Friday, May 25, 2012

D&D next open playtest is out...

The materials for the open play test are quite different from the closed play test items my group has been playing with. My first reaction to this new stuff is very negative. ...mostly about the changes to magic and the weapons.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Warhammer Quest Rules!!! D&D 5 felt quite old-school.

I've played a few more games of Warhammer Quest and I have fallen madly in love with it.

Running it as an RPG, it is the ultimate lazy-DM's game. At any time you can kind of let the game play itself and it will generate challenges and situations and then, when the mood or situation strikes you, you can dive right back into full DM mode and run with it. I CANNOT SAY ENOUGH GOOD THINGS ABOUT IT!!!!!


Played my first game of the new D&D play-test and it felt really old school. Strange how being butchered to a man by hobgoblins will do that... There were no survivors.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

D&D Forever

I received my play-test copy of the New D&D rules yesterday and have intensively skimmed through the entire packet.

Overall, there is a lot to like in there and I feel, given the many tough choices and pitfalls in their path, it displays that they have had clever and conscientious minds at work.

Despite the limited nature of the packet, I think I see several core mechanical design choices that I am really really digging.

That said, there are still some things which trouble me. Many of these things are not fully described in the play-test packet - I do take heart that a few of the core things I was most worried about (before seeing any of the rules at all) were handled very well in the play-test packet.

I'm keeping a journal of things I like, don't like, and things which just puzzle me for now. Sadly I can't share any of this yet, but I can tell you that amongst the elements I dislike, I have included "Tordek".

Screw that guy.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

4e sucked.

I'm just gonna do a brief vent... please don't read onward as what follows is completely pointless negativity.

I played some 4e; it really sucked. I'm glad it is dead (or at least dying).

When I played, all the players wasted too much time building characters (mechanics only) and analyzing feats and powers DURING COMBAT and not enough time doing anything interesting or creative. Combats, and to some extend the entire game, felt just so frikkin procedural.

I'm glad there is a new edition coming out for no other reason than some kind of satisfaction I feel with the burying of 4e.

I hate 4e especially for making 3e seem like such a good system in comparison - I hated that one too (also mostly because of all the feats and builds and min-maxing).

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

DM Questionnaire...

1. If you had to pick a single invention in a game you were most proud of what would it be?

This is a hard one... there are so many. Well, the one that pops out is kinda complicated - I made this mega-dungeon and there was an area controlled by the orcs, with a no-mans land of secret passages between the orc area, the dungeon, and a secret exit. I didn't really realize it, but this particular layout led to some amazing circumstances. The best was the first, the party was cut off from their usual rout by some ghouls and stumbled onto a random encounter with lizard men - they took one as a prisoner and interrogated him and he revealed the secret dungeon exit... but they had to pass through this no-man's land. Well sure enough they were ambushed by orc patrols (coming out of nowhere it seemed due to the secret passages), the lizardman "guide" died and they were forced to flee... tense moments where had trying to retrace steps and find the secret door out.

2. When was the last time you GMed?

One week ago - I'm just back from vacation.

3. When was the last time you played?

Also one week ago.

4. Give us a one-sentence pitch for an adventure you haven't run but would like to.

A black dragon worshiped like a Carcosa deity; people swallowed by dragon hatch from eggs as reptloids.

5. What do you do while you wait for players to do things?

Depends, sometimes I just gather my thoughts and review anything I have coming up, sometimes I just enjoy the players acting in character with each other - but I'm rather impatient so I'll often put some pressure on them, usually short of an actual encounter or ambush, but sometimes I go there too. I should say that often what I'm doing is listening to their decision making process and thinking about how my game world will react to their actions.

6. What, if anything, do you eat while you play?

I rarely eat and play. A few candies or cookies are nice of course. I love carrots and celery (they help me stay feeling fresh while gaming) but they are noisy and distracting like chips and even less convenient. I usually eat a major meal before playing. Liquids are a must and can be anything, water, coffee, soda... rarely alcohol.

7. Do you find GMing physically exhausting?

No - often I'm super pumped after DMing and have difficulty sleeping because I'm thinking about the cool things that have happened and what could happen next time.

