Saturday, December 27, 2014

Actual Play: Catthulhu Dark



Well, this is kind of a subversion. A few Actual Plays ago I posted a game where Scott and I derailed The Fall Without End, run by my good friend @mousekins (Susan). Now I'm posting the results of my very own first-ever GMing rage-quit, where I got fed up with players acting like setting-breaking jerks and stopped talking. The game I quit was a Cthulhu Dark, and players kept trying to push each other into the cold atlantic waters of go-fuck-yourself, Ireland.

Then I collected myself, took a deep breath, and ran a Catthulhu Dark completely off the cuff.

I don't remember things ending prematurely in that one, so there's that for a win I suppose.

There's probably a lesson here for me. That I should be more flexible towards my players' idiosyncrasies or something. Fuck that. If my players are going to break the flow of the game by trying to beat each other up, they can play Super Mario 3D World.

Instead, the lesson you should all take from this Actual Play is that if your players are acting like children with ADHD, stop the game you're running, and run Cattthulhu Dark, and fucking bombard them with shiny shit to run after.

*drops mic*

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Actual Play: IKRPG Fools Rush In (Quick-Start Scenario)



Golly Gee Willikers folks it's been a Holy Guacamole Batman long time since I've posted anything to this fucking this. It's also Christmas Eve, and knowing that, I suppose it means I should be a little less selfish and actually blog or something, instead of going to Albertsons and picking up a handle of Bailey's Irish Cream and getting really lactose-intolerant drunk.

Also, I'm lactose intolerant. I'll never drink Bailey's Irish Cream again. Holy shit, this has been a weird year.

IN ANY CASE.

Hey everyone, how's it going? I swear to god I've actually been gaming these past two months; I've even been recording shit, but I've fallen under the sway of a Wii U...and Hyrule Warriors. And Smash Bros.

Dear god I keep getting sidetracked. What was I here to talk about? Oh yeah, Actual Play. Iron Kingdoms RPG. New Thursday group. Etc, etc.

Well, long story short, we were introducing some new players to the system/setting of IKRPG, and like a jolly green dumbass I decided to run Fools Rush In instead of making my own intro game like a person who doesn't have brain damage or chronic laziness would do. Either that or I just wanted to run a game that featured all the characters from Murder in Corvis.

Did I mention that I've been reading IKRPG supplemental novellas pretty much non-stop since Thanksgiving? It's probably kind of a big deal. Probably. Anyway- those are another blog post's problem.

So, Fools Rush In...it's not a terrible module. As I mentioned in my podcast this week, introductory scenarios are tasked with the problem of introducing potential novice players to new settings, new mechanics, and new methods of storytelling, so it's understandable if the balance is a little bit off. Unfortunately for Fools Rush In, it's super way off in favor of combat, to the detriment of off-the-cuff roleplaying whatsoever. We're talking railroading. We're talking static plot. And honestly, that's perfectly fine for an intro game. I guess I'm just picky when it comes to new stuff. The players in question seemed to have a blast, even if that last combat turned into what was probably an hour-long slog. So much grind...

Either way, I'm hoping that that last drag-out fight didn't sour the players on the setting, because my other group had a lot of fun roleplaying in Western Immoren, especially with a great GM like @mousekins at the helm.

I think I've rambled on long enough, so here's the game:

Iron Kingdoms RPG - Fools Rush In

GM - David Schimpff

Players - Scott, Aidan, Shane, Russell.

Enjoy!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Prehistory Fantasy Setting: As Open as One Can Get It


Lately I've challenged myself to conjure up game mechanics that test my players' abilities to improvise and innovate within a particular game setting. Most of my recent game ideas have sprung from the concept of a prehistory fantasy setting, and this conjecture is no different.

I'm curious, to say the least, about what players would do in a setting that asks them to move forward in a four-dimensional campaign, rather than through the traditional three. What if players not only have to solve local temporal issues of 'find this' or 'kill this' or 'save this', but are actually responsible for a culture's progression, technologically-speaking? What if-and this is where my brain starts actually overheating-players were the ones who decided how gods and magic appeared in the world?

What does this mean for players?
Well, obviously it represents a drastic shift in the objectives of the players themselves. They can't be passive receptacles for plot; at least not all the time. Players have to look at their game world not as something static, but as an evolving machine that they do not have all the schematics for.

Obviously there must be strictures in place, because despite our best intentions, there's going to be a type of player that 'decides' he's going to discover that magic comes from his farts. It's important to have the requirements of your world in place, what you might call the world's natural laws. Perhaps the manifestation of magic requires a substantial sacrifice by the user. Perhaps it requires an appeal to a god, who may or may not even exist yet. Having these canonical and physical restrictions in place draw the line between the campaign where players refill their mana by eating beans (god help you, poor GM) and the campaign where one mostly-annoying PC spends a few days in a cave farting and (hopefully) realizes that maybe something else needs to happen first, or in addition to his own flatulence.

There is also the concept of need-based innovation. Fire was invented (or brought down from on high by Prometheus, depending on your worldview) because humanity needed something to keep the chill of night away, or to keep the monsters at bay. Wheels came about due to the need to transport quantities of goods that a normal human couldn't carry effectively on their own. But what if your players don't ever encounter that problem? What if they could bribe a giant into doing all their heavy lifting? The need for innovation drastically decreases when that first 'want' is already alleviated by a historically unorthodox solution (in terms of the real world).

What does this mean for GMs?
As already stated, you need a set of guidelines as to how players will interact with and develop technology; however, this is only for your purposes. The last thing you should be giving players is any kind of handout detailing exactly what, step for step, they need to do to accomplish what they set out to do.

