Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Look at that...

I promise this blog will not turn into "enigmatic product-in-progress update of the day" (one reason being said product is almost done & another being I am not a professional RPG writer so when it is done I won't have another product) but I figured I'd share this, 'cause it made me laugh:

James Edward Raggi The Fourth just e-mailed me his playtest results and told me that my adventure was too hard.

Monday, November 29, 2010

NPC Reaction to Player Making Actually Funny Joke In-Character

roll d20
1-does not understand joke due to cultural differences. Wants it explained in detail. Will nod and smile generously when it's all over.
2-does not realize joke is joke, takes it literally. May, therefore, take action, like asking for wherabouts of man from Natucket or organizing hirelings to seek out Interrupting Cow.
3-kinda amused but is competitive jackass, tries to tell funnier joke (DM, you're on!), probably fails. Is now bitter.
4-as 3 but NPC is so pretentious/ignorant that joke fails to register as joke with anyone who has Wis above 5.
5-offended that the PC is taking situations so lightly, roll initiative.
6-finds PC's sense of humor strangely attractive.
7-laughter triggers an ancient curse. NPC has been trying not to laugh since 799AD. Demon manifests itself through NPC's body.
8-laughs, buys PC a drink.
9-laughs, buys self a drink.
10-laughs, is already drunk, buys drink a drink.
11-thinks joke is so funny that NPC agrees to pretty much whatever.
12-laughs laughs laughs, then cries. Investigation reveals joke reminds NPC of traumatic parental situation.
13-laughs laugh laughs, then says "Oh, thank Or-Hossk! I needed that. It's been so long since I had a good laugh"--reveals secret mystery difficulty plaguing peeps hereabouts.
14-vomits with laughter. 1-3 embarassed 4-6 crazy viking type who just does that.
15-laughs, claps PC on back with unexpected strength. d4 minus 1 damage.
16-laughs, introduces PC to younger family member of opposite sex.
17-puritanical local value system. Accuses PC of being witch.
18-laughs, laughs, laughs hysterically, orders first available pie & begins smearing it all over body.
19-laughs, goes around to other nearby characters and begins saying "This guy! Oh, jeezus, this guy," and continually insists PC repeat joke to all of NPC's friends.
20-offers PC contract as personal entertainer. Pays 8 gp per laugh.

Once a result has been used, cross it out and write your own.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

This Is Totally Not The Cover Of the Book or The Title

This is not going to be the cover of the upcoming book--
(click to biggerify--it is entirely worth it)
It's classy as all fuck, but I decided I want something with a little more color...

Nor is it the official title--which is, as of now, "Vornheim: The Complete City Kit".

But, hey, I went to all the trouble to mock it up, so I figured I'd let you see it.

Meanhwile, the book is pretty much done. I just have to edit it and dot the I's and cross the T's and all that.

I'm also getting playtest reports back, which is more fun than I expected.

Oh, here's a request for y'all:

The book will include, among many other things, a somewhat improved, streamlined & DeLuxified version of the Urbancrawl Rules I posted a while back, so if anybody reading this has used those and has ideas about how they could be improved or any suggestions about parts of them that worked extremely well for you, please do let me know.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Have You Seen These?

If you're like me you need pictures of the dessicated carcasses of imaginary creatures all the fucking time...

Here's like a hundred of them.

Why Are We Even IN Here?

This came up when somebody (can't remember who--Alexis from Tao of D&D maybe? Too lazy to link.) ran James Raggi's Death Frost Doom adventure (still too lazy to link). (Interested parties too lazy to find them over on the right there know my pain.)

Anyway, idea is James' module starts with all kinds of ominous signs of spooky death. Gnarled trees, gravestones, a crazed hillbilly saying "Don't go up thar!" etc.

And so the DM's players were like "Ok, so let's not go up there." And, knowing their DM had prepared a whole complete rest of the world to romp around in, wanted to go somewhere else.
Now it should go without saying that a lotta other players would've wanted to go into the dungeon on account of the ominous signs of spooky death.

