Thursday, February 28, 2013


Here's a blog post about blogging. So you can go ahead and skip it if you just want the game stuff.

But anyway--

Tip: Avoid antimemes.

An Antimeme is an idea so self-evidently dumb that it's mostly spread by people explaining why they disagree with it...

....yet not so self-evidently dumb that the spreaders realize they don't have to explain.
No.... no....
An antimeme isn't like Nazism or God Hates Individuals Of The Homosexual Persuasion--these ideas get to be on TV and would probably be famous no matter what and, besides that, everybody in 2013 pretty much knows they don't need to explain why they're stupid.

Antimemes, on the other hand, seem just plausible enough to someone somewhere that folks regularly feel the need to boldly announce their opposition to them. "The moon is made of green cheese" is not an antimeme, "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" is.

An antimeme is also not spread primarily for journalistic reasons: that Texas board of education plank where they said Texas shouldn't teach kids critical thinking skills is not an antimeme because it was spread by people who just wanted folks to know about it and laugh. Peeps didn't, by-and-large, feel the need to write essays telling anybody why this was scary and wrong. The news and opinion outlets trusted their audience to know that merely by dint of the fact that it was their audience.

Antimemes, on the other hand, are accidentally spread by well-meaning but deluded people who inaccurately think of the antimemic idea as dangerous and possibly viral and want to nip it in the bud. That is: they think others will take it seriously enough that the idea might someday affect something important when, in reality, it totally won't.

Imagine a doctor who discovers a rare and poisonous salamander, deep in the jungle crowning a remote and uninhabited Pacific Island a few latitudes north of Antarctica. Imagine this doctor then catching it, breeding thousands of them and sending them to research labs all over the planet in the hopes of finding a cure instead of just, y'know, leaving the lizard on its dumb island and doing more interesting things. It's like that.

Antimemes and antimeme carriers aren't really a big problem. They're just boring.

People usually spread antimemes because they make a mistake about their audience. They somehow find themselves in the audience for a bad idea, they then make two mistakes:
1. Assuming anyone irrational enough to believe the idea is also rational enough to ever do anything that matters
2. Assuming anyone irrational enough to believe the idea is also rational enough to grasp an explanation of why it is wrong

Rather than bearding the antimemist in its lair and keeping the dumb idea in the dumb place, the carrier complains about it somewhere else and, thereby, boosts its signal.

In order to take my own advice, I'll use two examples so horse-out-of-the-barn that I'm not risking spreading them any more than they're already spread:

"People who play old games only play them for nostalgia's sake"and "People who play 4e only play it because they are anime-loving WoW addicts and there are lawns and they should get off them".

Announcing you believe either of these things is announcing you are inimical to truth, evidence and reason. You might as well have said "Judgement cow is couched in pie sparkle!" and said it from on top of an oil drum on a crowded street corner wearing nothing but Mardi Gras beads with mutton in  your butt. People walking by your street corner can and maybe should tell you to fuck off because you deserve to suffer for your lies about judgment cow and because, hey, maybe you can be reached, but if you go to your friends, in their homes and go "Y'know, this guy said judgement cow's couched in pie sparkle and that's just wrong in so many ways and it burns my ass because..." then things have gone awry.

Sometimes even dumb ideas can make you have thoughts. And sometimes sometimes these thoughts are even original and useful. Sometimes. But if you just showed up to say Dumb Idea Is Dumb then, yeah, everyone worth knowing knew that, and the rest aren't reachable.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

This Week In Improbable Murder


Area PCs Drop Mule Corpse Onto Band Of Ascending Gnolls, Level
Narrow Shaft, Simulated Physics Suspected In Sextuple Teraticide


Paraplegic Goblin, Level 1, Swallowed By Dragon, Survives By Polymorphing Into House Halfway Down
Dragon Slain, Heirs Impoverished


Area Wizard Bitten By Toad, Stops Living
Druid Claims Responsibility From Beneath Porch

An unnamed 12th level wizard fell to a single-hit-die toad this afternoon outside his one-story home in the Forbidden City with his apprentice, also deceased. The toad was reportedly an agent of a hiding druid-- "Well in round one I cast Entangle on the wizard's bugbear bodyguards but he just undid it," said the druid, unwilling to reveal his name to reporters, "So then but in round two the bugbears charged toward everyone obvious while the wizard put up an antimagic globe. So I sent a toad in there because why not? I mean, I love animals and they love me but, seriously, 12th level wizard? Anyway he failed his save vs poison so he's dead now. I got his bracers."


Area Lich Falls Victim To Metal Hook On Rope

"There's a mindless 12 hit die thing that looks kinda like this-
...allied with a lich," local Baron Blixa Apfelsaft explained "After a useless round where it managed to kill my dog (which had recently been reincarnated as a wolverine, but that's anyway whatever), I threw a grappling hook at the lich, threw the other end of the rope into the rotating-blade golem and that was pretty much that. One hit from some magic arrow Malice picked up somewhere did the rest."

