Friday, April 19, 2013
Then I picked up the September issue of Knights of the Dinner Table magazine. In the editorial Jolly Blackburn mentioned another solution in passing--Roll20.net. As I said, I've been happy with ScreenMonkey, but I like to check out "new shinies", so I did.
You may recall a few posts back that I said I was thinking about writing a plug-in for Google Hangouts to facilitate die rolling. Now it looks like I don't have to, as Roll20.net supports voice and video chat natively.
So the game moved over to Roll20 for a few trial sessions, and I have to say we won't be going back. The move to voice (we don't use webcams) has sped up the game to near-tabletop speeds, and has added 100% to the enjoyability of the game.
Friday, February 15, 2013
I'm hoping to get my brother into RPGs, so for Christmas I gave him a copy of Frank Mentzer's Player's Manual from the 1983 basic set of Dungeons & Dragons. I chose that particular edition because the opening pages are the best introduction to the hobby that I've ever seen anywhere.
Well, it doesn't make sense to give him a book if I don't plan on running a game, so I gathered a few friends and started a weekly old-school D&D campaign. My goal is to use this campaign to introduce him to the hobby, then switch over to my re-write of Dekahedron.
One of the players--James--wanted to play a Ranger. But Rangers were in AD&D, not D&D. So I split the difference and made a new race for him: The Wood Elf. If the original D&D elf is a hybrid fighter-magic user, then the wood elf is a hybrid fighter-druid, which is exactly what I think a fantasy ranger should be.
Here's the write-up:
|Requirements||Wisdom score of 9+|
|5% Experience Bonus||Strength of 13+ *and* Wisdom of 13-15|
|10% Experience Bonus||Strength of 13+ *and* Wisdom of 16+|
|Hit Dice||1d6 per level up to 9th level|
10th level, + 1 hit point, and Constitution adjustment does not apply
|Armor||Restricted to organic-based armors only (Leather armor)|
shield permitted if made only of wood and leather
|Weapons||Any, but must be entirely constructed of organic materials|
|Save as||Elf of the same level|
|Fight as||Elf of the same level|
|Special Abilities||Fighter Maneuvers (Lance Attack, Set Spear vs. Charge; at 850,000 XP, Combat Options for Fighters);|
half damage from dragon breath at 1,600,000 XP;
extra languages (elf, gnoll, hobgoblin, orc);
1 in 3 chance to detect and follow tracks in the wilderness;
immunity to ghoul paralysis;
Most Cleric spells
More so than the other Elfin sub-races, Wood Elves are one with nature. They live in isolated communities scattered throughout The Dreadwood, each lead by a self-proclaimed Elfin Princess. Unlike the more common Elves that dwell in great forest-cities, Wood Elf communities are intentionally kept small in order to reduce the environmental impact on the local area. When a community gets too large for the local area--usually when it reaches a population of 500 or so--an Elfin Maid will be named Princess and gather a group to form a new community.
Like the other Demi-Human races, most Wood Elves do not adventure. Those that do are almost always from the Priest-caste, which is presented here. They go out into to the wider world sometimes to spread their views on nature love, and other times to judge the other races for their treatment of the Wood. in fact, some believe that the Cataclysm that gave rise to The Dreadwood was caused by a Wood Elf ritual as an attempt to restore their view of "natural balance."
Wood Elf priests are not limited bludgeoning weapons like the Human clerics, but any weapon that they do carry must be 100% organic, with (for example) no stone or metal parts. For example, the arrows used by Wood Elf priests are often tipped with ivory arrow heads, costing twice as much as normal arrows.
While Wood Elf priests can technically wear any type of armor, the requirement that it be 100% organic effectively limit them to cloth or leather armor with a wooden shield. There are rumors of other types of armor made from organic materials, but such things are rare.
Wood Elves may cast any Druid spells supported by their current level. They may also cast any Cleric spell that does not relate to good, evil, law or chaos. For the number of spells per day, see the level progression chart.
|Spells per day by level|
*Per The Dreadwood house rule, 1st level clerics and Wood Elves receive 1 first-level spell every-other-day.
EDIT: I forgot to mention it earlier, but I used an excellent article, "Building the Perfect Class" by Erin Smale to help me determine the XP progression.
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Before they went kaput, however, Guardians wrote a D20 port of the game, and released that under the Open Gaming License (OGL). While the game was released as BESM D20, there was also a trademark free version called "Anime D20". (Note that it's only free of the BESM trademark, and that it still carries WOTC's "D20" trademark and related licensing burden). I happened to be reading Anime D20 this past week, and it struck me that I could get rid of all the D20 cruft and have a pretty good approximation of the original BESM game. This version would be covered under the OGL, so I could distribute it freely--even publish it, if I were so inclined!
