Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Japan Travel Blog

If you've an interest in Japan, take a look at I (topic marker) something (destination). My friend Karen is spending the summer there, and she's blogging about it.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Metal Steampunk Vikings

Yes. This is what my next campaign needs to be. Metal. Steampunk. Vikings.

Loud, horned hat dudes wandering around in a Conan-esque Lost World, fighting robots and finding rayguns.

Weird, clanking, brass and springs constructs rampaging around in the wilderness. Mysterious machines from dimensions beyond time. Mad scientists demanding tribute along with the necromancers and dragons and mad god-kings.


Cool Happenings: Duranmas Duranmas, Contests, and Crosslinking

As a purveyor of fake modern awesome holidays myself, I heartily approve of Duranmas Duranmas. You should approve it too!

ChattyDM has an adventure concept contest. The catch: 10 words.

I finally figured out what Trollsmyth is trying to do. It says right up at the top, "I’ll also link up with as much good stuff as possible for your websurfing convenience," and even expanded on the idea further. But it didn't really click until he linked to a comment about plot and story in a Grognardia post. Then I realized: he wants the game blog-o-sphere cross-linked.

This is an excellent idea. Something I should do more, too.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Wizards Are Weird

Wizards are very odd kleptomaniacs. Even if this is 4e, and 4e wizards don't need material components to cast spells (off the top of my head, I don't know) they'll still have the ability to produce any number of odd, valueless, seemingly useless objects at the drop of a pointy hat.

Warlocks can't do this. Sorcerers might be able to. Mostly, though, it's something wizards do, because they're weird.

They're not born with power. They want it, but they don't have the sense to do the easy thing and cut a deal with some extradimensional being. (Clerics, I'm looking at you, too.) Whether from principles, morals, or fear, they work for their power.

But then, they're not usual in that, either. They're not like fighters, or rogues; not practice and discipline and skill. They spend all their time reading books. And thinking. And tinkering with the fundamentals of the universe.

All without wearing pants.

Armor and Other D&D-isms

So Charles Ffoulkes is responsible for the weirdness that is D&D armor. I knew it was screwy already, having a friend who does Real True Historical Re-enactment, but I'm both glad to see that there's an explanation for it beyond, "eh, some daft thing that Gary put in there because he thought it looked cool."

Not that that would have been bad, necessarily. I know some people who are deeply disturbed by the idea that not everything in D&D is 100% historically accurate. The most annoying guy I ever gamed with would go on, at length, about how studded leather armor doesn't make sense, like the mere fact that he knew it wasn't real true medieval armor made him really, really cool.

I've never gotten so worked up about it. I like that D&D is filled with D&D-isms, bizarre little easter eggs that only make sense in the history and context of the game. I like that it has monsters inspired by plastic toys, and spells named after characters that people actually played.

I like that D&D doesn't always make sense.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Eladrin Are Ruled by Undead

Mostly by not-entirely-evil lich/mummies of their ancient kings. They still have living kings, but they tend to be not quite as important as the dead ones, because after a king dies he sticks around as an undead, and keeps all his followers and wealth. So mostly the living king gets used as a pawn by the more powerful houses of the dead.

Elves tend to have slightly more normal ruling systems, (often little or none at all) but there are also an unusual number of elven vampires and death knights running around, enslaving elves and mortals and building little fiefdoms. Elves also have an unfortunate tendency to come back as ghosts. It's just something that they do.

I'm not as completely sure about the elves as I am about the other races so far, but some one's ruled by undead. And since I don't know what else I might do with elves, it might as well be them.

This also sort of assumes 4e, but if I might end up using this for a setting that doesn't have eladrin. If so, I'll just stick it all together and say some elves are ruled by undead kings, and some are ruled by vampires.

As a further note, this is not entirely stolen from Eberron. Some of it is also stolen from the Incan empire, who mummified their kings and kept them around as rulers of political parties. Part of the reason they lost their war against the Spanish was they were already in the middle of a civil war between two mummies. (Not kidding, read 1491.)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Dinosaurs Make Everything Better

The PCs are all dinosaurs. You run around avoiding meteors and stomping things.

This could be played totally straight where the players are all dinosaurs doing dinosaur things. I spent a lot of time pretending I was a dinosaur as a kid, so there's got to be some fun there.

Or it could be more of a reverse Turok kind of deal, and the dinosaur-PCs eat Marines or Lost World explorers or scientists or whoever it would be entertaining for dinosaurs to eat.

Maybe Dinosaur Escape: Washington, D.C.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Halflings Are Cannibals

Not all halflings, of course. Some of them cremate their dead. And their have been rare instances of halfling burial, generally under unusual supernatural circumstances. But most halflings, in most cases, eat their dead.

