Tuesday, January 3, 2017

2016 in Reflection & 2017 Gaming Resolutions

This year hasn't been a great one in many respects, but at least I played a lot of D&D.

I didn't get much gaming in at home. I attempted to start a Star Wars campaign using the West End Games system before moving onto White Star. While I greatly preferred running White Star, I just couldn't keep the campaign going. Star Wars is a property I don't mind visiting, but I found myself struggling to channel that universe onto the table. It's just not a toy I want to play with.

I did find success in running a weekly D&D 5e game at my local game store for several months. Although I wasn't a huge fan of 5e and the campaign cemented my opinion of the game as not being a good fit for me, it was a lot of fun to get in so much play and I could definitely see myself developing as a DM. Compared to the amount of gaming I got to do prior to this campaign, I was now in intensive training. I would probably still be running this game weekly if the store hadn't gone under.

I also ran my second convention game at Griffcon, a small local tabletop conversion. Rather than 5e, I ran my own version of OD&D. My first convention game was about two years ago and I was a nervous wreck going into it. After weeks of running D&D at the game store I am now much more comfortable in running a game for strangers and barely broke a sweat.

At this same convention I was finally able to play in my first game of D&D. I had played in many retroclone games at conventions, but this was the first time the DM was running a game officially titled Dungeons and Dragons. In fact, it was AD&D and it was a blast.

The book of my year was definitely Maze of the Blue Medusa. I spent several weeks running this at the game store and it was the basis of my convention game. I kept meaning to write an official review of the book, but there is very little I can say that hasn't already been said by those better spoken than myself. The book is brilliantly designed, highly functional, and is a powder keg of creativity. I spent about a month fully immersed in this book and it was an excellent experience. I had to drag my LGS group out of the Maze to give them a proper finale as the store closed, but I otherwise would have been happy to run the Maze until the players explored every single inch of the labyrinth. Yes, it is really that good.

Going into 2017 I've kicked of my first superheroes campaign using the DC Heroes system, which I've wanted to play with since the early nineties. It's quite the departure from D&D but the players seem to be having a ton of fun and it's good to have a change of pace.

I have just a few resolutions for this new year. Really, they are more like guidelines than resolutions. My goal is to slow down and simplify my gaming hobby. While I played more last year than any other year, I'm not sure it was always the best gaming I could have done. 2017 will be more about quality than quantity.

1. Never run a game I don't love. I ran a lot of 5e in 2016 and I don't like to run 5e. At times this made gaming more stressful than fun and I won't have it any more.
2. Be a serial monogamous gamer. Like many others, I suffer from gamer ADHD, in that I jump from game to game as soon as something grabs my attention. While I'm probably not going to run all of these games, this habit of jumping from one game to another means that I don't get to drill down and really get to know a game inside and out. This year I want to focus on one game at a time. Once I feel I have gotten everything I can out of the game I will move on and focus on one other single game until I am completely satisfied.
3. Use what I have. Outside of gaming I'm trying to simplify my life and pare down by belongings. As this applies to games I am a going to avoid acquiring games as much as possible. Likely, if it's not published by Lamentations of the Flame Princess or Satyr Press, I'm not going to go out of my way to get it. I know this means I'm going to miss out on a lot of good stuff this next year, but I've amassed a backlog of adventures and source books and need to justify their continued place on my shelf. Same goes with non-gaming books. I'd like to read through the rest of the Elric books on my shelf and also tackle the collection of Grendel comics that are currently gathering dust.

I might try to get another weekly game going at the newer, hipper game store in the area. It's not a convenient at the previous store, but I still miss the constant gaming. But I'm only going to entertain this idea after I've gotten DC Heroes well under control and don't have to spend as much time prepping each session of that game.

I'm optimistic for 2017, at least in terms of having fun with games. It will likely be just as bad as 2016 in every other way, but at least there will be games.


Thursday, September 1, 2016

Skills in my OD&D Game


One thing that stands out to me as I read the Little Brown Books is that the Thief class that appears in the Greyhawk supplement should have been called the Dungeoneer. While most of the skills can be found in an archetypal burglar, there isn't much practicality in taking a burglar into a dungeon environment. There won't be too many pockets to pick or windows to sneak into. And so I think that the skills that were given to this class were expected to come from years of hunting for treasure in these forgotten and God forsaken places, not for larceny.

Other material I've read (which I can't pinpoint right now, so I can't cite anything) suggest that the thief/dungeoneer class was created so that there could be a mechanical process for using the skills that would have otherwise been performed by any wise adventurer. In other words, these are things that players were expected to be doing with their fighters, clerics and magic users, but demanded hard rules on performing these tasks and being good at them.

I've decided that in my OD&D game there will be no thieves, but rather every character has a capacity for being skilled in certain dungeoneering tasks. There is no reason why a fighter can't also be a talented pickpocket or a magic-user unable to pick locks.