So this is my next gaming project. It needs a name. For the time being I'm calling it Dekahedron 2.0 (Dekahedron is a public domain RPG that I wrote years ago. More importantly, it happens to be a domain name that I own).
So do I start a new blog for the project? Or do I use this one?
Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Tri-Stat dX is basically a generic version of the Big Eyes, Small Mouth (also known as BESM) RPG. Like BESM, it was originally published by Guardians of Order and is now owned by White Wolf. I've been a fan of BESM's character creation for years now, and have been looking forward to a chance to run it again. I picked the generic version because it's legally available as a free download.
When making characters, the players are given additional points if they provide a background story. Background narratives are ok, but most of them tend to read pretty much the same (why are so many player characters orphans?) and they lack the details I want as a GM to make the story more relavant to the characters.
To that end I developed the following questions that the player must answer about their character in order to receive the background points. I have little doubt that I probably encountered some of these questions in various places over my many years of gaming, but that's how life works.
Anyway, here's my list. I hope you find it useful. Feel free to add you own questions in the comments!
- Why did you join Starfleet (or whatever works for the specific campaign)?
- What are your long term goals?
- What are your immediate goals?
- What is getting in the way of achieving these goals?
- Name three things that you don't want others to know about you
- Who would you be willing to risk your life for? Why?
- Who would be willing to risk their life for you? Why?
- What temptation(s) are the hardest to resist (or motivate you the most)? (Sex, Food, Wealth, Praise & adoration, Booze/drugs/etc,Gambling, Power, Leisure time, etc)
- Three people (or groups, I suppose) who dislike you, including
- What bad thing they would like to see done to you (killed, killed at their own hand, tortured and killed, left penniless, publicly disgraced, etc)
- Why do they feel that way?
Friday, September 28, 2012
The first session was horrible. Two months is a long time, and people's memories and notes were conflicting. So this week I just popped a mini reset--the characters woke up in the Mirror Universe. I don't like what the studio did with the DS9-era Mirror universe, so I popped them back to the TOS-era. It would be too trite to send them to the Enterprise, but still wanting there to be familiar surroundings I placed them aboard the U.S.S. Constellation under Commodore Mathew Decker from the episode "The Doomsday Machine".
The session went well, I think.
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
- It must be free for players. While I don't mind paying as the GM, I'm not going to make my players pay for the "pleasure" of sitting around my table.
- It must support players using Windows.
- The player interface must run on older computers.
- It must be easy for the players to install.
- It must be scriptable to allow me to program custom dice rolls as I play games that use different dice techniques than is standard in most RPGs (such as the sum of the lowest y dice of x dice thrown).
- Optionally, but ideally, the GM interface should support Mac.
I briefly considered OpenRPG, another virtual tabletop platform that I had used before. I ruled it out, though, because at the time it would have imposed a heavy installation burden on my players. Not only do you have to install the program itself, but you have to first install Python, and then the Python bindings for the wx toolkit. While I'm a techie and wouldn't mind that, I felt it was too much for my very non-techie friends.
ScreenMonkey. ScreenMonkey seemed almost ideal. It supported programming custom commands. Players use a standard web-browser to connect, so there's no special client or installation concerns. And it offered a free trial. The only "problem" is that the GM program is windows only. I had recently installed a Windows partition on my Mac, though (in order to play the Star Trek Online MMORPG), so it wasn't a show-stopper.
I installed the trial, and had Pete see if he could connect. Everything went without a hitch, and we were set! We scheduled the first game and went off to prepare. Meanwhile, I installed some security software and bought a new wireless router. then when game night came, no one could connect. Oh no! I troubleshot for hours, but to no avail. the only thing I could figure was that the connection was being blocked, either by the firewall and/or by the router.
I eventually gave up and settled on good old-fashioned IRC. I selected the sorcery.net network because not only were they both gamer friendly and bot-friendly, but they also had a web-based IRC client that would allow Pete to log in without installing any special software. I downloaded rbot and wrote some custom scripts to support T&T's "DARO" saving rolls and spite damage rules. that's how we've been playing ever since.
Just last week when we sat down to play, rbot wouldn't launch. It looks like some dependency somewhere got changed, and that broke the whole thing. This distracted me during the game as I was multi-tasking the whole time, trying to fix the bot at the same time I was running the game.
