Monday, August 30, 2010

Some Intermission Music

Here’s the intermission music I looped during our last session's short breaks - I thought the rain was a nice touch and once I played some sounds of thunder after we started up again. Doesn’t it often start raining just before final epic battles?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Acme Settler Servant

The economy version and long discontinued counterpart to the better known M.U.L.E., Acme’s Settler Servant (or the A.S.S. for short) was a more primitive robot with a smaller power cell and carrying capacity. It was a favorite among early terra-formers and planet pioneers for its cost-effectiveness, hardiness, and near total lack of maintenance requirements.

There are five movement modes which can be manually set by a simple dial on the side of the robot. All models originally came equipped with remote control and programming devices but unlike the themselves these were fragile - discovering them in a functioning condition on abandoned settlement planets is even less likely than encountering a still functional A.S.S. The manual movement modes are:

Down: The unit will lower itself until its main body is six inches above the ground.
Stay: The unit’s legs lock and it can only be moved by being picked up or pushed over.
Neutral: The unit will move if pushed or pulled, up to its maximum speed.
Walk: The unit will move in a straight line at walking speed.
Run: The unit will move in a straight line at running speed.

There is also an easily accessed and simple flip panel with a palm sized red button marked “STOP!” at the rear of the robot. This functions as a kill switch (it reverts to neutral mode when depressed.)

The lack of quick turning ability in the unit’s design was intentional and intended as an incentive to upgrade. Because of the unreliable (or often missing) remote controls, the robot was generally harnessed at the front, and by pulling strongly to the left or the right its forward direction could be changed. Similarly, the robot’s orientation and stabilization software was crippled - loads needed to be placed no higher than a foot or so above the main body or the A.S.S. could not move properly. A number of hooks were regularly spaced along the length of it where storage containers or tools were intended to be attached for carrying.

The small but highly efficient B-1 power cell found in the A.S.S.’s abdomen was intended to be quickly recharged or swapped out at spaceports and even with heavy use a charge might last years. The A.S.S. lacks a true power switch, and when not in motion it quickly enters an energy efficient sleep mode. A much valued innovation at the time was its implementation of nano-solar cell technology embedded throughout its metal skin. Incredible as it may seem, battered but still functioning have been discovered on planets that were abandoned centuries ago by their original settlers, provoking more than one historian of robotics to say of the A.S.S. “They just don’t make them like they used to!”

It should be noted that this is also a good thing: More than once settlers were accidentally dragged for miles and to their deaths, spurring some of the early and strict regulations now in place for mechanical beasts of burden. In later models the manual control dial must be pushed in and turned simultaneously to change a setting in order to lessen the chance of accidentally triggering a mode change. The A.S.S. fell in popularity when other manufacturers developed more sophisticated models with proper voice recognition and more reliable remote controls.
Acme Settler Servant (Robot): AC 4[16], HP (up to 100), movement and carrying/pulling ability as warhorses x 2 (see additional carrying restrictions above)
Students of robotics history may find of interest the archival footage (below) of what’s thought to be an early prototype of the A.S.S.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Endless Caption #3: Robbers and Robots

Number three in a series of posts where you the reader choose your own caption for the included picture...

Friday, August 27, 2010

S&W Sessions Journal: Charles Lives! Well, sorta.

We had a great game last night - it was one of those occasions where there’s enough cheering in combat, laughter during role playing, and a sense of accomplishment at the end that make for a memorable session.

At the beginning, there were some chuckles when the players discovered that the abbot and priestesses were a lusty bunch, and exactly what transpired during some of the regular holy services. They were rewarded with hundreds of gold pieces for the holy relics they’d most recently recovered, and promised the aid of two of the church’s lowest ranking acolytes.

After this there was some re-equipping and role playing with the merchant who’d previously hired them, and some vague plot hooks thrown out. Then followed some debate about what to do next. There was still the last bit of the basement below the abandoned temple to explore, but Wagstaff thought it too dangerous and that they should move on to greener pastures considering their new found wealth. Gulch disagreed, saying that the rewards had grown as their previous explorations had progressed, and that surely they were on the verge of a great treasure. The others in the party were ambivalent, with only Aleger the dwarf saying that if they went anywhere they should travel downstream further and follow the branch that became the Dordogne - his father had owned a stake in an abandoned mine down that way. I was glad to hear that there was some interest in this, as the Dordogne campaign I’ve been developing for my wife’s solo game has been barely used and I’ve been hoping to merge the two games. Agnal the cleric didn’t care what they did, as long as they didn’t travel south to the town where he'd previously been cast out.