My solution is that during character creation a player must select three of the six skills for their character. The player must roll the skill’s target number or higher on a d20 to succeed. The target numbers for each skill increase as the character gains levels.


Skills can only be used once by a player in any situation. For example, a failure to pick a lock doesn’t mean that the character didn’t just succeed on that one attempt. It means that the lock itself is beyond the character’s abilities and could not be unlocked until the character learns more about the lock itself (i.e. gains a level).


Level
Pick Locks
Disarm Traps
Pickpocket
Sneak
Hear Noise
Climbing
1
18
18
17
17
17
5
2
17
17
16
16
17
5
3
16
16
15
15
14
5
4
14
14
14
14
14
5
5
13
13
12
12
14
5
6
12
12
10
10
14
5
7
10
10
9
9
11
5
8
8
8
8
8
11
5
9
6
6
6
6
11
5
10
4
4
4
4
11
5
11
2
2
2
2
8
5
12
NA
NA
NA
NA
8
5
13
NA
NA
NA
NA
5
5
14
NA
NA
NA
NA
5
5


(By the way, these target numbers are rough conversions of the percentile and d6 rolls in Greyhawk. I converted them to d20 for simplification.)

Pick Locks: This skill allows the character to disengage mechanical locks on doors or containers. It may also be used to tinker with very simple mechanism. A roll of 1 will result in the lock mechanism breaking but remaining engaged, thus making it unpickable by anyone. The character must have a lockpicking tool to use this skill.


Disarm Traps: This skill allows the character to disarm or intentionally spring traps without harming themselves. A roll of a 1 will result in the trap springing and hitting the character for full effect. This skill cannot be used to find hidden traps. Much like the Pick Locks skill, this skill can be used to tinker with simple mechanisms.


Pickpocket: This skill allows the character to carefully remove something from the pockets of a target. The target must not be expecting this theft and must not be focusing on the character (or at least not on the character’s hands). This skill may also be used for general sleight of hand. This skill check may be rolled by the Referee to keep the result a secret to the player.


Sneak: This skill allows the character to hide and move silently, without drawing the attention of others. The environment must provide some sort of cover, such as shadows or large objects, as this is not a magical invisibility skill. Every turn a character moves silently requires a separate skill check. The character must not be wearing noisy armor to use this skill. This skill will usually be rolled in secret by the Referee as the character will not immediately know if they are sufficiently hidden from any threat.


Hear Noise: This skill represents extremely keen senses rather than simply the ability to hear. A success would provide the character with information based on barely audible sounds in the environment, such as distant footprints or the faint sound of rushing water. This skill may be rolled secretly by the Referee.

Climbing: This skill allows the character to climb a surface without normal hand holds and without climbing equipment. It does not apply to surfaces that are unnaturally flat, like a wall of unbroken, polish marble. A failure will result in the character falling from a distance of the referee’s choosing. A character cannot use this skill if they are wearing armor heavier than leather or have extremely large or heavy objects on them.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Witch Queens: A Statement of Intent


Witch Queens is a supplement for Lamentations of the Flame Princess. It aims to bring LotFP style of play into a 21st Century setting, just as LotFP brought D&D into early modern Europe.

I am not creating a new game. There will be minor rules changes (really no more than house rules) because I believe that LotFP has proven that those simple rules can work in any era. Specialists will have different skills and lanterns going out in caves will be less of a concern, but I believe that the search for the strange, unholy, and dangerous is a timeless pursuit.

Witch Queens is an occult work. It is about the weird that is everywhere, not just that which hides forgotten in tombs and ruins. It is about the sigils drawn by city streets, the summoning spells we cast as we look into the bathroom mirror every morning, the hidden history of our own bloodlines.


Witch Queens is a game about history, religion, and magick, but without any pretension. There will still be monsters to kill and treasure to find. Murderhobos have not died out since the 17th century. They are recession proof.

I've been ruminating on Witch Queens for a long time but I have put very little to paper. That changes now. I intend to have something of a working draft of this game ready to share with the world by Gen Con 2017.

Carpe omnia.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Deciphering OD&D


When I haven't been working on my Star Wars White Star Campaign, I've been picking away at the original little books for D&D. I've been doing this for two main reasons. First, I want to learn more about this history of the game and this is the seminal rule set. Secondly, I want to figure out the best possible rule set for me and my players and Original Dungeons and Dragons has the fewest rules of all the editions. Since my players are not rules-minded people and I only have so much mental bandwidth I can devote to knowing all the rules for the game, OD&D seems like the best place to start.

You may have heard that the OD&D rules are hard to grasp at first. That they have terrible organization and make certain assumptions about the players and their knowledge of tabletop gaming, specifically with wargaming. This is all true, but I've found that the rules are not that hard to comprehend if you have the right guidance. After about a week of reading the rules and reading commentary on the rules, I am confident I could run a very successful game using only the rules as they appear in the three little books. He's what I used to get here.