They're a nomadic people, and thus they feel that it's better to carry their lost loved ones with them then to stick them in the ground in a place to which they may never return. They also believe that, by eating a person, they can absorb that person's strength and wisdom, and carry on their works. There are also some practical considerations; though not all halflings inhabit swamps and waterways, many do, and it's difficult to properly bury someone in that sort of terrain.

It's very unusual for halflings to eat non-halflings, or even members of their race that they don't have a strong personal connection to. It does happen occasionally, most often when the odd, marginalized sect comes up with the idea of eating their enemies. It's even more unusual for a non-halfling to partake of a halfling funeral ritual, but that, too, is not completely unknown.

Halflings don't usually bring it up when they live around other races. They think everyone else's practices are a little unnatural, but they're aware that a lot of other people find theirs downright repulsive, so they don't push the issue. A halfling adventurer might ask it of their comrades, in the event of their permanent death, but only with people they'd known deeply for years.

(Yes, I sort of stole this from Dark Sun. Dark Sun is cool.)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Dwarves Are Crazy

Dwarves get psychotic when they see the sky. They have some weird dwarven word for "sky madness," that they call it, because I haven't decided whether I'm going to go for "old and germanic" for dwarven, or "lots of 'kh' and 'g' and 'd' and little triangle things over the vowels." Everyone else mostly just assumes that dwarves are all nuts, especially in the Southern Lands, where it's more common.

It's really the night sky that's a problem, the stars or the planets or the moons. And for most dwarves, it's not really a huge problem. In ages past, a dwarven sorcerer-king learned to craft a sort of charm that mostly protects against the curse, or whatever it is, and with these forged the first above-ground dwarven empire. Nowadays, like most of dwarven government, they're largely religious in character, and the priesthood controls their manufacture.

It still comes up often enough that that's what a lot of people think of when they think of dwarves: weird, psychotic, atheistic serial-killers. Usually it happens to dwarves who have been exiled, but every so often, for whatever reason, the charms don't quite work.

And that's why dwarves are crazy.

Truth in Advertising

Livejournal's "sponsored links," that it displays on the link-out to this blog, are as follows:

Fast Cars
Elder Scrolls
Solar System

(You can see for yourself on my friend Maggie's LJ.)

I am amused.

Also, this blog would be better if it fit that topic list more closely.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Implications of Paragon Paths

Boy, does Wizards want you to buy the splatbooks.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing. I'm still looking forward to 4e, and I was probably going to buy a lot of those books anyway. Really, most of the people who care probably would have bought them anyway.

But technically, in 3.x, prestige classes were an alternate rule. You didn't have to use them, and DMs who didn't want to deal with them had rules text to back up that call. But in 4e, these paragon paths (which I do think are cool) are required.

And, according to that preview, there's only one for each class in the Player's Handbook.

Maybe there are more in the DMG. I kind of doubt it; now that they're required, it doesn't make much sense for a player build tool to be in the DM-only book. If you want more, you're going to have to buy more books, or a subscripition to D&D Insider.

The way these are pitched, they're integral to your character build and, particularly, concept. So if you want your cleric to be anything other than a "warpriest" -- say, a pacifist, or an oracle -- and to be mechanically differentiated by that role, you'll need more books.

Which, honestly, was sort of required by 3.x, too. If you want your character to be really unique, mechanically, the options in the core books probably wouldn't cut it. If you'd already played a standard cleric and wanted to do something a little different with your build, you'd need to buy more books. The people who care about that were probably going to buy those options books anyway.

But it's interesting that they're making it this explicit. Especially with all the talk on the interwebs about 4e just being a money grab.

New Look

It had been overdue for a while; I think the last time I changed it was over a year ago. And I don't really wear all black anymore, so my blog doesn't need to, either.

I might, eventually, return to some variation on that, because black background white text does look pretty spiffy. But for now, this is good.

I'm still not totally solid with the way the sidebar looks, though. Wondering whether I should rearrange my gadget scheme, or add some more. Particularly, I think I may break up the blogroll by topic.

And I am, at the moment, really not happy with the label system I'm using. Not sure whether I should actually go back and do the work to redo it, or just start using a new one and leave the old one as an artifact of earlier times.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Multi-DM Persistent World Campaign

Crazy idea: a sandbox game with no regular group, in the style of the West Marches but with the setting that powers it shared between multiple DMs.

This could just be on the design end: you have multiple people collaborating on a setting that one of them then uses to run a game. Co-operative worldbuiling. Or you could get fancier, and have each participating DM run their own player pool through the game.

Which could, in turn, run a couple of ways. You could have multiple independent games, seperated geographically or by convention, or you could have multiple DMs supporting the same player pool, with players switching back and forth between games. My personal situation better supports the former option, since I don't know many other DMs locally. But the second option could be interesting.

There big issues I've identified so far are time-keeping, DMing style, and griefing.