Gulch’s argument won the day. Eventually they learned that Frederick, their former hireling, had decided that he would try to lead an expedition of his own to the temple. The party found him running screaming from the cellar with a tale of how he’d encountered their other former hireling Charles (who’d died and been buried a while back). Ironically, the new local legend and martyr seemed to have developed a taste for human flesh. The two fishermen Frederick had convinced to go with him of course had been killed.

With a lot of cajoling, Frederick was convinced to join their party once again. They crept through the passageways they’d previously explored with no new surprises or encounters, slowly realizing that many of the bones of the animated skeletons they’d destroyed earlier were missing - nothing but broken and splintered bones remained.

There was a final showdown with a necromancer’s apprentice, and a wight/lich-like being who spilled out of a barrel of strange chemicals, as well as a few more skeletons, a ghoul, and the reanimated Charles. The barrel creature seemed to think it had a connection with Agnal and even knew his name. Without fully deciphering what they were seeing, they did manage to destroy the thing, as well as his apprentice and their few remaining undead creations. There was some testing of a marble coffin filled with acid (to obtain a treasure visibly submerged there) and a number of strange objects were recovered, perhaps the most interesting being what appeared to be a necromancer’s spellbook.

In the process, one of the local clerics who’d accompanied them there died. It was a rather pitiful turn of events, given that the poor fellow had literally pissed himself and then recovered and charged the vile creature from the barrel, only to have it reach out and grab him by the neck, sucking the life and moisture (what remained of it) from his body completely. Frayse the fighter fumbled his weapon at the feet of the creature, and was similarly killed as he tried to retrieve the sword. Still, the party did remarkably well considering their rolls - truth be told, they’d defeated most of the undead guards in previous sessions. The last few skeletons they had to best had been reassembled by the necromancer’s apprentice from the previously unbroken bones of different owners. Consequently they were clumsy and weaker.

They then returned to town in the rain, carrying the remains of the formerly undead great local hero Charles, whose body had been bundled into two burlaps bags and tied tightly with rope. Their original mission was finally fulfilled - after several trips, they’d fully cleared the old temple. Now it could be re-consecrated and dedicated to the dead god’s sister, the goddess worshipped in town, and the abbot there would surely handsomely reward them.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Smegging Minis

My latest acquisition was purchased in the hope that it would finally satiate my Red Dwarf obsession, but it seems to have had the opposite effect... I'm consoled by the fact that my rank has gone up considerably in the process: If my wife had any doubts about whether she was married to someone in the elite Nerd Corps, they went out the window as I walked into the room merrily whistling the theme music to the show while “flying” Starbug 1.

Knowing there might be a few fellow members of the corps out there who would appreciate this achievement, I thought I’d share here and post a couple of pictures.

Update: X-Plorers stats for the beast:

Ship Class 3.1 Frigate (Jupiter Class)
Crew: 4-175 (can transport an additional 1000 for extended periods)
Hull Points: 500
Number of Weapons: 4
Weapon Damage: 1d6+2
AC: 11 (or 10 if mining vessel)
NPC Skill: 15/13/11+
XP Value: 500
Cost: 1000m CR
Special: Equipped with 4 Class 2 (Scout) Vessels

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Is this the next Swords & Wizardry cover art?

As others have noted, Mythmere Games' Swords & Wizardry is changing publishers again. As a fan, I've found myself slightly and oddly concerned that S&W might be eclipsed and forgotten by the latest offerings. There’s nothing to fear in the end of course, since the game as we know it goes on. Still, there’s the way for me in which Matt Finch’s version of the rules has thus far appealed as the most roll-your-own edition, laying a groundwork and stepping back a bunch to let you step in. I love the approach and hope that the latest version will help grow the brand. The latest news has S&W consolidating additional/supplemental original edition classes under one cover. Sounds good... I've been DM'ing a version of OD&D via S&W with additional classes available to players for a while now via Macri's Supplemental Lore (available on Lulu.) Whatever keeps the game rules alive and outlasting our mouldering books is fine by me.