First, download the original books from RPGNow. At least read the first book, Men and Magic, strait through. Don't look for explanations cheat sheets right away. The book is the size of the average zine, so you won't be in the woods for long.

Next, read Philotomy's Musings as a commentary to the original books. This will give you valuable insight into how the game is run using those weird, bare-boned rules. The author does a great job of addressing most every rule and explaining what Arneson and Gygax were thinking and why those rules work at the table.

Once you've done this, you can read through the free version of Swords & Wizardry Whitebox. This is not a true retroclone of the first set of rules as there are several key differences, but it's pretty close and you can easily see how all those rules spread out across Men and Magic would work together with better organization. You may also be more interested in this version of the rules after spending some time with OD&D.

I was planning on making a document that was just the rules from Men and Magic with better organization, but now I think that piecing together the rules for oneself is a valuable rite of passage. It has certainly helped me come to terms with how few rules D&D needs to still feel like D&D and it has strengthen my idea of what My D&D Game is like.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Jedi Class for White Star

Below is my attempt at a Jedi class for my White Star game that will more closely mimic the Jedi of movies and cartoons than the Star Knights that appear in the game. This is completely untested but I may update this post as the class gets more play.

The force powers are based on those found in the Star Wars game by West End Games, although several have been removed because they were based on mechanics not found in White Star. A few others have been added to replicate exactly what we've seen in movies. 

The powers are based on the Turn Undead table found in Swords & Wizardry Complete. I've chosen this system in order to get a more "cinematic" feel for the force powers rather than snapping to Vancian magic, which simply doesn't fit the setting. Does this mean that the Jedi class is overpowered? We'll see.

Jedi Class

Jedi characters use the same level advancement, hit dice, base hit bonus, saving throw, and equipment proficiency as Star Knights.
Lightsaber duelist: +1 to hit bonus and AC when using lightsaber (re: star swords in White Star).
Force Powers: May know one force power per level. All Jedi Force powers use the Force Power table to determine results. Using a force power in anger, fear, or selfishness will result in an Alignment shift to the Dark Side.
Saving Throws: Jedi receive a +2 bonus to saving throws to resist Meditations, Gifts, and Force Powers.
Redirect Blaster Fire: At fourth level, the jedi can take a turn to redirect blaster fire aimed at the jedi. To do this, the jedi much choose to parry for the entire turn. This adds +2 to their AC for the rest of the turn, as any normal defensive stance, but any failed blaster fire towards the jedi can be redirected to any target of the jedi’s choosing. Damage will be based on the blaster.

Force Power Use Chart

Roll 2d10 to determine the result.

Challenge Level
Force User Level
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10-13
14-17
18+
1
10
7
4
A
A
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
2
13
10
7
4
A
A
X
X
X
X
X
X
3
16
13
10
7
4
A
A
X
X
X
X
X
4
19
16
13
10
7
4
A
A
X
X
X
X
5
20
19
16
13
10
7
4
A
A
X
X
X
6
-
20
19
16
13
10
7
4
A
A
X
X
7
-
-
20
19
16
13
10
7
4
A
A
X
8
-
-
-
20
19
16
13
10
7
4
A
A
9
-
-
-
-
20
19
16
13
10
7
4
A
10
-
-
-
-
-
20
19
16
13
10
7
4
11
-
-
-
-
-
-
20
19
16
13
10
7
12
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
20
19
16
13
10
13
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
20
19
16
13
  • If the number on the dice is equal to or greater than the number shown on the table, the basic effect of the Force power occurs.
  • If the table indicates “A,” the basic effect of the Force Power occurs automatically.
  • If the table indicates “X,” the extreme effect of the Force Power occurs automatically.

Force Powers

Absorb/Dissipate Energy
Challenge Level: HD of attacker or GM’s discretion.
Duration: Number of rounds equal to the caster’s level.
Basic Effect: Caster becomes immune to negative effects of radiation, heat, blaster bolts, and other energy sources.
Extreme Effect: The field of protection radiates from the caster in a sphere with a radius equal to the caster’s level in feet. Any living creature within this sphere has immunity to energy effects.

Accelerate Healing
Challenge Level: Player’s choice.
Duration: Instant
Basic Effect: Caster regains 1d4 of hit points for point of challenge level. This power can target another character but the caster must be touching the target.
Extreme Effect: Target regains 1d6 of hit points for point of challenge level.

Affect Mind
Challenge Level: HD of target creature.
Duration: Number of rounds equal to the caster’s level.
Basic Effect: The caster is able to implant a memory, command, or even hallucination into the mind of a single target creature. The caster must be able to speak the information to the target.
Extreme Effect: The caster is able to affect a number of targets equal to the caster’s level.

