Sunday, August 17, 2014

Yo-ho, Yo-ho . . .

Ah, pirates. In a way, the sword-and-cannon genre is even more appropriate for Dungeons & Dragons-type games than your more traditional fantasies, what with the ready-made adventuring parties/ship crews and the chests of treasure buried under X-shaped palm trees which may or may not be cursed. Long John Silver has, after all, been part of the popular consciousness much longer than Gandalf, and even Conan, you might recall, was a pirate a time or two.

It's no wonder, then that one of the recently-announced 2014 Ennie Award winners is Frog God Games' Razor CoastHeart of the Razor, an adventure series for their swashbuckling-fantasy mash-up setting.

It's a setting I've been intrigued with for quite some time, and there's no better time dive in, as FGG is giving away the Razor Coast Freebooter's Guide in PDF in celebration of the win (A tip of the tricorn to Peter at Dungeon Fantastic for passing the news along). It;s available for either the Pathfinder or Swords & Wizardry rule-sets - I'm looking at it in the later, but at first glance the setting is cool enough that I'd be interested even if it was only the former.

Friday, July 25, 2014

(Almost) d12 Reasons to Buy Dungeon Dozen: The Book

1) It's now Pay What You Want at Drive-Thru.

2) . . . Because it's good? I mean, Jason Sholtis' blog, The Dungeon Dozen, is page after page of inspirationally quirky and system-neutral* charts, whether for treasure, encounters, or world-building. The announcement says that the book will only by PWYW for a limited time, however - I wouldn't expect it to last much past Christmas in July. So, if you're a fan of Jason's work, this weekend looks like the time to take the plunge. And if not, let me whet your appetite with some of the subjects this book covers:

3) "Apocalyptic Visions in the Crystal Ball"

4) "Those Blood-Curdling Screams off in the Distance are Actually . . ."

5) "Dungeon Conspiracy Theories"

6) "Semi-Unknown Were-Things"

7) . . . OK, that's probably enough. Although many if not all of these tables are also found on the blog, the book adds some terrific art and the convenience of having them in one place. Plus, they're just fun to read, even if you don't need really need to roll for "Items of Moderate Interest in the Ogre-King’s Hoard."

*Albeit obviously designed with old-school D&D games in mind.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Retro-clone Read-through: Character Creation Part IIa

And, it's time for another exciting episode of the Great 2014 Retro-Clone Read-Through, where we calculate HP, note alignment and saving throws, and go on equipment-buying sprees! Actually, in terms of equipment my plan is to outfit each character with approximately the same items, arms and armor of course excepted. These will be:

. . . What? It's traditional.

Anyway, once completed the full character sheets can be seen on my new index page for the Readthrough, which also has links to all the posts in the series, and maybe a hint or two at what's ahead . . .

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Dungeons And Dragons - 1930 Edition

From Doug Anderson at Blue Boxer Rebellion comes images from the long-lost true First Edition of Dungeons And Dragons:

OK, that last bit is a fib, it's not actually a period product. It looks like it could be, though - the pulp-magazine aesthetic is right on. And as if that badass-looking T. Rex-inspired dragon wasn't enough, Doug imagines how the line would continue to develop, with some familiar-looking names attached - for example, we see an alternate versions of two classic adventures with the attached bylines of A. Merritt and Robert E. Howard:

You just know that second one was playtested with Conan as a PC. And finally, of course, it's not truly D&D until you have a Monster Manual:

One can only wonder what the rules looked like . . .

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Wheels Within Wheels

"He loved maps, and in his hall there hung a large one of the Country Round with all his favourite walks marked on it in red ink." - On Bilbo Baggins, The Hobbit.

Like Bilbo, I also enjoy maps, particularly dungeon maps; and especially ones that have some kind of trick to them. Today, I happened upon what may be the tricksiest dungeon map of them all:

Just look at all those discs ready to spin around and completely befuddle any adventurers wandering through. This beauty is the brainchild of James Eck, who's also written up a short module utilizing the design. Stats, when necessary, are given for both D&D 3.5 and the author's own Mind Weave system, but honestly there are so few numbers involved it would be a cinch to use with any system you care to name. Plus there's a few other interesting tidbits, like the single-use keys that respawn in portable - but heavy - chests. Very Zelda-esque.

But that's just a bonus - the map could easily be re-stocked for better integration into a campaign, or you could use some random tables to just let the madness build. You might even transplant it to another genre entirely - I'm thinking Indiana Jones would have a field day with the place.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Three TimeWatch Campaign Ideas

As the Kickstarter for TimeWatch enters its final few hours, I've been looking over the Jurassic Edition playtest rules and pondering - specifically, pondering how to tweak the rules for various already-established-but-official-RPGless settings.

The Legend of Zelda

Although it would seem that the more well-known fantasy rules would be most suited for adventuring in Hyrule, some of the games do have an element of time travel to them. Mostly these are hops from one set era to another, but the idea of taking action in one time to set up a success in another translates quite well.

For the adventure itself, I can see the PCs being a cross-section of various Hyrulian races banding together on account of Link disappearing, probably on account of temporal shenanigans from Ganondorf. In an amusing twist on the normal tropes of the series, releasing him would involve exploring a single location multiple times, in multiple times.

Assassin's Creed

Art by chadf
Honestly, it would only take the slightest bit of of reworking to turn TimeWatch into the Assassins and the autochron into the Animus, with Chronal Stability representing Synchronization. Or perhaps the Animus could be re-imagined as an actual mental time-travel device - this would be especially useful in explaining how more than one Assassin can travel to the same era.