Working in IT, I’m always tempted to compare each of the OGL retro-clones (to use Daniel Procter’s term) to this or that version of Linux. With each we have open code that’s been around for decades - it’s just a matter of how much convenience and customization is desired and immediately available or implied with whatever version we choose.

Update to post title: Answer: Yes.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

What Happens When A Spell Book Dies?

Spell books become so imbued with energy from mental focus that they obtain a kind of magical life force of their own. Unlike magic swords though, this force isn’t strong enough to also support any recognizable intelligence - the already heavy burden of holding spells and their glyphs makes such physically weak constructs unable to bear more. Historically, this matter has been debated within the magic using community - but every time an independent intelligence was thought to exist in a magic tome, it’s been demonstrated that an illusion or external agent of some sort was to blame. Nevertheless, there are still some wizards in more rural areas who insist that they’ve seen intelligent spell books, or even that they can converse with their own. It’s a reminder of the sad fact that many who should never have taken up the profession of magic user in the first place persevere to the point of madness.

A detailed and well documented investigation made ages ago by the archmage Fenrond into the phenomena that occur at the moment of a spell book’s destruction is what led to the discovery of their life force. Fenrond was able to astrally observe and follow the essence of these tomes to the plane of Nirvana, where certain modrons catalog and file them away. Others have since repeated the journey, and thus it’s now known that no spell ever inscribed in a spell book is truly lost - though the method behind the modrons’ filing system remains indecipherable.

Therefore, spell books can be said to die… From old age and neglect, from fire or excessive water damage, from being shot through by arrow or pierced by sword, etc. Fenrond’s original writings on the subject are still added to by today’s mages, who continue to document the effects of the (so far) unpredictable release and conversion of energy which occurs on the so-called Prime Material plane at the moment of a spell book's demise. A small number of these are listed below as examples...

1. Everyone within 30’ of the book forgets (and will be unable to retain) their name and anyone else’s in range, for a number of days equal to the highest level spell that was in the book. There’s a 5% chance of never remembering one’s own name and having to make up a new one.
2. The book simply explodes, causing d6 (+1 hp for each level of spell contained) concussive damage to all within 10’.
3. A Stinking Cloud spell effects all within 10’ of the book when it expires.
4. Any intact pages of the book will tear free and flutter around a 20’ area causing confusion and -1 on to hit rolls for one turn.
5. A Slow spell effects all within 10’.
6. Everyone within 30’ is filled with the overwhelming desire to compose rhyming verse appropriate to the surroundings, and will be unable to perform other actions until at least four original lines of such are spoken.
7. Light or Darkness (per the spell) emanates from the last resting place of the book, depending on whether the book’s last owner was good or evil, accompanied by the sound of harps or funeral music respectively.
8. Amidst sparks and smoke, a random spell from the book is cast into the immediate area of the book with a random target being chosen (if appropriate).
9. The ink literally jumps from the pages of the book to become a small host of Inky Slinkers.
10. A random spell from the book supplants one in another spell book in the vicinity. If no other spell book is in the area, than it supplants one on a scroll. If neither are found in the area, a Bronx cheer is heard.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Endless Caption #2: Villains of Volturnus

Number two in a series of posts where you the reader choose your own caption for the included picture...

Friday, August 20, 2010

Porters on a Card

Here's another set of 25mm paper miniatures on an index card (PDF). This one includes Telecanter's latest silhouette.
My Lulu order finally showed up - I'm guessing the free shipping made it take a little longer, and the usual cardboard backing and plastic wrap was missing this time. Hmmm. Anyhow, I picked up Michael Curtis' Stonehell Dungeon, James Pacek's The Wilderness Alphabet, as well as BHP's hard cover and digest sized Swords & Wizardry Whitebox edition. I've yet to really look through them but just have to say - the Whitebox is really sharp. Purchasing the latter was kind of decadent, I already have the box set... I just can't say no to a hard cover I guess.

Old Three Eyes

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Who Owns This Character Anyhow?