Concentration
Challenge Level: Player’s choice.
Duration: Until next action taken by caster.
Basic Effect: The caster clears their mind and is able to focus completely on a task. The next action performed by the caster receives a bonus equal to the challenge level.
Extreme Effect: The caster has the bonus for an additional round.

Control Disease
Challenge Level: HD of infecting creature or GM’s discretion.
Duration: Instant.
Basic Effect: The effects of a disease are halted for a number of hours equal to the caster’s level. This power can target another character but the caster must be touching the target.
Extreme Effect: The target is cured of the disease.

Detoxify Poison
Challenge Level: HD of poisoning creature or GM’s discretion.
Duration: Instant.
Basic Effect: The effects of a poison are halted for a number of hours equal to the caster’s level. This power can target another character but the caster must be touching the target.
Extreme Effect: The poison is flushed from the target’s system.

Force Choke
Challenge Level: HD of target creature.
Duration: Number of rounds equal to the caster’s level.
Basic Effect: The caster is able to restrict the passage of air into the target’s lungs, causing 1d6 damage per round. The use of this power results in an immediate shift to the dark side.
Extreme Effect: The target creature must make a save or die immediately.

Force Lightning
Challenge Level: HD of target creature.
Duration: Instant
Basic Effect: Lightning leaps from the fingertips of the caster, causing 1d6 of damage to a nearby creature. The use of this power results in an immediate shift to the dark side.
Extreme Effect: The damage is increased to 2d6.

Force of Will
Challenge Level: HD or level of opposing Force User
Duration: Number of rounds equal to the caster’s level.
Basic Effect: The caster become immune to Force powers that detect the presence or alter the mind of a target.
Extreme Effect: The effect of the force power can be extended to others within the immediate proximity of the caster.

Heightened Instincts
Challenge Level: GM’s discretion
Duration: Instant
Basic Effect: The player is able to ask the GM for a key piece of information not immediately obvious to the characters, such as the direction to the holding cells or the coordinates of a specific planet. The GM must answer truthfully but the amount of information given is up to the GM.
Extreme Effect: The player is able to ask a single follow-up question.

Hibernation Trance
Challenge Level: Player’s choice.
Duration: Number of rounds equal to the challenge level.
Basic Effect: The caster enters into a death-like hibernation with signs of life undetectable to the untrained eye. The caster can survive without food, in harsh conditions, and with considerably less air during this hibernation. This hibernation cannot be cut short without outside interference. This power can target another character but the caster must be touching the target.
Extreme Effect: The caster remains conscious of their surroundings during this hibernation and can end the hibernation at will.

Life Detection
Challenge Level: HD of creatures being detected
Duration: Instant.
Basic Effect: The caster is able to discern the number and relative proximity of sentient lifeforms.
Extreme Effect: The caster is also able to discern the disposition of these life forms along with other information based on the GM’s discretion.

Life Sense
Challenge Level: GM’s discretion, based on the familiarity and distance between caster and target.
Duration: Instant.
Basic Effect: The caster is able to discern the proximity of a specific person.
Extreme Effect: The caster is also able to discern the mental and physical state of the target.

Postcognition
Challenge Level: GM’s discretion.
Duration: Instant.
Basic Effect: The player is able to ask the GM for a key piece of information not immediately obvious to the character regarding the history of a touched object. The GM must answer truthfully but the amount of information given is up to the GM.
Extreme Effect: The character has a detailed vision regarding the key events in the item’s history.

Projective Telepathy
Challenge Level: GM’s discretion, based on the familiarity and distance between caster and target.
Duration: Number of rounds equal to the caster’s level.
Basic Effect: The caster is able to speak directly to the mind of a target character.
Extreme Effect: The caster is able to project complex information, such as images and whole memories. The target will know that this information is being projected to them.

Receptive Telepathy
Challenge Level: GM’s discretion, based on the familiarity and distance between caster and target.
Duration: Number of rounds equal to the caster’s level.
Basic Effect: The caster is able to hear the internal monologue of the target.
Extreme Effect: The caster is able to perceive complex information such as images and memories from the target’s mind.

Sense Force
Challenge Level: GM’s discretion.
Duration: Instant
Basic Effect: The caster is able to discern the balance of the force in the immediate area.
Extreme Effect: The caster is able to discern more detailed information on the balance of the force in the immediate area, such as the identity of any nearby force users. They can also glean an impression of the state of the force throughout the galaxy.

Telekinesis
Challenge Level: HD of target creature or GM’s discretion.
Duration: Number of rounds equal to the caster’s level.
Basic Effect: An inanimate object or creature can be moved slowly over the total duration of the power or can be pushed strongly for an instant.

Extreme Effect: A strong push of the force radiates from the caster, driving away all mobile objects.