Nov 26, 2008

A non-update by virtue of...an update!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING ALL!

Be safe.
Have fun.
Kill no-one
Eat Turkey (or Tofurkey if you are so inclined)
Game well

Talk to y'all in December!

Nov 20, 2008

How a SWEET Science fiction Quotable fueled my Fantasy game.

I am a huge sucker for quotes. Whether they be from famous historical figures or my favorite TV show. In this case, it is my current favorite TV show - Battlestar Galactica.

Fellow fans will be familiar with the "in-betweener" TV movie "Razor" that came out earlier this year. I had to watch it twice, as the constant presence of Stephanie Jacobsen and Katee Sackoff scrambled my brains something fierce : )

I wont bore you with a long recap, keeping it short and sweet. At the end of the show, a mortally(?) wounded Kendra Shaw stays behind on a Cylon baseship to manually detonate a nuclear bomb. It's an atonement thing. As she is lugging the bomb, she is directed to the core of the ship - and to the waiting hybrid controller. This creature is an amalgam of flesh and machinery that controls the entire baseship.

Throughout the show, it is hinted several times that the hybrids have oracular abilities that they subconsciously manifest from time to time. This one has something to say that just makes the hair on the back of my neck tingle:

...Soon there will be four, glorious in awakening. Struggling with the knowledge of their true selves. The pain of revelation bringing new clarity. And in the midst of their confusion, he will find her, enemies brought together by impossible longing, enemies now joined as one. The way forward, at once unthinkable, yet inevitable. And the fifth, still in the shadow, will claw toward the light, hungering for redemption, that will only come in the howl of terrible suffering. I can see them all. The seven, now six, self-described machines who believe themselves without sin. But in time, it is sin that will consume them. They will know emnity, bitterness, the wrenching agony of the one splintering into the many. And then they will join the promised land, gathered on the wings of the angel - - not an end, but a beginning.

As my own existence comes to a close, only to begin anew in ways uncertain

All this has happened before and will happen again. Again, again, again, again, again, again, again, again, again...


At this point, Kendra utters a one liner, and detonates the nuke.

With a tiny little bit of word substitution, this is going to be used to transition my current game out of a generic fantasy world, into the default D&D setting (feywild, shadowfell, elemental chaos, etc..).

Why kill yourself trying to make something "original" when a well placed copy/paste will do? As long as it isn't overdone, and is done in good taste, the sky is the limit!

And that's how I am going to fracking integrate a major plot element from a science fiction TV show into my D&D game. So say we all!

Nov 18, 2008

Grapeshot! Grapeshot for everyone! Or, a Pathfinder RPG Beta review of sorts.

Update: http://sob.apotheon.org/?p=438 One of my fellow bloggers and sometime commenters has also spoken. While his opinion differs, I request that my three readers refrain from throwing old cabbages at him, or me for that matter.

What I really want to talk about is Pathfinder. Yup, Paizo's little bun in the oven. In interests of full disclosure, I will toss out there that I own two hard copies of the beta playtest, as well as a copy of Chronicles, and a few scattered parts of two different adventure paths. I purchased these with my own money, and have the sore couch-back to prove it.

Firstly, having been an R&D/QA manager for a small company in northern California, I can sympathize with Paizo's position. Our company went out of business due to the patent holder for our most lucrative line of scaffolding gave us 3 months notice that he was selling the patent to one of our competitors. Why does this matter? Read on.

This matters, IMO because my job for the next 3 months became corporate espionage. I was paid to go to work, just to scour the web for other products that could fit into our manufacturing base.

To translate; I was tasked with finding someone else's good idea, stealing it, redesigning it slightly to avoid trademark/copyright/patent infringement, then shopping it to our manufacturers. Ironically, I also ended up training the guy who replaced me for $6 an hour less to boot. Sound familiar?

For all of you who are pissed at WotC for the horrid abortion that was the GSL, look no further than Paizo publishing. Hell, look no further than some of the awful third party products that assisted in the death spiral of 3.5. While some good products have come out of the mix, there have also been some that have made me ashamed to share the hobby. No naming names - you know who YOU are! Can you really blame WotC for wanting an airtight licensing agreement this time? While it was good to (some of) us, it must have been tough being the guy who championed it - now that it is being used as the proverbial broomstick of hindsight (emphasis on the HIND). Kinda like giving the neighbor's wife a handgun for Christmas, and having her shoot YOU with it eh?

So their generosity to the gaming world has come back to haunt them...As PFRPG has a fairly dedicated group of soon-to-be grognards (I wonder if they realize that!), and a messageboard that is mostly empty of 4E players. See, they all left when they got tired of being trash talked on their own boards...Ironic considering how "good" the moderation for the playtesting boards is.