Here we have an issue of calculation, where the player weighs:

A)His/her interest in keeping his/her PC alive

and, possibly...

B) His/her interest in playing his/her PC in character--(unless the PC's so greedy or curious that s/he would want to go in there no matter what)


C)His/her desire to go where the DM had something interesting ready to go.


C is seldom spoken of but it is a powerful motivator. Players want to play, and while DMs talk frequently amongst themselves about the merits of funneling or corralling or railroading or cajoling their players into going where the fun is, players (if they were as chatty as DMs) could go on for just as long about how they do things because if they didn't they'd worry they wouldn't be actually playing.

I mean, sure my PC could go pick beets instead of duel the wicked Archbaron but that doesn't mean the DM has an awesome beet-picking adventure ready to go, or that s/he should feel any compulsion to invent one.

A variation on this came up for me while playing during the first session of our Rolemaster campaign. I was playing, essentially, a kind of investigator, looking into some sort of mysterious culty activity.

Our boss laid out that there was this Source of Chaos somewhere, and then there was this Possible Pawn of Chaos (a high level NPC) and this pawn was located in the Thieves' Guild, and that there were 3 NPC Contacts who could help us get to him.

So, naturally, here's what I'm thinking: The Source of Chaos is where the fighting of the craziest monsters and seeing weirdest stuff is in this game, so I wanna get to that as soon as I can. Today, if possible.

I know where The Possible Pawn is, so let's call up these NPC contacts and tell them to get the lead out and get us over where he is as soon as possible so we can get this shit started.

So I go and find the first Contact, get him to take us to the Guild, ignore all the scenery/plot hooks and immediately head for the Pawn and offer this guy (turns out to be a crimelord) our services.

Now I chatted a little, out of scholarly interest, with DM Darren about the adventure and we discussed the sandboxy nature of the campaign.

Quoth he: "You went way faster than I expected--you didn't investigate the Contacts to find anything out about them, you didn't check around for info on the Thieves' Guild before going in, and there were lots of other ways of investigating The Pawn other than just walking right up to him and offering him your services, and there's a million other things going on in the Thieves' Guild."

Sayeth I: "Yeah, but, I figured that guy was where the fun was--he had a name and everything (all the other characters were spot-named after drinks--Gin, Manhattan, Lime Rickey--my character was named Jagermeister. It was all Connie's idea, I think.). I might've checked out the Contacts if they were the only people I knew about in the game, but the way it was set up, they just seemed like road bumps on the way to my objective."

DM: "He is pretty dangerous."

Me: "Good! We kept not fighting anybody. I wanted to get to somewhere we could use the Infamous Rolemaster Crit System until we met him--we only got into one fight all night and it was a random encounter with a bunch of thieves. The Pawn seemed like he might know where some monsters were, or at least some puzzles."

Now, really, DM Darren has got stuff ready to go in every direction--but he has a great pokerface and so there's no way of knowing that when he says "Well you could go meet the guy or you could do something else..." that there's just as much crazy madness behind the Something Else as there is behind meeting the guy.


Point is, the DM sometimes inadvertently draws your attention to things (I know I do it all the time), and some players will just move toward these things because they are there and have a name and therefore the player expects things to get exciting when they get over there--even if that's not what the DM was trying to do.

I mean, all of Call of Cthulhu works on this premise. It's called Call of Cthulhu, so the player knows that Cthulhu is over there somewhere and therefore s/he will have his or her PC do pretty much do whatever it takes to get over there, self-interest be damned. People make certain decisions because it's Cthulhu and so they think the game will be dull if they don't. In a game of sandbox D&D (or Rolemaster) this attitude can result in the PCs, in effect, railroading themselves right past a lot of options they could've had fun with.

So, yeah, if the PCs start to think the game is called "Call of The Very Dangerous High-Level NPC" then it take skill and effort to assure them that things other than The Very Dangerous High Level NPC are interesting in this sandbox. And to flag these things up a little, because, really, not everything a PC could do should result in a crazy adventure. Otherwise there'd be no point to making choices.


