31 January, 2011

Amazing Powers of The Mind

I was never satisfied with the system called psionics in 1st edition AD&D. It seemed like two semi-related systems cobbled together. Of course, much later I discovered that's exactly what it was. When psionics showed up in Eldritch Wizardry, the 3rd supplement to OD&D, it was originally intended to be the basis of Steve Marsh's mystic, plus the Psi Attacks of some other un-named class. No wonder.

I (sadly) don't have Carcosa. I like ChicagoWiz's psionics ideas, but I'd like something more expanded as well, maybe for someone dedicated to it, or just for more options with a wild-talent-type character. Thus, I think I'm going to try to figure some out on my own..

I'm going to use this post at TV Tropes as a starting point. I think it's a great place to start.

24 January, 2011

Grumpy Greyhawk - An NPC

In my own PbP Greyhawk campaign, the goal is to visit a time some thirty years after the germinal tales of such legendary adventurers as Robilar, Tenser and Terik. Much as the current year in the real world was 2010 when the campaign began, the year in the campaign is 610. There were no 'Greyhawk Wars,' Rary never betrayed anyone, and the last twenty-some years of Sir Robilar's life would, I earnestly hope, be happily claimed by Mr. Kuntz.
The popular name of the City of Greyhawk has changed over the years to Yggsburgh, arising from the influx of so many adventurers and treasure-seekers from foreign lands coming to explore the rumors of Zagyg and the dungeons beneath his crumbling castle. As the campaign began, it had been nearly twenty years since ne'er-do-wells and would-be-heroes had streamed in taxable masses down into the bowels of the ruined pile.

Here is the first of what I intend to be a continuing view of snapshots from Grumpy Greyhawk. This time, it's an NPC from the back alleys of the gaming district. He's partly a mix of Fagin and Mackenzie Crook.

Limm Skellin - In the gaming district you find an urchin who indeed knows a likely party. He asks you several questions which you guess are aimed at weeding out members of the thieve's guild, as he guides you along a complicated path amongst the narrow streets and back alleys to an old place behind some of the gaming establishments. He knocks on a door, and a man looking to be recovering from a hangover opens it. The boy assures him you are 'ok' and comes back to you for his reward. The man, apparently around 20 going on 50, introduces himself with a formal bow, tipping a non-existent hat, and calls himself Limm Skellin. "What can I do for ye t'day, guv'nor?"
-Another quote..
"Right to business. I like that. It's honest, that is. 5 gold orbs. 8, if they're wanted by the authorities. 12 if they're a person of Higher Station, if you know what I mean. Half now, the rest when I show 'em to you. Mind, if it's a wizard, or someone in The Organisation, it might run extra. If I've got nuffing in 3 days, I'll give back half what you gim'me today, retaining the remainder for expenses and such, o' course."
-And another look..
He clears his throat from behind you as you near his lodgings, and steps out of the shadows. "It seems your friend, him of the hollowed out skull purse, has made an impression on the Society of Magi. I can tell you what I've nosed up so far for the remainder of our agreed upon.. but to keep at things, I'm afraid the wizardly entanglements demand a bit more than the average amount o' care." He smiles widely, displaying his ironic lack of care in the dental area.

23 January, 2011

Tekumel 5

The walking dead man you defeated lies bound on the floor before you. Is the binding necessary? It's hard to know. He's clearly been dead for several days, yet he was silently threatening you only moments ago. His cold body is limp and completely motionless.

You look again at the long silvery staff.. bar? ..in your hands, and you realise that for many of the personalities within you, this is the first time in all their existence when they've held a metal object. Remembering the other room behind you, you rise, and with a wary glance back at the still unmoving body, turn the corner into what you can only conceive of as a sorcerer's laboratory.

On the crowded tables, high desks and shelves you see a dizzying array of obscure glassware, chlen-hide boxes, globes and shapes of brazen clockwork, and an omnipresent clutter of enigmatic objects, a few of which seem to whisper their purpose to as-yet unsurfaced identities within your mind. Among them, on a high table along one shadowy side of the room, you see a very large book, bound in dusty grey-white hide.. or skin.

21 January, 2011

So When Do We Get To See The Grumpy Part?

It's been awhile, so I figured it was about time :)

Why are some so offended by members of the osr wanting to make a buck from what they do? I think that's a ridiculous and childish attitude. Some people give away some of their efforts for free, but to expect everyone to do so just because you don't think it's 'up to par' or because it means you don't get your free treat, or because they could have been doing something you find worthwhile instead of wasting their time on what they wanted to do is foolish.

News flash - the world is not your cookie.

"Why did they decide to charge for Palace of the Vampire Queen? And for Tsojconth too?! Man, what rampant avarice! And good money for little mimeograph sheets folded in half and stapled together?! You must be kidding, that's not even a real book!" - Bah! Humbug even! You speak with the tongue of a spoiled child. And he wants it back. Plus, you don't know where that thing's been.

We don't get to decide which songs Jimi Hendrix put on vinyl. We don't get to decide what George Lucas put on film. We don't get to decide what other people in the osr write. We don't get to decide what Justin Bieber sings.. and frankly, I think that's a much more dire situation right there. But I will always stand up and help make fun of those who think they should have some say in other peoples' creativity. Plus, dude, you really don't want to be that guy complaining about midichlorians on the internet. Seriously. :)

I love you guys! (offers his beer)

20 January, 2011

Vault of Awesome

I rarely do shout-outs, but I'm doing one today. If you don't read Ancient Vaults & Eldritch Secrets every day, you should. I've read it every day for many months now, and I'm continually gobsmacked by the yawning-gulf-full of creativity and originality on display. You get:
A cool new arcane spell
A cool new divine spell
An awesome new magic item
A cool story vignette

And when I say 'cool' and 'awesome' I'm not kidding. Every one of them makes me say "ohhh, sweet!" Chicagowiz even made a google-tool index for the spells and items. You could use AVnES to totally replace the lists in whatever book you're using. Best of luck to bat on the full game and graphic novel based on the blog - very much looking forward to them!