"Afterwards we were all like 'Wait? That was a lich?' and the GM was all 'Yyyyup'"

"The wolverine got reincarnated as an ogre mage later that day. That was a whole thing."


Area Cleric Unexpectedly Becomes Vampire, Slays Ally Running With Giant Brain
Giant Manscorpion Also Slain, Incident "Confusing" Claim Authorities

Reborn Proto-God Extensively Harassed By Roving Adventurers
Elf Also Dies, Players Disappointed At Lackluster xp Haul
Trentacle Kangrat, Age Unknown, Antipodea: "Well we made him run away, that counts for something, right?"

Disturbing Twist In Underhive Murder
Experts And Players Baffled

Nyxotte the Denier, cleric of Azag-Thoth, frustrated by a statue of the Buddha unnervingly lacking in any secret doors and worth 0 gp and terrified by the sight of a swarm of fireflies, tried to swim across a silt-larded river in the Underhive beneath Sigil. Something doing 16 points of damage on a bite pulled him under, killing him instantly.

Xorth the Insinuator, cleric of Lolth, appeared seconds later, appalled to find her archenemy dead, but delighted to loot his firearms and don his sacred mask, "I will infiltrate the deviant Unchurch of Azag-Thoth do realize, scribe, that should you print this your life is forfeit?" said the freshly-minted 3d6-in-order elf.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Akayle Ozph

Cultural appropriation is awesome
Those who have seen the faces of Akayle Ozph say that one is a black elf, one is a white goblin and each face has one blind eye. He is twenty feet tall, holds a spear and a chained chalice, and walks on a river of charred men. He seeks disruption and inversion, his numbers are 17 and 17 times 17.

Humanity, in its xenophobia, describes him in its grimoires as "an evil god" but actually he is properly neither, he stands in relation to the concepts of godhood and goodness as the titans do to Zeus. Akayle Ozph's domain is chaos and primacy.

He is worshipped by the mutilated and by those who weep and suffer, those cursed with ability score modifiers totalling less than zero, by the preterite and by those outraged at first principles.

He was long imprisoned by Vorn, Demoneater. It is rumored he has been released in southern lands, and chosen a paladin to spread his gospel.

His clerics are given dominion over fire, fear, secrecy and frustration. His color is blue and the snail is his creature.

His champions must wield two weapons (splitting the attack bonus), but one must be blasphemous. They detect Law at 60' and radiate Protection from it at 10'. Their charge is to inveigle and zealously overthrow.

It is claimed that his vengeance on the gods who have scorned him (including nearly all the pantheons currently in vogue with the civilized races) will be complex and perverse, it is said two riders will come in his name: one riding the backs of men and beasts, one whose name is written in the language of  worms.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Pictures and Also I Am On A Podcast Again

1. Here is me talking about my D&D book on a podcast. It has guitars. We go into a lot of detail about the book if you still don't know whether to buy one. Really: just do it. As soon as everyone in the world has one I can stop doing podcasts.

2. Here is a bunch of pictures that you can take and then go And it Looks Like THIS!!! to your players...

The kanji says "That's your sister's head"
Luckily, the fortress is not yet fully operational
The lonely Tasmania of your ignorance
Goatskull Candelabras: Villainy :: Little Black Dress: Closet
It's not everybody who can paint a transparent eye like that
I may not agree with your desire to steampunk things but I will defend to the death how mercilessly obsessive you are about it
Nothing to see here folks! Return to your homes!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Where Do You Get 25,000 xp?

After watching a legless goblin kill a dragon, watching a toad kill a 12th level wizard and a year and a half of implementing miscellaneous death-avoidance and object-acquisitions strategies, my FLAILSNAILS PC, Baron Blixa, has found himself with 45,876 xp--making him a Sharper (level 7 thief) according to the Advanced Dungeons & amp;Dragons xp charts.

Still, being an ambitious soul, he yet longs to be a Magsman (level 8) with the stunning 49% chance to Hide in Shadows and 25% chance to Hear Noise all that implies. Meaning he'll need about 25,000 more xp.

So what are some targets worth 25,000 xp?
-According to James Raggithe Keep on the Borderlands (not the Caves of Chaos, the keep itself) is worth 26,965.50 gp
-Assassinating Tittivilus, a Duke of Hell, will get Blixa 29,000 xp and his fellow dukes Hutijin or Amon will get him 30,000
-The 4th level of the original Blackmoor dungeon has 23,000gp in room 14 alone
- Heward's Mystical Organ and The Rod Of Seven Parts not only sound like titles of D&D-themed pornographic films but both retail for 25,000gp
-Killing every single bat in the Hartman Mine in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (1xp/bat) will net 25,000 xp
-The Tarrasque is worth 37,500
-Slaughtering any Elemental Prince of Evil will get you there
-Infyrana, the Dragon at the end of Dragon Mountain, is worth 30,000 gp and her hoard is worth even more.
-Primus, lord of all Modrons will get the party 32,500
-What else?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Right Tools For the Job

It's nice when things that make sense are also things that are fun.