When a regular player is sick…do you…

A. Cancel
B. Let the other players run the character
C. Run the character yourself (as DM)
D. Have the character stay back at the inn as too hungover or sick to adventure just now, or something similar if possible.
E. Ask the sick player what they prefer…

Follow up: if the player can’t attend due to something other than illness, does it change the above? For example: “Can’t make it - Dodgers playing Giants today!”

I’ve got a touch of the flu and had to cancel being present for a game last night. I was a little upset when the DM seemed to be pushing me to let a new player run my fella. It’s a dangerous (but maybe also good) sign that I’m getting attached to the little guy - my little flower of a dwarf I’ve nurtured these months past, just shy of his 2nd level… Sniff! Anyhow, it didn’t seem appropriate to me and I was wondering what others thought. Personally I would have gone with option D for what it’s worth.
On an unrelated note, I’m looking forward to using some of Kellri’s excellent necromancer NPC write-up in Knockspell #1 for the S&W game I’m DM’ing. The premier issue was great throughout but the necromancer article takes the cake. The whole necromancer concept keeps making me think of cloning vats, Frankenstein, replacement body parts and such… It might be a great way to somehow begin to transition the campaign from the fairly strict middle-ages fantasy setting I originally envisioned to the more Science Fantasy-like setting laid out in Savage Swords of Athanor and elsewhere that increasingly attracts me.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Moon Giants

Stories tell of tribes of men cursed to change size as the moon itself waxes and wanes. Known as “Moon Giants” these pale looking people were long ago exiled from their own kingdom and are shunned by men and giant alike. The curse also effects their intelligence - the larger they become, the dimmer they are.

A moon giant varies from 5 to 6 feet tall when “normal” (or their smallest) at the new moon to about 12 to 13 feet at the full moon - growing or shrinking about a half foot a day. The entire tribe grows and diminishes in size in sync with one another, although if a member leaves for an extended period of time, their growth cycle will begin to fall out of sync with the rest.

They are usually found in remote, but temperate locations… Some tribes choose to go nude at all times, eschewing clothing because of the troublesome nature of their curse. Others wear the clothing of men when they can or cover themselves with blankets or hides. Their homes are large and may be well constructed but are continually in need of repair. Due to their limited intelligence at full size, they are clumsy and often engage in disputes with one another during full moons - this can lead to destruction of property which is only fixed nearer to new moons when they’ve regained their senses and smaller size. The effect on their society is like a regularly occurring mass bender, followed by a hangover requiring cleaning up and mending relations.

Trade with moon giants is not unknown, and is always carefully scheduled beforehand. In general, they are very distrustful of outsiders. In humanoid settlements near where these strange creatures are said to exist, humorous cautionary tales are told of men and giants alike unknowingly acquiring moon giant wives.

A moon giant can only be cured of their curse through the use of two Wish spells. The first to free them, and the second to prevent their offspring from having the affliction (and continuing to pass it on themselves.)

Moon Giants:

Armor Class: (varies by size) 4 to 9 [14-10]
Hit Dice: (varies by size) 1-9
Attacks: 1 (varies by size) d6 with weapon, d10 or 2d8 (large weapon or rock throwing)
Saving Throw: 8-16 (varies by size)
Special: See description.
Move: 12
Challenge Level/XP: (varies by size) 1/15 to 9/1100

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Stirges, Sir... More Paper Minis.

I was feeling crafty again today so I made another 25mm paper miniature. I thought I'd invert the previous use of black and white to see how it came out. Since things usually don't line up 100% when pasting the sides to one another, and since the background this time is black, it helped to touch them up with a sharpie afterwards - running it along the edges to darken any white showing. PDF here, formatted for a 4x6 index card. As usual, I mounted them on top of pennies making them pretty hard to knock over.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Endless Caption #1: Dungeon of Dread

Well, we'll see how this experiment goes... today I kick off a new series of posts where you the reader choose your own adventure, er, caption for the included picture.

This post is dedicated to Scott of St. Catherine's, whose long division exercises are evident inside the front cover of our source book. Without further ado:

OSRIC Sessions Journal: Mmm - Horse!

