Monday, June 30, 2014

Oh No Devils And Elves

The girls were doing a D&D-themed photo shoot today. Laney did the special effects make-up--you may remember (Troy McClure voice) her as The Goth One Named Laney from such reality shows about special effects make-up people as Face-Off.

Here are some phone pics they took during…
Laney, Mandy
Charlotte. She wore a different shirt I think.

Connie got a fake nose. She looks way more like Sandy Duncan than usual.

Laney was able to come up with an awesome prosthesis to hide Mandy's horns and fangs
We roll tomorrow. Expecting like 8 people. Laney might still be wearing ears which'll be confusing.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Weddings In Voivodja

A Red and Pleasant Land, also known as Eat Me*, also know as The Alice in Wonderland setting I'm doing for Lamentations Of The Flame Princess is being laid out.

Uncertainty sucks, of course. It's supposed to be out this summer. It's very close, but we're also trying to make it perfect. Completely perfect and bound in some kind of gold-embossed insanity and just generally long-lasting and exactly right head-to-toe because it's gonna look like nothing anybody ever saw.

So anyway, it's coming, but since I'm not doing the layout myself I don't know how fast.

Meanwhile, my players have sailed to The Red and Pleasant Lands themselves.

After a few hours in the forest, they've stumbled on a wedding. Here's how weddings work:

Rites of Engagement and Kidnappings
The vampire houses have weaponized the institution of marriage. Unions are not considered valid unless the partners slay a member of an enemy house in fair combat during their own wedding. In practice, this means couples planning to wed must contact another couple of a rival house and agree to have a duel/wedding called a Rite of Engagement. Antipriests of both houses preside. The surviving pair (if there is one) anoint each other in the enemy's gore to consolidate the union. Polygamous marriages are not unknown in any house, and their announcement causes even greater anticipation and consternation than standard marriages--being, of course, bloodier affairs.
The Nephilidian rite is slightly different: foes must be slaughtered at a wedding, but they may be captured beforehand at any time and need not be able to defend themselves.
Kidnappings of brides- or grooms-to-be for ransom are common and the task of rescuing them is often hired out to outsiders, as the incestuous nature of Voivodjan society and volatile state of its politics can make the discovery of the culprit embarrassing. (The agent behind the kidnapping frequently turns out to be the betrothed him/herself, attempting to avoid an arranged marriage or death at the hands of a rival couple.)
*For more information click the Eat Me tag.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Boredom Is Its Own Balance

Note: If you're here because of "stubbazubba" on Reddit, you should know stubbazubba's just angry because he is or is like one of the offended min/maxers in the comments below. You can read and judge whether I'm being unfair.

What sutbbazubba calls a "tantrum" is me enforcing the rules you have to enforce in order to have
a blog that gets thousands of comments per day: 1) Don't suffer fools who didn't read the post 2) If someone asks a question, you answer it and don't dodge it. If you don't do that, the
comments become meaningless spam.

It is worth pointing out that there is an overt lie in stubbazubba's Reddit comment: I never claim to want a " a volatile board full of insults and intense arguments" I want a smart board full of people who answer questions about their argument when asked and never ever make personal attacks. Once someone fails to answer a question, however, they're demonstrating bad faith and they become a chewtoy. People who evade questions destroy all rational debate, and you can go ahead and call them whatever.

If you agree in any way with stubbazubba, feel free to leave a comment below and I will,
as always, address it and answer any questions you have.

 Now, on to the blog entry that has poor stubbazubba so exercised:

Consider this piece of equipment/rule:

Musical Instrument (small): 
This could be any old musical instrument you can carry: a violin, bagpipes, a triangle, whatever. Playing a musical instrument requires a dexterity check. Successfully playing the instrument gives you a bonus to reaction/charisma rolls with nonhostile beings able to appreciate music. Failure gives you a minus.

