Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Engines Run down

"You can hear them all day and night trudging to the lights. Somewhere over there they hope to find food, shows,medicine, to be cool in summer, to be warm in winter, to have lights that hold back the night. People stop and make camp but the line never stops moving. Some drop along the way, no one ever seems to bury the bodies. The bodies don't lay there long enough to rot. The line keeps moving toward the lights, I might join them."

We found the old metropolitan library, it's doors have been sealed longer then anyone could guess. There was a basement door that had been paved over. If we hadn't found that I don't know if we could have found the old stacks without having to risk lowering ourselves down elevator shafts. That's what they are now stacks, simply stacks of rotting paper. So much lost. I don't even know if the stuff is safe to burn.

My grandfather tells me in the time of his grandfather all the chambers in the arcology were filled with entire families. They all lived in large numbers, shoulder to shoulder. Sometimes two or three families to a single flat. Sounds like a stupid lie to me, I can't imagine how they could have fed everyone from the rooftop gardens.

There was a car moving down 5541st street. It was noisier then I ever imagined they would be. There were kids from one of the families down the street chasing after the thing, it could barely outpace them. There was this cloud of smoke billowing out of it. Clem claims one of the passengers , this big guy in a blue uniform and a crazy helmet with a gun who was sitting on the roof on a bundle of goods, smiled at him and waved as they passed. The car just went straight down the street (well as straight as it could) with these kids following it out of the neighborhood.

Each year there are less lights in the big towers across the bay. You hardly ever see any sailboats these days. I suppose someone should go and see what's going on over there. I don't much feel like climbing down 30 or 40 stories and get my feet wet.

There are screams in the night and they aren't all people. The big animals are back, some say they made them down there and they come crawling up out of the ground for fresh meat. They should have had the brains and not made them that way.

- a few brief accounts from the future, when the Engines Run Down.

Just a few ideas that hit me and I wondered about what a campaign setting could be like in a post-apocalypse setting that never actually had an apocalypse just a winding down , no bang and not many wimpers.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Fanboys [film]

The wife and I caught "Fanboys" on cable this weekend. It's stupid and pretty damned funny.
"Four childhood friends (now theoretically adults) make a pact on Halloween night in 1998 to infiltrate the Skywalker Ranch in hopes of catching a rough cut of the long-awaited "Star Wars" prequel, "The Phantom Menace.". It's a sophomoric road movie but there's a host in-jokes that are even funnier to fanboys and film buffs. There are some obvious and some sublime cameos in the film. (Yeah i used "sublime" blogging about a dumb-ass road comedy, try it yourself you might like it.)


it got a 33% on rotten tomatoes, I say "got to hell rotten tomatoes fanboy jerk wads with no sense of humor and ridiculous expectations".

Here's a trailer that actually gives away some stuff it shouldn't:

It's worth the time to view it and maybe even blog about it. It isn't great but it was fun I give it a B-

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bad DM railroading and how to avoid it.

Over at this post http://rolesrules.blogspot.com/2010/09/is-underground-railroad.html at Roles, Rules and Rolls there's a good piece on railroading players in the underground. go read the link, come back here afterward, I'll be waiting.

Okay let's look at each situation and how to solve the bad DM dilemma so one isn't a crappy DM.

"Oh, don't go down those stairs. I haven't drawn the third level yet."

The DM is in a pinch there are stairs but nothing beyond them.
Solution #1. Just don't tell the players about the stairs. Sure they are on the Dm's map but the players don't know that. Bring it up agan later if the players ever go that way. Pop it on a map in a treasure horde sometime later after the third level is ready. Just don't bring it up yet.

Solution #2. The stairway is a horrible deathtrap. If the party climbs on down the stairs the stairs disappear and seriously screw up the party leaving them in a really bad pit trap. Cruel, sure it is but it'll more then make up for having nothing else beyond the stairs. Later on(when mapping is done) it'll be disabled, let them think the PCs had something to do with it and hey look a whole new dungeon level.

Solution #3. the stairs go somewhere else for now. Just have the stairs lead to somewhere else in the dungeon until you finish things up on the next level. The stairs are "magic".

"You have to pull the lever, or there's no more adventure. Trust me."

Solution #1. don't do this as a DM, don't "break the wall" and tell the players what to do to move things along. Want to do something else tonight, have the party go shopping after they leave the adventure site where there is nothing left to do.

Solution #2. Be a dick - have a hireling/henchman/follower/familiar/crazy old hermit pull the lever. It's still horrible railroading you didn't break the wall and yuo'll certainly make the NPc a littel more memorable to the players. Think of it as accidentally knocking that bucket over in the mines of moria.