P.S. If you're wondering how we fared playing Rolemaster I'll talk all about later. Short answer: It was fun and we liked.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Playtesters Wanted...

I well know that the D&DWPS crew has its own distinctive way of doing things, so I'd like to test out a few of the location-based adventures that will be in the Vornheim City Kit on some other groups before unleashing them on the public.

The ones I most want to test are the higher-level locations, since those are the ones where chaos theory really takes hold and difficulty levels and survival rates can vary wildly from group to group.

So: if anybody out there wants to DM a mid-level adventure (4-10--which is a wide swath, I know, but a little playtesting may narrow it down) for their group and give me a report, write to me at zakzsmith at hot mail dawt calm. The adventures are relatively system-agnostic for D&D types I-III.5 and retroclones (they are playable in other systems but since I'm testing for design flaws here I'm sticking to the "native" systems for the playtest--if you play it in Warhammer or Type 4 and it comes out all wonky, that may be more your fault than mine).

I got two locations I'd like to test--specify in your email whether you want the more city-integrated leave-and-come-back-if-you-want location or the more dungeony one.

Also: I only want a handful of testers for each--I kinda would like to make it so that not everybody has seen parts of the kit before it comes out.

I can't pay you but if the Kit does well I may kick you some cash in a fit of largesse, and you'll get credited in the book.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Penny, Nickel, Dime, Quarter, Dollar (Slacker DM Item Costs)

Sometimes, particularly during city adventures, you have to buy and sell alotta items, and you don't want to look them up (or they're not on any equipment list you own). Like if somebody wants to buy a quick disguise to enact a weird scheme and you want to wrap up this part of the adventure before dinner and you don't really want to spend a half hour shopping.

This is a formalization how I generally think of it--Penny, Nickel, Dime, Quarter, Dollar:

"Penny" items are things that cost less than a G.P.. I assume all the things an average medieval joe might buy in an average medieval day all add up to about 1 gp. So you can get a humble meal or two, some nails, a torch, some thread, and a "dose" or three of beer for less than a gp. Anything on the daily shopping list. Food animals count as if they were the number of days food they represent--like if you think a chicken is 4 days food, then it's about 4 gp.

If you need to know exactly how much a sub-1 gp item costs (4 cp? 24 sp?), stop using this system and look it up, lazy ass.

"Nickel" items are anything you'd take camping and basic adventure gear. Rope, pole, spikes, lantern, etc. 5 gp per syllable ("lantern" is 2 syllables--10 gp).

The syllable thing sounds silly but more syllables generally indicates the PC wants a more specific thing (i.e. not just "rope" but "silk rope" not just "a lantern" but "a hooded lantern"). If you ask for something general you're going to get the humblest item that qualifies--like if you ask for a "horse" you won't get a warhorse, and if you ask for a "warhorse" you won't get a heavy warhorse.

"Dime" items are specialist items--anything that usually only a certain profession or class would use. Thieves tools, navigation tools, a bible, a marionette. Dime items cost 10 x number of syllables in the name. So: a lute costs 10 gp, a cello would cost 20.


"Quarter" items are luxury items. A string of pearls, fancy shoes, etc. 25 gp x number of syllables in the name. A "Rich old woman's clothes" would be 125 gp. (You'll notice women's clothes always cost 25 gp more than men's.)


"Dollar" items are things which are lethal or highly dangerous all by themselves--drugs and dangerous animals included. 100 gp per syllable--poison and acid would be 200 gp per dose, a wardog or falcon would be 200 gp, gunpowder or a heavy warhorse would be 300 gp, etc.

Weapons: Melee weapons cost gp = maximum normal damage. Missile weapons cost twice that.

Armor: Armor? Seriously? Look it up.

So, yeah, that's that. All kinds of things are unrealistically pricey or cheap when you do this, but remember, this is just for when you're trying to get things to move fast. If you have time to look up items, do it.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Playing Rolemaster With Porn Stars

I've been pretty successful in getting pretty much whoever to play RPGs with us over the last few years--which is nice. One thing I've been miserable at is convincing new people to run games, however.