That last is also the least important; though I assume there's some potential for one DM to put way to powerful monsters in places they're not supposed to be, without warning for the players or the other DMs, a little thought put into who you invite into the project ought to keep the chance to a minimum. A bigger problem would be people doing that kind of thing accidentally, but that would happen even in a single-DM game.

Slightly bigger issue is time-keeping; if you put everyone on personal time, affected solely by in-game activities, as I tend to do in my normal games, then you could potentially end up with some groups way behind others, depending on how active the different DMs are. Then you get weirdness like dungeons that haven't been cleared out yet, but will be, so you can't go there because of what will happen, but hasn't. My solution would be to put everyone on universal time, perhaps locked to real-world time, and your character hangs around in taverns until you take them out on another adventure. (Which seems like a perfectly reasonable thing for a character to do.)

Finally, DM style. Part of the idea behind the set-up would be to produce an environment with greater depth and variety than one DM can provide, but this could go too far. And everyone involved would have to use a similar format in their world notes, and a similar level of rigor in applying those notes.

This could work, and it might be fun. It's not something that's likely to happen; I'm probably too distractible to pull something like that off. The vision I have in my head is of a game that keeps going for years, with different players and different DMs, but one persistent world. But at least in my case, it's more likely to stay just as an idea.

EDIT: Reposted because I just realized I misspelled the title. Why do I keep doing that?

Monday, April 21, 2008

What I Might Actually Run

I still haven't gotten a handle on what I'm going to run this summer. I was going to do a sequel to last year's game, but that fell through when it turned out one of the main players wouldn't be able to make it for most of it. I could still run it, but I'd rather do something new, and go back to it later when I've got another game between the old game and the new one.

A significant part of me very, very much would like to run 4e. Not unreservedly, but enough that it's probably what I'll end up doing.

My original plan was to run the preview module, Keep on the Shadowfell, and spin off from there. Maybe even go on to Thunderspire Labyrinth, if Shadowfell is any good. I've never actually run a published module before, and I've got an idea that I might learn something from it.

Of course, I'm also thinking about running a palette-swap on the system, fiddling with the flavor to make it more steampunk. A couple of my players have indicated an interest in the genre, and I'd have a fair few crazy ideas to mine for a setting.

My other major ideas for 4e are to go with (a heavily hacked version of) the new default settting, or make it metal. These ideas are not incompatible, nor are they in oppostion to the idea of starting off with a published module. Even the steampunk idea could be made to work with that; I'd just have to file the serial numbers off the adventure, too.

And then there's the non-4e ideas. I've still never run Eberron, despite it being on my list since it came out, but the two players who have the book are the two who aren't available this summer. I've had Iron Heroes for ages, but I'm more likely to loot it for parts for a 4e game, since if I'm going to run a relatively combat heavy game I'd rather try out the monster/encounter set-up the new edition promises. Encounter Critical is an option; though a few people have expressed desire for a "serious" game, it might work as a pre-4e mini-campaign if I decide not to start the game with the module.

The final factor is the sandbox/megadungeon/hexcrawl game I want to run in the somewhat near future. That's not likely to happen this summer, partially due to player interest, partially due to work requirements. More likely, I'll run something else over the summer and start working on the sandbox thing either during that or right after it ends.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Rabbit Attack Day, 2008

In honor of our Most Beloved Holiday, I give you: a giant rabbit attack.

Which I believe is from the movie "Night of the Lepus," a movie that I have not yet had the pleasure of viewing.

Fun Fact: The original Rabbit Attack Day entry is the most popular single post on the blog.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

What I Want to Play, In No Particular Order

  • Eberron
    • human dragonmarked artificer of House d'Cannith
    • elven wizard from Aerenal
  • a megadungeon
  • fast cars and the idiots who drive them
  • pirates!
  • interplanetary sailing ships with that baroque/victorian feel, "aether" and the spinning models of the solar system and everything
    • perhaps a captain of a ship like that
    • or an aether surfer, something like Ray Tracer
  • Tamriel (Elder Scrolls Setting)
  • ancient desert ruins
  • Promethean: The Created (though I'm a bit off White Wolf, at the moment, for non-game related reasons)
  • Exalted (same caveat as above)
    • dawn caste/other fight-y solar using those artifact throwing ring thingies
    • freedom fighter against the corrupt dragon-whatever government
    • maybe another solar type, or another exalt entirely, since I don't know much about the world
  • Vampire (again, same caveat)
    • Malkavian!
    • or one of those annoyingly pretentious artist types
  • Werewolf (yet again, same caveat) (also, assuming it's possible to play this as something other than "science is evil" eco-terrorists)
  • Girl Genius
  • kitchen sink post-apocalyptic: "wizards, dinosaurs, mutants & lasers"
  • something like the setting of Jak 2, and the parts of 3 that weren't stupid
  • something sandbox-y
  • a halfling wizard, specializing in rays

Thursday, April 17, 2008

I Stab Things With Magic!