8. What was the last interesting (to you, anyway) thing you remember a PC you were running doing?

Oh man, I'm blessed with so many creative players this is a really tough one. Well, most recent one that jumps out - while playing RIFTS (with my own system) the party was attacked by a bunch of doppelgangers which jumped out of a mirror. In the insane fight one of the PCs got their arm melted off and yadda yadda yadda the doppelgangers were at first trapped in the mirrors then the mirrors shattered so all of the doppelgangers were just severed chunks in mirror fragments. So after the fight one of the mages just reaches into the mirror world and pulls out the severed arm of the doppelganger and attaches that to the PC's stump and casts bio-regeneration.

9. Do your players take your serious setting and make it unserious? Vice versa? Neither?

All of the above... I have run serious and silly games and I have players who play straight men and players who are gonzo. In general I think it is best when I at least try to stick to running a straight campaign and just play straight man whenever my PCs (OR MYSELF)deviate into silly land.

10. What do you do with goblins?

In my games goblins have some ammount of magic in a faerie sort of way - like in Labyrinth and Legend. They often have little magic items which act as minor curses to non-goblins, they can slip into cracks in dungeon walls and often turn themselves into crows. They reproduce by turning children and babies into goblins. They often use poisons, or just annoying things from nature like nettles, sticker-thorns, or bugs in such a way as to harass humans - like leaving a severed head full of rot-grubs in a leather sack in the middle of a dungeon hallway.

11. What was the last non-RPG thing you saw that you converted into game material (background, setting, trap, etc.)?

Flash Gordon cartoon movie - great one-shot.

12. What's the funniest table moment you can remember right now?

This is an impossible question - so many laughs at my table... I guess it was just a month ago playing rifts. The cactus-man techno-wizard from Texas had gotten himself shivved in space-jail (an hilarious circumstance in and of itself, "WHERE'S MY PHONE CALL!") the players confiscated his body and took him to a greater demon on the space-station to get brought back to life. For complicated reasons from the past a fight ensued with spice-pirates AFTER the 3-eyed-demon-beast resurrected the Cactus-Man, mainly due to threats and a chance to get even more cash out of the PCs the 3-eyed-demon-beast also attacked the party... the newly raised Cactus-Man was also central to the brawl, wielding his magic double-barrel shotgun and yelling out things like, "Yeah, you kill that guy who just raised me!" and "Yall just resurrected the most dangerous man in the megaverse!!!!!" ... in a very thick texas accent.

13. What was the last game book you looked at--aside from things you referenced in a game--why were you looking at it?

Earthshaker by David "Zeb" Cook - I had just bought it while on vacation. I really like the feel that DZC can create in his stuff - it is imaginative and appeals to the kid in me without feeling dumbed-down. His stuff isn't dark or really particularly weird - but it is ALL about fun!

14. Who's your idea of the perfect RPG illustrator?

Gary Chalk

15. Does your game ever make your players genuinely afraid?

A few times - I've even had a guy go full Bill Paxton during a Shadowrun session - another player pretty much dragged his character out of the complex by his collar, not because the character was injured or anything, but because the player was pretty much paralyzed with the situation.

I have veteran players and while they can get scared, it is very rare.

16. What was the best time you ever had running an adventure you didn't write? (If ever)

This is a hard one, because I've run many 1st ed WFRP modules and they are FANTASTIC adventures. The coaching inn scene in the restless dead campaign book is a favorite, I've run it many times and it is always a hit. I've also run most of the Power Behind the Throne mega campaign and there are lots of really really good parts in that - there was a great scene at a signal tower built on an old wizard's tower which featured just 1 ghoul against a relatively high-level party, but it was really great. Also the Dying of the Light mini campaign was really really tight - it was the first module I've ever run. So much good stuff in WFRP.

17. What would be the ideal physical set up to run a game in?

I'm not picky; comfortable chairs, a table with enough room... if you wanna go hog-wild get a dry-erase in there.

18. If you had to think of the two most disparate games or game products that you like what would they be?

What a peculiar question. Hackey-sack and League of Legends (PC game)? Within just table-top RPGs it might be Rolemaster and Warhammer Quest.

