmiths and armourers. Next to the nobles and sorcerors, this is probably the smallest and most exclusive caste. They are the Hindu vaishya.

  5. Peasant (CON): The vast majority of people are members of the peasant caste. Farmers, labourers, and merchants, all generally belong to this caste. In a substantially agrarian society farmers actually are probably the highest members of this caste, because they produce the food people need to survive. Merchants, while they may end up quite rich and are vitally important to the proper functioning of society, are generally viewed with disdain socially because they create nothing and simply gain their wealth by selling the produce of others. As in our world, the rising power of this middle class will upset society. These are the Hindu sudra.

  6. Sorceror (POW): While not recognised as a proper caste, this is an option that my be taken by player-characters. It represents an individual who has sorcery in their bloodline. Whilst priests may eventually learn sorcery, it comes to these individuals naturally, often before they learn the discipline to use it responsibly (in fact a priest must pass many examinations before they can begin learning the magical arts as it is considered very dangerous). Sorcerors are generally the villains in folk tales, putting princesses to sleep and getting poisonous vipers to bite small children, only to be defeated by the famous warrior hero (and her faithful wise-cracking male sidekick). And there is an element of truth to these tales. Naturally this predisposes the general populace against them, although there are a number of sorceror communities that simple pretend to be the other, except on certain nights, when they enact powerful rituals.

Now I mention the Hindu equivalencies because that is probably the first thing people think of when people think of caste. However one thing I want to avoid is the Hindu idea of purity and that character's membership of caste is a result of the character's karma. In actual fact I'd like to encourage the concept of caste mobility. I'd rather have people comment in amazement at the ability of a peasant to become a ruler, than have them consider it a travesty and society being broken as a result. As such I emphasise we are talking about birth caste here. It's simply a measure of where the character grew up. And whether their father insisted that they carry bags of sand up and down the hill whilst they were growing up. That sort of thing.

The other possible problem, is the inherent social status of each caste. No one can doubt that the noble caste has a higher rank than the peasant caste in society. However all the player-characters will have a single Status that applies to the entire campaign, not their caste. This means that a noble player-character will probably have an extremely minor rank in their caste (and correspondingly few opportunities available to them due to their caste), whilst a peasant player-character will have quite a high rank (and correspondingly greater opportunities available to them due to caste).

In addition to the bonus to a specific characteristic roll (which on average is just a +1), each birth caste will probably have slightly different background starting skills and opportunities for apprenticeship.

Any thoughts?

reverancepavane: (Dr Horrible)

Dinosaurs ... in Spaaace! is now publicaly available as a PDF. [I would have grabbed a physical copy from the Kickstarter but I'm cutting down on the physical RPGs I'm getting which I will never play. Especially since freight tends to double the price.] This is the expansion/update/commercial version of Greg Stolze's in Spaaace! free (will one-time ransom) RPG with a cover featuring the obligatory T-Rex being blown out of an airlock, and a classic 1950's Space Patrol background (including their taking an oath to never intentionally destroy the universe.*. Uses the same Token effect system were players (and GM) wager tokens for how likely they want a situation to occur. One token can indicate "after I insult her she throws her drink at me," whilst five can mean that "One in a bazillion - 'It turns out the general is my long-lost mother's alternate universe opposite-sex duplicate, come to rescue me because she never recovered from the death of my alternate universe same-sex duplicate.'!" Haven't had time yet to see if they still include the Fraternal Order of Evil Space Lawyers and Georgle (the AI search engine that is really embarrassingly good at finding niche pornography) in addition to the added Dinosaurs, Laika the Super Dog, Grays, and other detrious that's been added to make it a much more serious game. I shall probably have to cut it to bits with bris to stop the insane layering of the PDF that makes each page turn so irritatingly slow.

Hocus Pocus is a free Fiasco play set for the Dresdenverse. As such it's for portraying characters with powerful ambitions and poor impulse control ... which could never ever be any player in a normal DFRPG game ... or so Fred thinks. I now have a surprisingly useful DFRPG scenario generator. Well, maybe not.

