Thursday, March 31, 2011

Things We Should Agree To Disagree About

(or, Some philosophical schisms I've noticed between DIY D&Ders:)

(I have not included familiar Old School vs. New School differences like Theme Vs. Randomness because everybody grown-up should already be used to that shit and be able to spot differences like that from miles away and not get into it.)

Like any typology of philosophical differences, the point of enumerating these differences is mostly to enable people to notice when a back-and-forth they are having is just one of these larger differences being pointed up and so to allow folks to not waste time arguing about them and just go You are this kind of person & I'm that kind of person and oh, I see...

Vinyl Experts Vs. Garage Rockers

Vinyl Experts really like and--perhaps more to the point--know a lot about various TSR products and other early game products. Garage Rockers see the simplicity of the early games as a nice, solid, three-chord chassis to build their hot rod on but have less specific attachment to the Word of Gary. Experts are more often into nostalgia, TSR-product exegesis, and combing message boards (also see Arcanists, below) and Garage Rockers often find themselves disagreeing with TSR as often as they agree with it and are more often into bringing non-RPG knowledge to the table. I'm definitely in the garage. James Mal is a Vinyl Expert. Jeff of the Gameblog seems like pretty much both.

The Integrity of the World/Campaign Is A Priority vs. The Social Thing Is The Major Priority:

Check out these two answers from the Beyond The Black Gate interview by Raggi and Me, respectively:

BTBG: Gygax said "The essence of a role-playing game is that it is a group, cooperative experience". How important to do you think this is, and why?

Raggi: For me that’s not the most enjoyable part, but it is the payoff and the justification for the parts I most enjoy. The best part is the creation of a world or adventure location, putting it together and making it work so that it feels like an actual place. The RPG context sets a boundary, and I find such parameters helps me be coherently creative. But all that is useless without real people to make use of it, to muck around, and to see if it breaks, and to see if they enjoy the process.

(Same question--these were emailed to us so we didn't see each others' responses.)

Zak: That's the most important thing, to me. A lot of people rattle on about the integrity of the Game or the World or the whatever, but if I just want to be a creative little snowflake--well, I'm a painter, I get enough of that at work. For me, D&D is like a party, and the DM is throwing it, and all the arts and crafts are wasted if it's no fun and everybody isn't better friends afterward.

I noticed this difference when I was helping Raggi edit LOTFP: Weird Fantasy--he made references to how over time you'd learn how the game works and thereby "improve" your game. Whereas my take is and has always been: if everybody shows up, has fun, and immediately wants to play again over and over forever, they could do everything "wrong" and the game would still be "good". The challenge for me is finding new kinds of fun every week, not upping the technical ante.

I do not want to argue who is right here, that would be boring and dumb--and you are boring and dumb if you do that in the comments. Obviously everybody who has a group who keeps coming back week after week has all the constituency for their DM style they need. Plus I've played with James DMing and played his modules and had fun and I like him and we get along and I don't consider him some morphodite loser and so obviously none of these differences will kill anybody's game. I just want to point out the different philosophies and some hallmarks of them. Here are some differences in opinion stemming form these differences in assumption--"integrity" position goes first and the "social" position is second (and please realize that, being an advocate of approach #2 I may have unfairly characterized the other guy but am trying not to, if you are an Integritist and would like to submit an adjustment, be my guest ):

-Greater willingness to let a part of the game be "boring" for some greater end down the line ("Integritist") vs. lesser willingness to let a part of the game be "boring" for some greater end down the line ("Socialist")

-Desire to find players who match the DM's preferred style vs. desire to tune the DMing style to match the players you want to play with or are playing with

-Impatience with their players not having their shit together vs. detached amusement with the players not having their shit together

(Addendum: I didn't mean "having their shit together" as in not panicking when they see monsters, I meant as in showing up with their own dice and a pencil and on time.)

-Emphasis on the world or campaign as an important creative act vs. indifference to campaign or world features unless they translate into gains a the table

People Who Look Real Closely At The Differences Between Holmes & Moldvay And Shit Like That (or Rules Arcanists) Vs. People Who Don't (Scramblers)

Looking over the Wiki, I've noticed there are some people who have written interesting stuff that I've used who aren't on my blog list. The reason they aren't is because they are Arcanists and so like nine posts out of their ten I just glaze over--not because they're bad but just because they fall outside my area of D&D interest. About half of the DIY D&D people like looking through the old rulebooks and figuring out how to make them work and about half just sort of are trying to scramble around and make the game they happen to be running at the moment run smoothly by whatever means necessary. I'm definitely a Scrambler but I think of Arcanists kinda like I think about astrophysicists--I am happy to listen when they come up with something cool, but I lack the knowhow and patience to make watching them try to figure it out fun for me. My primary interests lie elsewhere.

Like the d6-for-all-weapons-or-not? damage rule might interest me more if I was about to start a new campaign with people who've never played or who had played so much they were kinda let's-try-whatever about the rules, but my players aren't going anywhere and we have been playing one campaign for a few years and they came to play this game with weapons working like this so that's what's happening and so that's what I'm worried about.

My feeling about the Arcanists is they tend to be people who have played a lot of D&D systems and who run games with strangers a lot. So they are starting new games all the time or have spent a lot of time comparing how X campaign came out compared to how Y campaign came out.

People Who Are Worried About WOTC Vs. People Who Aren't

Although I'm pretty much in category 2, I can see the POV of the WOTC watchers very clearly: Whatever the current edition of D&D is, that's the gateway drug for a lot of new players. This is where a large potential pool of new players comes from. So if WOTC trains these new players to want shit that DIY D&Ders can't provide or weeds out people who might otherwise want what DIY D&D can provide then it shrinks the potential group of people who might play with you. Plus talking about what you think WOTC is doing "wrong" often points up things you like about your way of rolling. Plus a lot of bloggers have been playing D&D regularly for decades or more and following the TSR and WOTC releases as they came out and so have watched the game slowly move out of their own personal sweet spot and so have a sort of emotional history with the D&D industry.

Since none of my players except Satine began with WOTC D&D and because I have a steady group full of players I like--and because I suspect, running in the circles I do, most future players I have would tend to be people with no RPG experience or with TSR-era experience--I don't think about this much. But if you do, ok, fine.

Provocateurs Vs. Straight Shooters

First, Provocateurs aren't Trolls--Trolls think electronic communication with strangers is, in itself, a marvelous and perhaps unparalleled entertainment and are willing to say shit just to hear what the internet says back, no matter how actually inaccurate or dumb what they have to say to get that reaction is--Provocateurs believe that only by saying inaccurate, dumb shit can they get people to pay attention to actual points they're trying to make. Straight shooters, on the other hand, try to say exactly what they believe to be true no matter how dull it is.

There is, of course, no point in telling Trolls to stop arguing with anyone-they have enough spare time to consider internet arguing a hobby in itself and do not do it out of curiosity about the underlying differences in assumption that lead to differences of opinion or out of a desire to destroy error--so this is only a message to Provocateurs and Straight Shooters: Realize when you are dealing with each other--you can use this...
(which was dug up by Jeff on twitter)
...and realize that in order to successfully make your point you will -have- to know which kind of person you are dealing with.