(I'm a player in these bi-weekly OSRIC sessions, and DM our S&W games)

We added another player who took Vadco as his character (who was previously played by the DM as an NPC party member.) Before departing from the scene of the well fairy’s demise, Gladric suggested that they not waste the horses that had perished along with the men in the encounter - so they spent a little time butchering them for additional rations that the cleric Ouze could purify if need be.

The druid we’d been following wanted to meet up with a tribe of nomads to the north before setting out for an abandoned mine. The party set off across the plains. The first night they camped, they saw strange lights in the distance. The druid said to pay them no mind and they went back to sleep and woke the next day without further incident. Then they travelled a little further on and saw a number of large flying beasts approaching. Once they were identified as griffins, the party spurred their horses to ride as fast as they could. Someone came up with the idea of dumping the fresh horse meat and that seemed to be enough to satiate the creatures as they stopped to feast on it and left them to hurry on without further pursuit. There were a few more wilderness encounters with various monsters but no casualties or treasure recovered.

They eventually made it to the nomads' camp - there were about sixty warriors and an equal number of other others. They met with the chief and Gladric was able to glean that the brigands numbered about sixty or so men of their own and had been battling the nomads on and off for five years. Later, the druid was seen consorting with some nomad women while the party did some gambling, with Gladric winning a few gems.

I was really frustrated with continuing to have to follow the druid’s lead, and several times had unpleasant exchanges with Vadco’s character who’s gotten very uppity since he’s no longer a NPC! Gladric the Thief is now plotting what to do about all of this. He’s more than happy to step aside and let others to the front in their marching order. He’ll be able to see their backs better.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Metagaming's Microgame #5: Rivets

When we were still in grade school, my friends and I were able to get our parents to drive us out to Crazy Egor’s game shop in Hilton (close to Rochester, NY - I’m pretty sure he’s still in business.) We were like kids in a candy store, and after spending nearly all of our money, we’d have a few bucks left over that we could buy a miniature or dice with. Or, one of the plastic sleeved “microgames” of the time. We knew some of these were pretty bad from past experience, but quantity competes well with quality when you’re ten years old.

I’m sure that’s how one of us acquired Metagaming’s Microgame #5 “Rivets” - it was one of the first wargames I played. First published in 1977, it cost $2.95. We definitely got decent mileage out of it back in the day. The artwork on the cover and throughout is very cartoony, and that might have helped sell us on it in retrospect.From the back cover: “BOPPERS were mass produced robotic war machines. When the final war ended they were all that was left. Everyone was dead; but, the BOPPERS kept on fighting. Afterall, with the intelligence of can openers what could you expect… Rivets is a two player tactical level science fiction game of robotic warfare in the 22nd century. Players select their robot armies, set their programs, and send them out to destroy the enemy computer complex. Rivets is fast playing and easy to learn with a humorous style. Games are quick, even if the robots are a bit dumb.”
It was fairly easy to learn even for us kids, and I think it served as a great introduction to wargaming - the humor helped keep our attention and made us feel like we were on the inside of a joke. D&D had gotten us through Egor’s front door, but soon there wasn’t a wargame or rpg being made back then that wouldn’t at least briefly interest us.

Looking over my copy, I see that Steve Jackson was thanked as someone who offered feedback or playtested the game, and also note that the designer Robert Taylor mentions Vaughn Bode as an influence (I’m a huge fan.) The crazy thing about this game is that it’s actually still in print! I was really glad to see that.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

PDFs of Iridia Going Up on Destination Unknown seems gone, but Christian looks like he's in the process of putting every issue of Iridia up as a free PDF on his Destination Unknown blog. It's nice to see this resource back online and appreciated - if you're not familiar, Iridia is a zine of "role playing games and miniatures, old and new" and has been self-published since early 2006.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tower of the Stargazer - First Impressions

Here are my first impressions of the printed version of the LotFP adventure “Tower of the Stargazer” which is included in the Weird Fantasy RPG’s box set. I haven't yet had a chance to fully read through it or introduce it to my players.

Cover - Great cover art! You can't go wrong with Mullen.

Size - I continue to really appreciate the digest size. My tabletop real estate is at a premium these days. Even if it weren’t for that, I’ve always liked the economy and efficiency of digest sized productions.