Instead, what you should do is ask your players what their goals are: short term, mid term, and long term. Obviously you should have some quest lines for them to follow while you're plotting out how to incorporate what they want to do in the story BUT - and this is an important but - after finding out what your players want to do, start incorporating some of the how into that generic session. So, for instance, if a player wants to invent or discover wizardry, bring in an NPC character that is old and wizened. Have them be a master in some kind of wizardry (preferably not all wizardry), but also express in their description and dialogue exactly how long it's taken them to master this tiny aspect of the arcane.

Thus, without providing your players with some kind of generic checklist, they get an inkling of the concept of sacrifice and determination that is required to achieve their goals. It gives intuitive players an idea of where to start with their objectives, but allows them to connect the dots without handholding, so they can take the concept of what you've presented and maybe put their own unique spin on it.

Now, obviously, this puts quite a bit of work on the GM in the front-end. You'll be crafting concepts and natural laws in addition to NPCs, quests, conflicts, etc. However, once players get the hang of the concept you're trying to impart onto them, it's likely they'll use the laws you have in place and come up with their own solutions.

Just some food for thought.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Cinematic Combat: Replacing Passion with Intuition



GM: "There's an orc guarding this storeroom. He's armed with a shield and a battleaxe."

Player 1: "I attack him with my sword."

GM: "Roll to hit."

P1: "Ugh, 12."

GM: "That misses. He retaliates, attacking you with his axe. He...um...misses, too. Next round?"

*Shudder.*

People are probably familiar with this type of exchange. It's what combat tends to devolve into after the first few (or even one) round of combat. An exchange of blows, followed by another and another. Like a round of Rock'em Sock'em robots. Except more dull, because even if you're using miniatures, all they do is stand there while you constantly lament how much your dice hate you.

This is something I've dealt with on a continuous basis when running combat games, and it's a drag. Combat becomes a slog, players who aren't up start yawning and checking their phones. The only interesting thing happens when you strike the killing blow, and all of a sudden, "You plunge your sword into the orc's trachea, and he falls to the floor, gurgling and drowning in his own blood."

Now, I'm not objecting to GMs providing flavor text to combat, it's the natural first step to something better, something more interesting than a static boxing match.

I've been playing, for this last year, in a long-running Pendragon game, and being immersed in this system means I've had plenty of time to think about its pros and cons. One of the most highly-touted pros is the combat system. Standard knights deal about 5d6 damage with a regular swing of a sword, and double that if they manage to Crit, which happens a lot more frequently than 5% of the time with the Passion mechanic in play.

Game Mechanic Blurb:
Pendragon is a d20-based system, where skills, attributes, traits, and passions are (generally) rated between 1 and 20. You succeed when you roll below your skill, fail when you roll above it, fumble if you roll a 20, and crit if you roll exactly your skill.

HOWEVER, this is only the base mechanic of Pendragon, because there are ways to increase your skills above 20. The most common (temporary) way to increase a skill above 20 is with a successful Passion roll, which adds 10 to a single skill for the duration you need it for. And for any skill above 20, the critical threat range is increased by however many points it is above 20, and fumbles become impossible.

So, say, your base Sword skill is 15. Under normal circumstances, you would succeed on a roll of a 1-14, fail on a roll of 16-19, fumble on a roll of 20, and crit on a roll of 15. However, if you successfully impassion your character's sword skill, it gains a temporary 10 points and becomes a 25-rating skill. This means that you succeed on a roll of 1-14, never fail, never fumble, and crit on a roll of 15-20. Or perhaps you crit your passion, gaining 20 points in your sword skill, bringing it to a 35. You now succeed on a roll of 1-4, and crit on a roll of 5-20.

Suddenly it becomes quite easy to get double damage, doesn't it?

What does this mean? Basically, it means that combat has the high chance of moving speedily along with Pendragon. It's an unlikely and unusual situation for a player to be squaring off for multiple rounds against the same foe. This past week was the first time in ages that it took us more than one or two rounds to dispatch our foes, due to a series of hefty penalties, and instead of creating a depressing slog, we were more engaged than ever, because it was an unusual situation.

So, looking at a system already has mechanics to move combat along speedily, why do anything more? Well, Pendragon is a system where you're supposed to mow through enemies like a scythe. It's also super deadly in the fact that some enemies may also gain bonuses from their passions, and mow through you.

But where does the cinematic flavor come in? How about just before the GM tells you that you stab an orc in the throat? What if, rather than attempting to gain bonuses from a Passion, there was instead a substituted mechanic called Intuition? Instead of thinking really hard about who your player characters are striking their next blow to protect, or how much this really hate this one asshole and his entire culture, the PC discerns the fighting style of his opponent the orc, or realize that his foe's bulky armor prevents him from defending effectively against overhead attacks, or that certain predatory animals have difficulty sensing danger above them.

Try this:

GM: "There's an orc guarding this storeroom. He's armed with a shield and a battleaxe. Is there an Intuition you can utilize?"

Player 1: "I roll my Tactics: Hand-to-Hand...14, success."

GM: "You gauge that with the bulk of his weapon, it's unlikely the orc will be able to utilize it well in extreme close quarters. His use of a shield indicates that he will fight more defensively, and will likely not make the first move. What's your action?"

Player1: "Alright, I charge forward and slam into his defense, forcing him back against the storeroom door, wrench the shield down, and stab, aiming high. With Intuition, my Sword skill is now a 26, and I roll a 16: a crit! 49 damage!"