Mandy wants to run a game--she claims--Ricky keeps saying he'll eventually DM and Connie keeps saying she's gonna run 'Mouse Guard' but it keeps not happening. It's the familiar story: people are busy, plus the level of preparation new DMs think they need is intimidating*. (Incidentally, I am not of the new-DMs-will-necessarily-suck-until-they-get-some-practice-under-their-belts school--I think it's pretty easy for everybody to have fun as long as somebody knows the rules at the table--and that somebody is both sane and helpful.)

Anyway, point is I get real excited whenever anybody wants to run the game and will pretty much play any game as long as I'm not the boss of it. So Cameraman Darren (he of the cogent psychological analysis on display here) is running Rolemaster for us this afternoon.

Yes, Rolemaster--The Game That Even Nerds Think Is Too Complicated.

I, personally, am terribly excited. Darren has done the necessary programming and devil worship, and here are the pre-gen characters that the Deep Blue has spit out for us to play...(I have no idea what half this stuff means.)

1.Priest of Reann - Cleric - Defender
Syreth (Common man)
Equipment: Mace, Shield, and Dagger - Leather Breastplate and Greaves (AT10)
Spells: Communal Ways - Protections - Repulsions

2.Priest of Reann - Cleric - Combat Medic
Lenn-Rak (Beastial Man)
Equipment: Morning Star, Shield, and Dagger - Leather Breastplate and Greaves (AT 10)
Spells: Concussion's Ways - Blood Law

3.Knight of Reann - Paladin - Cleanser of Unlife
Laan (Noble Man)
Equipment: Broadsword, Shield, Heavy Crossbow, and Dagger - Chain Shirt (AT 13)
Spells: Communion - Exorcisms - Holy Healing

4.Eye of Reann - Magent - Infiltrator
Syreth (Common Man)
Equipment: Rapier, Main Gauche, and Dagger - Leather Coat (AT 6)
Spells: Escapes - Misdirections

5.Eye of Reann - Magent - Assassin
Rhamii (Oriental Man)
Equipment: Scimitar, Main Gauche, and Dagger - Leather Coat (AT 6)
Spells: Assassination Mastery - Disguise Mastery

6.Eye of Reann - Rogue - The Blade Master
Mulri (High Elf)
Equipment: Falchion, Rapier, Main Gauche, and Dagger - Leather Breastplate (AT 9)
Skills: Streetwise - Stealthy

7.Soldier of Reann - Fighter - Berserker
Deglari (Nordic Man)
Equipment: Battle Axe, War Hammer, Long Bow, and Dagger - Metal Breastplate (AT 17)
Skills: Can use any weapon - Deadly even bare-handed

8.Soldier of Reann - Magician - The Traitor
Talani (Common Elf)
Equipment: Short Sword and Dagger - No Armor (AT 1)
Spells: Fire Law - Light Law - Water Law - Wind Law

Here's a game--try to match the player to the character...
(we haven't decided yet)



E. (The girl who lives across the hall who is not naked on the internet.)

F. Ricky

*Part of the intimidation is probably because DMs (me included) generally try to give the impression that everything the players are seeing during a game was totally thought out way the fuck in advance, no matter how flimsy the backstory or patch rule they are presenting really is--so potential new DMs naturally assume that the DM needs way more preparation than s/he actually does.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Fragment of Map of Unknown City

Inlaid gold wire, niello, marble and semiprecious stones. Date unknown. (Click to enlarge.)(Click again to enlarge a lot.)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Essential Literariness of Dungeons

Newer RPGs are often described as "cinematic". And GMs (and sometimes players) of these games are often encouraged to skip the boring bits and "cut" to the next scene. This is wise--you don't need to see Chewbacca stopping off to buy milk every other adventure.

If new RPGs are "cinematic", what are the old ones?

In addition to being "cinematic", newer RPGs do not necessarily include dungeons--I don't think this is a coincidence.