Provocateurs tend to see complacency about the state of RPGs as a mortal sin and straight shooters tend to see inaccuracy about the state of RPGs as a mortal sin. Therefore they can easily offend each other without knowing why. Long-time readers will note I am a hair-trigger straight shooter and will strike down inaccuracy with great force and furious vengeance around these parts--RPGPundit is a Provocateur. Both of us, I'm sure, believe our positions to be the only responsible ones in these troubled times.

Note also that there are Straight Shooters whose opinions are unpopular enough that they can be mistaken for Provocateurs by those with limited experience of the world. Like I used the word "fuck" once in a press release on account of that's just how I talk and I didn't even realize it was in there but some people thought it was part of some calculated strategy to enrage role-playing game enthusiasts on the internet.

Also, as a sidebar, there are Rubberneckers--a subclass of both Trolls & Lurkers who see watching other people arguing about things they themselves don't care about (or are immune to persuasion about) via electronic media as a fun way to spend their spare time and who will point to internet fights and go "oh that was great, I loved that one, I laughed my ass off", and there are--on the other hand--people who think that their own personal existence has managed to have gotten itself organized in such a way that they have more fun ways to pass their limited span on this mortal coil. Again, I pass no moral judgments here, but I do feel a responsibility to point out, for the benefit of all, that such differences in the essential nature of the Lord's creatures exist.

Expressionists Vs. Utilitarians

Expressionists write things because they think them. Utilitarians write them because they perceive some game-related end will be served by writing that belief down. Again: each should know when they are dealing with the other, it will save time.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Zak's EZ Adventure-Making Chart

There are lots (and lots and lots) of tools which can help you populate a dungeon, or roll up a random scenario. The problem I find with these is they don't really do the hard part of adventure invention for you. They say: "There's a goblin in this room, and nine in that room, a troll in that room. and a treasure chest in this one". Ok, thanks, that's good as far as it goes.

But really, in an adventure, what's actually in it is only half the deal. What the relationships between the things in it are are just as important Plus: most DMs have a few ideas about what they want in the adventure to begin with--it's making it all fit together that's the hard part.

I use the following method myself sometimes with megadungeons or worldbuilding and used it yesterday with Mandy--who is new to DMing and trying to figure out how to write adventures...

Step 1. Think of a handful (or more) of things you want in your adventure (or dungeon, or world, or city, or whatever--it works on any scale). These elements can be anything: monsters, NPCs, items, cities (possibly even themes, though I've never tried that). In this example I'm using: Witch, Giant Spider, Magic Dagger and Evil Monkey. If it's hard to pick elements, you can use one of the zillion random dungeon/hexmap/etc. generators out there to pick some for you.

Step 2. Write the elements across the top and down the side of a grid like so:
You put them in the same order left to right and up to down.

Step 3: Start with the top entry in the left hand column--"witch", move right, skip the first column (it also says "witch") then go to the second. "Witch-Giant Spider" think up a relationship between the witch and the giant spider, write it in.

Then go on to the next column--write in the relationship between the witch and the magic dagger, then the monkey.

Step 4. Go down to the next entry in the far left column--"Giant spider". Skip the first two columns, we already did "witch" and the second column is "giant spider". Go to "magic dagger"--we haven't done the "giant-spider--magic dagger" relationship so we do that now. Then "giant spider--evil monkey" etc. When you're done making a relationship between every element and every other element in the adventure it'll look like this...And that's pretty much a whole night of D&D right there.

If you do it for a lot of elements, it'll end up looking like this mileage chart...
...with a long diagonal of empty spaces down the middle. (They've repeated the same values in the top right half and bottom left half of the table for convenience--you obviously don't have to do that.) After a few sessions of a campaign you can take all the NPCs and monsters you invented in the breach and stick them in the chart and start building up a world with some internal consistency. and it starts to write itself.

Anyway, there you go.

By the way: anybody know what these kind of mash-up charts are called? They are kind of like Punnett Squares, but they aren't exactly that.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Monsters and Items

This is just a page to help me organize old stuff on this blog to make it easier to find.


CifalGanger/Child of En-Gorath
Sublunary Men
Tower Golem
Hollow Bride
Maggot Naga
Eye of Dread
Narcissus Peacock
Maidenmother Crone
The Chain
Wyvern of the Well
Nephilidian Vampire
Lingua Necrotica or Plague Tongues


Hammer of Exorcism
Random Megadungeon Treasure Table
Artifact: Oorld's Wide Web
Artifact: Unimaginable Star of...
Forgetting Dust
3 Items
Binding Painting
Other Items

Doctor Mechanic + Play Report Leading Up To Needing A Doctor Mechanic

Play Report

Girls meet Snow Leopard Men, girls captured by Snow Leopard Men.

Girls kill Snow Leopard Men, girls sneak around Snow Leopard Man hideout.

Girls hear more Snow Leopard Men + Frost Witch Boss coming, girls use improved invisibility.

Girls run into next room, see treasure, still scared, run to next room.

Girls see thaumaturgic circle, Girl A stands in thaumaturgic circle, Girl B doesn't.

Snow Leopard Man enters room, sees no-one (they're invisible). Girl A falls in love with Snow Leopard Man since she's standing in circle and she can see him.

Snow Leopard man hears strange yearning sounds, enters thaumaturgic circle.

Girl A tries to embrace Snow Leopard Man, 7 rounds have passed, Girls become visible.

Snow Leopard man (inside circle) sees Girl B (outside circle) and falls in love with her.

Girl B throws dagger at Snow Leopard Man, hits, but rolls a 1 for damage.

DM invokes modified Jeff's Consolation-Prize Damage Mechanic declaring that rolling a 1 for damage means PC can choose any non-just-more-damage effect that that weapon could reasonably inflict, Girl B decides this is that her dagger cut off a few inches of the Snow Leopard Man's beasthood in an attempt to make Snow Leopard Man less desirable to Girl A so they can get the fuck out of here.

Girl A goes scrambling around looking for the severed tip, Girl B finds secret door and tells castrated, enamored Snow Leopard man to follow her and protect her.

Running battle ensues, climaxing with Snow Leopard Man dying to save his beloved and his beloved and her sister jumping off cliff into trees to avoid leaving footprints in snow that Snow Leopard Men can track.

Girl B fails dex roll, hits tree, has 0 hp.

Girl A lugs Girl B through frozen doomforest until they come upon a passing traveller with a coach...

So, then...
Doctor Mechanic:

The way I run things, when you get down to 0 hp you start losing hp and when you get to negative (your constitution) you die.

I do not really like the idea that there's a cleric in every town. Like, cleric spells are little miracles, the idea that clerics with healing to spare can be found all over the countryside wherever you happen to stumble out of a dungeon doesn't quite sit right. So here's an easy mechanic for regular medieval physicians--who, I attest, can be found everywhere.

Doctors can heal people at a rate of 1 hp per day. The main advantage, though, is they keep people from getting worse. Successful doctor treatment prevents hit point degradation from ordinary weapon wounds for 8 hours (the length of time it takes for the party's cleric to rest and get his/her spells back). However: medieval medicine is filthy and repulsive. Before the treatment can work, the PC being treated must roll under his or her constitution. If s/he fails, s/he loses d6 hp immediately. If s/he succeeds, all's good and s/he's in stable condition.