Layout - My main complaint here is with the blackened margins bordering the text throughout… I really think this was a big mistake. I’m not sure if the idea was just to be different or to add a another layer of darkness for mood, but the overall effect is to make the already smaller digest sized printing seem even smaller. It really is a detraction and I hope it isn’t duplicated in any future LotFP publications.

The gray shaded sections intended as containing helpful tutorials/suggestions are very appreciated. Even for experienced DMs, they offer more insight into what the designer had in mind when writing up a location or component. The only complaint with these here again is the visual component - these gray shaded areas don’t look right lined up next to the blackened border margins.

Interior art - The art inside is sparse and seems a bit of an afterthought. The whole work is only sixteen pages, and is mostly intended as an introductory module both for new players, for the slightly “weird” setting, and for the rules themselves, but the poorly cropped art on page three gives the impression of a work slightly rushed to print. Some of the art is placed behind text due to space limitations and suffers for it a bit though the intention was good.

Map - I love it. The artwork is great - it is clear, bold, understandable, and printed on a detached front and back cover in a heavier stock of glossy paper than the rest of the module. The map’s layout is well done with a concern for space limitations. Love it. I wish all of the old school adventures I’ve purchased had been able to do this and will somehow follow suit - Lulu sure as hell won’t able to reproduce this.

Price - The price was totally right. 8€ or $10.76 (at the time I ordered)… Sixteen pages, with detachable map, shipped from Finland for Crom’s sake! I paid $10.95 for a print copy of Idol of the Orcs, not including shipping (which with Lulu would currently cost another $3.99.) for eleven pages or less of actual game content. Sorry to single someone out in the old school for comparison, but my point is - if someone overseas can do this so competitively, it might be a problem… Especially if the competition is heating up for old school purchasing dollars. I think Lulu still has a place for individual authors, but an actual game publishing company can do better.

I ordered this without the Weird Fantasy rules. I own LotFP’s People of Pembrooktonshire, Death Frost Doom, and No Dignity in Death setting/adventures (and the Green Devil Face publications - which I hope to see continued.) Based on his previous works, I anticipate the text of The Tower of the Stargazer will contain both equally interesting and unexpected content for myself and my players. But will my sandbox players even get a chance any time soon to explore the tower? I give it about one in four odds considering the compass directions and some hooks I throw them. I’m hoping I get lucky and they do, based on what I’ve seen so far of it and Raggi’s previous works.

I should add that I had some concerns about its survivability especially after a recent post on the LotFP blog - James seemed happy to answer some quick questions via instant message and give some specific examples where I might tweak the adventure slightly if I thought it was overly deadly. In retrospect, I probably should have just posted something about it in the LotFP forums but thought I’d mention it here as an example of plain old good customer service.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Superstitious Dungeoneers

Among many of the more dangerous professions, such as those of sailors and soldiers, a number of superstitious beliefs are traditionally held. Dungeoneers and their employees have long held their own superstitions too. While some PCs discount these as they gain experience, hirelings seldom do - and it’s no wonder, as they often die or get out of the business while the getting is good. Once in a blue moon, a hardy old porter can be found who knows many if not all of the local superstitions and takes care to heed them. Wise dungeoneers would do well to carefully observe and listen to these characters, for there may be a grain of truth to what they know - enough to save a life. On the other hand, the memories of such elders are not always what they once were.

Dungeoneering superstitions vary greatly by region. Attentive players may find it interesting and valuable to compare those from one locale to another with the hope of ascertaining which might be more worth observing. In our game, certain superstitions may have an actual logical (and worthwhile) explanation behind them, and some will not. These latter beliefs may still be worth noting though - simple “bad luck” may translate into dice rolling penalties or worse!