A dungeon is a lot like a novel: it's a place where the attempt to do anything, no matter how mundane, might be interesting. Joyce made Dublin a dungeon in Ulysses. Every inch a mystery, and you had to crawl it.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

5500xp-A-Plate Charity D&D Event Journal

Why can't I break this parking meter by shoving a toothpick into the slot?

Why can't I break this parking meter by shoving 2 toothpicks into the slot?

"Umm, is it ok if Connie parks her car behind that guy?"

Hey, you, I know you. Oh, and you.

Oh look it's Keith Baker and he got a haircut. Or, his hair grew out...

The back room of Meltdown Comics is like Hollywood Geek Underground's version of Max's Kansas City...

Where's Kimberly?

Ok, now it's like a wedding, there are a bunch of tables and place cards. Where am I where am I....

Swag. Free T-shirt. Free...whatever that is. Free...I think the Escapist sent us one of those already...

Hey, how ya doin'? You were really funny last night! Hey, thanks!

Now, free stuff...ok, Zak, yes this stuff is free but none of it will help me play D&D.

Keith has a list of characters and the Robot Chicken guy is looking at it. No time to read through this and no time to introduce myself to the other pseudocelebs, if I don't grab a PC as fast as I can I'll totally be stuck with the Feytouched Sleevedancer or some shit...

"Is there a wizard?"
"There's The Deathless Ambassador."
"That's the wizard?"
"Alright, I am the Deathless Ambassador."

By default I'm a 5th-level undead elf female. I have a mini for that.

"Need a mini, Connie?"
"I'm a warforged, what's a warforged?"

Where's Kimberly?

Wait, the DM is now saying my character is a guy. Ok, I have a mini for that.

Ah, now a new and subtle challenge. Try not to confuse the player with the character. This is Jay he is an archer named Archer and he runs the store next door (actually)(I think), this is Dan from Robot Chicken and he's a dwarf cleric, this is Travis he DMed for Wil Wheaton and someone else famous who I think is a girl and is a voice actor (Travis, not the girl)(I don't think) and the DM and this is Matt he's a voice actor and podcaster and your bodyguard and an elf and according to his character's thing your character is a chick.

Ok, back to the first miniature. My character is like 159 years old and nobody can tell whether it's male or female. Ok, I'm Joan Rivers.

Connie's at that table, Satine's at that table, I am at this table. I am alone.

It's not often that you have to do your Joan Rivers in front of three professional voice actors, one of whom is supposed to try to kill you...

Where the fuck is Kimberly?

"Alright people, thank you all for participating in the..."

Kimberly will have to be replaced, due to a scheduling conflict she is oh fuck just now texting me about, she's busy having sex for money. This is Vesper, she is the Colonel.

"...so Keith wrote this adventure* you'll all be doing and..."

Oh excellent, Keith's easy. Excuse me, cinematic.

I make a little nametag for Vesper since the rest of us all have nametags.

Ok, now it is an adventure.

"You arrive off the skyway into a lush..."

Ah the exquisite comfort of Eberron...Not just Eberron, A diplomatic party in Eberron...checking my equipment list....Apparently Joan here managed to get to 5th level with no rope, no lamp oil, no caltrops, no G.P....playing Eberron is like staying at the W hotel after years of couch-crashing and hostels. "What're you setting a stick on fire? You want light? We got worms for that." And I'm a fucking ambassador. And I have a bodyguard. And he's a charming dapper young fellow and a professional voice actor. Let me now henceforth wallow in this unearned luxury...

DM: "And for you, sir?"
"One white and one red, please!"
"White and red what?"

Rock, they do have grapes in Eberron.

(several hundred movie-reference jokes which were all taped and which will be available to peruse for a small donation to the noble cause of Youth Literacy at some time in the future so I will not ruin them now later--we are all starting our first encounter and Joan is pretending to be drunconscious)

...according to all those Type 4 D&D tips a power that moves a guy 6 squares is not a thing at which to sneeze. Especially when on a (spoilers)roof. I use it on the biggest target.