Here's one:

All those weapons on the D&D equipment list? Y'know the one where a spear does more damage than a shortsword and both do more damage than a dagger? Those are pretty much military weapons.

That is: they're good weapons if you're hundreds of guys in formation trying to take a hill and trying not to hit each other. But you're not--if you were hundreds of guys in formation trying to take a hill then why would you be wasting time reading this blog and how are you doing that, seriously, are you all just crowding around the screen and reading it or do you have one of those big Nasa rooms with a big computer projector or....anyway....

Here are some weapons that make less sense for hill-acquisition and more sense for skirmishing in a room and how that works.

A hook on a pole.

A hook? Yeah, a metal hook on a pole--like they yank Gonzo offstage with on the Muppet Show. Like some pole-arms basically are this almost but still kinda basically military pokey weapons. But think of it this way: Your party's fighter is smacking a bugbear around. You are unengaged and have some free space to maneuver (less likely situation on a battlefield, right?). Just slip your hook behind the bugbear and...smack Foe is prone.

What do you say to the GM?
"Look, if it was a tripwire I could see our fighter getting tangled up in it, if it was a hooked pole-arm I could see maybe accidentally jabbing the fighter with it when I'm poking into the melee, but this is just the perfect tool for the job is it not? I have to hook, then yank after I'm sure I got the right guy..."
"Ok, roll to hit, ignoring armor..."

A grappling hook on a chain.

Not so good for tripping people already engaged in melee but great as a missile weapon, melee weapon (might as well be a morning star), distance entangler (beats a whip 75% of the time), monster-choker, dropped-object grabber and a shield (ok, I'm going to spin this grappling hook around me really fast and you try to hit me with that sword).

And in sci-fi settings? Did I ever tell you about that time in Murdermaze I had 3 hit points and killed 6 guys with nothing but a grappling hook gun and a tape recorder?

Scrap Princess gives some love to an eastern grappling hook cognate: for example. Can be used up close, but also can reach, entangles, is a short hard to cut rope (if the chain version), a plausible grappling hook , and tidies up small like for easy storage.

And Jurgen M, a certified ninja, adds:

A kusari-gama is actually a very good choice, although I would suggest a lesser-known but a bit more versatile variation on the same kind of weapon, the kyoketsu-shoge (e.g. ). Instead of the sickle, it has a dagger with a hook, and on the other end there's a massive metal ring that's good to throw around or use as a blunt weapon in melee.

As someone who has trained with (and against) this weapon I can attest that it is extremely difficult as a sword fighter to close in on someone wielding such a chain weapon if he knows what he's doing. And if you manage get into sword range, you then have to deal with someone dual-wielding a dagger and a bone-breaking metal ring.

For very tight spaces such as a narrow dungeon corridor, I would choose a kusari-fundo which is better suited to such environments. It's basically a shorter chain with a weight on each end. The kusari-gama and kyoketsu-shoge need a little more room to use all their potential.


Yes yes there's the smoke and you're probably underground but most GMs are pretty forgiving about that. Remember: animals are dumb. As far as a crocodile or carrion crawler is concerned if you just jabbed them with a torch you might as well have short sworded them then cast Cause Fear. And something hairy like a mastodon? That thing is now out of the fight--just give it some room to run. (This, incidentally has been cited as one reason elephant cavalry never totally eclipsed horse cavalry in the east--they're flammable and easily panic easily.)

And then there's being on fire. Ongoing damage makes people sad, even if it is just d4. Set someone's backpack on fire sometime and see how long it  takes them to drop everything and put it out. So have your thief do that.

You can see why maybe a bunch of people tightly packed together with pikes wouldn't want to be throwing oil around, but that's only because it's too good. Fire trashed more Japanese cities than all the ninjas put together in the history of ninjas.


Whose armor works against a net? Nobody's. Who wants to hang out in a net? Nobody. What happens to flying monsters when a net lands on them? Horrible things.

There's a reason gladiators used them.


Like a net, but for longer distances. Have the ranger roll to bola against AC 10 then everybody else on your side gets a bowshot against the now-immobilized wizard.

Blankets and sacks and handsfuls of dust:

You have to be like 15th level to cast Power Word: Blind. Unless you brought a bag. Or a jar of like baking soda. 

Bonus for 3e players: this version even works on foes with more than 200 hit points
This is a wholly valid tactic

Now, yes, there are lots of times when the monster's made of crystal or the room's too small and your standing on something you really don't want on fire and what you want is a sword and what you want to do is poke someone with it.