GM: "The orc fails his roll outright, so your tactic works, the shield drops enough for you to force the end of your blade into his throat with a satisfying crunch. The orc gurgles and slides to the floor, dropping his axe with a clatter."

Now, this sounds like a lot of work, and to be honest, it likely will be the first few times you try it. However, make sure you include your players in this mechanic. Chances are they'll jump at the chance to do something other than stand toe to toe and wail on something for hours on end.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Prehistory Fantasy Setting: Tribes


I've been reading through the Kobold's Guide to Worldbuilding, and one of the articles that really resonated with me was regarding the creation of Tribes, City-States and Nations (a short blurb is also included regarding Empires). They list a tribe as a single community sharing language, race, traditions, etc.

The concept of a tribe's solidarity through race creates a difficulty when running a Fantasy setting: namely that players usually wish to create a diverse spread of characters, so when starting such a game, one must either hamper the players in their choices during CharGen or manufacture a reason for a diverse array of races to come together in what are likely to be seriously xenophobic times.

Now that I've brought this issue up, I'm considering a few methods to solve the problem.

The "Shut Up and Do What I Say" Method:

Obviously I'm not going to word it this way during actual CharGen, but this is basically the method where you (as a GM) inform the players the strictures of the setting, let them know that their choices are either restricted to what you decide for them, or they can try to agree on a mutual race between themselves. I'm kind of liking the idea of the second choice, because it means that after they have argued for an entire session about what race to play, the players will hate you a little less and each other a little more. Don't get me wrong, they'll still hate you a little. You are trying to kill their characters, after all.

The "Do What You Want, I'll Try To Make It Work" Method:

This is, obviously, the opposite of the SUaDWIS Method. Here, you give players the setting, and let them run (mostly) wild with their character choices, and then work the campaign around those decisions. Perhaps they are some kind of fellowship (centered around some kind of mystical engagement jewelry), or perhaps they have been enslaved and have been forced to travel together (like every Dark Sun game ever). Perhaps you can create a more original reason for their diverse group of adventurers to buddy up.

The CRPG Method:

I say CRPG because it's easy to place videogames and computer games under a single umbrella. CRPG could stand for computer RPG or console RPG; regardless, the expression here is in regards to the occasional mechanic of having players 'unlock' various races/classes/etc for later play. This concept really only works if I'm planning on running a game where alternate races are not only slowly introduced to the players, but the ability for the races to coexist is also slowly implemented. Of course this also creates a tension between players and GMs as you may be constantly introducing cool races, while at the same time putting a gameplay block between players and mechanics for...reasons. However, what stands in favor of this method is the idea that players will encounter these races, and so will have an idea of their makeup, their cultural values, and how they interact with others before they choose to play them as a race. This has the ability to cut down on players playing themselves rather than playing their characters.

I'm honestly unsure which tactic I'm going to choose to roll with (or even if I'm going to use any of these), but I thought I'd get my brain in the game again.


Also, as a sort of post-script, I seem to have a really tough time coming back to blog posts after I've saved them, rather than knocking out an entire post in one go, which is actually super easy for me. Just a random thought.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Actual Play: Call of Cthulhu - The Fall Without End


So a few weeks back my good friend Susan Steward introduced us to Caleb Stokes' No Security one-shot, "The Fall Without End." She, being a fantastic GM, converted the skill checks on the fly quite seamlessly to the Call of Cthulhu system, and we had a jolly time getting to know the setting and backstory of the scenario.

...Unfortunately, what Susan experienced on that day was a perfect storm of willful players twisting character motivations in such a way as to entirely derail a plot. If you want a perfect example of exactly the types of players you don't want at your table come one-shot day, listen in.

You see, sometimes players hit walls in your campaign, and you are eventually given a choice. You can either run with what idiotic decisions they decide to make, potentially ruining all your carefully-laid plans or you can be a good sport about it and let them dig themselves into a hole so deep the schadenfreude alone is enough to keep you warm at night.

Susan, I applaud you for letting go of the reins and allowing us to make a memorable game out of a catastrophic train derailment.

And if you're Caleb Stokes, we're really sorry.

Crit This: Call of Cthulhu one-shot: The Fall Without End

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Prehistory Fantasy Setting


I've been lax in posting on the blog, I blame my own laziness, my wanting to hang out with a good gaming buddy before she leaves Santa Fe forever, and my own laziness. And anime, and videogames.

Regardless, when I've made time to write gaming stuff, I've focused on a few themes, all of which I've discussed as campaign pipe dreams in my talks on the Unabashed Gaming podcast, but today I'm going to try to word-dump about the game that intrigues me the most about writing/running:

Paleolithic D&D, or more specifically, Prehistory Fantasy Setting. Because there's no way in hell I can mesh this setting with traditional D&D.

What initially drew me to this concept was the realization that players who engage in fantasy roleplaying tend to know all the tropes. They read through the supplemental material, and if you throw a floating many-eyeballed creature at them, they instinctively know it's a Beholder. And that line between player knowledge and character knowledge is super thin, because in the D&D world, a lot of it has been explored and recorded.

Now, looking at my more embraced roots with Call of Cthulhu, even if your players know what a Shoggoth is, their characters have no idea what this protoplasmic mass of bubbles flooding its way toward them is. They don't know what a night-gaunt is. Maybe it's a vampire, or a gargoyle. Or a demon! Call of Cthulhu is all about describing what creatures look like, using sweeping generalities, because characters are not sticking around to draw detailed anatomies of them, unless they're Richard Upton Pickman, and fuck you no one is playing Richard Upton Pickman.