Look at this, we are spontaneously well-oiled right from the get-go: Matt's getting out there and getting punched just like a bodyguard should (and has--it should be noted--a keen eye for stylish tactics), Dan Robot Chicken Milano is a very buff-conscious cleric, Archer the Archer remembered about Readied Actions, Vesper is managing to convince the DM that an empty glass growler counts as a two-handed weapon and my wizardess can just get WWD&DWPSReadersDo? tattooed on her wrist and be done with it. This game is easy.

The volunteers do inform me, however, that the sandwiches have mayonnaise.

The last baddie is running away--oh he got 20'd by an attack of opportunity...poor bastard...still running...toward Archer the archer....aaaaand he's 20'd again. Combat over.

Nothing left to interrogate.

I take the only damage I take all night until the boss by failing a climbing check and being attacked by the eternal nemesis of diplomats everywhere--the floor.

"I say, it was a very fast moving floor. A Lurker Below, perhaps?"
"Yes, ambassador," this is Matt, rolling his eyes, "I'm sure, ambassador."

Yawn, healing surge. NEKST...

I worry I am not taking as much advantage of the volunteers who are supposed to bring us snacks as I could be.

The DM interprets Vesper the Colonel failing her stealth checks as the Colonel loudly and spontaneously commenting on the decor. Guards...

Oh but then lunch...in-real-life lunch.

What's this...rip rip...it's like a chinese dim sum bun on the outside but then...hmm like pink cream cheese and cheesecake. Oh, that's some quality there.

Now, right, we make our way down pretty much the only likely-looking path down to Encounter Area Two.

Fearsome are they--and many. Well, many anyway. 3 rounds. Fuck, forgot to leave people to interrogate again. I am glad I'm not a minion.

There appears to be no point to taking anything normal from anyone, it will only do less damage than your weapons.

We identify potions by saying "What are they?" and the DM tells us. They're healing potions. Nobody gets accidentally turned into a worm.

A pulsing and ethereal light appears to be coming from over there...arcana check at some obscene bonus...I roll like a 34...

"It's magic. It's also bad."

Well then by all means let's go over there...

"I strongly suggest we ignore this phenomenon and leave, ambassador."
"Oh, where's you sense of fun? No-one of your generation has an ounce of gumption..."

I cannot help but notice there are no further battlemats under this battlemat. I am guessing this is the Fearsome Final Encounter.

Now--who first?--Minions or Spooky Things Which You Don't Know What They Do? This is a clear breach of protocol, I know, but I'm going for the Spooky Things Which We Don't Know What They Do on account of they seem to be melting people.

Also my thing tells me I'm lawful good, so it's, like, roleplaying.

Destruction of the spooky thing unleashes a spooky chain reaction resulting in monsters. The Colonel told us there was beer in this room but I think he was lying.

The major ticking clock here is the biggest monster gets worse when the DM rolls a 6. Actually the major ticking clock is Meltdown Comics closes at 9 and all the other kind-of famous people already finished killing all their monsters. We were ahead of everybody until we decided to go for the spooky things.

8:43 pm Hitting it does seem to work, really, so that's a good sign.

8:47 pm Oh and now it's dead.

We were supposed to sign our condition cards, I think--if we had any conditions--and they were gonna sell them on ebay. I got slowed. I signed "Zak Sabbath" under Slowed. Now everyone will know the truth about me.

There is a really nice Martin Emond painting on the way to the bathroom.

Oh, hey that was a good game! That was fun! Yay fun is good! Card? Oh yeah, card...

I should get business cards, Mandy has business cards, Mandy's business cards have her tits on them



*This adventure will, I'm told, be available from WoTC and all proceeds will go to the charity, so I'll try not to spoil anything.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Thought For the Day

I don't want my 4 hours of play to have "a balance between combat and role-playing", I want to have no idea what they'll be like and have no walls between them and nine other things thrown in there too.

Type 4

So I finally played the official version of the game. For charity.