This is the fun part though: it's a toolkit. Using different things for different situations is the whole point. Those orcs just rolling d20 over and over against your chainmail and getting all excited because their pole-arm does d10 get what they deserve.


Monday, February 18, 2013


A name, in the Halo, is everything. You are no one without a name. She had tried Fortunata, Ceres, Mad Cyril and Berenice. She'd been Queenie Key, Ms Smith, The Business, Vice, Mildew, Miranda, Calder & Arp and Washburn Guitar. She had tried Mani Pedi, Wellness Lux, Lost Lisa, Fedy Pantera, REX-ISOLDE, Ogou Feray, Restylane and Anicet. She'd been Jet Tone, Justine, Pantopon Rose, The Kleptopastic Fantastic, Lauren Bacall, Avtomat and the little girl who could crack anything. She had tried ‘Frankie Machine' and Murder Incorporated, The Markov Property, Elise, Ellis and Elissa. She'd been Elissa Mae, Ruby Mae, Lula Mae, Ruby Tuesday, Mae West and May Day. She'd been The One, The Only, The Two Dollar Radio and Flamingo Layne. For a day she had been A Member of the Wedding. Then Spanky. Then Misty. Hanna Reitsch, Jaqueline Auriol, Zhang Yumei, Helen Keller, Christine Keeler, Olga Tovyevski. KM, LM, M3 in Orion. She liked ‘Sabiha Gokce' but wasn't sure how to pronounce it. A name is no good if people don't know how to pronounce it. She'd been Pauline Gower, James Newell Osterberg and Celia Renfrew-Marx. Emmeline Pankhurst. Irma X. Colette. Mama Doc. Dot Doc. Did she dare call herself, ‘The Blister Sisters'? The Best Engine in the World?

-M John Harrison, Empty Space

Thursday, February 14, 2013


I was thinking how I don't care about balance of group vs the bad guys.

Like, then what do I care about?

I just need to know it's possible--I just need to know that someone, somewhere, with some thinking and nothing but thinking could do it.

Not by knowing the rules, not by guessing right, not by rolling exactly the right thing, not by the raw elbow-grease of pixelbitching, not by guess-what-I'm-thinking-thinking--but like actually imagining the situation and really thinking it out. And that's enough.

Because if someone, somewhere could do it, you can.

If there's way a first level party could kill that T Rex--go ahead and put it in the adventure. That's balance. If it can be done by humans: put it in.

Allegedly there are GMs who won't give you the chance to puzzle it out and who won't agree with you about what's a good idea. When I meet one I'll start worrying.

Happy Valentine's Day.


Random THORism In This Hex...

01, A monster disguised as another monster
02, Dark elves in blueblack armor
03, A box containing the power of all past winters
04, A burning galaxy
05, A creature from a distant land who seeks to supplant a PC's role
06, The last devotee of an ancient religion
07, A son forsaken by his father, a king
08, An enchantress, beloved by all who touch her lips
09, A shield maiden who looks like Sigourney Weaver
10, A cloak that keeps a villain alive
11, A queen half-living, half-dead
12, A trickster capable of removing his own head
13, A great horned worm

14, A severed body part, removed and grown wise
15, A babbling tongue
16, A toad that is a god
17, A plane of ice
18, A broken bridge
19, A fearsome weapon being forged by a fire demon
20, Frost giants being manipulated by mischievous gods
21, A serum that allows men to see the realms of faerie
22, A great and miserable warrior, seeking death
23, An assassin, seeking glory by slaying a hero
24, Demons of drowning
25, Three warriors: one fat, one grim, one dashing
26, A loved one used as bait
27, The cursed food of the faerie realm, which enslaves those who eat it
28, Magic lightning
29, The demons of the Wild Hunt, disguised as ordinary humans
30, Succession wars following the death of a god
31, Wolves as messengers
32, A king and his rival--both seeking the aid of the king's stepson
33, A great champion sworn to never take up the sword again
34, A cruel witch queen enamored of a hero, who demands him as the price of her allegiance
35, A hammeraxe
36, A weapon only the noblest can lift
37, A demon seeking to set a weapon alight in a sacred brazier held by its foe
38, Goats as transportation
39, A minor foe, his strength increased tenfold, back for revenge
40, Stolen souls
41, A man wearing a mask to hide scars earned in a duel with death
42, An item that doubles your strength but leaves you weak as a kitten once removed
43, A god that is a god to gods
44, Modgud, the giantess who guards the gate to Hel
45, A ship made from the fingernails of dead men
46, The dead rising up to slay the gods who pitted them against each other
47, A sword that reflects death magic
48, A land without gods, calling on those of a foreign land
49, An abandoned sky palace, once a home to the mighty
50, A giant that eats livestock
51, A pantheon, hanging from meathooks
52, An honest butcher
53, A king, alone in his hall, one-armed, his crown put away
54, A library of the murdered
55, A man and a woman, nailed to a tree
56, Two immortals meeting, both disguised, unknown to one another
57, The War Faeries of Wendigorge