Regardless, this line of thought (coupled with a few sessions spent playing the world-building game Dawn of Worlds) brought me into thinking about the origins of races in D&D, and how they tried to survive in their earliest days. I decided it would be interesting to try to take a party through a hypothetical wooly mammoth hunt, or an encounter with a migrating family of sabertooth tigers. Taking the concept of assigned quests to be exactly that; journeys into the unknown, encountering unfamiliar sites, sounds, and creatures, and returning back to their homes with new stories, trophies, and scars.

I won't get into the minutiae on this post, but I'll drop some future post ideas here for my own personal use later on. Topics such as:

-Which system to use/base this setting off of?
-What fantasy races to include, what unconventional fantasy races to use?
-Whether to incorporate interaction between the fantasy races, or should xenophobia prevail?
-How to incorporate migration, agriculture, etc.
-Whether to include civilizations that are (somewhat) more advanced than those of the player characters.
-Ideas for the types of quests players would embark upon.

Hopefully I'll return to these concepts later.

For now, I'm out.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Actual Play: Savage Fallout (SAD) Session 5

At last, we bring the grand finale to our system runthrough of Savage Fallout. A lot of emotions flew around (along with bullets), and our players got to experience some of the wackiness that the California Wasteland has to offer to its inhabitants.

Our Players: Randy, Susan, Scott, Cecilia

The Overseer: David Schimpff

Enjoy!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Actual Play: Savage Fallout (SAD) Session 4

The fourth episode of my first foray into Savage Fallout, and players are just taking care of all kinds of business, aren't they? Hopefully their diverse motivations and personalities don't cause them to turn on each other...nyuk nyuk nyuk...

Our Players: Randy, Susan, Scott, Cecilia

The Overseer: David Schimpff

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Actual Play: Savage Fallout (SAD) Session 3



This week, our friendly troupe of wastelanders arrived at the Sierra Army Depot, and immediately spent about an hour discussing how to short-out the perimeter turrets. Many hijinks followed and a goodly bit of pain was suffered, but the group made it into the facility intact, and proceeded with their looting.

I'm usually saddened when I realize that people I know haven't played the earlier Fallouts, or worse: that they've not enjoyed them in comparison to their next-generation successors. For this game, I'm somewhat glad of that regretful situation, as I'm able to basically rip an entire plot line from Fallout 2 and present it as a viable mission.

There's also, of course, the refreshing attitude to take towards the source material, as Fallout 2 is a computer game, so a lot of the varied options available to tabletop roleplayers wasn't presented, and so it offers a great amount of improvisation to me, as the GM/Overseer, at the table. It's also super convenient to already have loot tables and plot devices set up for the game itself so I don't really have to worry about that kind of stuff.

In any case, I guess all I'm really saying is that I hope Fallout veterans can enjoy this Actual Play as much as I do overseeing it, and as much as my players do playing it. I look forward to playing more Savage Fallout next week, which will be an extra long episode, possibly broken up into two approximately three hour sections.

Our Players:
 Randy, Susan, Scott, Cecilia

The Overseer: David Schimpff



Again, Savage Fallout rules are hosted at www.savagefallout.blogspot.com

Monday, September 1, 2014

Actual Play: Savage Fallout (SAD) Session 2

Welcome to the second session of my first playthrough of Savage Fallout! Here players are well on their way to the Sierra Armory Depot, and who knows what awaits them?

Our Players: Randy, Susan, Scott, Cecilia

The Overseer: David Schimpff

Episode 2:

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Actual Play: Savage Fallout (SAD) Session 1


Hey guys, it's been quite a while since I've last updated. This time, I'm posting just before my podcast, Unabashed Gaming, airs, so I can link from there to here! How quaint!

Regardless, you probably want to know why I'm posting, unless you somehow guessed from the title that I've recently run some Savage Fallout for a few friends, and now have two episodes to upload! Note that on the audio I've made reference to the fact that Savage Worlds is a new system for me to be running, so there will be some core rules mistakes and omissions, mostly in the vein of speeding up play, but also partially to plain ignorance.

The plot focuses on a stolen storyline from Fallout 2 regarding a certain Army Depot northwest of New Reno. What you may enjoy is that in two episodes we still have yet to arrive at the Depot, so there's plenty of new content for people familiar with that quest line!

Enjoy!

Our Players:
 Randy, Susan, Scott, Cecilia

The Overseer: David Schimpff



For the Savage Fallout ruleset, visit savagefallout.blogspot.com!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Iron Kingdoms RPG Gaiden Actual Play


My bi-weekly podcast at Unabashed Gaming recently recorded a session about Privateer Press' Iron Kingdoms RPG, and in honor of that, I'm posting a side-story that some friends and I recorded to take a little break from our longer campaign.

There will be some references to the main campaign that, as of yet, has not been released to the world wide web, as I'm still waiting for some earlier episodes to show up.

(Note that there are two tracks on this one audio import, so use the >| and |< buttons to switch between the two sessions.)