In any event, this sort of game would probably draw quite a bit from Night's Black Agents as well as TimeWatch - you'd at least want to put together a Templar conspyramid, and all the better for one spanning multiple eras. 

And with the added element of actual time-travel, there's opportunity for both sides to try to re-write history to their own advantage. Players could even, theoretically, travel into the minds of their future selves, of course to find a dark, Templar-dominated cyberpunk or post-apocalyptic landscape. The big finale of this campaign would probably end up being killing the creator of time travel.

Which brings us to -

Back to the Future

All I really want from this is to have the characters from these movies stated out and set loose on a Tourist campaign. As things progress, they'd meet other iconic time travelers - I have a feeling Doc and Marty would get along great with Bill and Ted - and, of course, evil terminating robots:

Rumor has it that of these characters might get show up in the final edition of the TimeWatch book, bit if not you can probably expect to see them here in about a year or so.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Halftime Report

Well, not exactly half - of the two RPG Kickstarters I've been following lately, one of them is just over half finished, while the other will hit the halfway point later this week.

You thought this was going to be about football, didn't you? (Art by Aerion-the-Faithful)
Anyway, both of them have already hit their initial funding and are working on stretch goals, and both have initial $1 pledges that give access to playtest drafts, which I think bodes well for their future prospects.

Ending two weeks from today, Iron Edda: War of Metal and Bone is, briefly, a Norse Myth-themed mecha game, with Vikings in magically-animated Giant skeletons fighting Dwarves in more traditional giant fighting machines.

The interesting thing about this project is that, while the initial book is for Fate Core, the stretch goals are all adaptations of the general idea for different systems. The first one of these is Dungeon World, which at the time of this writing is only about $1500 away. At the current pace it's unlikely that any more will be unlocked, but the list is fairly ambitious, and props have to be given to the author for that.

The other project I'm currently looking at is TimeWatch, a GUMSHOE-based time travel game. Saying it like that makes it seem fairly pedestrian, but really in looking over the rules so far it's probably the most successful I've ever seem about making time-travel be integral to play, rather than just a premise explanation allowing for various settings to be used in conjunction with each other.

It does this, ironically enough, by abstracting some of the more mind-bending aspects of time-travel, giving each character a "Chronal Stability" stat that comes into play whenever something paradoxical happens. There's already some adventures and examples of play available giving a good overview of how this all works - those blogged by etheruk1 deserve a particular mention.

Potential TimeWatch PC.
And hey, part of the TimeWatch setting involves psychic velociraptors from a parallel timeline - Dr. Dinosaur would approve.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Retro-clone Read-through - Character Creation, Part I

Today, as I understand it, is the 40th anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons, and thus in a way the entire RPG hobby. What better day, then to continue my series examining ten of the games that have been closely inspired by it?

Possibly the most important part of the rules, it's no surprise that all of the retro-clones I'm reading through have the character creation rules right up front. For the next few read-through posts, I'll be creating a character for each game, following the processes of each as closely as possible.

While many of them suggest various ways to generate it, all of them use the general "Six stats in the 3-18 range" mechanic. In order to test the rules as scientifically as possible, I'll be rolling one set of stats the traditional way - 3d6 In Order, of course - and applying them to each. So, without further ado, here are the numbers:

10, 15, 9, 9, 13, 9, 9

Not a bad spread, altogether, though the number of nines seems a bit of an anomaly - and yes, there's an extra at the end, I got a bit carried away with the dice-rolling and decided to keep it around in case any of the rulesets have an oddball stat or something. Anyway, let's take a look at what we can do with these numbers:

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Trio of Hypothetical FAE Campaigns

Although I'm a big fan of the Fate system, one thing about it I've never been able to properly visualized is how the advancement/character improvement mechanics are supposed to work. It is, of course, perfectly valid to play without having this feature, but I suspect there are a great many who are used to it.

Today, however, I came across not one, not two, but three different examples of how the process could work, using fictional characters as an example. Interestingly, all three use the Accelerated version of Fate, though the examples are applicable across all Fate variants.

First off, we have Luke Skywalker. Posted by Sketchpad, this example breaks each Star Wars movie into three parts, giving examples of various Milestones and even a Major Consequence (that hand-chopping thing). Also of interest to me was the last Stunt taken by Luke - "+2 when I forcefully defend myself from relatives" is, in terms of movie plot, useful exactly twice, one of which inspired Luke to take it. Presumably when the campaign continues this will get changed, but it's an interesting example of how fluid Stunts can be, as when as you read the rules they seem much more permanent.

The other two examples come from a newfound blog called Station53: the first is Batman, by Mike Lindsey, which uses Batman: Year One to show how Milestones can be used to tweak character concepts; and Conan by Reagan Taplin. This one is, in my opinion, the most impressive, as it uses all the Conan stories to build an ongoing picture of the Cimmerian's journey from thief to king. It's also kind of amusing to see the "Sneaky" and "Careful" approaches switching back and forth as one or the other become more important.

All three of these are well worth reading, as they make the prospect of a longer-term Fate campaign a much more graspable concept.

Sean-izaakse shows us the outcome when the latter two characters meet.

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Great 2014 Retroclone Readthrough

Over the past few years, a great many different versions of Dungeons & Dragons have been produced, several officially, but the vast majority being retroclones or house rule collections of one sort or another. The author of one of them (Grey Six) has assembled a vast and possibly even comprehensive list of variations, the scope of which underscores the creativity of the OSR community.

It also underscores the difficulty of keeping up with them all. For some time, I've had a bunch of different rulesets sitting around waiting to be read, and so I figured - hey, it's a new year, why not read the whole stack at once and do a comparison?