58, A rain of maggots
59, Lava colossus
60, Summoning stones
61, A polymorphed groom, unable to wed now that he's a farm animal
62, A man whose eyelids are cut aways so he can serve as an unwilling witness
63, A mutant troll with a grudge, and who was once a man
64, An evil brother fond of trickery for the sake of trickery
65, A giant hourglass that is a prison
66, A physician with a secret
67, Gender switch
68, The spires of Alfheim, home of the light elves
69, A wraith and prophet
70, A man who can only be harmed by a single substance
71, A blind archer
72, A warrior of the east in the grip of a cyclops
73, An armored lunatic obsessed with evolution, surrounded by hybrid men
74, Dead Body Shore
75, Venom dripping through the roof
76, A hall woven of serpent spines
77, Nidhoggr, Malice Striker, sucker of corpses
78, The single source of all cold rivers
79, A warrior feigning sleep to entrap the unwary
80, The stallion of doom, who signifies death
81, A humorless man
82, A triple winter
83, A chained beast

84, A flying race, falling from a poisoned sky
85, A mutiny, in which Kroda the Duellist and Magrat the Schemer take part
86, A white wedding bed, stained with blood
87, A pair of pillars rising from the sea
88, The Crimson Hand--when grasping a hand in this glove, one must speak the truth
89, Someone lends the shape of a falcon to someone else--but they want it back when it's over
90, A giant's pepper-shaker
91, A trickster, vulnerable to water
92, A lord who never wears the same helm twice nor sits in the same chair
93, An attendant whose only function is to record events around him

94, Three brothers: enchanters and owners of four living talismen--faces on their chests
95, An army of regicidal trolls with exotic weapons
96, A bull made of gold
97, Evil carnival performers
98, A swirling green and red skull-shaped flask containing The Spotted Plague
99, An automaton used as a distraction
00, The seductive sibling of a terrible foe, who springs a trap beneath the heroes' feet
Hey Kids!
You can combine them with Tolkienisms to get...

72, A lord giving a Nuremberg-like speech to a great host 
48, A land without gods, calling on those of a foreign land

Which is all kindsa Keep Em Busy if you ask me...

Monday, February 11, 2013

Bar Bar Bar Bar Bear Eee Ann

(Special message for the Gaming Den: If you have a question about this post, you can just ask. I'm right here.) 
Another alternative class.

BARBARIAN (Variant On The Classic Class for DIY D&D games)

So, start with the hit points and saves for a 0-level Fighter in your system (if it has a Ranger, hey, even better). Write those down.

At first level, and each time you level up, you get your hit points as usual, but instead of the attack bonus and saves improving on a schedule, you roll twice on this table. Do what it says--there are also indicators of what to do if you re-roll that same result over again in places where that's hard to figure out...

1-29 +1 to hit. Because fucking barbarian, hello?

30-45 +1 to all your saves. Getting wizardcontrolled gets old after a while.

46 Yes, you can have one axe in each hand, munchkin. You have a second attack per round. You divide your usual attack bonus however you like between opponents/strikes. You get another extra attack per round every time you re-roll this result.

47-48 You're tough as jerky. +1 con up to racial max. Numbers in excess go to str or dex.

49-52 CROM SAYS DIE!!! You are extra motivated about killing really big things that fucked you up. If a creature more than 10' tall knocks you down to half or fewer hit points, you may summon your angriosity to inflict triple damage on a hit. This only works once per opponent. Unless you re-roll this result, then it works twice, or three times, etc etc.

53 Mmmm, I know this beast... In any wilderness environment like that of your native land you will know whatever organic life has been there in the last 24 hours including all typical wandering monsters, and you know about anything that's been there in the last week on a successful roll-under-wis or roll-under-level (whichever is higher) check. Re-roll this result and it extends to dungeons, then to cities, then to inorganic life. Then if you keep re-rolling you can always do the "everything in the last week" thing in the wilderness, then in dungeons...

54 The Great Crone has spoken: that thing you wanted? The Jewel of Carmathroq? The Map To the Pleasure Pits of Mazuun? The Spiked Club of Oool? It's there. 4 sessions worth of adventure away or less. Tell your GM, who then must place it.

You must have a fair shot at it--like any other treasure, but there's no guarantee you will get it. If you don't get it by the fourth session you can keep trying or let it go and roll again on this table. However if you choose to roll again and then you do get the thing somehow anyway, you lose whatever gimmick you rolled. GM think up some clever reason why.