 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Grinding to a Halt: Battle Maps


With my recent uptick in presenting audio RPG enjoyment to the masses, I’ve also come across a few stumbling blocks pertaining to the hobby, necessitating occasional bouts of serious audio editing. This has occasionally been warranted by a player ordering a pizza on mic, and henceforth potentially giving out his credit card number to the internet or, more frequently, the constant segments of dead air accompanied by miniature play with battle maps.
Let me preface the rest of this post by saying that I heartily enjoy battle maps, both as a player and a GM, and in games which employ them I find that my immersion level absolutely increases due to the additional visual stimulus. However, this is not the case for listeners of actual plays, unless there happens to also be a camera present and recording. For listeners, even listeners who happened to be there, the visual aid is gone, replaced by players either actively voicing their enjoyment of the visual aids, or staring dumbly at them; neither adding to the roleplaying in general or to the voices in the recording for the actual play.
I find that the extra stimulus for the players ends up slowing their reaction times and creativity, because they are busy converting what is shown on a table in front of them into three dimensions, rather than working from a constant mental narrative. There is also the difficulty in some players making the full transition into three living, breathing, dimensions, and thus are stuck in what I am going to call the Chess Mentality, where pieces can only move in certain ways and act in certain ways.

This is, of course, partially to be expected in games where combat mechanics work through very structured rulesets, where x number of feet translates into y number of squares. However, this thought process tends to ignore the z axis entirely. Players assume the roles of their static, plastic (occasionally metal), posed figures, rather than using them as a stepping stone for their own roleplaying. Eventually this thought process became the norm, and we began designing games with that concept in mind, creating imaginative terms, powers, feats, and skills for jumping over an enemy or running up the side of a wall, rather than having a player ask a question like “What if I were to slide between the giant’s legs and try to end up on his back side?”
As stated above, don’t take this to mean that I dislike miniature combat or battle maps. They do offer wonderful visuals for players, good reference points for hand-drawn maps, dimensions, etc., but I’m curious to see what a combination one could manage with a part imagination part map game, where you draw maps, but to a smaller scale than the players’ miniatures, so that they can have an idea of how they are moving, and where they are going, but at the same time not just be moving pieces along a board game.
I hope to test out this theory sometime. Hopefully it’ll cut down on some of my audio trimming time.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Actual Play: Pathfinder’s Mummy’s Mask Episode 02


This week we continue with the Mummy’s Mask Adventure Path! This session players progressed through a few rooms of the Tomb of Akhentepi, and encountered some truly horrible creatures. Good times.
Players:
Jesse - Solaire, Human Paladin
Jade – Rukka, Tengu Oracle
Russel – “Farmer” Farmair, Dhampir Inquisitor
Buck – Beduir el Siwat, Human Rogue
Susan – Ipera Blue-Eyes, Half-Elf Bard
Sir Not Appearing this Week:
Shane – “Ginger-Forge” Smakkerson, Dwarf Ranger
GM:
David Schimpff
Enjoy.


20/20 Hindsight Note: The party TPKs in this episode and I stopped running d20 systems for two years after this. Just FYI.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Actual Play: Pathfinder’s Mummy’s Mask Episode 01


This past Thursday I began what will hopefully become a weekly Pathfinder game, running friends through the Adventure Path Mummy’s Mask. In this session, players convened in Wati, the half-dead city, and entered the lottery to see which part of the necropolis they would have the pleasure to loot, for fun and profit.
Players:
Shane – “Ginger-Forge” Smakkerson, Dwarf Ranger
Jade – Rukka, Tengu Oracle
Russel – “Farmer” Farmair, Dhampir Inquisitor
Buck – Beduir el Siwat, Human Rogue
Susan – Ipera Blue-Eyes, Half-Elf Bard
GM:
David Schimpff
Enjoy.


20/20 Hindsight Note: The party TPKs in the second episode and I stopped running d20 systems for two years after this. Just FYI.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Iron Kingdoms RPG: Multi-attacks


So I've been pondering Iron Kingdoms RPG for a few days now, mainly because it's been more than a week since my last game and I made a decision at the end of my previous session that, despite my absolute love for warjacks, I would instead focus on giving my character, Benjaemin Gallaster IV, as many attacks per round as humanly possible.
Looking at the rules, this turns out to be a shit-ton.
To start things off right, Benjaemin is a Skilled Human Duelist/Aristocrat.
Attack 1 (Base): Characters in Iron Kingdoms make one attack during their activation
Attack 2 (Skilled): A Skilled character gains an extra attack during his Activation Phase if he chooses to attack.
So far so good. Two attacks right off the bat, and using a Repeating Pistol means that I can go up to 5 attacks with a one-handed weapon. POW 10 isn't really much to cheer about, but that can be somewhat fixed by Virtuoso. Regardless, I decided to move on and select Two-Weapon Fighting as an ability from my Duelist career.
Attack 3 (TWF): While fighting with a one-handed weapon in each hand, the character gains an additional attack for the second weapon. He suffers a -2 on attack rolls with the second weapon while doing so.
Bam. Third attack. While TWF has an Agility requirement of 4, anyone worth their Skilled archetype takes as much Agility as possible. The -2 on attack rolls can be problematic, but if you sacrifice your move action to aim, well, that pretty much negates that bad bit of business. Also, as a skilled character I have the option in the future of taking Ambidextrous, which negates that penalty. Continuing! For my third career I decided to go with Rifleman, as he has this wonderful ability called Dual Shot.
Attack 4 (Dual-Shot): The character can forfeit his movement during his turn to make one additional ranged attack with a pistol or rifle.
There are a couple hitches in this situation, I'll grant you. First, you have to be using a ranged weapon. Second, when you sacrifice your move for the additional attack, that means you're not getting an aiming bonus. However, if you're fighting something with a low DEF, whether naturally or just due to some crippled values, you can get off four shots at it, and only ONE has to be at a -2 RAT.
Now for some conditionals. You'll notice here that I'm currently sitting at 4 attacks on my activation. As a Duelist, I also have the option to take Quick Work as an ability. This will be my last on-activation attack, but gets me up to 5 attacks per round.
Attacks 5-6 (Quick Work): When this character kills one or more enemies with a melee attack during his combat action, immediately after the attack is resolved this character can make one ranged attack.
Of course, this means sacrificing one of my hands so it holds a melee weapon, but if I'm facing 2-shot enemies I can soften them up with a pistol shot, stab it to death, and then make another ranged attack against another enemy in range. Also, interestingly enough, Quick Work can activate multiple times per round, so if you're surrounded by foes you may get a few more shots in.
Example:
Base Attack: Shoot
Skilled Attack: Stab (kill enemy, gain feat point)
Quick Work: Shoot 2nd enemy in melee
Two Weapon Fighting: Stab (kill 2nd enemy, gain feat point)
Quick Work x2: Shoot 3rd enemy in range
Dual-Shot: Shoot (and kill?) 3rd enemy in range (gain feat point)
There you go, up to 6 attacks per combat activation. Of course, this requires the Gunfighter ability as well. Also, you can possibly combine this series attack with an ability like Swift Hunter, which allows you to move 2" every time you incapacitate an enemy with a ranged attack, potentially getting you into more melee situations and Quick Work potentialities.
Now onto off-turn attacks.
Riposte: Once per round when this character is missed by an enemy's melee attack, immediately after the attack is resolved he can make one normal attack against the attacking enemy.
Return Fire:  Once per round when this character is missed by an enemy's ranged attack, immediately after the attack is resolved he can make one normal attack against the attacking enemy.
First of all, note that neither ability specifically states that you must respond with a particular type of attack. If you're able, it's possible to respond to a ranged attack with a melee attack, and vice versa. However, note that abilities like Quick Work only activate on your turn, not on an opponent's turn.
So there you go. At first when I started playing my Skilled Duelist/Aristocrat I felt like I'd made some kind of mistake, opting to go for a middle of the road sucker rather than someone powerful. I've changed my own mind about that, at least.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Actual Play: Achtung! Cthulhu