Below is a table with some examples of dungeoneers’ superstitions.

d30: What the Old Codger Said…

1. Tying an onion onto one’s belt can help keep away skeletons. Not just any onion though, a yellow onion.
2. Rolling dice in a dungeon is very bad luck.
3. A dungeon exploration should never begin on _____ (day of the week - depends on local deity.)
4. If a chicken crosses your path on the way to a dungeon, there is a coward in the party who will desert it at a bad time.
5. A dungeon entrance should always be exited by walking backwards (or was it the other way around?)
6. Spoiled rations indicate poison ahead.
7. It’s very bad luck to kill baby kobolds (or goblins, orcs, etc. - probably explains a lot)
8. A torch that touches the ground means someone will be injured or killed soon.
9. A bell heard underground is, well, not good.
10. At least one coin should always be left behind when treasure is recovered.
11. If you see a bat you should change your weapon.
12. If a spell book gets wet and it wasn’t your fault, it’s bad luck.
13. Dwarves should never use bows.
14. Halflings should never use maces or hammers.
15. You can’t get laid with a halfling in the party.
16. Halflings are bad luck.
17. Eating a raw egg underground is good luck.
18. Smoking underground is unhealthy.
19. Re-using iron spikes in a dungeon is asking for trouble.
20. It’s a bad idea to sleep next to a cleric.
21. If your cheeks or ears suddenly feel on fire, it’s because someone is casting a spell on you.
22. If someone’s head gets chopped off near you, you should kick it far away lest you suffer the same fate.
23. It’s good luck to bring a mirror with you underground. It’s unlucky to find one there.
24. It’s good luck if it’s raining when you enter a cave.
25. Knock three times on a shield after discussing someone’s death.
26. One should always have two daggers. One for shaving, and one for killing. Never mix the two.
27. Sixteen of anything is a good thing.
28. …Except copper pieces.
29. Always tie a few knots beforehand in any rope you bring with you into a dungeon.
30. Never say the following words underground: pig, orc, deep, or help.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Website Changes

Jumping on the bandwagon here, I decided to finally go with three columns. I'm still tweaking things a bit - I need to replace re-center the primitive header art and seem to have lost some rounded edges somewhere, but I think I like it. Please let me know if something doesn't look quite right.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Battlemat for iPad

I don't have an iPad but I thought this was an interesting development - Razeware has released a virtual tabletop for the iPad via the iTunes app store for the iPad. It doesn't look half bad. I like the ability to hook it up to an external display... for now I'll have to leave it to Tenkar to review. :)

I've been thinking a lot about the old Metagaming / Steve Jackson/ TSR and Mayfair microgames lately and how they'd probably transfer nicely and relatively easily to the iPad format. Hell, they might even retain their original prices of just a few bucks a piece. I loved those products as a kid - war games for a comic book budget!

I have a hard time believing Razeware will sell a lot of downloads with a $30 price tag but who knows? More info. and screenshots here.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Hello Non-English Speaking Readers

As I've noticed there are a few folks following this site who most likely aren't reading in their native language, I added a tool on the bottom of the right column that will allow you some may wish to use to easily have Google translate the page to other languages. I hope someone finds this useful... Thanks for reading!

S&W Sessions Journal: Ghoooowels

We picked up our Swords and Wizardry game again last night with an additional player who will be with us on and off again as time allows him. I gave him the option of playing one of the existing backup PCs/NPCs or else rolling up his own from scratch and he chose to play Gulch the assassin (we’re playing with Macri’s Supplemental Lore.)

Like our last OSRIC game, there was a lot of catching up to do. I’d originally intended to role play a number of developments following the party’s capture of the warehouse burglars but so much time had passed that I felt the excitement and inertia of those events had been lost. Instead, I just explained how there had been some controversy initially about what had happened - the burglars’ father was a shopkeeper himself and had accused the party and his competitor who’d hired them with conspiracy. In the end, the party’s reputation (due to recovering holy books from the abandoned temple across the river) got them off the hook.

On a side note, Frederick Charles, the local hireling who the party had pushed to the front and who’d been slain by skeletons, has become a minor celebrity and martyr in death. His reputation has grown so that now it was widely believed that he’d originally been the leader of the party. The party has taken this in good humor and perhaps wisely chosen not to contest the notion. Of course a few of the village elders and local clergy know better, but for political purposes are not discouraging the rumors. On a less positive note, Frederick Chuck's mother in mourning has overcome her hysteria and grief to an extent and has begun telling anyone who will listen that the party hadn’t even seen fit to give her and her husband a share of the treasure that they’d recovered as an inheritance. This was true…

For many weeks now, the party had been lounging about town and enjoying spending their new found wealth (mostly on food and drink.) One morning they awoke and it just seemed to click with all of them it was time to set out again, either to finish an enterprise or begin a new one. Wagstaff thought they should complete the job they’d started in the employ of the church, so they hired some fishermen and were transported to the other side of the river where they hiked up to the abandoned temple.