GM's wishing to add granularity to the system can rock this...

Random Schmuck Doctor Competence Table Roll 3d6 for doctor's intelligence

Int rollDr. TypeModifier to Con checkDamage if check failsIdentify diseases?
8-9A Tad Sketchy-1d830%
3Terrifying-5d12Always wrong

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Don't Do That, Do This

I am checking out a random hex-stocking table in a product that shall remain nameless.

If I roll 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, or 99 I get "Water Source".

Then I scroll down to the entry on "Water Sources" (on another page) and it tells me I have to roll a d6:

If I roll a 1 there's two monsters at the water source, if I roll a 2 or 3, there's one monster and if I roll a 4-6 there's no monsters.

Don't do that. Why? Because they probabilities represented in the monster d6 table could have been represented equally well on the original table, like so:

94-- Water Source (with 2 monsters)
95-96-- Water Source (with 1 monster)
97-99-- Water Source (no monsters)

This isn't the only time this kinda thing happens in this product (or others).

It's a minor thing, but I am nitpicking because of this:

Because the main point of these kind of tables is to save time, so making you turn the page and re-roll a roll you didn't have to roll is kinda defeating the purpose.

Gygaxian Democracy #11: Ruined City of Rem

I have randomly generated this ruined city. The map itself is stolen from a diagram of the Hermitage by Rem Koolhaas, the font is stolen from the Planet of the Apes, and what's in each area has been generated using only the "weirdness" tables from d100 rolls on the random stock-the-hexmap tables in the Lesserton & Mor supplement.

The background white/green is open ground, the red is buildings, the pink is thorny black vegetation, and the gray is rubble. Height of each building is d20 stories.

A Hunting ground for a senile mimic
B 25' deep pit 10' diameter
C Peach orchard
D Unstable ruin
E Clan: 80 Orcs 20 male 20 female 36 young
F Clan: 140 Orcs 35 male 35 female 63 young
G Pitfall
H Infestation of giant rats
I 11 Dead magic zone--70' radius and an ancient exposed basement 5' long, 5' wide, 10' deep
J Greenish trickling stream with insect swarm
K Hunting ground for a giant black widow spider
L 2 open pits: one is 30' deep pit 20' diameter , the other is 25' deep and 5' diameter
M Pretty flowers that, if picked, act as shriekers
N Ancient exposed basement full of rainwater--if you drink it then save vs poison or contract a disease 20' long 10' wide 10' deep
O Good spot for an ambush (but currently unoccupied)
P Active excavation--a bunch of organized people from nearby digging
Q Ditto, but it's also currently an empty zombie lair
R Giant rat infestation
S Clear pool 8' diameter where a boar and a giant weasel are drinking
T Pitfall
U Unstable ruin
V Ancient well
W Good spot for an ambush (but currently unoccupied)
X Ancient excavation with a black pudding lurking in it
Y 3o' mushroom w/40' cap smelling of cinnamon. Poisonous. No save.
Z Ancient well

Anyway, your assignment: Make Rem more interesting.

Add a comment adding something, or expanding on the relationship between things that are already there. Don't try to build Rem in a day, just add one detail that makes this place a wee bit more fun.

Read the comments before yours first--there may be something there you can build on...and feel free to stop by again later after some details have built up.

Also, feel free to end your comment with an incomplete sentence for the next participant to add something, like "the coffin is full of rusty...".

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Still Prodding the Wiki (sounds so gross)(I think I was in that movie)

Still checking out the Wikki--I mean Wiki...

Cyclopeatron's round up of Gygax's house rules: One of those things somebody needed to do--like having Black Sabbath's Iron Man on the Iron Man soundtrack. Plus it'll settle some bar bets.

How to create a player character:

The quickie diceless character generation thing is hardly earth-shaking, though it might be useful in tournaments, but I must complement the taste of whoever runs the Robertson Games blog on accompanying it with a gorgeous rendering of the Norns weaving the skeins of fate into a dragon--is it Arthur Rackham? Oh, thank you google it is.

The Roles, Rules & Rolls character sheet & generation is useful, classy ( roll a 3 for status and you get a bikini) good for tournaments, and somewhat inspiring. I particularly like the "Background (in one word)"(--I immediately thought "Fucked"). Though my game is bastard enough that some of the categories here don't apply, the designwork of getting all the scores and character gen steps on one page can't help but make anybody who runs games with new PCs all the time think "I need to fucking do this".

However, it does point up a missing link in the wikiwisdom chain: has anybody done a composite chargen flowchart for all early editions or anything close?

The childhood and adolescent events from the Valley of the Blue Snails are things I told people to put on there so it's obvious I think they're cool so I'll shut up about them now.

B/X Blackrazor's (If I ever have a child I'm naming it--boy or girl--B.X. Blackrazor) 100 Reasons Characters Are Together is very cool for the very reasons JB gives in the original post: it isn't just a zany list of ways the PCs could've met, it gives the kind of simple-but-memorable shared backgrounds that the players can start off by using as fodder for dumb intra-PC jokes but which will, from there, develop into actual PC characteristics and relationships. The one time I played 4e it was with a bunch of strangers and they gave us pregens--another guy's PC was my bodyguard and the rest of the PCs had no real rationale for being there. We had a blast going back-and-forth with that. I kinda am thinking now that giving the PC inter-relationships to start with is actually more important than worrying about individual personality traits per se, in terms of developing an interesting, durable, playable inter-party roleplaying atmosphere during a game. There's a reason Marvel was way more into team books than DC. It's not about who you are, it's about how you bounce off everybody else.

Anyway I am now regretting I didn't do this back when my current campaign started and am thinking about ways to retroactively do it. NEXT...

Now, holy fuck it's the Scott Bennie Characterization Made Easy article from Dragon which is like one of the very few Dragon articles I ever read that I remember. Let me see if I can remember what was in it without looking...
-the guy in the example says his guy's "chaotic neutral so it means he can do whatever he wants"
-his interlocutor keeps asking what his personality is like
-the actual suggestions include:
-a thing where they ask what movie character the PC is like
-what habits of the other PCs annoy him/her...
-...aaaand...that's all I remember.

Let us see...whoa, I was right, so far as it goes...Now, ok I am reading it. I am getting bored. Scanning, drifting...zzzzzzz...alright, I'm being unfair.

Ok, really this is a classic Silver Age of RPGs bolt-on-more-stuff way to make your game more interesting. The questions are pretty psych-inventory standard--they will be fun for people who are into this sort of thing, including me. Like I would totally run any PC I made through this, and it would probably add some fun, playable detail to the character.

However, I like Blackrazor's "why are the PCs together" table better because it's fast and you can use it to take a player who doesn't have lots of ideas about how to role-play their PC and use it to tease role-playing out of them in such a way that it will start to seem fun organically. The battery of questions in this article, at least for new players, requires a lot more buy-in. And if the other players at the table aren't already down with that, then you just have this one player at the table whose favorite animal is the muskrat (question 3e) and no reason to bring it up.

Short answer: the Dragon article gives you more to work with, but Blackrazor's table does it way cheaper. And when it comes to "stuff-the-girls-have-to-do-before-we-even-get-out-of-the-tavern" I will go for fast and cheap every time.

Though, to be honest, I prefer fast and cheap in all endeavors in life.