Here's what I think of it:

Nobody would have a problem with this game if it were just called Ninja Destruction Squad 9000 or X-Men: the RPG. It makes a really great kung-fu movie or superhero RPG.

The only problem is that this fun and interesting game of cheesy tactics has been spot-welded onto a game (and a name) a lot of us like to think is also equally about weird worlds and exploration and outside-the-box problem-solving and was maybe even a little influenced by things that happened in books. Type 4 feels like one of those action flicks where everything but the fight scenes seems like filler because you know that what the director's best at is fight scenes and yet the director doesn't seem to know that you know and so keeps thinking he can make you care that the blonde is kissing the hero and the sidekick has a cocaine habit.

Had we but world enough, and time, this coyness, Lady, were no crime, but you only play D&D for a few hours and so you wanna know whether you're gonna be playing a Fritz Leiber simulator or a Run Run Shaw simulator. If you want to enjoy fighting in 4E (and you should want to if you're playing it, because otherwise you're missing the only unique part of it) then you have to accept that it's the main event and it's totally stylized and bizarre and non-immersive and hitting people can give you extra hit points and heal your friends and cause Radiant Energy to fly from your ears and the fighting's gonna last until all the nachos are gone and so you'd better (player and DM) put some effort into making it work.

I would totally play Big Trouble In Little China Oriental Adventures 4E. That'd feel right to me. However, for a flexible and mysterious game where the hitting and the exploring seem like they're part of the same movie and you never know what you'll be doing next and maybe there's more than one way to skin a cat, I'd stick with the game I got.

Yeah, a good DM can find a way to do everything you can do in AD&D in Type 4 but then you'd have less time to design the 4E fight scenes, and that's a wasted opportunity. Plus then the gears would start to grind, because the characters feel so unreal and their powers are so vastly out of scale to the world they allegedly inhabit.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Help Us Fight This Guy

Tomorrow, Connie, Kimberly Kane and I will face a most fearsome foe. We will play D&D against...um, I mean with...several fellow D&D-list Hollywood types who invented things like Metallocalypse and The Guild and (-yes-) Robot Chicken.

Now, on account of this charity event being sponsored by a certain company who bought the rights to a double-iteration of a certain letter interrupted by an ampersand, this game will be Type 4 D&D (or Nalfeshnee as I like to call it). (The post-Essentials version.)

So anyway, we naturally want to wreck and to ruin and to hoard glory and loot like mad beasts set loose upon the virgin moors but basically everything I know about 4E comes from:

- listening to Return To Northmoor and
- hearing y'all complain about it.

So, post your Type 4 tips here.

And remember, this is for charity, so all proceeds from the video they're making will go to save tits from cancer or to save Scandinavian orphans from leprosy or dolphins from fishing nets or some shit...I don't know, actually, ask Satine. Anyway, point is this for a good cause so please no Edition-bitching in the comments.


The characters will be pre-generated by the DMs so we don't need PC-building tips.

Humanrorschachtest--wow, 2nd comment and you already bitched.

question, progress report, plug, plug, game idea

-Here's a question for you, DMs...Monster stats in RPG products: Ok, you'll want special attacks, defenses and anything unique about a beast to be well-defined, but how much do you really need a product to give you the rest of the stats for new monsters? If it's new, then what's the disadvantage to just telling the DM what the thing is supposed to be about, and DMs can define AC, HP, and damage in whatever way fits his/her campaign?

I mean, if it's just some mook it might be nice to have all that already written out for you, but if a product is providing you with what's supposed to be a cool new monster then wouldn't you, as a DM, want to "custom-fit" it to your world?

Ok, maybe in an adventure module it's different, since the HD etc. tell you where in the adventure's toughness-hierarchy the monster's supposed to fit, but in (say) a sourcebook-type thing? Does me telling you the Orgulus Oozes of Vornheim have 2+2 HD mean anything or help, really?

Give me your pros and cons here.

-Finished almost all the pictures and maps for the city kit, just gotta do the big city map that we're planning to print on the inside of the dustcover. We're (hopefully) doing all kinds of cute format things with this book to maximize the bang for your buck.