Solution #3. Act like you don't want the players pulling the lever, they most likely will pull the lever.

"You can't turn back to the town. You haven't cleared enough rooms this session yet. OK, if you insist - A Mysterious Force Blocks You."

Solution #1. There is no such thing as "clearing enough rooms" this is not a reason for DM intervention. Let the players do what they want.

Solution #2. Let the players turn back to town and then have them mocked for being wimps and turning back. Just have stats for a bunch of buildings and NPCs yuo are willing to watch fireballed handy.

Solution #3. I don't have one, let the players do what they want.

"Your Hold Person mysteriously fails - that 1 I rolled is actually a 16. The sorcerer drinks a potion, cackles 'I'll see you on Level 6', turns gaseous and disappears down the grate."

Solution #1. Oh well this NPC is a goner, come up with another one for later.

Solution #2. This is not the NPC you are looking for. A really second rate trick but you can get away with it once or twice in the life of a campaign. The NPC they think they are fighting just isn't the creep they are looking for, that guys down on level 6.

Solution #3. The spell works but...as the spell takes effect a contigency spell kicks in whisking the NPC away (do this very rarely if ever). NPCs can prepare for later too.

Solution #4. The spell works but...as the spell takes effect the sorceror stumbles accidently triggering a trap door that drops him down onto the 6th level. If the players climb down quickly th eNPC is a goner get a new one, if they dilly-dally they climb down and the NPC is gone to be found later.

Solution #5. Ming's Ring. One of the hireling/henchman/follower/familiar/crazy old hermits with the party finds a ring/clasp/earring/lucky c.p./pair of socks on the sorcerer the PCs disregarded that the hireling/henchman/follower/familiar/crazy old hermit take home after the sorcerer is defeated. Unfortunately they are possessed by the spirit of the NPC rather quickly and if no one notices eventually are a threat for the party down on level 6.

(reading mind-molesting boxed text) "Seeing the skeletal lovers' embrace, you cannot help but sigh, shed a tear, blow your nose, and think of lost loves of your past. Then the lovers stir and turn their bony skulls towards you, and you scream in bowel-loosening terror!"

Solution #1. Ignore the boxed text.

Solution #2. Just the facts jack A. Paraphrase the box text with what you the DM feel to be important, never tell the PCs how they feel.

Solution #3. Just the facts jack B. Paraphrase the box text with what you the DM feel to be important, never tell the PCs how they feel but do tell the PCs how a hireling/henchman/follower/familiar/crazy old hermit in the party feels about the situation on hand.

Just a few pointers that came to me after reading the OP that show other ways to deal with the railroading problems that might come up. Let the players help you tell the story, never tell the story to them or try to tell the story through the PCs as if they are puppets.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Fair and Foul Fulminants.

Fulminants are specially prepared alchemical substances that will either detonate or rapidly fill an area with a cloud of gas. Fulminants are usually held in tightly sealed containers. Opening a Fulminant causes it to go immediately into effect on 1-3 in d6, otherwise i goes off next round. An alchemist or magic-user in the know can reseal the container on a 1-5 in 6 chance, others can do so if instructed to do so on a roll of 1-2 in 6.

Fulminants cost 5 times as much to manufacture as a potion would. While a fulminant is being manufactured the creator must make a save vs breath weapons or suffer the effects of the fulminant and ruin the creation.

There are two general classes of Fulminant- explosive and fuming

Explosive fulminants are sudden and will effect all targets within 20'.

Fuming fulminants will expand as a cloud effecting all within 10' on 2nd round, all with thin 20' during the 3rd and 4th round and dissipating harmlessly on the beginning of the 5th round. Effects that don't have permanent impact will end at the beginning of the 5th round.

Fulminants can and usually are thrown as grenade-like weapons taking effect as per the following chart. Members of all classes can use fulminants.

Fulminant Detonation Table (1d100)
1- immediately goes off in users hand. fuming fulminates count end of this round as round 2.
2-70 quickly. explosive fulminants detonate on impact. Fuming fulminants count beginning of next round as round 2.
71-90 delayed. Visible whisps of smoke and sputtering sparks.The fulminant takes effect at the beinning of the round 1d4 rounds later.
91-100 dud?. will fail to function unless disturbed in the next 3 rounds in which case there is a 1-2 chance in 6 it will immediately function otherwise it will never function. Kind DMs might allow alchemists and MUs to retrieve and use these later.

Some Sample Fulminants-
Light (fuming)- the area of the fulminant cloud is illuminated as is the area 30' around. Creatures that dislike light may be forced to make a morale save if within the cloud.