55 You grunt and things listen. You have an exceptionally (though not supernaturally) intelligent hound, henchman, or horse (your choice*). This npc cannot be slain, kidnapped or otherwise traduced "offscreen" by the GM, so if he or she's in trouble and your PC is not around you get to play it out. If you re-roll this and your previous one is not dead, you get to add another hit die to your pal.

56 "'Grrr?' GRRRRR!". You can intimidate hostile beasts of animal intelligence into accepting you as dominant so long as nobody in your party has attacked them. Basically, roll d10 and add your charisma or level (whichever is higher) and the GM rolls d10 + the creatures's meanness, rated on a scale of 1-20 by the GM with 20 being like some mama bear that just watched you eat all her baby bear's heads and is also mind-controlled by a hostile witch doctor. If the "charisma attack" works, the creature will calm down. If the charm offensive fails, you are at effectively unarmored, flat-footed AC the next round because you are really not scaring them there and are walking right up to the animal. Good luck with that. Re-rolling this result raises your AC by one if the charm offensive fails.

57 This not right... You are totally used to tromping around in the wilderness. In any wooded environment (or whatever other one you are a native of) you cannot be surprised and will always notice anyone coming at least 2 rounds away. Your experience with the landscape and the way it grows allows you to search a wilderness hex at twice the ordinary speed and if you are pursuing or being pursued through the wilderness you add your level, in feet, to your relative speed for purposes of determining who catches who. If you re-roll this, the expertise extends to all outdoor environments, re-roll again and it goes for dungeons, re-roll again and cities, again and it works in like the planes, re-roll again and you should probably just re-roll on this table until you get something different.

58 These pythons are not cosmetic. +1str up to racial max. Numbers in excess go to con or dex.

59-60 Roll out the hogfat and corpsepaint. Ok: Take half an hour out of your busy schedule and eat the heart of an animal that you and your party (of 10 or fewer people) killed ( a regular, nonmagic animal, though prehistoric animals and maybe some other weird monsters count at the GM's discretion). You yourself must have delivered the killing blow. After you do that, you gain the offensive strength of that creature for one hour (# of attacks, bonus to attack, damage) but are also kind of nuts and cannot speak except in short grunts (you can point). You can preserve the heart for as long as you want before doing this. Do this more than once per day and you will go completely crazy. Re-roll this result and the effect lasts an extra hour.

61 Slaughtermaster. You know exactly where to put it: +1 damage. If you roll this again it jumps to +3, then +5, +7 etc

62-63 Hearty motherfucker. +2 vs toxins, poisons and whatever other saves might be considered derivable from your general good health in the system you're using. +3 vs inebriation. Same bonuses again each time you re-roll this.

64-65 Smacktastic. On a melee hit you can do your usual damage plus knock a human-sized opponent back ten feet. If you try it twice on the same opponent they get a save or str check or something against you. If you roll this result again you get 2 free shoves before the saves kick in. After that, re-roll.

66 Human steamroller. On a melee hit you can do your usual damage plus knock a human-sized opponent prone. If you try it twice on the same opponent they get a save or str check or something against you. If you roll this result again on this table, you get 2 free knockdowns before the saves kick in, then 4, etc. After that, re-roll.
67 The ways of your people are murderous ways. You are now +2 to hit in 2 of the following situations: from horseback, in unarmed combat, or with a bow or crossbow. Your choice. If you eventually roll all of those and keep re-rolling this result, you start getting +2s to weird fighting situations you can make up, like fighting blind or on fire or whatever GM approval blah blah blah

68-69 Eye of the Deeply Uncivilized. +2 to checks to intimidate people -1 to charm or lie to fancies. +2 when your re-roll this thereafter.

70-71 ...but that day is not this day. Basically you can use the Shields Shall Be Splintered rule on a limb of your choice: A single hit that normally would have killed you just maimed you instead. You lose an arm below the elbow or leg below the knee, your choice. If you re-roll this you can "bank" another one or, if you've already lost a limb, the next time you get magically healed it comes back.

72-73 Headcrusher. Your crit range extends by one. Now you double damage on a 19 or 20. Keep rolling this and it keeps extending.

74-75 Killed you a bar when you was only 3. You can now knock prone or shove (10') anything that is animal intelligence up to the size of a bear in addition to also doing the usual damage on a successful melee hit. Subsequently re-rolling this result gives you the same advantage against creatures of any intelligence, then a +2 to damage vs animal-intelligence foes, then vs people.

76-78 You are yet more metal than before. You do triple damage on a crit. Re-roll this: you do quadruple, etc.

79 You hate heads. If you roll a natural 20 against something with a head in melee and its level/HD is equal to or less than yours, it does not have a head anymore. Re-rolling this means you can do it against things your level or one higher, then 2 higher, etc.