Anyway, the Wiki, right...Next...

Now we've got Bohemian's "Good-At" System for Old School skills. It's super simple and fast, it requires no knowledge of the game system, so it's good for new players and I am going to start using it immediately. Oh I am so glad I started doing this goddamn wiki-review thing. There's good stuff in here.

(I do see a flaw in the "good-at" system: glue-sniffing teenagers will use it to power game. However, we don't have any of those in our group.) (Mostly.)

Friday, March 25, 2011

What Should You Blog About Today? Roll D10

1--Think of one of your players, describe his/her impact on your game, what he/she does, how his/her presence or absence affects your GMing (if at all). What you expect to happen when s/he's around, what kind of PCs s/he chooses, etc.

2--Add something to the wiki then explain why it was influential enough to you that you added it.

3--Four things you wish you want more of in your campaign, four things you wish you had less of. Or, if you can;t do that, tell us why you can't. Is your campaign perfect? Rock--tell us why you think it's humming so well.

4--Compare your favorite moment as a player to your favorite moment as a GM.

5--Write up a monster/trap combination. Neither the monster nor the trap must be original, but the combo must be interesting.

6--Give us a spell. Just one. Or more if you're hardcore.

7--Dragons. Seriously, how often do you use dragons? Did they work the way they were supposed to when you did? Were your players scared? How did it go?

8--Describe your local area, gamerwise--is their a local game store? Where do your players come from? Do you want more players? Are they your friends? If you play with strangers, who are these people? Where do they come from?

9--Google up a random mini, then describe this fellow or lass as an NPC. Give us some hooks for him or her.

10--Pull a gamebook off your shelf. Drink as much alcohol as you can. Generate a PC for that game and liveblog your emotional rollercoaster as you create the person.

How Awesome Is The Wiki? No That Is Not A Rhetorical Question

So we have this DIY D&D Wiki. It got started just a few days ago. I think we can all agree it has the potential to be awesome, but is it yet? And what gaps must be filled to make it awesome? Let's see...

Basics of Role Playing Games:

So first off there's Matt Finch's Old School Primer. This is pretty much a touchstone for everybody and dulce et decorum est or however you spell it that it is here first.

Then there's an Original D&D Discussion Board thing on the Scope of the Game. I've never read it on account of I don't spend much time on boards. Let us see: this seems like one of those "what did Gary mean?" things where the end conclusion is: D&D can mean pretty much any genre. I think someone put this here just to say: Hey, we interpret Old School D&D as meaning "more possibilities" rather than meaning "less possibilities", so don't think the whole wiki is just gonna be about whether orcs have pig-faces or not, ok?

Then we got Playing D&D With Pornstars: How To Play The Game which is obviously some tripe fit only for communists and homosexuals...moving on...

Definitions of Standard D&D Terms

We got nothing here. I feel like I have read some long and profitable discussions of what the word "hit points" actually means and whoever wrote these now has DNDWPS' official urging to stick them here.

Use of the Word "Level"

Isn't there some cartoon that should be here? I remember there was a cartoon about how the word "level" was used in D&D... Right? Am I imagining things?

How to Use the Dice

The d30 house rule is up first and is a classic example of a very good houserule. It's extremely simple, but gives the PCs a sort of unconscious mental "how serious is this situation?" index for each encounter which keeps them engaged, plus pulling out the d30 is, in playing-D&D terms, the equivalent of staring down at your slain father, wiping the blood from your nostrils with the back of your gauntlet, howling an unholy oath, and charging toward your nemesis while the music swells. On the GM side it gives you a reason to own a d30, which in turn gives you a reason to visit your local game store (even though they don't have anything published before 2002) and thereby maybe you'll meet some players.

Then there's the Troll on-line dice roller and probability calculator whose existence you'd pretty much have to be a total asshole from space to complain about, even if (like me) you've never used it. I have a nitpick though: it makes reference to saved rolls by users with descriptions but I don't see a link to them anywhere. Though it may be because the color on my screen is all screwy since it fell off the sofa.

Afterwards we have Delta's Die-Testing Article about which I have mixed feelings: On the one hand it was very interesting in a math-for-people-like-me-who-allegedly-find-math-interesting-but-avoided-it-like-it-was-H1N1-after-high-school way and I immediately read it and liked it and used it just now to test my dice, on the other hand this technique claims our dice are fair despite the fact that, out of 30 rolls, Mandy beat me head-to-head 17-to-8 and I only rolled 2 goddamn 6s the whole time and Mandy rolled 8 of them. Clearly there is some mathological flaw here and I think Delta needs to go back to the drawing board and figure out why god hates me.

Ok, part 2 later...

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Steal This Book Idea

Perhaps these ideas already exist. If so, I am sure you will let me know in the comments. If not, and you are a game designer, and you steal one of these ideas, please send me a copy of your game so I can play it, which it will be impossible for me not to do, because these ideas will make playing your game so goddamn easy it will be impossible to resist.

Idea #1: Your book has a book jacket and the book jacket is a DM screen that has all your during-play charts on it--hits, saves, major weapons & damage, whatever.

Idea #2: You see those cupcakes in the picture? Those cupcakes look tasty because they came out just right and they came out just right because the cookbook they came out of was comb-bound which means when it was time for Aunt Suzie to pour the frosting on them, the book was lying flat open on the chopping black and it was easy for her to add the eggs before the cream hardened because she wasn't fucking wasting her fucking time finding fucking paperweights to hold the goddamn book open.

Comb binding is more durable than spiral binding, less soul-abrading than that 3-ring binder thing they did in the 2e monster manual (I see why you tried it guys,, and probably cheaper than traditional binding. And if you just made a book that's full of magic spells I'm gonna want to look up, there's no goddamn reason on God's green earth you shouldn't use it. Especially you, retro-clone guys, because I know you want to save a buck and because you know whoever's buying that player's manual is probably buying your game for convenience more than for how majestic it looks sitting on the shelf next to Bartlett's Familiar Quotations.

Wanna stay classy? Laminate it.

Idea #3: Speaking of spells...Spell cards are a nice idea, but you know how they tend to disappear and then show up months later stuck to the bottom of a leopard print platform heels with chihuahua bites out of them and Rocco Siffredi's cell number scrawled across the bottom in sharpie? Ok, maybe you don't, but I'm sure you get my point: why not make a deck-of-cards sized spellbook--1 spell per page--bound with comb-binding or some other hole-punched flippy binding? Better to have one spell book people can hand around and point and go "See? A save is allowed only if and only if more than one tentacle enters the orifice..." Which, yeah, reminds me: leave blank pages for homemade spells.

F--king hydra.

These are my hydras. They are crawling on some homemade terrain during a game of anarchist Warhammer 40k. Yes the spraypaint is terrain.
Here is the thing you maybe can't see very well about my hydras in the pictures: they suck.

Why? Because every round they regenerate on a 5 or 6. Or allegedly they do. Though Viv had one and I had one and they were the last foes to die in this game, they did not roll a 5 or 6 on a d6 once in the whole goddamn game.
Fuck you hydras. Fuck your 5-headed scenery-climbing asses. You are losers.

Ever have a nemesis? I have a nemesis. His name is Cameraman Darren. To kill time while we wait around Hollywood for Hollywood people with Hollywood problems we play games.