10 January, 2011

Do You Recognise These NPCs?

Recent events in my PbP game.
Parameters: 3lbb ODnD + SnW Whitebox + '75 Greyhawk supplement; play-by-post forum game; titled the Ironwolf campaign; set in Gygaxian Greyhawk (no Greyhawk Wars, no traitor Rary, etc.) in the year 610, some 35yrs after the heyday of Robilar, Erac, Tenser, etc.

These are a few of my recent posts in the game, occurring in the city of Yggsburgh (née Greyhawk.)

1. You follow along, and after a short jaunt you witness them trying to apprehend a very large armored man. The large man picks up one of the guards and uses him to club two others, sending them sprawling. He then sends his makeshift guard-club sailing through a nearby window. The large man yells "STERRRRN!!!" and proceeds along the narrow street. The guards regroup, retrieving their downed but only stunned comrades, and take off again after the massive ruffian.

2. You catch up with them again, but this time the sounds of fighting precede your view. Coming around a corner near the city walls, you see that the massive brute (is he perhaps a bit larger than a few minutes ago?) has torn an immensely heavy iron grating from the middle of a street. He bellows "STERRRRRNNN!!!" perhaps somewhat in the direction of the hole from whence the grate was ripped.

The scene here is more serious than before, with two city guards already sprawled several yards away from the melee, gouts of blood discolouring the surrounding cobblestones. As you watch, the brute brings the dislodged iron grating sweeping into the cluster of guards about him, sending 3 more flying outward, their bodies torn by the ragged iron.

3. The fight proceeds until the great brute, who you are now certain has grown slightly in the time you've watched, flings aside the ragged grating and jumps down into the cavity in the street. Several guards start to follow, but hesitate and are pulled back by their comrades. You hear another great bellow of "STERRRRNNN!!!" echo up from beneath the cobblestones.

Shortly, you see an odd group of individuals arrive on the scene:
A very muscular man with a huge axe, wearing only leather breeches and boots.
An old man with a long grey beard wearing blue robes and a pointy purple hat with stars on it.
An elf dressed in muted green and carrying an ornate longbow.
A woman with sword and shield, armored in many pieces of plate armor, but still managing to look rather unprotected in various vital areas.

The guards seem to know them. The woman exchanges a few words with one of the guards, who seems to treat her with a great deal of respect. The group then jumps down into the hole in the street, one by one. A few guards stay around the chasm, but the rest begin leaving with the wounded and dead.

A special No-Prize to anyone able to name the music group supplying the soundtrack in my mind as the above events were typed. :)

Stars Without Number

Like many people, I just read Stars Without Number the other night, thanks to it popping up on several osr blogs. Like many people, I really super-ultra-ecstatic liked it. It reminded me EXACTLY how I felt when I first bought the boxed set of Starter Traveller from It's Your Move in the dungeon basement of Cinderella City in Denver way back in something like 1983. When I started reading I couldn't put it down. I read and read and read, and suddenly a whole ton of hours had gone by, and I had to go to the bathroom really bad. This is a sign of an awesome book.

I'm really bummed that I have no-one to play it with. It does things that I wished Traveller would do. Not only that, it does them in a way that's reasonable + awesome. One time I tried to get one of my DnD groups to play Traveller, and I had them roll up characters like in DnD, with 3-18 stats and such. After reading Stars Without Number, I realise I completely blew it. Kevin did not completely blow it. He got it completely awesome.

03 January, 2011

Roll a d20 To Cast

The holiday season has left me mentally barren. I expect to recover soon.

In the meantime, I've been considering overhauling the basic underpinnings of magic use in my games, both wizard magic and cleric magic. My main intent is to have spellcasters rolling a d20 to cast a spell, just like players roll a d20 to make an attack. Since my main desire is some sort of equanimity, that means the higher the die roll, the better the spellcast.

Just like any system-fiddling, the first question is 'why bother, it works now.' Simple - I don't really like how it works now. I want my spellcasters doing magic. I'd rather it was more magic with less surety than less magic with more surety. I think that makes for a more interesting situation. Would it be any fun to play a fighter if you knew that you were guaranteed to do damage when you tried to hit.. but that you could only try to hit something once or twice a day? I'm thinking no.

I also have no interest in a wizard rolling 'to-hit' with their magic missile. Lame. I'm looking for something more interesting than that. I'm also thinking mostly about combat-related or time-sensitive magic. To be honest, if you can cast detect magic I don't really care how many times a day you cast it. Conversely, you probably don't care if it takes you 15 to 20 minutes to cast it. I think that's a pretty good trade-off, but I'd still like to see a d20 roll anyway, perhaps with a much easier target number, but with a chance to screw it up and make something bad happen, or even at least waste your time.

I love examples!

Charm Person: failure results in the intended target becoming insensibly enraged at the casting magic-user. They will immediately do their best to kill the magic-user, disregarding all other considerations to do so, including their own safety.

Detect Magic: failure results in a roll on the sensory mishap table.

Feather Fall: failure results in a roll on the minor physical mishap table, with all results visited upon the mage in the form of feathers and/or down.

One thing I really like about the take on this kind of system from James of A Dungeon Master's Tale is how (basically) target numbers get harder the more frequently you use magic. For what I'm after, the tables would look a lot more like one of Zak's tables, and the difficulty of successful spellcasting wouldn't increase quite as steeply as in James' system.

I'll keep thinking about this.. please throw ideas at me.