Airship Pirates or to use the full title, Abney Park's Airship Pirates is the RPG of the post-apocalyptic time-travelling Steampunk universe of Abney Park's songs, featuring the crew of the HMS Ophelia. Which is interesting since I was actually listening to Escape The Clouds whilst perusing this 300 page tome and it fitted quite well. Although I was amused that characters can have Autograph Hunter (a fan that shows up at inopportune moments) as a complication. Probably needs a deeper in depth review to do it justice.

Also picked up Ben Lehman's Clover on a pay what you want (I paid double because it's one of Ben's games), and the basic set of Dungeon World (a fantasy Apocalypse World hack). And people wonder why my RPG collection is as large as it is (over 10,000 items in the database so far).

And Google+ discussion has given me some ideas for a possible Smallville hack that might do what I want. Still undecided whether I want The Crater to be realistic (BRP variant) or traditional (D&D variant). Although I am tempted to want to do a superhero again. Hmmm. Isn't City of Heroes Freemium now?

* In a pure coincidence this is almost exactly the same wording as my radiation licence. If you substitute "irradiate humans" for "destroy the universe." The inclusion of the word "intentionally" has always amused me, especially since "accidentally" irradiating people results in reams and reams of paperwork, even if the exposure was not actually measurable (such as someone entering a restricted area where there was no exposed radiation sources but there could have been). Somehow I doubt that "accidentally" setting off that neutron bomb wouldn't allow me to use my officially issued licence to escape the consequences....

reverancepavane: (Skraling)

I don't know what deep-seated need I have nowadays to run games in the universe of one system using a totally different system, but it does seem to be increasing. I mean, currently I'm running a game is pesudo-Glorantha using Ironclaw (V1), and now I'm thinking of running the Dresdenverse using Smallville. Someone stop me!

Meanwhile I've ressurected my old 3rd ed D&D modification (the one without skills and with only 5* character classes), and gone to work on the new magic system, which seems to work quite well and is relatively compatible with the standard wizard template. Which makes this about the ninth magic system I've created for a D&D game. But this one seems to work, possibly a bit too well. I think I'm going to have to seriously boost the abilities of the non-sorcerors, perhaps trading in magical potential for permanent abilities.

[* Or 3 if you want to be more precise. There are warriors (those that specialise in combat), sorcerors (those who use magic), and adventurers (those who specialise in neither, but in practice specialise in skill-like abilities. The other two classes are really intermediate abilities, so the "classes" go in a spectrum of Martial, Military, Mundane, Mystical, and Magical.]

reverancepavane: (tarrant)

In many skill-based systems you get collections of skills that perform the same basic function, but in different ways. For example, many skill-based games have different skills for Bribery, Negotiation, Leadership, Gossip, Fast Talk et al, when what most of these skills is trying to do is the same thing - influence another person. So why not have a single Influence skill with a preferred mode.

Now, in the current incarnation of Glorantha, everyone has a single elemental rune which represents their affinity to the five elements (Fire, Darkness, Earth, Air, Water). So why not extend this to skills, so each skill is associated with a different elemental rune. So Influence (Air) is Oratory, whilst Influence (Fire) is Command, Influence (Water) is Negotiate, Influence (Earth) is Bargain, and Influence (Darkness) is either Gossip or Fast Talk.

The nice advantage of this is that you can extend the qualities of the element to the skill. And since each element trumps the element that follows it in the list (so Fire defeats Darkness, Darkness defeats Earth, Earth defeats Air, Air defeats Water, and Water defeats Fire), using a certain mode of Influence will be more of less effective according to the audience. So for example, using Influence (Air) [Oratory] would be relatively ineffective against someone with an Earth orientation, whereas Influence (Earth) [Bargain] would be advantageous. I already do this for overt Rune magic. For example the damaging effect of most Air magic tends to be lightning, which, as you can imagine, is quite effective when used against things immersed in a pool of water.