Sometimes he wins, sometimes I win, and this is all tolerable and all in good fun when it is a battle of wits--as it often is. It is good to have a Karpov. But sometimes he just wins by fucking raw luck. And when this happens it's infuriating.
It's infuriating because just because he won by pure luck and knows he won by pure luck it doesn't stop him from saying smug things like "Well part of my strategy was to win by sheer good luck."
I suck at rolling dice, pretty much. When I'm DMing this is a pretty decent talent on accounta it allows me to set up seemingly unwinnable tension-crank situations and then say like "Ok, you all die if I roll better than a 2" and then I don't. Which is fun. It spreads a feeling of warmth and peace to know god hates you but is powerless to do anything about it. But when I'm playing? fuck that.
So in this like 3way Warhammer game versus me and Viv I'm thinking "Well my dice suck, but Viv's dice don't suck, so Cameraman Darren's natural favored-by-Jesus status means nothing..."
But no. Round One: I lose a Marine to Viv on account of the random scenery distribution puts my guy at a natural 2-to-1 disadvantage and initiative puts him last on account of I'm a gentleman and am like "Viv's never played before, she can go before me". Round 2: I lose a Terminator (who cannot shoot straight) to Darren, leaving me with just a hydra. Meanwhile Darren takes out Viv's witch and tyranid in one (followfire) shot, leaving her with one hydra.

This leaves Dr Smug with all his guys and me and Viv with one hydra each. And then they just wallow in the gunsights, taking a ridiculously long time to chew up the cannon fodder and not regenerating for like an hour and a half. Fuck you hydras. Fucking hydras.

Now Cameraman Darren alleges his catastrophe-spike goes both ways. He claims he accidentally blew up a city in R0lemaster rolling a negative 300+ anticrit. But whatever. I haven't seen it.

And I wish I could bask in the comfort of all your comments about such holes as you think there are in the 40k system, but, no, this is homemade version and I pretty much rebuilt the whole thing form the chassis up. It was not Games Workshop's fault: it was all down to the dice, and the dice were determined to dispense ignominious death. Fate, I despitheth thee...

Fucking guy...someday...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Fly! Fly my pretties!

Do this!...

Quoth Jeff:
1. Find a post at some old school message board or blog (doesn't have to be mine) that contains some really fun, useful or just kick-ass house rules or advice material.

2. Copy the link and add it to the OSR Links to Wisdom wikipage.

It's pretty dang easy to do, so dig up those bookmarks and share!

I added an advice piece from Mr. Raggi that I have long cherished. It took me like 10 seconds to do it. All I did was hit the 'Edit this Page' link at the bottom and followed the super-simple formatting as demonstrated by the other links already on the page.

Still reading instead of doing it? Ok: this is a very good thing and you should do it. Navigating through all this stuff is hard, even when the blogger's tryna make it easy. Like: see all those tags over there on the right I try to use to keep my links straight--up until a few weeks ago if you hit "Items" (for example), it worked fine until you worked your way back in time to the Secret Arneson Gift Exchange entries and Blogger went haywire.

I went and added one of my favorite magic items from Monsters & Manuals and it took seconds. Scared of computers and still want to help? Do this:

1. Go to the page
2. Scroll down to the bottom and click "Edit this page"
3. A version of the page in code will pop up
4. Scroll down to where you want to insert a link
5. Either add a number of asterisks = the number of spaces you want to space your entry over from the left (the Wiki is formatted like an outline) or just look at the original page and find an entry that's indented about as far from the left as you want yours to be and put the same number of *s
5. Put a [, then paste in the address of the link you want to add
6. Put a space, then type the name of the post you're linking to
7. Put a ]
8. Hit the "preview" button to make sure all is well
9. Hit the "save" button

Since this project JUST got started, here's some conspicuously lacking things I notice so far...

-Remember those "All elves (dwarves, etc.) do _____, some elves do ______" posts from a while back? If you did one of those, or know who did, stick them under "character races".

-There's nothing under "Spells" or "Monsters"--someone might profitably delve into the Hamsterish Hoard or another favorite source and start linkin'.

-Reviews of TSR products and OSR products--I know that Grognardia has reviewed nearly every early TSR adventure and so have a lot of other people, and these reviews definitely helped me decide what to seek out. A little googlin' could go a long way to help out at the bottom of the list there. If a review helped you to buy something or seek it out, hook everybody else up...

-The Valley of Blue Snails' fantastic random tables for character creation and world building need to be preserved in interamber for all time, and it looks like Canecorpus may be too otherwise occupied to do it himself.

2 notes:

I feel like we should leave "setting" stuff off the wiki. If everybody starts transferring whole worlds onto it then it may become unscannably long. A separate setting aggregate might be a good idea.

Thanks to Alex Schroeder for hooking it up.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

More Speedy Setting Experiments

So I'm still thinking about the less-is-more approach to setting design. (Or setting communication.) That is, telling us about the world via its gameables rather than through pseudonovelistic prose.

I built this quicky Why Did That Happen? table for a few places in my gameworld...
The idea is if I'm ever at a loss to explain some in-game event, or if I'm just building an adventure from scratch, I can roll to find the most common reasons (not all the reasons, obviously) stuff happens in those places.

If you built a d6 Why? table for the last city or settlement your PCs visited, what would it say?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Thank You, Satan.

Oh, Dark Lord, can it be mere coincidence that on this blackest anniversary I have reached that Most Sublime and UnSacred Number of Google Friend Connect followers?

On this day I thank you, Bleak Emperor of This World, for all that you have done to aid me in my cause. With your blessing and in your name, we shall reap and we shall ruin, we shall sodomize the palaces of the proud and ensure that there is naught but badness and that which is bad on this frail Sphere, forever and into the infinite eternity, Hail Satan. Amen.

*Crude Effigy of the Gleaming One courtesy Jun Maekawa

Sunday, March 20, 2011

How I Want To Hear About Your Setting

Ever since I started the-thing-I-wrote-which-I-have-talked-about-at-length-but-which-I-have-no-special-desire-to-plug-here people have called it a "setting". Which is true, that's what it is, but I guess I never thought of it as a "setting", it's just "the place where I put my D&D ideas so Kimberly can decapitate them".

Anyway, I am looking forward to Sir Larkins upcoming rundown of the Forgotten Realms because everything he writes is readable and I can never get through setting books on my own. (Ok, not "never"--I got through Carcosa and I got through some Palladium stuff when I was 12 or whatever because I had nothing better to do.) Anyway, I have Literacy (English) at like 98%--so what's the problem?

The problem is most setting books are packed with extensive descriptions, in prose, of an RPG world. The world is either:

A) explicitly based on an existing literary, cinematic, televisual, etc. one, or
B) a technically original one.

If A, then that world is better described elsewhere. In the book or movie it came out of. I may not know how many miles Lankhmar is from Quarmaal, but most of what is in a Newhon sourcebook I already got in a much more entertaining form from the Newhon stories that I apparently liked so much that I bought an RPG based on them.

If B, then we have a different problem:

The world must be described. However: the RPG writer who writes about a world (no matter how awesome the setting itself is) is, almost by definition, worse at that than a writer who just writes stories for a living. Or at least writes things for a living that I wanna read.