80-82 Enhanced Frazetta armor. You may add your charisma bonus and strength bonus to your AC when not wearing armor. If you have no charisma bonus or strength bonus then you are a fucking putz of a barbarian but treat this roll as if you just upped your charisma by one. Re-rolling this means your charisma goes up by one.

83-84 There's nothing wrong with them that you can't fix with your hands... You do d6+str damage unarmed. You go up one die each time you re-roll this.

85-86 Nelson is your middle name...On a successful hit you can hold anything whose strength and dexterity are both less than your strength for an extra round automatically before it starts to get checks to escape. You get another round each time you re-roll this.

87-88 You are deeply used to being haunted by the ghosts of the fallen. You are immune to fear from any kind of undead and are +1 to save vs any kind of spooky undead special power by any kind of ethereal dead. +2 more each time you re-roll this.

89 Bah! It is nothing. You have 2 points of damage resistance to any kind of energy that is like the weather condition typical of the harsh environment in which you were spawned--like if you're from the desert, then heat does -2 to you, if you're from the arctic wastes, cold does -2 to you, if you come from a seagoing culture, then you take -2 from water damage.

90 Heedless charge. On the first round of any combat (and only on the first round) you may gamble any number of your hit points on an attack. If you hit--you do that much damage, if you miss, you take that much damage (a miss indicates your foe was able to set up to receive your charge). You must be in the first rank of combatants (i.e. nobody gets to soften them up or test them before you pick how much you're gambling.) Each time you re-roll this you get +1 damage to the attack.

91-92 You're so sick of dealing with these decadent merchants you've started to DIY it. You can make your own weapons given a week and 25% of the usual cost of this merchandise. Each time you roll this (including the first time) you've had enough free time and luck to custom-craft one for your hand and fighting style, allowing you a +1 to hit and damage with that weapon.

93-94 These people have no clue what's out there. Your scars, tattoos and monstrous speech speak of exotic lands and distant adventure to the gullible folk of civilized lands. +2 to lie about where you've been or what you've seen to any of these so-called "sophisticates"--they'll believe anything. +2 more each time you re-roll this.

95-96 The spirits of earth and air know your name--and are beginning to wish they did not. +1 vs any cleric or druid spell, +2 if you have personally slain a cleric of that faith. +1 more each time you re-roll this.

97-98 There is a reason this axe is this big. On a successful hit you may distribute the damage rolled between any two targets within reach so long as they have an equal or lesser armor class to the one you just hit. Every time you re-roll this you get one more target up to a maximum of 5.

99 Re-roll on the ranger table.

00 Re-roll on the fighter table

* or roll on this table I stole from JOESKY's barbarian


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Two Dads Of The Apocalypse

So there's like this dad who reads all the parenting blogs and buys one of those high-end stainless-steel carriage-style shock-absorbent strollers so there'll be no long-term invisible spinal damage and only buys black-and-white toys for the first three months so the kid's eyesight develops right and the dad pays close and critical attention to everything that comes out of his kid's mouth and works with the kid to like explore the kid's emerging maturity. He is all about being a dad. This dad is a Good And Responsible Dad.

Then there's this other dad that is just a guy like most parents and does whatever and leaves the kid pretty much alone aside from going "Hey be awesome kid" once in a while and spends half the time in his garage making some extensive bizarre thing that has nothing at all to do with parenting but makes the kid go "Wow, dad, whatcha doin' in here?" and the rest of the time like flying helicopters and saving the world from nuclear terror and drinking whisky on the roof with Santigold and her sister.  This dad may not be that Responsible. He is, however, an Awesome Dad.

Now imagine these dads are post-apocalyptic RPGs...

Apocalypse World is a Good And Responsible Dad.
RIFTS is an Awesome Dad.


Which kinda bugs me because I think the author of Apocalypse World seems like he has some very good ideas and has an Awesome Dad in him somewhere (certainly more of the awesome dad than RIFTS has of the responsible dad), but he is surrounded by all these other parents who are going "You're giving him lentils? That's so smart. That's so important at this age. Hell even I need a few lentils now and again." And he's going "Yeah, lentils, for sure, I have some ideas about lentils. I'll invent a GM move called Be Aware Of The Possibility That You Could Eat Lentils, then people who GM will know that they could always eat lentils if they wanted to".

And what about the kids? What do they think? Nobody really knows. I doubt the author of Apocalypse World really knows, he just knows that all these people (game designers--personal friends in many cases, I suspect) are saying "Well if I was a kid I know I certainly would appreciate all these lentils..."

Meanwhile Awesome Dad's kid is just like "How can I be like you dad?" and Awesome Dad is just like "Fuck if I know (blows a flying manta ray out of the sky) you'll figure it out I bet" and the kid's like "One day I'm gonna figure out how, Awesome Dad..." and Awesome Dad's like "Cool, here, lick some lead paint..." "Aww, Dad, really?" "Whatever I don't care...SUCK IT MANTA TYRANT!!"