However people would be more likely to respond to a mode that is similar to their preferred elemental mode. So perhaps some sort of distribution similar to the Ka distribution in Nephilim might be appropriate. So a player gets their full ability against someone with a similar elemental affinity, and reduced ability in the other modes. They still only have the one skill, it's just it's application changes.

Now the interesting thing is that you can also associate skills such as Influence with the various Condition Runes as well as the Elemental Runes. For example, you might have different modes of the Movement Rune, so Move (Darkness) is Sneak, Move (Air) is Athletics (or Jump or even Fly), Move (Water) is Swimming, and so on. Similarly the Death Rune presents us with Melee (Fire) is Spear, Melee (Air) is Sword, Melee (Earth) is Axe and so on, as well as Missile (Fire) being Bow, Missile (Air) being Javelin (or Sling), and so on. So it might be possible to reduce the entire skill set for Runequest (or in my case Runeclaw) to the Condition Runes, as modified by the Elemental Runes.

Although I think I do like the separate skills, and perhaps the cost of learning a skill would be affected by it's elemental affinity. The bonus from the Cult Trait, Rune Magic, and general Cult Magic is always directed to the appropriate skill, so Orlanthi magic only augments Oratory (usually as "Boast").

And of course, there are the exceptions that make the rules. For example we have odd runes like the Moon Rune, so Influence (Moon) might be Beguile, Movement (Moon) might be Balance (or Dance), and Melee (Moon) is the Scimitar. Whilst some consider it to be an elemental rune (and it often acts as such), it is outside the cycle of elements, so it won't get the advantages and disadvantages that the other elemental runes get. Instead it will be tied to the cyclical nature of the Red Moon.

Some interesting thoughts here to explore. Are spears more effective than clubs? Are axes more effective than swords? And what about those deities (such as Orlanth), who stole the secrets of the other elemental deities for their followers.

reverancepavane: (Skraling)

Whilst once again caught in the dilemma of having far too many excellent game systems to make a decision as to what I want to use to run The Crater (an old school style megadungeon partially inspired by Jay Lake's Wall series. Current front runners are my heavily modified D&D [which actually comes closest to True 20 with either 3 or 5 classes, depending upon how you count these things], modified Runequest/BRP/Swordbearer,** and possibly Savage Worlds (although I suspoect this is simply because I've never run it and want to see how it works). Although things like BESM and The Fantasy Trip keep popping up (and there is always Ironclaw**), and now that the second set of Dragon Age is out, this is always a strong possibility. It needs to be something quick to create a character where the actual character is brought to the table by the player, as plot immunity is definitely a no go. If you poke something bigger than you are don't be surprised if you get eaten with no remorse on my part. After all, there is always the next character.]

Anyway here is a look at the possible characteristics I might use if I did use my version of "D&D."

Old School characteristics )

[** Although my actual pseudo-Glorantha game uses Ironclaw, which is a bit of a disincentive to use it again, even if I do like the first edition rules.]

reverancepavane: (Thorn Dice)
I think that I may start tossing semi-random RPG ideas out into the cloud in an attempt to preserve them and possibly even someone might find them useful.

Alternate Dice Rolling in Basic Role-Playing )

reverancepavane: (Default)

Operation Fallen Reich [RPG]: This is mainly a note to myself to remember to grab a copy of the actual game because I keep forgetting to, but I thought other people might be interested in it as well. Operation Fallen Reich [link] is a Swedish RPG, written in English for the international market (which is good because my Swedish is non existent, as witnessed by my attempts to read the old Aventspeil editions of Kult), about the secret occult missions and countermissions performed by both sides during WWII. Very nicely laid out and produced, and the idea of a character being able to be generated as a boardgame is interesting. But the true winner is the scenario generator, which also comes as an iPhone app. Give it a try.