This past Saturday I had the great pleasure to run a one-shot of Achtung! Cthulhu, in celebration of a good friend visiting. The game was original and, in honor of it being Call of Cthulhu and all, ended with a suitably high mortality rate.
Enjoy.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Warmachine Wednesdays: The Lancer

For various factions in WarmaHordes, you have your iconic pieces. Whether through art design or in-game execution, some models just scream "MY FACTION IS X," and for Cygnar, the starter that best represents their focus on technology is the Lancer. On its own, the Lancer is a dinky unit. Less speed than a Cryx bonejack, hit power equal to some infantry units, there's really only one reason to take the Lancer with you into combat, and that reason is that it fucks up other 'jacks*. A lot of people focus on the weapons a model has in WarmaHordes, which is pretty standard reasoning. Obviously, you're going to be concerned about that thing that's poking your units to death.
However, this thought process will get you thoroughly messed up coming against a Lancer, who has a Shock Shield. Every time the shield remains non-crippled and the Lancer takes a hit? That's a box off your opponent's 'jack's Cortex. Every time it hits with the shield? Another box off the cortex. Loaded with focus, a Lancer can permanently hamstring the capabilities of an enemy warjack every turn. And this is an ability only 'jacks from Cygnar possess. Used with the base-box Stryker1's disruption abilities, you can effectively neuter two different jacks in one turn.
It should be noted that the Lancer also comes with an arc node, which can come into some use during battle, but if your Lancer is using his Shock Shield engaged in b2b, remember he can't be used to channel anything.
*Warbeasts do not have Cortex boxes, and therefore the only reason to bring a Lancer into battle with them is for its arc node which, as stated above, has limited functionality.

Worldbuilding: 20 Questions to Ask Yourself When City-Building

So this April I'm going to be going insane prepping a Magic World game and, because I'm a crazy control freak, I'm going to make everything up from scratch. But it's been a while since I've sat down to do some worldbulding, so I'm a little rusty. I came up with these questions after about five minutes of thought, and they aren't in any particular order.
1. What’s special about it?
2. What’s the weather like?
3. Who rules/makes decisions?
4. Okay, who really rules/makes decisions?
5. What’s their chief export? How do most of its non-merchant citizens make money?
6. What’s crime like?
7. What’s the law like?
8. Who can you ask about in town that everyone has some kind of rumor about?
9. Does the place have any holidays?
10. What’s the population like?
11. Is there diversity?
12. How does the place get along with neighboring settlements?
13. Where is the closest tavern? What is it called?
14. How do most people enter the settlement?
15. Is there a marketplace? A market day?
16. What kind of recurring troubles does the settlement have?
17. What happens if a character is caught committing a petty crime?
18. What happens if a character commits a murder? What if he/she is caught?
19. How do people talk here?
20. What/Who do people who live here believe in, religiously, for the most part?
If you have any suggestions for more questions, feel free to post them in the comments!

Monday, March 31, 2014

March Madness OGBC: Day 31

"What out-of-print RPG would you most like to see back in publication? Why?"

 Because I don't want to pay $100 on a hardcover sourcebook for this game.
I've already done a semi-retrospective of this March Madness, and honestly I can't think of a sourcebook I'd really like to have back in 'publication,' because DriveThruRPG exists and they sell .pdfs of everything I can literally think of. I mean, Mouseguard goes for $20 bucks on their site. I think I just want a hard copy of the book because I like having them.
Zing, I know.
Regardless, I've had a really great time blogging this month about what I'm just realizing is a sore lack of a spanning gaming experience, and am looking forward to rectifying this for what will hopefully be a yearly 31-day challenge.
Next month, look forward to me possibly following through on at least campaign planning for Magic World and beginning conversions for Dark Tower Pendragon (Working title Arthur Eld: The Dark Tower).
Thanks for reading, I'm sure some of my posts were likely spastic and incoherent, but I appreciate all the input!
See you next month!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

March Madness OGBC: Day 30

"Which non-D&D supplemental product should everyone know about? Give details."