I want to read maybe 0.001% of all genre fiction ever written by professional fiction writers with reputations in the field. Even assuming I likewise want to read 0.001% of genre fiction ever written in the form of a setting book by an RPG writer, that still probably adds up to maybe 2.1 people in the history of the medium, ever.

In other words: the setting book is full of original writing in a form that is not really the RPG writer's strong suit.

And if you're reading--as leisure--something you'd rather not read, you're not going to remember it. So if, as a GM, I actually need to remember that Squealhalla is the capital of Gullgorgica, I'm screwed.

A related problem is that the world is almost always full of concrete setting details which are basically re-skinned and re-arranged versions of things in pre-existing fact or fiction. Like the Holy Grail becomes the Sorcerer's Sphere and there's a faux-England and a faux-Germany and a Tolkienian forest, etc. These things are on purpose and done for reasons I can basically get behind, but the writers then have to waste a lot of wind talking about Great Cataclysms and fuel shortages instead of going, basically "Ok, you saw Mad Max, right? Mutants Down Under is like that, only with mutant kangaroos carrying uzis, ok?" or telling you the comparative population densities of Ilthbone vs. Harnmarr or that the war between the Skorks and the Guelves lasted 1300 years.

This is when I start to nod off. Yes, I'm sure Oerth is a fantastic place, but it's not because the great marsh gives rise to Mikar River east of the Grandwood Forest or because the Lorridges are found at the northern end of the Lortmil Mountains--it's because it has beholders in it.

So how should it go? I think if you want to give the world a setting, don't tell us, show us. RPG writers are good at writing rules--rules that simulate genres--so give us the setting in the form of rules (and monsters and items and all that) and nothing else.

Rather than describe how the Clanward Barrens are different than the Skarrblown Marches, just do this:

Random Encounter table:

Clanward Barrens

1-2 Wild dogs
3-4 Stone ghosts
5-6 Claw merchant
7-8 Monk
9-10 Pilgrim

Skarrblown Marches

1-3 Wild dogs (hungry, 1/2 hp)
5 Abandoned Claw Merchant Cart
6 No encounter
7 Eerie rustling sound
8 Bone vulture
9 Pilgrim
10 Dead wild dog

Want history? Want flavor? Nothing in all of World of Greyhawk beats this sentence:

Relic: Eye of Vecna
Seldom is the name of Vecna spoken except in hushed voice, and never within hearing of strangers, for legends say that the phantom of this once supreme lich still roams the earth...(and now some rules about the Eye).

i.e. Build the fiction out of the tools you give us to run it, rather than worrying about describing each place and then telling us the rules that re-iterate what you already told us in encyclopedia-entry form.

That's how Carcosa does it--character classes, new items, spells, monsters--no big blocks of background info. The closest thing to a traditional travel guide is short hex-by-hex descriptions of points of interest--but even these are done in the form of usable game info. You have to piece it together--yet you could never say that setting wasn't described.

During a game, a GM puts his or her art into the ideas and into making the rules compliment and expand those ideas, not into prose descriptions of interchangeable mundanities. Why not have the setting description do the same thing?

All anybody wants to know about your setting is:

-How is it different from every other setting in the genre? and
-What rules did you come up with to make that happen?

If you are writing a commercial product then, ok, you can write an introduction--for the newbies. Otherwise: Give us a map, give us a picture or two, and give us the rest of the setting in the rules. Trust us, we will read the rules, that's why we bought the book.

Let's try it...

We can see how well this works in the comments. I put a table, you fill it in with data matching the last place the PCs were in your game. Let's see if we can tell these settings apart..

What's Chewing On That Carcass? Table For The Last NonDungeon Place Your PCs Were...(roll d6)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Ahh, The Contemplative Calm of Character Generation...


Found part of Viv's character sheet from when we played Dread.
In Dread you generate characters via a personalized questionnaire from the GM.

Charming girl, Viv...

Saturday, March 12, 2011

I Hate Finding Out About Great Artists

Doesn't this Alex Nino guy know I got better things to do than sit around Googling him all day?

Arrows And Boxes And Columns And Bullet Points


Plant Growth

Plant Growth?


PlantGrowthSpells-by-Level...Magic-User Spells...Levelllllfourrrrr...
"Massmorph", "Monster summoning"...PLANT GROWTH!


Except as noted above, this spell is the same as a third level druid spell, plant growth. (q.v.)

Q.V. stands for "quod vide", and I don't speak Latin, but I assume it means either "so, yeah, good luck finding that" or simply "go fuck yourself".

Ok, but that was forever ago, in the AD&D Player's Handbook, back when the world was wonky and there was no money in Lake Geneva, let's zoom forward in time:

Type IV D&D Player's Handbook. So: good news--this one actually has a graphic designer credited. Three actually.

So: ok, kids, let's make a character...I have played this game many times before so this should be easy...

Now, wisely, they have chosen--on pages 30-31--to ape the most clearly-written RPG book ever written (Call Of Cthulhu) and have a 2-page spread with a little version of the character sheet here, with little call-outs, in order, telling you what to do. Let's take a look, shall we...

1. Character Name. So I'm choosing a name before I've got a race or class? Well, I choose that stuff myself anyway, why not...

2. Level/Class/Paragon Path/Epic Destiny: Leaving aside the fact that I do not know what half that shit means, let me just say that, hey choosing class now is ok by me...

3. Total xp. Well, zero, duh.

4. Race and Size. ok.

5. Age, gender, height and weight I haven't got ability scores yet, but ok...

6. Alignment, deity, adventuring company or other affiliation...ok...

7. Initiative Ah, at last, something to figure out. See page 267 (suspiciously high number for a basic concept, but whatever). On it!, wait, on page 267 it tells me that my initiative involves my Dexterity Modifier. but I haven't even got dexterity yet, much less a dexterity modifier, hey...

Of course what's really going on here is that page 3o is not actually a copy of that cool spread in Call of Cthulhu where they show you a character sheet and use it to walk you through character creation, it's just a full-color two-page spread showing you what a fucking character sheet is. Really?

Like it says:

6. Alignment, deity, adventuring company or other affiliation
: Record your alignment, your character's patron deity (if you choose one), and the name of the group you belong to (if any).

Wait a second...So we have this labeled piece of paper, full of concepts that are explained in the book it is printed in. And then, in the book, there is a picture of the piece of paper full of concepts explained in the book and the picture is labeled with little call-outs with the names of the labels that they are calling out and then after these labels of the labels, there's explanations explaining that you should write in the thing the label describes after the label itself.

Really? Really? Really?

Ok, let's try generating a character again...

Turn back to page 14. Here are, (with no picture) the character generation steps.

1. Choose Race. Decide the race of your character. Your choice of race offers several racial advantages to your character. Chapter 3.

See a whole chapter? You couldn't at least list them here? Ok, well race is a fairly complex concept, maybe it needs a whole chapter, let's give them the benefit of the doubt...
step 2 is class (same deal), step 3...

3. Determine ability scores. Generate your ability scores. Your ability scores describe the fundamental blah blah..Chapter 2.

So let's ignore the fact that chapter 2 comes before chapter 3 but is the other way around in character generation--maybe they felt they had to do it that way to explain the concepts to newbies. Still, could they have at least told us what the 6 abilities were here? Or given us a short version of the 3 methods? Or at the very least fucking given us the fucking page number that the specific generating ability scores blurb was?