Meanwhile Cakebread & Walton have released a preview of Airship Pirates, the Abney Park RPG and some nice wallpapers. Hyenodons!

reverancepavane: (tarrant)

More years ago than I care to remember I wrote an AD&D module for a tournament. It was a fairly standard conceit, in that it opened with the Bad Guys™ raiding the palace of a city and kidnapping the princess from her tower. The players, being the first responders on the scene, arrive on the tail end of this event, just in time to witness the bad guys make their getaway. After dealing with the rearguard, they have the option to pursue immediately themselves (something the gamemaster should encourage), or organise a proper rescue party. [If they did the later they'd automatically "lose" the tournament btw, as they could never catch up to the kidnappers, but they could still have fun as the module bifurcated heavily at that point. (They were warned).]

The fun bit was the freedom of choice offered to the players, because we allowed them to build their own characters (using the rules we provided) and take whatever equipment they wanted. Often the players got to run the same characters in two completely different dungeons (I'm not sure if this was the case with this one as I wasn't present at the Con where it ran). This could end up with, say, a party deciding that 4 druids (plus 2 other classes) was the way to go and ending up in a situation where most of the druids special abilities don't really come into play.

What I also enjoyed about this module is that it was set on the dying Mars (and where, in pulp SF conceit, Earth is inhabited by Stone Age primitives and Venus by dinosaurs). Fighters and thieves could translate almost untouched. The spellcasters used the remnants of the lost technology to duplicate the powers of spells. Magic users became "Scientists" who had a rote understanding of how such arcane devices worked and could create their own if they found the right parts. Clerics became the "Engineers" who through their devotions and under the command of their God(s) ran the cities aging support infrastructure (there were many cities which had been abandoned because the gods had withdrawn their favour), and could commune with the City God (or gods) in their Temples. And because you can get away with a lot more in a tournament than you can in a campaign, spells were single-use devices. So instead of having memorized the spells, it represented the devices that the spell-casting character was carrying at the time of the raid (and whose secret of operation was jealously guarded secrets). It lead to the interesting idea that players could regain unused "spells" from the body of their spell-casting opponents (after they had disarmed the requisite booby-traps that were a standard amongst Scientists who jealously protected their secrets). And yes, spellbooks were coded design schematics for devices. It also explained why the cleric with the party was most probably from the Order of Medik from within the city cult/temple.

Similarly the basis of the various demi-human races changed (they were all engineered off-shoots of the

Anyway, I wrote the module on this basis, beginning with a skimmer chase across the desert in pursuit of the kidnappers, with encounters along the way, and a final confrontation with the kidnappers. [Or if they waited and formed a proper posse, they got to have fun stomping around the desert with troops, lots of spell support, and eventually realise that the kidnappers had made their getaway. Fortunately everybody apparently took the rather pointed hints that they should immediately grab the remaining raider's skimmer (after having killed the rearguard), and pursue. But I don't like forcing people, so I gave them the choice.]

But I wrote a lot more background than was really needed for a tournament module. Especially one built on the pun that "magic" swords and armour were manufactured from various grades of a material called plas (plas wun, plas doo, plas ree, plas orr, plas phi), and the idea that anyone could use a standard magic wand (a pistol) or a magic staff (a rifle) [although there was always a risk with such valuable relics that something might go wrong, and recharging or fixing one was a dedicated job for a Scientist, often needing resources that were zealously guarded by the temples (Scientists had inherited the blame for the world dying and were generally looked on in suspicion by most, especially the Engineers)]. Because I found the word quite attractive as somewhere to adventure. There is always something intriguing about breakfasting in the ruins.

It's surprising how many people take an unreasoning dislike to roleplaying in a science fantasy D&D game (in general, I was never told if people freaked in the tournament, and the feedback I did get was that people thought it was fun). But it's a fairly standard trope from the very beginning of the hobby. Dave Arneson's Blackmoor campaign featured more than it's share of ancient technological artefacts (such as The Blue Rider's impressive strength-enhancing magical armour and flaming sword), and even Empire of the Petal Throne's Tekumel was originally a struggling colony that had been cut off by some cosmic catastrophe from it's space-faring roots. Not to mention it was also a standard trope of the fantasy of the time. [Many people credit Tolkein as being the inspiration for D&D, but whilst it had a profound impact on the wargames that D&D grew out of, I always found that D&D owed a lot to the pulp fiction of the time as well.]