"Cat-thulhu" by Gamegeneral
Now here's a game I can talk about, and that I want to talk about, and holy shit people Lovecraft loved cats so much his name has love in it and someone decided to do something about it and I'm totally not talking about the GenCon Kickstarter I totally backed and THIS IS THE INTERNET PEOPLE SO GET EXCITED ABOUT CATS!
Ha, I bet it would get really annoying if I kept writing in that voice for the rest of this post.
In all seriousness, when I'm talking Cathulhu, I'm referring to the Worlds of Cthulhu #4, which introduced CharGen rules for creating feline investigators. The mechanics of doing so are super-involved, and focus on what breed you are, as well as what adorable tricks you may have up your sleeve.
And Wash is a skill. I've homebrewed a rule, thanks to my buddy Scott, that if a catvestigator (heh) fails his roll to wash, he loses Sanity, now called Sentience.

Heh. Catvestigator, get it? Well, when one loses Sentience, they start experiencing adorable cat problems, like toilet troubles, upset tummies, or spontaneous spraying. If they lose all their sentience, cats go feral.
They can also cast spells. Cat sorcerers!


Dammit Google not that kind of cat sorcerer!
Seriously, though. Find a copy of Worlds of Cthulhu #4 and run this. It's totally worth every bit of adorability your players will create in-game.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

March Madness OGBC: Day 29

"What OSR product have you enjoyed most? Explain how."
You know I had to Google OSR for this question? I really hope it means Old School Renaissance, because I have no experience with Old School Roleplaying. I have barely any experience with Old School Renaissance because, well, I guess I tend to play mainstreamish stuff.
The only thing that really comes close is Dungeon World, which I've played once, and the memories are a little hazy. I remember having fun, and rolling dice, and meeting a new player to our group. He took the bard character: I no longer remember what I played. It's like that.
From what I do remember, most of it was the response my GM, David Larkins of The RPG Corner fame (you can find the link to his blog on the right) had to say about it, which was that the system was easy to convert with a setting he'd already either semi-created or semi-stolen to use in another game. That kind of open-endedness is fully deserving of a more intensive look.
But who am I kidding, folks? This month I've pledged myself to:
-Create a BESM setting for Valkyria Chronicles
-Start running Magic World, creating a world setting for that
-Convert AD&D Dark Sun to BRP
-Alter Pendragon to fit the Dark Tower
-Run Shadowrun 5.0 this calendar year
-Invent a new Boardgame system to bridge the gap between Tabletop RPGs and Board games (a la HeroQuest)
-Run Lady Blackbird
-Find a way to run Redwall
-And possibly jump back into a few sessions of D&D 4e so I can revisit my earlier thoughts on the system.
All this, with a full-time job and a serious videogame addiction (Goddamnit Diablo III). You can see where I'm finally starting to realize exactly what I've put on my plate for the forthcoming calendar year. I'm also likely going to receive, thanks to Kickstarter, Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition, Horror on the Orient Express, Ryuutama, Punktown, and Cathulhu this year. Possible something else. And expand wargaming in Santa Fe.
Jesus christ have I gone INSANE?

Friday, March 28, 2014

March Madness OGBC: Day 28

"What free RPG did you enjoy most? Give details."

A few years ago, when I was freshly off the car trip to Santa Fe, had only made a few gaming friends, and really only knew the extent of Call of Cthulhu, D&D 4e, and Pathfinder, I went to Bubonicon in Albuquerque, NM. There, I encountered various authors on self-funded book tours, saw a shitload of steampunk cosplay, and sat at a table for a half hour and played Lady Blackbird.
(Yay, hyperlinks!)
What I recollect from those halcyon thirty minutes of gaming was a game plot that sounded like the love child of Star Wars Episode IV and Space Balls, and the complete and utter open-endedness of the game. There was nothing plotted out in it, either story or geographically. The included rules specifically state not to plan anything, but to ask your players questions, and let them answer them for you. So I found myself, along with a couple friends, manufacturing an escape from an enemy airship, occasionally rolling dice from a pool mechanic that borders on genius in its approachability, and generally having a great time roleplaying as a varied cast of characters with their own secret motivations and dreams.
My only regret is that the game was so brief (much like this post), but hope springs eternal because the rules are still there, still free, and have options for character advancement, so someday I may find myself in the GM's chair asking my players exactly how they intend to get Lady Blackbird to her wedding in time.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

BRP Releases Advanced Sorcery

And so BRP have released their Advanced Sorcery supplement for their Magic World sourcebook, my current bedside reading material.
I've auto-purchased this, and hope to receive it this coming Monday, which will coincide splendidly with the conclusion of my March Madness OSR blog posts. I'm sure you've all (all one of you) enjoyed reading my thoughts on the various dozen or so systems I have experience either playing or running, so perhaps this is an appropriate place to announce that my project for April will be creating a new original setting for running BRP Magic World with these new supplemental rules.
I'm very excited to see what new pieces of lore and sorcery I can discover by delving through this particular grimoire, and how that information will inform to my worldbuilding.
Time will tell.
(Oooh...time magic. That's an interesting concept.)

March Madness OGBC: Day 27

"What RPG based on an IP did you enjoy most? Give details."