Now, right off there are people who'll tell you Musical Instrument (small) is wretchedly broken. Why? Because for a small price, any character with a dex over 10 can buy a piece of equipment which will give them a bonus to their charisma checks more than half the time. So (they say) half of all PCs (or more than half if you do anything but 3d6-in-order) will buy instruments and so will half of all NPCs. The upside is mechanically superior to the downside in a predictable way, and the price is an amount of gp that's negligible for any PC who has had any adventures. Period. It's a good deal--why wouldn't they take it?

Then every group is at least half musicians even if their characters are supposed to be badass Conans and austere sorcerers and various other individuals of the non-ordinarily-lute-wielding persuasion.

Now the people who'd say this are awful.

Why? Because nobody who's ever played a game would think that. Because it ignores the fact that hardly anyone is going to go to all the trouble to have their character play a fiddle if they don't want a character who plays the fiddle. It's not like you have to just say "I play the fiddle" you have to, like, talk to villagers and say what you're playing and hear jokes about the damn fiddle and, in general, take precious minutes out of the 2-4 hours they get to spend playing D&D to talk about music and villagers and trying to acquire henchmen instead of talking about sunlight falling on their steel as the bloodmist-thickened wind writhes in their ears.

If you get a fiddle it's because you want to do that. And that's fine.

And anyone who is going to do all that--someone who is going to play through a scene they don't want to play through just to get a mechanical advantage--is a boring person with no sense of style who you should kick out of your game.

And this pretty much goes for all kinds of supposedly unbalancing tactics in the game.

Yes, a balanced game is about trading that advantage for this resource: but the ultimate reward is fun and the ultimate resource is the players' time. If a player cannot see that they play for every characters' every maneuver is paid for in this most precious and unrecoverable of commodities, they are hopeless no matter what system they're in.

Friday, June 20, 2014

A 3d One-Page Dungeon...

Complete with monsters, treasure and traps, courtesy of Mike McVey:
Click to Enlarge and Run
This one picture should have everything you need to run it--I flipped it so it "reads" left to right and added inserts of some enemies and features that are unclear in the main image.

There are a few figures that're obscured or hard to read even with the picture at full size, but those are just the adventurers Mike put in there running through the dungeon, so you don't really need them.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Horrible Truth About Sea Elves

Assembled here, with much help from the braintrust.

"They don't know what to do with the surface world-if there's anything to gain from it or not- and so every interaction is an experiment for them...with no explanation provided. The ones who savagely attacked your boat and killed your crew last month? They're trade seashells and breathing moss. Next week? They might be back to try and seduce you into drowning, or give you your enemy's secrets...or both."

-J. L.

" Sea elves are dead elves.  The ones that don't make it to the Undying Lands all drown, and haunt the ocean.
Sea elves don't believe in the surface except as an exercise in philosophy.  There is no intention there.  If you get killed by a surface dweller it's the same as if you had died of a heart attack.
Sea elves burrow themselves in sand and gnaw on coral.  Sea elves draw lewd pictures on the sides of ships while sailors are sleeping.  Sea elves sneak aboard and put their babies in your food supply.
Sea elves have a million babies per spawning.  Little pink things, like lice.
Sea elves are only very distantly related to elves, although the adult molt looks appears similar.  They're closer to shrimp.
Sea elves are all female.  Male sea elves are foot-long tentacle-things that have long since fused with the female's scalp, a la anglerfish.
Sea elves use their young for currency.  Food, labor, and investment.
Sea elves travel beneath the continents in lightless tunnels.  Their maps of the underdark are excellent, although a couple millennia out of date."

-A K

"Same as regular elves, but they drowned. They continue on in a watery undeath. If they leave the water, they fall apart. Their inhuman motives occasionally require drowning a new elf to add to their ranks. Their obscure sense of humour sometimes involves drowning other species as well, though they just die. If you let them know you don't think it's funny, they may think you're boring, but might stop trying to drown you."


"The elven species is ancient enough that they were among the first lifeforms to make it to land. Now I'm not talking about ancestral species of the elves making the jump to land via standard evolution, but the actual elven species jumping from sea to land in a Lamarckian fashion (but still are the same species.) This is the reason elves are so slow to respond to changes- they have to will or otherwise render themselves/their offspring into transforming.