And then there are 6 more steps, each telling you almost nothing and then saying "read a whole chapter, fuckhead".
How hard is this?
Let's take a look at how Cthulhu does it...pages 34-35...

Little character sheet, little arrow...big grey box

1. Determine characteristics. Find a blank investigator sheet. Be sure it is for the right era of play. Write your name in the space on the side.(see, they even had room for that).

-Roll 3d6 once each for...(and then all of the ability scores)...

They even have room for some hand-holding "these numbers are your investigator's skeleton. Be alert for ways to..."

2. Determine characteristic rolls (a whole box, explaining everything)
3. Determine derived characteristic points (the whole nine)
4. Determine occupation and skills (everything you need, except a list of occupations, but they tell you where that is)
5. Determine weapons (with the actual page numbers the weapons are on)
6. Determine Additional Background (some stuff you make up, some you calculate, all the calculations are there)

Plus, on the same spread we have yearly income table, damage bonus table, and little silhouettes of a flying monster and a natty Zelda Fitzgerald clone.

You know what you can do with this spread? You can sit down with a table full of people who have never played the game before and walk them through making characters. I've done it. The only hitch is sitting around and waiting for them to decide what skills they want.

Some will say "Oh but D&D characters are more complicated!". Well then ok, make one additional page for each class. Put the fluff wherever you want, but I want everything I need to do to make a thief on one page. I want to be able to say "Here, Frankie, do this".

(Though, while we're at it: Cthulhu, it's a 287 page rulebook, why aren't the weapon and resistance tables at the back of the book with everything else?)


So: Good graphic design.

Some will say the Type 4 Player's Handbook has "good graphic design" or, at least "better graphic design than the original". These people are wrong. RPG books usually have terrible graphic design--which is sad, because they are one of the very few types of books that actually need good graphic design.

I do not mean "good graphic design" in the boring, anal-retentive sense of "do whatever you can to make the book look expensive" (WOTC has that covered, since they have money, and most other game companies have it covered to the best of their ability) or in the commercial sense of "good graphic design makes the content look more interesting than it actually is" (RPG companies are all over that, they know all about that), I mean in the sense of "organizing the presentation of the entire corpus of information to be processed repeatedly at high speed by players and GMs". (Information design + graphic design, really, as DerikB points out in the comments.)

Good graphic design in this practical, engineering sense: Novels don't need it. Magazines don't need it. Encyclopedias could use it but don't need it. You can take your time with these--if you weren't taking your time you probably wouldn't be reading these things in the first place. On the other hand: Instruction manuals need it. RPG books--up there with maps and tourist books--do desperately need it. And we haven't even gotten started on modules--adventure modules need it more than anything ever.

With RPG books--like maps, instruction manuals, and tourist books--the quality of your actual experience doing the thing that the book is about depends to a certain (not huge, but significant) degree on your ability to find shit quickly in the book about the thing. You will have a better time driving through Belgium if you can spend less time thumbing through your book about Belgium and more time looking at Belgium. So this is where we've put our effort for the Kit.

To this end, we have sacrificed values appealing to the other kinds of Good Graphic Design. Most RPG products lean heavily on Good Graphic Design in the commercial sense--they stick pictures everywhere and dress the whole thing up so it looks kinda like it's from the same century as the game. I understand. All of us have known the feeling of being transported to a rarefied realm by a weighty game tome.

But this is not that thing: we only have 64 pages to work with, and they are half the size of a piece of typing paper (so it could be cheap) and I wanted (again) to create a book that I myself would (and will) use. This book will be built for speed, not comfort. So my priorities were:

-get a lot into those 64 pages, and
-make them easy to use

So: making you feel like you were in Vornheim was not a priority. Making you feel like Lamentations of the Flame Princess was owned by the very rich and operated by the very professional was not a priority. Making you go "OoooOOOOooooooHHHH" was not a priority (Though I do hope you like the pictures.). The priority was:

You have your players and they need to do something. And they need to do it now. And you press your fingers against the back cover and push your thumb in, compressing the pages, and they fan past you, springing out from under your raking thumb, and the headings are large, and -bing- there it is. And you use it. Because it is easy to use it. And it does not slow your game down and it does not require turning to a whole other page to see how it ends and it does not need to be highlighted or re-typed or prepped and so you not only have a book full of new stuff, you have a book full of new stuff it will cost you absolutely nothing to use.

So, hopefully, you will use it. You will not hesitate to add things in the book to your game because it isn't a whole involved thing. And your ideas and its ideas go together easily and with no gears grinding and you can play the game.

But this isn't really about us and the kit: We did the best we could and tried to make it fast and cheap and short and you can judge for yourselves whether we got what we were aiming for. This is actually about all the other companies out there, especially the big ones: you wanna make your game popular? Realize that making a working RPG book is actually one of the most difficult (and interesting) graphic design challenges there is (it is literature, instruction manual, reference manual and advertisement for itself, all wrapped in one), and hire people with some actual ideas* on the subject rather than drones who are just experts in making books look fancy. And then listen to them when they talk. And if you still have no ideas, check out the one page dungeon contest.

WOTC has more money than Jesus and three graphic designers and we can't even get a "How to make a druid" flowchart? "Fuck no, we need that extra space to print a second copy of the character sheet explaining that you write your character's name next to where it says 'Name'."

Ok, well how about a thumb index? Or, if that's too expensive, just a color-coded stripe down the side with different classes or kinds of powers/spells in different colors?



*Other than Cthulhu, the only genuine good new graphic design idea I have seen in RPG graphic design lately is the Origin Path chart in the Rogue Trader RPG.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Hot Elf Guy (From Japan)

Click to enlarge the Hot Elf Guy. Hot Elven Guy? Hot Elfish Guy? Hot Elfin Guy? Hot Elvish Guy?

Sorry. So many apologies to make, let's start at the beginning:

Apology 1-This guy's not actually an elf. His name is Elric and he is a Melnibonean. But, for local purposes, he's basically an elf. The people who usually read this blog are not the kind of people who are going to lynch you for calling that guy "basically an elf", though they might gently remind you that there's an accent I do not know how to get my computer to type over the "i" in "Melnibonean" (no, wait, I've just been informed it's the "e"). They are also--mostly--the kind of people who know how to get my computer to do that accent and will leave a comment about it in the comments.

Apology 2-Dear Hot Elf Googler: Why have you been brought here? To this blog? It's all a stunt and our motives are suspicious. Who are we? We are DIY D&D. That is, we are people who are interested in playing Dungeons and Dragons, and games like it, in ways adapted to make it interesting to play for adults who do not live in their parents' basements. And sometimes to make it interesting to play for adults to play with their children.* And, in my own particular case, for adult film performers to play with other adult film performers.** That is, we are grown-ups who enjoy the game enough to fuck with it, the way Hell's Angels like Harleys so much that they fuck with them.

Such community as exists between us is centered around these blogs. And also some forums. To hear more about the blogs, check out that column down the right, and to preview more of them, look here. To hear about forums, check over here.