To be honest, I'm not the biggest fan of the Cortex system. It feels a lot like a more complicated take on Savage World's dice-increase-by-size mechanics, while tacking on a significant series of ancillary rules that require an encyclopedic knowledge of the ruleset to run anything smoothly.
That said, the best time I've ever had running an existing IP game was with Serenity RPG, and it's all because of the fanbase.
Joss Whedon's Firefly/Serenity space cowboy universe is, well, almost universally hailed as one of the great original concepts for television in the last decade, and memes lamenting its cancellation still propagate my facebook feed to this day. These are dedicated people, full of fervor and excitement for the setting, and more than willing to do the legwork to feel right at home there. By luck, or pure social statistics, I have a goodly amount of friends who are a few wardrobe pieces away from being browncoats themselves, and they were more than willing to jump into a quickly written adventure that I wrote to take place about a year after the events of Serenity.
I think it's a testament to the 'verse's original look and feel that each player knew how their character would fit into the setting, and it's really rare in most games to know that everyone has a cohesive view of how everything works. Not having to run through an introduction to the basic universe details, or stop every few minutes when a new piece of terminology comes up, even being able to explain new concepts by referring to knowledge players already had by experiencing the show...well, if that's not a windfall for a GM I really don't know what is.
It's one of my regrets as a GM that my Serenity RPG campaign only lasted three or four sessions; the players really enjoyed it, I enjoyed writing for it. Perhaps I can return to it sometime in the future, but then again, there are a lot of things I need to return to in the future, and Diablo III isn't helping.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

March Madness OGBC: Day 26

"What IP (=Intellectual Property, be it book, movie or comic) that doesn’t have an RPG deserves it? Why?"
Oh, hey there childhood, fancy meeting you here.

"Redwall Tribute" by Simbaro
First of all, I'm aware that Mouseguard is a thing. It doesn't have otters.
I started reading the Redwall series in elementary school, and didn't really stop until sometime after I graduated from high school. I fell out of the loop with the series and universe, taking up alternate fantasy authors like Robert Jordan, George R.R. Martin, and David Eddings. Reading through their works. But while just about any RPG setting can be converted to accommodate human characters in fantasy settings (And the Wheel of Time already got a D&D 3.0 sourcebook), the only anthropomorphic animal setting I've heard about reliably is Mouseguard, which currently sits at around $100- used- on Amazon.
And it doesn't have otters.
The Redwall universe has such a unique and interesting setting, with characters juxtaposed from all types of fantasy tropes. And because of the anachronistic style of product release for the series, there is a varied and plentiful history to work from, spanning generations (which, in animal years, might just mean that it encompasses like two decades). Regardless, the loving way that Jacques tells his stories, infusing them with mystery, danger, and camaraderie, really strikes home with me as a GM, and the solid cultures created for each segment of the animal kingdom means that I don't have to guess as to how I'm going to run NPCs, because I have a series of manuals to how each species acts, where they live, and what their diet consists of.
Honestly, I'm surprised someone hasn't homebrewed this already.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

March Madness OGBC: Day 25

"Which game has the sleekest, most modern engine?"
I've talked before, somewhat maliciously and long-windedly, about how D&D 4e strove to adopt aspects of wargaming and by doing so, court some long-standing members of that genre. I also mentioned that the plan failed pretty miserably, the system being a schizophrenic Frankenstein's monster of MMORPG and boardgame elements.
Now time to talk about a game that used a similar strategy and actually succeeded, at least in the gameplay mechanics. Only time will tell if the system takes off commercially; but personally, I really hope it does.

It's Iron Kingdoms again!
As I've likely mentioned before, Iron Kingdoms began as a D&D setting, then evolved into the wargame Warmachine, which became pretty popular, and inspired them to return to the RPG format. Thus: Iron Kingdoms RPG.
While I find that the system prevails over D&D 4e in many places, I'm going to focus on  Combat and Roleplaying.
Combat:
While 4e had the tendency to grind to a halt due to the morass of class powers and level glut, with each combat taking anywhere from one to three hours to complete while feeling like they were taking twice as long to complete (especially with larger parties), Iron Kingdoms feels swift and streamlined, utilizing the same engine as WarmaHordes, which has proved to be a popular and easy system to learn and use.
Tracking abilities can occasionally be a hassle when you first acquire them, but each is fully defined and becomes second nature once you've acclimated to it, and you're never inundated with new skills or abilities: each come at a steady pace, even slowing down once you reach higher experience levels. And if you want, you never really have to choose new abilities, there are always alternate options when leveling. The option to determine your character's battle complexity is a fantastic way to ensure even novice gamers can pick up and play.
Roleplaying:
Obviously, in just about any roleplaying game you have the ability to, well, play a role, and there are indeed some systems that have mechanics that actively encourage this by providing a mechanical means by which to assist in player decision making, or even in creating in-game backstory plot points that can be utilized by the GM for developing stories.
Iron Kingdoms has a tiny bit of the latter, with your characters' careers somewhat defining how they've spent their lives up to this point. However, what I'm really appreciative about the system is that it doesn't have barriers to roleplaying. Experience is doled out for player action, not for killing enemies. For a RPG based off a wargame, this is a fantastic step for Privateer Press to take, utilizing a storytelling experience reward system, rather than something combat or loot-based. This allows players who abhor combat encounters to improve by resolving intrigues or investigating mysteries, rather than looking for the next piƱata to beat xp out of.
Iron Kingdoms is a fantastic example of a gaming system that has evolved beyond its roots, and I look forward to every time I can sit at a table and play it.