Sleep(fuming)- anyone within the cloud must save vs breath weapons each round or fall sleep. Once the cloud dissipates victim's will still be asleep but can be readily awakened by loud noises or being stirred. Those with more then 4 HD are +2 save vs this fulminant.

Knock(explosive)- acts as a knock spell vs all legitimate targets within the area of effect.

Feeblemind(fuming)-as per spell. Effect end quickly however (at the beginnign of the 5th round).

Phantasmal Force(fuming)- as spell.

Web(explosive)- a 20' radius is filled with sticky web that otherwise act as the Web spell for 20 minutes.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Vote Meagle in 2010

Follow the link


and do the right thing, vote Meagle.

Probably the third or fourth most important vote you could make in 2010.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Unholy Horrors

Once upon a time (25 years ago now) one of my old friends was DMing a B/X D&D campaign with a small handful of house-rules. They had a huge effect on play.

We rolled out ability scores 3d6 at a time to generate 6 score but we could put the scores where we liked.

Characters had a % chance equal to their dexterity score of being ambidextrous and as such being allowed 2 attacks a round.

I managed to roll an 18 and a 16 or 17 for my high scores. I put the 18 into STR and the other high score into DEX , got lucky and was ambidextrous. So I made the character a Magic-User. A Magic-user? Yes, a magic user. Since 1st level MU's actually fight as well as anyone else in B/X D&D he was actually a pretty fierce combat machine with 2 blows a round doing 4-7 pts of damage each. We had a fighter in the party who was also luckily ambidextrous but he wasn't as strong as the MU. I played my MU like a kungfu spellcaster and the DM was thrilled (I was pulling his DM heartstrings as he was a martial arts nut at the time).

Into play we discovered more little treats to the campaign. Undead returned as the next lower type of undead a few rounds after they were dispatched. Imagine the horror when you've dispatched a couple of ghouls at 1st level when all of a sudden they stand back up... luckily they were just zombies, we beat them as well and then the skeletons stood up out of their mauled flesh... I can still remember the panic and the rout that ensued !!!! All the undead in the campaign were like this, they were unholy horrors.

Poison sickened a character into a virtually helpless state for a few rounds even on a successful save so getting bit or stung by poisonous creatures was a big deal. This was back in the save or die days too so poison was a huge problem. Luckily we discovered the DM had antidotes for poison as a common treasure item for each type of poison, they could save your life if quickly applied or even provide a few rounds of immunity... luckily that is until we realized poison was far more common then in most games we'd played until that point.

Exploding monsters seemed to be a feature of that game also, a kung-fu film inspired horror if I recall correctly. We could usually tell it was coming.

So put your scores where you want, lot's of attacks, undead that just keep on coming, lot's of poison and exploding monsters. It was a heck of a lot of fun.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Silly Player Tricks

Every now and then Players in RPG games try to trick or manipulate the system to their advantage with what I call "Silly Player Tricks", here is how one played out last game session:

In my current campaign every PC starts at 2nd level with a generous amount of cash (3d20x20 + 200 g.p.) and a chance to have even more with some background events, the only stipulation is the character must start play with less then 100 g.p. on hand, the rest must be spent. Not too hard to do really as I let players buy silver weapons, a couple of potions and some scrolls with those funds (this is at creation only, I have to explain this every now and then that every town doesn't have a potions and scroll shop).

So my Father an RPG player with over 30 years of experience (just like his son), created his new character to replace the one stoned last session. He couldn't figure out how to spend all the gp's to reach the less then 100 in cash threshold so he pulled a Silly Player Trick by cunningly buying a pound of gold. He sure tricked his DM. Sure he violated the spirit of the guidelines but not the letter of the guidelines so I let him get away with it.

Later on in the game session...

He discovered he hadn't bought any healing potions

or rations

Bwahahahahaha, I love Silly Player Tricks.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Nobody Talks About Fight Club

Can't help but share this:

Jane Austen's Fight Club

There's relevance to my game group here (3 of whom are grandfathers), but I'm forbidden to explain just how it's relevant.

newlink : http://www.funnyordie.com/videos/efeb4dc1b6/jane-austen-s-fight-club

Friday, September 10, 2010

Able Pawed?

A little depth for Mutant Animals in Mutant Future and a snippet of something I'm working up for a future project.

Voice (roll 1d12)
1 Can't speak
2-3 Crudely Mimic Limited Speech (three word sentences)
4-6 Growling Speech (Difficult to understand don't plan on speaking to anyone more then 50' away)
7-10 Accented Speech (species identified by speech)
11-12 Mannish Speech (could pass on voice com with old man-tech). If mutant has bite attack decrease by 2 dice sizes.