Pathfinder is the result of the exact same process my soon to be unemployed ass went through. They found a product they were knowlegable with (d20 SRD), that was free, rewrote enough of it to be eligible for copyright and trademarking, and repackaged it for sale to folks who just can't live another day without gaming like it's 1998. And the end result is that you will now spend a bunch of money repurchasing a "re-imagined" version of the same one you already have been playing for 8 years - only now with a bunch of "fixes" playtested by a bunch of the samer folks responisble for breaking the damned game in the first place! The added incentive of a credit for their mostly schlock ideas has inspired a true nerd frenzy of stupidity. Don't believe me, go look for yourself!

This just...bothers me. It just feels dishonest to me. If I were to take ANY other product, change a few names, add new artwork, and re-sell it as my own product, would I be a genius? Or a douchebag? Evidently it depends on A. The product to be thefted & B. Whether I can get all the other thieves out there to back me up.

Anyway, as to the product itself. It's a reprinting of the same core books you have already likely bought twice now. The d20 SRD has been reformatted, with some flashy new formats, and new art from their herd of stock artists. We have the vaunted "Re-Envisioning" of the venerable(?) 3rd edition of D&D. Seeing the horrid monster that 3E has become, IT is a little like trying to use plastic surgery and high fashion to make grandma look like a totally fuckable 20-something again.

In that aspect, they have mixed success. They have re-tooled the classes in numerous ways, by making them different enough to be "new" and yet more complicated - yay. So now I not only have to re-learn all of the core stuff that is still MADDENINGLY similar to 3.5, yet juuuuust different enough to be a new beast. Great. Let's keep save or die because sometimes the DM just wants to say FUCK YOU to his players, right? After all, why should they have any fun? Then we have the big fundamental changes...Where they just polled the community to find out what they liked about 4E, then cherry-picked it in.

  1. Consolidated skills...check
  2. At will powers for spellcasters...check
  3. More HP at first level...check
  4. New takes on old classes/races...check

Considering how much hostility there is on their boards toward 4E in general, I am surprised that they integrated so many "controversial" and "Edgy" parts of it. Well, I guess that even if the baby is deformed, at least the incest part was fun :/

There are more, but I am getting ready for lunch - and I'm not your damned researcher. I came, I saw, and I went home halfway through the feature. It was too reminiscent of any Friday the 13th movie from vol.3 to about 8 or so. Same old crap, repackaged for a NEW and TRENDY audience that will hopefully forget for a few minutes that it actually IS the same pile of crap, because OMG! IT HAS MONTE COOK INVOLVED!!! Seriously, the only thing missing is a lengthy introduction about how "Uncle Gary" would have preferred it this way. I just ended up feeling like I slept on the couch for two nights for no good reason. At least 75% of the changes made are simply the integration of houserules WE have all spent years developing to offset the various problems I have seen at every table I have had the privilege of playing at since 1992.

Now...all is not woe and despair. If you are one of those oddballs that will never leave the comforting womb of 3rd edition, there are some goodies there. The whole Polymorph / shapechange thing has been fixed. The classes have been "balanced" a little better between themselves (No 4E there...lol.) and they have made significant changes to the classes themselves (though you'd be a fool to play a non spellcaster for the long haul - JUST LIKE BEFORE!!!). The feats have been reworked, with several being tossed completely. The wording of many spells have been repaired. I will refrain from pointing out how another newer RPG has already done all of this...oops!

So is this the future of gaming? Where game design comes down to who has the best cut/paste skills? Every time I chat with my friends who play PFRPG like it is the personal hobby game of jesus his-fucking-self, I can't help but remember growing up in the midwest, and driving by the amish...in their horse drawn buggys. Kind of a sad feeling.

So that's it. My thoughts about an overhyped product scavenged from the d20 SRD, in a blatant abuse of everything WotC was attempting when they pushed the OGL out into the world in the first place. If that's your bag, then you will find many more hours of fun still to be had rattling 3E's bones. If not, then try something else. d20 is not the end all game some tout it to be.

Comments? Insults? Random anger and bile? I don't moderate, or delete comments. This is my opinion, and you are welcome to disagree : ) Last thing, here are some silly pictures...look at them before you comment.



















Nov 17, 2008

Critters Fixed...and a few more besides.

So...I made a few changes to the last set of NPC's and monsters, and have added a few more members of the 20 Silvers Gang. Please steal them, and use in good health : )

Thanks to Gregor and Graham for helping me to see the forest for the trees. As always, feedback is appreciated.