The aquatic elves are the "hidebound" traditionalists (so called by the land-dwellers) who stayed behind. They still evolve/have evolved for different functions in the water through time, but see the land elves as "cop outs".  Because of these differences of opinions regarding land elves (or rarely, winged elves). war oat least skirmishes,  between the the aquatic elves and the other subraces of elf.

Because of their increased focus on evolving in the water instead of adapting to land, you can see greater variance of shape and structure in the aquatic elves. Fist-like, octopus-like, even more implausible things like seaslugs and microorganisms."


You know, even among ocean animals, sailing is probably faster than swimming.  Just think about what kind of ships a water breathing race would build."


That's really good, Arnold. They probably build ships with sails on top but you climb into the bottom and it's filled with water. Or steal surface-ships and modify them. Damn that's good Arnold

Sea Elves are related to the tunicates, or sea squirts. They look like mermen, kind of, when they are young, but longer and more eel like in the tail. They eat fish, squid and sea cucumbers for salad and use giant diatoms like frisbees to take down seabirds. When they get old their kelp like hair binds them to reefs and they become sessile, sucking in water through their mouth and blowing it out of their gill slits through a baleen structure they lick plankton off of with comb like tongue. The body withers away, though unlike ordinary sea squirts they retain a spine - it becomes a waving frond extending nerve fibres into the open water enabling them to sense their surroundings as their eyes and ears atrophy. Eventually they are nothing more than vast mouths with broken teeth, siphoning gallons of water a second, and communicate through bioluminescent nodules on the spine. Being immortal you might think they would be wise in the ways of the deep, but sadly over time they become so dull even the Isopods fall asleep to their reminiscences of big waves and unusual salt levels.

Cities will not be strongly attached to the ground, but arranged like huge inverted chandeliers. Buildings of fallen coral and bone made in strips ike kite-tails. When the current shifts the whole city slooowly shifts with it and the buildings are always moving slightly

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Playing D&D At The Mexican Restaurant

Clockwise from bottom left: Wizard, Cleric, Thief, Thief, GM, Wizard
There's a little button there that calls a waitress
We could tell people in the neighborhood to just stop by and say hi

Mandy said she found it hard to hear and concentrate

Thursday, June 5, 2014

I think we should remove at least one more body part so that the children truly understand how terrible the stepsisters are

Two D&Dables today, first…

I have an article up over at The Toast:

On March 5th, the Associated Press asked: “What are seemingly jet-propelled cats and birds doing in a 16th century German artillery manual?” It was a good question.

What the cats and the birds were doing was the same thing everything else in the manual was doing: being recommended by one Conrad Haas as instruments of war.

The sparse comments from the historian the AP interviewed were even more unsettling than rocket cats are already: “I really doubt this was ever put into practice, it seems like a really terrible idea.”

First: “I really doubt”? What is that? Like, isn’t the historian rule that you do history until you’re sure there aren’t rocket cats and then you talk to the AP after that?

And then second: Click here to read the rest.

Mallory Ortberg called it "funny as shit" which, coming from the world's funniest misandrist, is high praise. Special thanks to Nightwck Evan for historical expertise.

Also at The Toast (and D&Dish), is a great piece by Anne Thériault on how before fairy tales got turned into cautionary tales for children, they started as stories women told to each other about their lives and ideas….

Wilhelm also began to alter the structure of the tales, introducing moral judgments and motivations that previously hadn’t been there. Traditionally, fairy tales had seen luck and chance count for more than hard work and obedience, but Wilhelm put a stop to that – instead the sweet, well-behaved, godly women were rewarded, and those who deviated from that mold were punished….And so fairy tales began to feel less like women’s stories and more like a guidebook for how women were expected to behave. MORE
I find this extremely resonant in the ongoing "RPG-as-imagination-exercise" vs "RPG-as-surrogate-parent" debates, but it's also just got some neat historical and fairy-talical tidbits generally.