Coincidentally, there was recently a firmware update to my router, so I decided to try ScreenMonkey again. Much to my pleasure, it worked! So I wrote a quick DARO script to get a hang of its scripting language (VBScript), and it looks like we have a new winner!
I've heard that both Skype and Google Hangouts have APIs that will allow me to add dice rolling. I think that might be my next project, as voice gaming should play faster than text based gaming.
Friday, June 29, 2012
The module was published by Judge's Guild (a favorite company of mine) for the Tunnels & Trolls rules system (another favorite of mine), but after reading through the module I have to say that, overall, it's pretty worthless. I was initially tempted to give some allowance for the age of the product, but then I noticed that it was published in 1982--that's a year after TSR published The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh. I use Saltmarsh for comparison because it's the first module that I ever read, so I tend to compare everything against it. But, also, the places where Saltmarsh shine really illustrate the places where Rat on a Stick falls flat.
My first major complaint is the basic purpose of the adventure. In Rat on a Stick, the characters are pretty much just breaking into homes to kill the occupants and steal their stuff. Contrast that to Saltmarsh where the characters are called upon by frightened townfolk to investigate mysterious happenings, and along the way uncover a nefarious plot. In Saltmarsh the characters are heroes who save poor innocents from dark forces, while in Rat the characters are racially motivated murderers and thieves! (Lest I glorify Saltmarsh too much, I should point out that the nefarious plot that the players uncover is ... tax evasion! *gasp*)
My next complaint is the sheer randomness of it all. From the things I've read in my collection of old supplements, this was actually pretty common in the 1970's gaming scene. See, in the 70's it seems that it was enough to just throw some random monsters and treasures into random rooms and call it a day. By the time the 80's rolled around the concept of adventure design had matured. A made up example: if there's a powerful magic sword in the otherwise empty room 6, then how come one of the orcs you fight in room 7 doesn't use it? The 1970's answer is because the orcs don't exist outside of Room 6. They are static beings; their only purpose in life is to wait around for some player character to walk in. It's a lazy, amateur approach to dungeon design that I don't expect to find in a professional product.
A minor quibble is the selection of monsters. The major culprits seem to be orcs, vampires, and (I kid you not) black hobbits. There's some trolls and dragons thrown in, of course. There's a whole selection of "pun monsters" like the dreaded "windshield vipers". But the author also threw in some creatures I'd never heard of. T&T lacks any sort of "Monster Manual", so it relies on the creatures being part of the fantasy zeitgeist. These were just names and MR's (er, that's "Monster Ratings"--T&T speak for "Hit Dice", only better). Fortunately it's not 1982 any more, so Google and Wikipedia let me know that these were creatures from the works of H.P. Lovecraft. In this modern age, I now have enough to run with, but back in the 80's I would have been stuck. (Mind you, in T&T all you really need is a MR, but descriptions are needed to keep the illusion of fantasy combat versus a dice rolling game).
My last minor quibble is the layout of the dungeon. Saltmarsh is a "haunted house"--and it's laid out like a house ought to be (though on a bizarrely huge scale). And there's some natural caverns nearby, to add some randomness. The dungeon in Rat on a Stick is laid out like someone was designing a role-playing game module. The only rationale I can come up with is that the dungeon was originally a natural cave formation, and then the walls were finished by "cave settlers".
Of course, Rat on a Stick has it's good points, as well. The first is the module's namesake--the players can buy a Rat on a Stick fast food franchise. It's a kind of neat option. It lets the players set up inside the dungeon selling tasty treats to both monsters and delvers alike. It also allows them to take a more defensive stance--characters get to defend franchise from would be robbers. This goes a long way to addressing my first major complaint.
Another big plus is that the wandering monster table is accompanied by a "what is the wandering monster trying to do" table. The "monster" might want to establish an alliance with the party, or might just be looking for the way home. This means that each random encounter becomes a role-playing experience rather than just another combat.
I also liked the physical format of the book--32 pages, on 8.5x11 newsprint, and using saddle-staple binding. It's basic, functional, and effective. I like it when companies care more about the content of a book than the cover. I also like the complete absence of boxed text; I could spend a full blog post about the evils of boxed text in modules!
So, all-in-all, like I said, the book is pretty worthless. I'm pretty sure I'll never run it, but the franchise idea might be worth stealing, as well as one or two of the magic items. The rest is meh. If it were for sale today, I would say $2.50 would be a good value for a printed copy, and maybe $0.99 for electronic.