Apology 3-The idea of the stunt was to get more people to play our games with and/or talk about them with by posting pictures of "hot elf chicks" because apparently those get a lot of hits on this here internet. So why did I post a picture of a Hot Elf Guy? Because it is this blogger's observation--speaking here not only gamewise, but in all endeavors public and private--that I never find myself wishing there were more men around than there already are, but, every second, I find myself wishing there were more girls around than there already are. And girls like Elric. Or, more narrowly and accurately, girls who like playing D&D like Elric. Or, more narrowly and accurately, girls who work in porn who like D&D like Elric. Or, to be 100% precise, all the women I know who work in porn and like D&D like Elric. So he seemed like a good place to start.

Apology 4
-There is no actual useful game material in this post, or analysis of any game product and why it rocks or fails to, or funny pictures of monsters with lots of heads. It's just an invitation. However if you want some of that you could click over where it says "greatest hits" down there and see some stuff. If you just want pictures of naked people, click the "players" label, there might be a few scattered around. But: warning, they're all girls

Apology 5
-I was scooped on this whole gender switch thing.

Apology 6--I took the image above, by Yoshitako Amano, from Grognardia which is this blog that everyone in DIY D&D reads. Even the people who hate it and rag on it read it for some reason. So if you wanted to start reading about D&D somewhere, you could start there. Some people think James from Grognardia is uptight but I can't remember the last time any of them dug out and posted an awesome post-anime neo-art-nouveau picture of an androgynous albino drug addict riding one of the most hardcore horses in the long history of equine illustration, so whatever to those guys.

Apology 7-As you can tell, Elric up there is big in Japan. Since--if you're reading this--there's about a 50% chance that you love nearly everything you've ever seen out of the Land of the Rising Sun, and they just had a tsunami over there, now we be a great time to donate it to the Red Cross or other relief charity of your choice.

* Perhaps in basements--or maybe in rec rooms. Or maybe it's a separate play room. I'm not exactly sure how it works, I don't have kids.

**Not in a basement. In LA we don't have basements.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Type II and Type III Conversion Help

Hey there,

So, here is how the monster descriptions & stat-blocks look for the Vornheim City Kit (not the design, just the info provided):

Narcissus Peacock
Appears to be an ordinary peacock--until it spreads its fan...
HD: 2
AC: 9 or 11
Speed: as human
Intelligence: Animal
Attack: Upon seeing any creature, the peacock will spread its fan. Creatures seeing the fan must then save or stand immobile and transfixed. (Theories differ as to what, exactly, a victim sees when it gazes into its tailfeathers – when a PC is frozen, ask the player what s/he sees). The peacock will then begin to eat the victim, causing d4 damage per round. Victims may make another save every time they take damage. The effect ends if the beast is slain.


The current draft of the notes on how to use the stats in different versions of the game will say:

"If you are using a version of the game which requires more information than is provided in the statblocks, assume creatures attack as ordinary fighters of a level equal to the creatures' hit dice. Assume 5 hit points per die or roll d8 per HD. Assume smart monsters save as typical wizards/magic-users of a level equal to their hit dice, fast or sneaky monster save as rogues/thieves, and tough monsters as fighters/warriors."

So here's where I need your help:

I have never played Type II D&D and I have only played our own hacked and AD&D-ified version of Type III.5 D&D, so, I ask players of Type II and Type III (and 3.5) D&D: Is the information above enough for you to run a monster, or do you need something I left out?

3.5 people: Initiative bonus, right? Is there a simple way to do that? Equal to half HD (plus two for fast/sneaky monsters)? How's that? Addenda:...No, that's too high. 3.5 initiative modifiers = +1 for most monsters, + 2 for smart monsters, +3 for fast or sneaky monsters and and -1 for large, armored monsters.

Save difficulties for innate abilities are equal to 12 + creature's HD?


I figure DC +12 gives us a DC of 14 for this peacock--which seems fair since it's a relatively weak monster.

Also: in this particular product, almost nobody over 10 hd has anything you'd to save against, so the max save dc is 22, which seems like a decent "be-smart-or-get-screwed" price point for 7th level PCs--the highest level PCs who'd be tangling with these monsters.

So basically the DCs go from 14-22 and PCs go from levels 1-7.

3.5 people: please stop telling me how to hit and save bonuses are derived from stats in 3.5. I know that, everyone knows that already. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO REMIND ME WHAT THE RULES ARE. The question is, if I give you the bonuses and saves up front, why on earth would you need the stats? The bonuses are right there.

I appreciate your help.

p.s. If you're Scarius1337 then check it...


You said you sent me an actual play report for Vornheim on "the 5th":

1-the 5th of what month?

2-how do i identify your email address/name?

3-please send it again.(zak z smith (one word) at hawt mayle dawt calm)

If I can't identify your play report and haven't read it I can't use any of your observations in the final book and I can't give your group credit.

If you are "Reece" then I never got your play report.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Fight The Gagacracy

Y'know the show Dungeon Majesty?*

Maybe you don't. It's a fun DIY show about some people playing D&D.

Well now there's this Sci-Fi show by the same people, called "Multinauts", and Lady Gaga's new video looks EXACTLY like it. Like blatant. Even Lady Gaga fans admit it's blatant. And, no the crazy kids who made Multinauts did not get paid.

Jennifer Jason Stratford, who put the thing together...
It only takes one view of the new Lady Gaga video "Born this Way" to be convinced that she pilfered the Multinauts. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but Lady Gaga you and your people should know that I made the Multinauts with every last cent I had. I spent a year and half in front of my computer trying to push the limits of special effects so that I could transport the viewers to other realms. Now that you have stolen from me, I feel I should tell you that I am not part of your research and development team. Out of respect I ask you to recognize the Multinauts publicly, an unfunded science fiction show, made by a small group of artists and completed by one woman on one computer.

This isn't conjecture. It's completely obvious. Watch the videos.

I will now make the obvious and boring jokes for you:

-Gee, that website is sparkly! Ouch my eyes hurt now! LOL!!!
-Lady Gaga is never original hawhawhaw
-Dude! Battlestar Galactica called, it wants it's _____ back....HEEHAW!

I will now also make the obvious, turn-0f-the-century post-Bush oh-why-bother postmodern whine for you:

-In an age of rampant sampling and....blah blah blah, everything is stolen, we play retroclones blahblah

Fuck all that. If a basically completely obscure artist can have a year and a half's worth of design and technical work completely copied by a rich, famous artist and/or the drones she employs in complete public and for anyone with an internet connection to see then basically art as a profession will soon no longer be viable (and no dumb jokes about that please), and we will cease getting art from anyone who isn't already rich.

As someone whose entire life would be impossible without people realizing I have intellectual property rights (that is, as a professional artist who gets to make way more art because I have time to do it 'cause I'm not working at Taco Bell anymore) I'm completely behind Jennifer here.

And you should be too. Maybe Jennifer can't afford to take on the Gagacracy's lawyers, but it is possible to make such a big deal about this that the internet notices. Tell people. Tell the web. Tell dorks. Help make it an embarrassing big deal to casually rip off other peoples' hard work to the tune of millions of dollars.

*Irony department: I first heard about Dungeon Majesty when the guy who hired us to do "I Hit It With My Axe" was accused of copying them. Which was apparently the first he'd heard of Dungeon Majesty, too. But whatever.