19. If you had to think of the most disparate influences overall on your game, what would they be?

The Hobbit and Superjail.

20. As a GM, what kind of player do you want at your table?

A player who loves to play, and to a lesser extent, entertain others.

21. What's a real life experience you've translated into game terms?

Do dreams count as "real life experiences"? I guess that my experiences travelling have really helped me make more believable big-city feeling environments in my Shadowrun games (i'm from a small town). Also I saw some weird shit in a museum in Oxford which I have used as evil artifacts in my games - on that note I suppose I've taken a lot from museums and books on history and art-history.

22. Is there an RPG product that you wish existed but doesn't?

The perfect, rules-light yet satisfying RPG - particularly a magic system... I'm building my own attempt.

23. Is there anyone you know who you talk about RPGs with who doesn't play? How do those conversations go?

I only talk about gaming with others if they initiate it - at best they come and play it and get hooked. Those which aren't interested in trying it sometimes are abstractly intrigued by the concept but most see it as a children's game, and usually a waste of time. They don't get it and aren't interested in exploring it.

I haven't ever tried strike up a game with any kids.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Ode to Warhammer Quest

At a time when I'm sure lots of people are all a twitter about the next D&D I've decided to step out of the shadows with a short message about an old but brilliant game: Warhammer Quest.

Warhammer Quest is a special board/role-playing game hybrid - it is the culmination of the Hero Quest family. I think it is easily one of the most brilliant and simply delightful games I've ever played.

The WQ boxed set includes what you need to play the basic dungeon crawl game (no need for a GM), rules for expanding your game to brief wilderness and settlement scenarios which relate to advancing your characters from dungeon to dungeon, and finally, rules for transitioning into what is essentially a full rules-light role-playing game with a dungeon master.

The rules-as-written include a lot of use of figures and movement squares and small-tactics (much lighter than Desecent from Fantasy Flight or the new D&D board games - both of which I have played extensively and both of which I consider awful) but I think the game really shines without the use of figures and grid-maps.

WQ is so wonderful because it has a delightfully brutal, and yeah, even cliche sense of adventuring fun. You play adventurers on the make (notably the game avoids the word "hero") who are gathering their fortunes by delving into dungeons - true deathtraps, braving the sinister wilderness, all in order to make it into towns populated by chiselers, cheats, and other hazards of civilization in the hopes of getting enough gold to get to level 10 (yes, the only experience points are gold)!

The game maintains relatively unforgiving rules and restricts the sharing of treasure - creating wonderfully dangerous scenarios and some player-to-player mistrust without encouraging actual backstabbing. Also it should be mentioned that the danger levels of the dungeon scale well as your characters advance in level, making success always feel like a real accomplishment.

It is worth repeating that the game can evolve from a card-based event board game, to broader chart-based dilemmas with abstract wilderness and settlement events, to full-on RPG goodness - the cards and charts remaining great seeds for adventures and scenarios.

The game really shines in the danger and flavor of these random events (cards and charts). Playing the normal game, they really put pressure on the players and if strung together create an entertaining story. As creativity seeds they provide ideas for danger and adventure EVERYWHERE - which I think of as a crucial aspect of a good game.

My particular favorite is a chart to quickly and abstractly determine if and how successfully the characters flee from a dungeon (when it would be otherwise impossible to proceed or escape via normal game rules) - it creates hilarious "scene missing" moments with haggard and half-starved adventurers stumbling out of the dungeon with only a fraction of the gold they had gathered.

Sadly, WQ is a game very much out of print and complete copies go for fortunes on ebay... however I believe that PDFs of the materials can be found for free, and frankly I think the game is so marvelous that it is worth your while to track down a copy - check out the discussion at boardgamegeek...

There is a lot of old-school adventuring goodness in the "roleplay" book alone, and with just a few alterations the game can easily be played without minis and without a map.

So if you are looking for a deadly, interesting, and quirky mini-D&D game (which can be played rather quickly) or looking for some cool charts and game concepts to spice-up your RPG of choice, OR EVEN looking for a different rules-light RPG altogether, WQ is a must read.

Thanks for your time.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Micropost: Medieval Prices

Just a link I found with some prices for medieval items - many of which could be adventuring related.