Why do I mention this. Well I've come to the decision that I'm not going to reboot my old D&D campaign, because it's tied too closely to the players who created it, and most of them are no longer around. So that leaves me looking for alternatives. I do like the idea of The Crater, which is the source of all magic in the world as a traditional megadungeon, but since that was envisaged to rely heavily on the third dimension (pathways clinging precariously to the sides of the crater with minidungeons and even entire towns carved into the sides of the crater). And good 3D design is something that the tabletop doesn't really do well, and probably best done with miniatures, especially with floors mounted on polystyrene blocks for height. And I don't really do miniatures. And there is an intentional separation from the wider world in play there, since the "Empire" is struggling to maintain control of the outpost there, especially in light of the hostility of the surrounding nomad tribes who believe The Crater is taboo and keep raiding the supply caravans (and any magic prospectors that they can find). And yes, it is more than reminiscent of Pavis (Runequest/Glorantha) for the set-up; that's because Pavis is such a brilliant adventuring idea. And I'm thinking I want something with a bit more campaign interplay in the style of my old campaign.

And I've just been reading the excellent dungeon module Anomalous Subsurface Environment by Patrick Wetmore which makes me want to revisit a similar theme. The Orbital Gods are such an excellent idea, and they remind me of the City Gods of the Martian tournament. And City States are so much easier to do in D&D.

The main problem is that, whilst my trick for dealing with spells worked well for a tournament module (since there was no effective difference between a mage memorizing a spell that disappears on use and a one-use magical device that must be activated, the application of such a distinction in a campaign is less clear, and may result in a fundamental change in the nature of the game. If it becomes a simple game of searching the ruins of the past for Lost Tech then it simply becomes another Gamma World, which is what I don't want.

Although truth to tell, probably nothing will come of this either, besides copious notes, but then, it's a good thing I do like constructing worlds. The interplay of the necessary systems required to get the world to live on it's own has always fascinated me.

reverancepavane: (tarrant)

You’re no hero.

You’re a reaver, a cutpurse, a heathen-slayer, a tight-lipped warlock guarding long-dead secrets. You seek gold and glory, winning it with sword and spell, caked in the blood and filth of the weak, the dark, the demons, and the vanquished. There are treasures to be won deep underneath, and you shall have them.

This is the introduction to Goodman Games' Dungeon Crawl Classics the RPG, which is starting it's beta playtest. It's something I tend to agree with when it comes to old school RPGs. Which is not to say the player characters can't be heroes. They often ended up in situations where they became heroes. Some reluctantly. Others with great eagerness. But it required a conscious decision on the part of the player, that here, my character was going to make a stand.

The old saw about a hero being someone who was at the right place at the right time.

More modern games, which tend to focus on the narrative rather than the campaign (sandbox), tend to postulate that the character's are heroes. This is particularly true of fourth edition D&D, which now has an endgame when characters reach level 30 and can invoke their heroic destiny. But the assumption is there from the beginning that the player characters are the heroes of the story. There is no choice involved. The player-character heroes simply are. And the feels very unfulfilling to me. All the moments of greatness in my campaigns, the ones which I remember best, are when the characters made the choice to be heroes, rather than just another what-have-you. Often choosing certain death in order to save others. The highest form of sacrifice is to give of your self, with no expectation of reward.

Of course, it's just as likely in a sandbox game (or actually far more likely), that when a character reaches the decision point (if they ever do*), they don't take the heroic option, and play it safe. So their names won't resound through history. But they will be able to tell their grandchildren the stories of their adventures.