Your Score: Spellsword
51% Combativeness

16% Sneakiness
88% Intellect
33% Spirituality

Aggressive, but with the brains to back it up: You are a Spellsword!
Score! You have a prestige class. A prestige class can only be taken after you've fulfilled certain requirements. This may mean that you're an exceptionally talented person, but it probably doesn't.
Spellswords combine arcane might with combat know-how. They're much tougher than mages, like to wear armor, and can cast spells through their weapons. They're very, very, good at doing lots of damage to a single target very quickly, and while not quite as tough as most fighters, are still pretty hard to kill.
You're both smart and aggressive, which means that you're probably pretty dangerous when pissed off. You also tend to be somewhat straightforward, which is nice, and don't have much use for spirituality or mysticism.

Link: The RPG Class Test written by MFlowers on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test
View My Profile(MFlowers)

From: Retro-Roleplaying: The Blog

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

I Read Too Much Science Fiction, And It Shows

How well would it work to have the PCs all play individuals who were part of a greater "over-person?" This is basically a trans/post-humanist concept, worlds where the basic unit of society isn't individual humans, but groups connected chemically or psychically or what-have-you. It works pretty well in fiction, and I think it's a cool idea just on a pure conceptual level, but I wonder how it would work in a game setting?

Partially, it would just allow the game world to really process what happens at a table naturally. Characters can have close to perfect information about what their fellow party members are up to, even in the heat of battle, when when separated by time and space.

But the concept would logically demand less character conflict than most of the games I've seen actually end up with, and are fun with. If the characters are all basically the same person, why would they have different, sometimes conflicting goals? There's probably a way to build an architecture that supports some of that, and still makes sense, but it would probably require some thought to get the reasonable/playable balance right.

Would this be worth it? Or would it be just an intellectual exercise? Seems like something that might make a good hook for a one-shot.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

What I Want to Run, In No Particular Order

  • something sandbox-y
  • a published module
  • a megadungeon
  • the party is a group of young, bored, reckless nobles who occupy themselves by causing trouble for their elders and their rivals
  • kitchen sink post-apocalyptic: "wizards, dinosaurs, mutants & lasers"
  • the new 4e default world
  • Eberron
  • something really dark ages
  • fantasy Europe -- "Europa" or something of that nature
  • pirates!
  • old west
  • ancient desert ruins
  • steampunk
  • interplanetary sailing ships with that baroque/victorian feel, "aether" and the spinning models of the solar system and everything
  • everyone rides dinosaurs
  • something like the setting in Jak 2, and the parts of 3 that weren't stupid
  • Tamriel (Elder Scrolls setting)
  • dragonriders for the Queen, who lives in an airship
  • Expedition to the Moon!
  • fast cars and the idiots who drive them
  • magic fast cars and the idiots who drive them
  • noble families based on hereditary wizardry
  • 1st-20/30th: the players ascend to godhood and found an empire in the process
  • that same world, 1000 years hence

Monday, April 14, 2008

Be Afraid! Be Very Afraid!

I just discovered something interesting. "Talk Like a Pirate Day" is, apparently, frightening to some people. Not that I've ever met anyone frightened by it, but I have, nevertheless, been informed that this is the case. Any event that involves it will, I have been told, necessarily be badly attended, on account of this phenomena.

This explains a lot about me. I have misinterpreted the normal fear response that the average human experiences when exposed to pirates as awesomeness. As a result, I've been scaring people off by my displaying the symbols and mannerisms of this most frightening of creatures. It will take years of counseling to retrain my shattered psyche, so that I can finally interact with people who are properly afeared of pirates.

Or, I suppose, I could revel in the SHEER TERROR I can invoke through the use of a simple pirate hat, which I, due to my unusual mental constitution, can tolerate.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

System Obsession

4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons
Star Wars Saga Edition
Mutants & Masterminds
Truth and Justice
Castles & Crusades
Encounter Critical
Forward . . . to Adventure!
Stargate: SG-1 Roleplaying Game
EDIT: Iron Heroes

The games that I currently want to play; this leaves out d20 Modern, 3.X Edition D&D, GURPS 4th Edition, and Risus, because I've already played them, and I'm currently in a new system mood.

There are probably a few more I've forgotten. These are in the order of "estimated likelyhood to play," based on ease of access to materials and interests of potential players. 4th Edition is at the top because I'm absolutely getting the books, and barring natural disaster or mutiny I'm going to be playing at least a couple of sessions of it.

Stargate is at the bottom because it's out of print, and the books on Ebay cost over $60. Otherwise, it would be very close to the top. Curse you, Sony!

Everything else ought to be fairly obvious . . . I know more people who are into Star Wars than superheroes, it's easier to get people to play d20 than weird, newfangled systems, and I don't know many people who share my mostly unrealized fascination with old school gaming.