My goal for the future is to begin posting some of the encounters and their surrounding areas, and summarizing the playtest when it happens. I have also located two other gamer geeks to make occasional contributions. I make no promises as to a posting schedule. I figure weekly is good, with corrections and updates squeaked in between. Working for the man in a recession involves being VISIBLY busy, even when there is scarce work to be found /sigh.

I hope you are all in good positions to weather out this crap storm the Merchant god has chosen to bestow us with...among other global and local disasters : )

So here they are. The first three are reposted with some minor corrections and/or changes. Those below them are three more members of the 20 Silvers gang. A band of thugs that the party will be tangling with. The encounters will be pretty basic Boss/Minion battles, and I am looking to work a litlle heavier with terrains. Enjoy.


















Nov 13, 2008

Some getting used to...NPC's designed with Monster Rules.

So I've been losing an absolute TON of time creating monsters. LOTS of monsters. Minions...NPC's...you name it.

It took some thinking, but I have decided that in this particular campaign, the PC's will be nearly unique specimens. Later on there will be others with actual PC classes attached, but for now, I want them to feel special...not JUST another group of farm raised jackasses and guild castoffs.

As such, I have been custom creating most of the major NPC's to this point using Asmor's monster maker 3.1 Iknow, I know, I crowed about it before, but that's only because it is deserved praise - Asmor! My hat be tipped to you sir!

Anyways, It has been forever since I got serious about keeping this musty cavern up to date. For my readers, I apologize. While I can promise nothing resembling a regular update schedule, I CAN keep feeding tidbits to you peeps, free of charge or obligation. Please steal these stat blocks and let me know if there is anything "wrong" with them - I would consider it more than fair recompense : )

And now, some STAT BLOCKS!
First, we have an exiled noble. A real hit with the farmer's daughters and unofficial ruler of Hogger's Vale! The one, the only...
Next up, we have the result of too much aberrant magical seepage welling up into the depths of a perfecly good lake full of Cat-er, Whiskerfish! That's right! MAN EATING CATFISH!
Lastly, a hot tempered elementalist who has taken to a life of crime in a tiny redneck city. A powerful wizard? NO! Just a 5 trick speedbump with a cool orb!
Please enjoy, and make any modifications needed, as I may have inadvertantly slipped in a 3.5 reference here or there. Until next time...EXCELSIOR!

Nov 5, 2008

THE DUALIST HERESY

As my contibution to the current RPG carnival, hosted at the dice bag; http://www.thedicebag.com/blog-carnival-round-4-religion/
I want to share a small piece from a game that was close to my heart.

A little background...For almost 6 years, I ran a sci-fantasy d20 game in the Dragonstar universe. It treated religion as a generic thing, with the offical imperial church worshipping the 5 "good" and 5 "evil" facets of the common deities, as a solution to there being 25,000 or so different gods throughtout the empire. These were archetypes of the typical; the father, mother, warrior, judge,merchant - opposed by the reaper, destroyer, trickster, and I cannot immediately recall the rest.

In the games chronology, a new religion had popped up, and it's it was so insidious, the empire had banned it, and actively persecuted it's members. The religion? The Dualist Heresy.

Dualists believed that the 12 facets were simply masks that the creator and the adversary hid behind to further their own unknowable goals. We never had one in the party, but I used several heretic NPC's to keep the storyline rolling along. They often found common cause with the insurrectionists, and terrorism was quite commonplace.

How does this relate to YOU? Well, let's see here. In ANY game one could allow dualist cults to be found. Good or evil people who are simply...different. Mechanically, the only difference (3E) was that you could take ANY domains you wanted that were not in opposition to your alignment, as well as one bonus domain (for a total of 3). While this sounds overpowered, it wasn't in practice, as the persecution and role-playing angles made it a difficult character to play. Add the lack of any "official" church support, and being actively hunted by inquisitors on BOTH sides of the aisle, and things were often...interesting.

I agree there is a bit of a parallel between the heretics and the early days of christianity. Pagan pantheons of nature gods vs. Monotheistic belief - blah, blah, blah. Take it or leave it.

One other little tidbit, Dualists had a feat available (homebrew) of course, that should they survive to see 5th level, allowed them to channel positive OR negative energy...

In exchange for this colossal cosmic power, we have the drawbacks. Must have N as part of your alignment. (small neg.)

Must be recruited, and recruit in turn. (small neg.)

Actively sought out and "re-educated". This was usually a death sentence, as public executions are all the rage during the Red Tyrant's reign. (big neg.)

Fluff heavy, crunch light, what more could anyone want?