Or it may even be that they make the choice to become villains. The antagonists. Not even antiheroes. Although none of them actually thought of themselves as evil. Callous, yes. Broken, sometimes. But the true measure of a hero is often the villain, and villains often provide greater scope for character. As well as being active rather than reactive. Character flaws may open them to suasion, but in the end it's a choice that they made. Some with regret (angst, they name is Vampire 1st Ed), others with glee.**

Anyway, this is a lot of work just to say that I like the idea that players aren't heroes.

[* Of course, the player characters are supposed to be central to the campaign, which is why it is up to the gamemaster to put the characters in the situation where they will encounter these decision points. After all, if a tree falls in the forest and no player-character is under it, then it's a really pretty bad deadfall trap. Or something like that.]

[** That's the character's glee. If it's the player's glee then I'd avoid this sort of situation. Games aren't therapy. I have to admit that it's relatively easy for me to play an evil character that makes the other players uncomfortable, even when they know about it. But that's not me, but rather a role I'm playing. This is also the reason why no one in their right mind lets me play a diabolic Noble in Nobilis, because I am so very good at it. (<sigh>)]

reverancepavane: (Buffy)

I quite enjoyed the first two of the Twenty Palace Novels by Harry Connolly, being Child of Fire and Game of Cages. The second novel was particularly well done, a lot cleaner, filled with a bit more background, and definitely confirming some of my thoughts about the main protagonist from the first book.

The main premise of these books is that a variety of extremely alien creatures live in the Empty Spaces between dimensions and can be summoned into our world by those knowing the appropriate spells. Now these Predators love being summoned into our world, but hate being bound. The Twenty Palaces Society is an organisation of sorcerors dedicated to wiping out these Predators and the sorcerors that summon them into the world. The main protagonist is an ex-con, who accidentally discovered the existence of these creatures and was recruited as a Wooden Man by one of the Twenty Palace sorcerors.

From a gaming viewpoint there is a rich milieu available to exploit. The obvious comparison is with Call of Cthulhu and The Laundry, which is good because BRP seems tailor made for a campaign of this universe. Magic spells are generally created by drawing a magical sigil, which is an excrutiatingly painful process for the caster. I'd suggest using a POW vs Potency test (similar to the French edition Nephilim) to create the spell. One use spells are usually inscribed on ribbons and the like. More permanent spells may be drawn on more suitable objects or even etched into the design of an artefact, or tattooed onto a recipient. Which is important, since some of the protective tattoos only protect the hit location they are applied to, which invokes the Runequest hit location tables, both for their designed purpose, but also as a guide to the number and location of tatoos that can be put on a character. Also the powers of sorcerors is very similar to the overpowered augmentation capable with the original Avalon Hill Runequest sorcery spells.

An interesting addenda to this is that there are only three different spellbooks. The most powerful sorcerors learned from the original, whilst the copies that have been made have lesser potencies. So you have a Progenitor (or possibly even original Vampire) generational bias to the powers of the sorcerors.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to the upcoming Circle of Enemies.

reverancepavane: (Cthulhu)

ESA's GOCE satellite has mapped the gravitic fields around the Earth in order to create a geoid (a map of the ocean as shaped by gravity alone, without the influence of tides or circulation). You can find a copy of the animated geoid here (as well as a still image further down the page). Interesting stuff.

However what intrigues me is the extremely low heights measured just off Ceylon/Sri Lanka. As if something had sunk there and pulled the surface of the Earth down with it...

Yes! R'lyeh was actually located in the Indian ocean, just off India. No wonder all the modern explorers searching the Pacific can't find it. They were looking in the wrong place! Mr Lovecraft obviously changed the location of R'lyeh to prevent one of his readers accidentally stumbling upon it!

And as you can see from the following animation...

YouTube Video Below Cut )

...there are other depressions off Antarctica (McMurdo Sound, to be precise) [obviously he couldn't disguise the fact that William Dyer was headed to Antarctica], Bermuda, and, not surprisingly, California. Further signs of Deep One / Elder Thing activity?