The pictures in Apocalypse World are low-rent Tim Bradstreet imitations which add nothing to the setting content but they impeccably Reinforce The Themes of the game and are embedded in impeccably readable graphic design. They Communicate.

The pictures in RIFTS range from amazing to awkward to bugfuck insane to fascinatingly wrong to Why Would You Ever Show Anyone That? but they are never dull and add details to a world all its own and some are by Larry Mcdougall and some are by Newton Ewell and they are embedded in graphic design that does not give a fuck about graphic design. They Are Just Fucking There Being Rad.


When I read Apocalypse World I get the feeling the author cares a lot about me and making my game work.

When I read RIFTS I get the feeling the author cares a lot about RIFTS and is only telling me because he can't control the overflow of his own enthusiasm.

RIFTS, of course, is a gorgeously inspiring, magnificently fat game and a ton of fun once you saw off the dumb bits (like every other game).

I'm supposed to play Apocalypse World for the first time next week. I looked through the books for a character name I could live with (like many engaged and eager dads, and like its child, Dungeon World, Apocalypse World names your toys for you) and found two in there: Barbecue and Lizard.

Barbecue is a Hardholder which seems pretty dull, so I'm being Lizard, who is a Hocus.

We will see...



(on Google +)

Zak Smith10:54 AM (edited)Edit

Let's take a look at AW:
When you go aggro on someone, roll+hard. On a 10+, they have to choose: force your hand and suck it up, or cave and do what you want. On a 7–9, they can instead choose 1:
• get the hell out of your way
• barricade themselves securely in
• give you something they think you want
• back off calmly, hands where you can see
• tell you what you want to know (or what you want to hear)
Why not just write:
When you go aggro on someone, roll+hard. On a 10+, they have to choose: force your hand and suck it up, or cave and do what you want. On a 7–9, they are scared and act like it, but may stop short of giving you exactly what you want.

(then in a tiny footnote)
Here are some examples of acting scared:
• get the hell out of your way
• barricade themselves securely in
• give you something they think you want
• back off calmly, hands where you can see
• tell you what you want to know (or what you want to hear)

Vincent Baker (AW's Designer)10:41 AM
(this is following up another thread of the conversation about sales figures and audience size but I'm leaving it here for context)
Apocalypse World's first thousand sales (let's say) were to people who already owned my other games, but since then it's sold overwhelmingly to people who didn't. It's significantly expanded my paying audience, so I conclude that it's useful to at least some people who haven't been following me for years.

Do let me run some reports and make sure I'm telling the truth before you hold me to it, though, just in case.

Zak Smith10:45 AMEdit
I am willing to take that as fact. I still think AW is written in a way its audience approves of more than it, firsthand, needs .
I would not say this about Vineyard, which, while about stuff I'm less interested in, seems like a tighter and less "helicoptery" package.

Vincent Baker10:54 AM
That may be so.

Both of those comments have plusses from Vincent, so--though I don't want to get too excited just yet--it looks like I may have just managed to use the internet as a medium of communication.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Vivid And Continuous Joy Of Not Being Dead Yet

Watched the last 40 minutes of Barry Lyndon then went down Santa Monica.

Got Connie, there's the kid crashing on the couch. Headed south past all the furniture stores.

One of the houses on the block has this miniature library in a box. Glass fronted, a little bigger than a mailbox: leave a book, take a book.

Connie makes her character "You can roll 3d6 in order or make 6 characters and choose the one you like best".

"I'll just roll one and go" she says. Just like Mandy did. Because they're awesome. I would like to pretend I could take responsibility for how awesome they are, but I can't. They were like this from day one.

Here's Kirin, he gives us waffles and fried chicken and tries to kill us.

He can't because he's only the GM and all he has is a big slab of vanilla called Rappan Athuk and there are 5 of us and we have 3d6 in order and rope and string and lard and caltrops and armor made from the iron cobra we killed last week.

Also: two varieties of Pepperidge Farm distinctive cookies and a fruit plate. We cannot be destroyed.

The new puppy is here, his name is Chewbacca. He is playing a wardog named Carnage we bought for 25gp.

We come around the corner into the bandits' lair--we're outnumbered 2 to 1. 4 rounds later half of them are shot to pieces and the other half are in a pit trap between 2 zombies and a burning mule.

The man who works at the general store is suspicious. We keep leaving with fresh mules and lubricant and keep coming back with money.

To see your foes driven before you, to see them crushed in a pit trap between the living dead who were once their companions and who are now trying to eat their brains and a mule you realize belatedly you might not even have had to set on fire--to do this at first level while eating chicken and waffles and Distinctive Cookies... and to do this on a Thursday evening with your friends and a puppy and with only one of you having to appear in court in the morning. This is an excellent Thursday in Los Angeles.

I love this.