It wasn’t long before they were once again engaged in combat with the undead - first more skeletons, and then several ghouls. Upon first seeing these, Agnal had shouted “Ghouls!” which was misheard by at least one of the players as “Jewels!” It was only after Agnal had been wounded and fled, and one of the dwarves became paralyzed that Wagstaff realized what these creatures were. Nevertheless, the party fought on, Olav the dwarf was unconscious when the last ghoul was slain, with great aid given by Frayse who had discovered that his sword seemed to have a magical ability versus the undead after saying aloud the inscription on it in their presence. After the battle, he ran as fast as he could after the limping and fleeing Agnal, and retrieved him to where the rest of the party was crowded around Olav. Agnal has no magic power at first level, but he was trained in first aid at his original seminary school (which he was was eventually kicked out of) and was able to restore Olav to consciousness. They left the basement of the temple again and went back to town, scarfing up what items they could on the way including some ornamental silver swords and war hammers, candles, and robes.

They flagged down fishermen from the beach and returned to town across the river. Barely back, they were accosted near the docks by the harbormaster’s wife (Frederick Charles' mother) who accused them of being evil and selfish men. Gulch offered her one of the recovered silver items and she seemed satisfied. He also offered her a black candle, which she found repulsive and quickly went away. The group began to make their way back to the tavern for a hard earned rest.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Frugal Game Table Creation in Ten Minutes

Among the many odd jobs I’ve had over the years, I worked at a blood bank for a while. One day I saw a donation table was being thrown out and decided I’d keep it. It’s a custom design, with a narrow length on wheels and with pull out boards and shallow drawers. I’ve had it for close to ten years in my office where it's been accumulating old computer equipment and not living up to its potential. After hatching the webcam plan, I decided to convert it into a game table. The old thing will get to see a little more blood before it's retired.

So how to make a game table in ten minutes? This stuff.

Before and after pics...

I wish it wasn't quite so narrow, but I might be able to help that by just painting the pull out flat panels as well. I made a test sketch of a dungeon from Knockspell #3. I see using this more for quick sketches than drawing complete maps, and building interiors would work especially well.

It's probably a little cheaper than a battlemat, although you'll have to bust out the ruler for distance measurements. I might put some thin lined hexes or squares on it with paint or fine point white sharpies. You could paint a very large area with one quart - the can says about a hundred square feet. Plus you'll have something the kids can play with and can use for other games or practice their math skills on. I recommend using foam sponges for laying down the paint - coarser brushes may leave slightly raised streaking.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

VOIP Game with a Non-Virtual Game Table

In our last game there was some confusion during combat that might have been avoided if we’d been using miniatures. Unfortunately, this wasn’t a very good option since we were playing via video chat. We’ve tried using virtual game tables online but I haven’t been impressed. So I’m building our own game table - I’ve wanted to do this anyhow, but our last session pushed me to get started on it today (I’ll post more on it later this week.)

But why build a game table for voice-over-IP games? I’ve been thinking how it might be cool if I could run a separate video stream so that in addition to our video conference, they could see the actual game table and minis and just say where they want their characters to move using coordinates or other directions. Today I decided to try this out - basically I'm having a second webcam upload a fresh image to a server every time a motion sensor is triggered. Players can refresh a web page in their browser to see the updated positions of their characters relative to their surroundings or opponents. If they use Firefox and the “ReloadEvery” extension, they can have the page automatically reload at regular intervals so that they don’t have to manually refresh it.

This seems like a pretty cheap solution if it works - I’ve only tested it with a crappy second webcam. If it looks like it’ll work out in game play, I'll get a better cam with higher resolution or wide angle and zoom, or look at using our camcorder for this purpose. I have a little concern over hosting and individual bandwidth capabilities, but it looks promising so far.

I like this approach because of the personal touch it affords (our minis instead of someone else’s avatars, not to mention terrain details etc.) I'm already thinking about dungeon clues I can subtly add and special effects with lighting or smoke/fog.