I suggest we nuke these sites from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

reverancepavane: (Zim)

The problem with collecting interesting role-playing games is that there are some that you really really want to play, but you know in your heart of hearts that there is no one else within a thousand kilometers or so that owns the game, let alone is willing to run it for you. [Save vs Despair or +1D2 Despair]

The source of the problem in this case is Abandon All Hope, a game set on a massive (ala Escape From New York) computer controlled (ala Paranoia) prison (ala The Shawshank Redemption) vessel (ala Leviathan) on the way to deliver convicts (ala Fortress 2) to found a new colony (ala Pandorum), that has accidentally fallen into a rift between the universes into one inhabited by demons (ala Event Horizon), which are attracted to the rich bounty of potential convict happy meals inside the ship (ala Alien and Alien 3). So you get to combine your standard horror and prison movie themes in one setting [including the possibility of those types of horror prison movies (ala Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS and Werewolf in a Women's Prison) if you so desire]. Plus some SF tropes, and your typical FPS game (ala Doom, Quake, System Shock, Half-Life, and Portal*) as well, of course.

I really want to play a dissident nuclear weapons engineer who was sentenced to transportation because his knowledge was considered dangerous (and immoral) to the New World Order. [Although the game does seem to be lacking "fissionable (1)" components in the scrounging table, so I suppose I'd better limit my abilities to be really good at jury-rigging (can we give up and simply call it McGyvering from now on) stuff.]

[* Mainly due to the presence of the happy fun Warden computer (ala Paranoia) that isn't at all reacting to the massive damage the ship has taken, the prisoners being outside their cells, and all those demons/aliens running around the ship. But whose to say anyway that the entry into the rift was an accident. Perhaps this is an experiment by the New Order, investigating the rift by using disposable people, with the computer monitoring the results (and planning to send a message buoy back). That would certainly account for taking all the expense for shipping the convicts off into space, rather than just using a bullet and a backhoe...]

reverancepavane: (Amy)

This is mainly a note to myself, but I was just thinking about the societal roles in a mundane fantasy campaign (that being, one without magic).

First of all, you have Those Who Toil. The labourers, and in a primarily agrarian society, they are peasants. Even craftsmen and artisan are just a higher class of labourer. So this is our first "caste."

Then we have Those Who Fight. The soldiers. While a society may draw the members of this caste from the first caste, usually the right to bear weapons in society elevates the individual. If only by the fact that if there is no actual society, they can hit the labourer with their weapon and take their produce. Lets call this the second caste.

Now what about the specialists, the experts and bureaucrats. In Ancient Sumerian myth, skills and knowledge were often the provenance of the various temples. The Me were literally the sacred knowledge required to perform tasks. Some of the Me overlapped that of the duties of the first two castes, in that they taught the members of those castes how to perform more specialised duties (such as make a pot or maneuver an army). So what if we make the priesthoods Those Who Teach, and by extension, Those Who Think.

The last caste is those who have risen to the top of the societal heap, Those Who Rule. They may naturally be drawn from the second or third caste, but tend not to be members of it any more (in an attempt to secure their position, if nothing else).

My interest here is in the third caste, that of our proposed priesthood, which exists, not because of any specific faith, but rather that it provides the specialists that make the society function. Now lets add the magic back in without changing the societal role of the priesthood. Suddenly what seems to be sacred to us isn't quite so sacred. The divine is no longer a thing of direct supernatural veneration. Instead the actions of the deity are seen in the application of knowledge. Much more in keeping with what we know of ancient religious practice.

Actually I think I like this world of priest-engineers and librarians.

reverancepavane: (Wulfenbach)

Airship Pirates looks quite interesting. For those who don't know it's the postapocalyptic steampunk RPG based on Abney Park's songs (and band backstory). It's being done by Cakebread & Walton (the writers of Clockwork & Chivalry) and is using the Heresy Engine of Victoriana (2nd Edition). Presumably it will be released by Cubicle 7.

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Ian Borchardt

October 2012

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