-Here's the latest 'Axe' episode, with Bobbi Starr and company getting hurt by gnolls.
The Escapist took out some of the more explicit details of Bobbi and Kimberly's dungeon adventure, to see the uncensored version click that link. The censored version's here, because I can embed it...

-If you live in NYC, Tavis of The Mule Abides is hosting a...thingy (symposium maybe?) on D&D and its relation to contemporary art tonight featuring some excellent and funny and smart contemporary artists that I have personally played D&D with many times and also featuring a video letter from me since I couldn't be there.

-What with all this business I haven't had a proper game in weeks. I played a bunch of German board games brought over by Axe cameraman Darren to pass the time waiting for Mandy to get better: Small World, Samurai, Thunderstone, and Whatever-it-is of Catan.

Catan bored me almost to death. I almost died. Trading sheep? Really? Why people keep making and playing games involving farms I'll never know--so far as this rootless metropolitan Jew is concerned, the point of civilization is to get as far away from animal shit as possible. I'm with Luke Skywalker.

Also it kinda drove me nuts how the little wood pieces didn't really slot into the board, they just sorta sat on top like dry pasta on a cutting board, waiting to get knocked off every time Connie rolled her dice all over them. Which sucks because where the pieces are is really important.

Anyway what I actually want to talk about is how one of the games was really good and has some D&Dable elements.

Hold on, I have to go eat some cheese...

Ok (thank you all dairy farmers) now anyway...

Samurai is a simple sort of cross between Go and Risk where basically you play on a map and there are cities and you build up four types of influence--political, military, religious, and agricultural (yeah, yeah, I know). You have a limited amount of each (represented by cards) and the trick is distributing them around the board, turn-by-turn, in such a way that, when it ends, you've got the right stuff in the right place.

It's not like you have to rule the whole world, you just have to get more total influence than the enemy, so each game results in a distinctive patchwork of overlapping influences over various forces.

It strikes me that, with a little tweaking, this could make an excellent addendum to the D&D endgame or a plot generator for a campaign. Work it like this:

-Play a session of D&D.

-Get out Samurai. Rename the cities (alternately, you could decide the board represents a city rather than a continent, and the PCs are vying for control of neighborhoods). Each player represents a faction, a ruler, or a god (someone or thing that is roughly aligned with the PCs interests).

-Add or subtract cards from the players' hand(s) based on what happened in the D&D game (i.e. if they found the Ice Chalice of Eleth Sussar then they get an extra 2 religious influence or whatever).

-Play Samurai.

-Alter the D&D campaign to reflect the results of this contest of gods/kings/local mafiosos, etc.

-Say "6 months later..." then start playing D&D.


Thursday, November 4, 2010

I Can't Remember If I Drew This Then Invented It or The Other Way Around


The four-headed, radially symmetrical xortoise is half-xorn, half-giant tortoise.

It originates on the Elemental Plane of Earth, moves slowly, eats gems, is about the size of a pair of Toyota Camrys, and--it is claimed--great wisdom can be found etched into the markings on its shell.

However, since the shell is crisscrossed by a great x-shaped, spiketoothed mouth, it is not easy to read the shell of a living xortoise.

The xortoise takes 81 days to digest and can only do so while lying totally still, completely submerged in earth or mud, so adventurers able to explore the beast's stomach before it returns to its lair often find years worth of precious stones inside.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Research Can Be Fun...

Here are some excellent free documentaries on YouTube you can mine for adventure material...

Monty Python's Terry Jones on the Crusades (he has a whole series of Medieval docs, I think this is the only one on YouTube, but there's a bunch more on Netflix if you have that)
(And if you don't want to listen to Terry Jones going on about the Middle Ages then, really, what kind of human being are you?)

BBC doc on Medieval maps, including lots of stuff about dog-headed men and a guy who uses his single grotesquely-swollen foot as a form of sunblock.

Leonard Nimoy narrating a thing on the Library at Alexandria...