Hands (roll 1d8)
1-2 Undeveloped Paws, no capable tool use. Improve natural weapons by 1 die size.
3-5 Simple Paws, drop things in hands on 1-4 on d20 roll. Attack with weapons at -2.
6-7 Able Paws, drop man-stuff in hands on 1-2 on d20 roll. Decrease natural weapons by 1 die size.
8 Human Hand, don't worry about dropping things you know how to use. Decrease natural weapons by 2 dice size.

Only check for dropping things in situations of danger, stress and combat. Use the to hit roll for weapons.
Able Pawed creatures can have weapons built for their species that don't require checking for dropping.

Stature (roll 1d12 or 1d8 if undeveloped paws)
1-3 Quadrupedal , Can't wear armor can buy tailored barding x 1.5 cost
4-6 Partially Bipedal Can't wear armor can buy tailored barding x 2 cost
Move 1/2 speed when standing upright with something in hand.
7-8 Bipedal, Can wear armor crafted for same sized on 1-3 in 6
9-11 Manimal, Can wear armor crafted for same sized on 1-5 in 6.
12 Humanoid , Can wear armor and gear crafted for humans on 1-5 in 6

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Tengu with musket

Tengu with a musket. I was inspired by a comment and a post over at Jeffs gameblog.
It's a quickie and it was fun, just had to get it done after the idea was put in my head.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Dueling (Reputation)

Dueling is an ageless tradition in societies where the force of arms and the temper of steel are thought to go hand in hand with justice, honor or manhood. Gentlemen are expected to take up arms in defense of their honor and reputation as they would to defend, property, life and limb and their lord.

How a duel occurs and unfolds has a lot to do with how people see the duelists in question.

As there is a host of cads, unworthy foes and other duties to be attended to a person may find themselves in need of rebuffing a challenge to a duel and refusing to enter such a challenge of arms.

A person may rebuff a duel with little social impact by making a Grace save.

Modifiers to Refusing to Duel
if the challenger is 2 or more levels lower +2 to Grace save
if the challenger is of lower social class +4 to Grace save
if the challenger is 2 or lower reputations grades lower +2 to save
if challenged is a Lady she is +4 to her Grace save to successfully Rebuff.

Reputation costs of the Challenge and Rebuff
Challenging a superior to a duel and being rebuffed -2d6 Rep Pts. per difference (levels, social class other considerations, it's daring to challenge your betters)
Refusing to duel an inferior and failing a well mannered rebuff -1 Rep Pts.

Any proper duel is attended by witnesses (and could draw a sizable crowd). A duelist should be accompanied by a second who will serve to protect the duelist if things get out of hand and even to fight in their place in case things go poorly.

For an NPC to second for you they should be related, of similar social class and generally of no more then one reputation grade lower the the duelist.
Make a traditional reaction roll to see if an NPC will Second for one in a duel.

An NPC must make a grace save to refuse to second losing 1 Rep Pts when they do so. If refused the Duelist must make a Grace save or lose 1d4 Rep pts because of the humiliation.

The conduct of the duel should follow the standard single combat rules of the system being used.

A DM may require both duelists to consult the Dueling Reaction
chart before conduct commences.

Ones reputation will ebb and flow based on the conduct of the duel.

Reputation costs of the Duel itself.
Arriving at a duel.............+1 Rep Pt.
Failing to arrive at duel......-5d6
Seconding at a duel............+1 Rep Pt.
Surviving a Duel...............+1d4 Rep Pts.
Apologizing to end Duel........grace save or -2d4 Rep Pts.
Showing Mercy to your foe......+1d6 Rep Pts.
Refusing to show mercy.........+1d4 in evil societies/ -1d6 Rep. Pts in goodly realms.

Challenging and defeating an obvious inferior requires a Grace save of the victor or they may lose 1d8 Rep pts.

In some lands the victor of a duel may find himself in a limited (but not always inexpensive) financial obligation to the survivors and heirs. This death price will vary from campaign to campaign. (A recommendation for a typical GP rich fantasy setting is 50 g.p. + 50gp per Reputation Grade with modifers according to social class.)

Failure to meet this obligation can have further fiscal and legal complications and can result in a notable loss of Reputation if it develops into a true scandal.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Doodling along...

...humming a song pencil in hand..da dee da.

Here are some cartoon doodles I scribbled while not drawing a map for an adventure.

Guard, Laser Lady and Goblin.

Not my usual style but they did just leap out of my brain and onto paper through the cheap mechanical pencil I was using. So, I had to share.