Saturday, April 30, 2016

Cover Revised

New Version

Old Version

After some feedback and my own dissatisfaction with the original cover I went with white lettering with backed by black to make the title pop out more.  Easier to read.  I changed my GM Games label.  Although it is nearly the same in both I had my black square with red lettering. 

Micro-Adventures Anthology Vol. 1 is being sliced up by cruel and vicious readers.  I want them to take their time to saw off the nasty bits.  When I get those back I'll send it off to RPGNow and Lulu to get print proofs.  This will be a digest size book.  I'll offer it in print and PDF through those stores.  I'll have to look at Tabletop Games and see what I need to do there also.  Hoping for a May release, but more likely June.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Found Locations

I recently completed a micro-adventures, Old Warren Castle.  I called it a found location.  A concept that is not unfamiliar in the gaming world, especially in the vast MMO video games.  The party is exploring an area or headed to somewhere when they find a ruin, cave, mine or natural landmark that they just find along the way.  These are locations that have no known history.  No known history yet.  Or there is no real history, but there is folklore about the location. 

I like to include several of these when I draw a hex crawl map.  I'll place a symbol of some sort to signify that there is special/unique there something there.  I've got a thing for large, stone swords sticking into the ground.  Something that might get the party's attention.  I may write a couple of lines of what they find.  "The remains of some sort of temple.  Seven pillars remain standing within a stone field."  If the party decides to explore then I'll rift off my description.  What I may have thought of as just an oddity to break up the landscape, the players might find some sort of significance to it.  And as a GM oyu have to figure out when a rock is just or rock or is it a tablet with sacred script.  

I use these sites for various reason, here is a short list of some of what I can think of.  But the best way I can describe a found location is, it tells a small part of the story about the land. 
  • Historical information.  Maybe some sort if hint of the culture that existed.
  • Help with current quest.  I'll plant helpful information or a minor item or two that could help the party with their current quest.
  • Just something interesting.  The location or thing has no real significance.  It is an oddity whose reason for being there is lost.
And I give a little experience award for finding these locations.  A little bump for exploration and investigation.  

Sunday, April 24, 2016

WiP Cover for Micro-Adventure Anthology: Possible Giveaway

I've been tinkering with assembling an anthology of my micro-adventures.  I sent away a copy an editor to clean up most of my messes.  Tonight I was trying to figure out what the cover would look like and t his is what I came up with.  Overall I like it, but I am not against hearing possible ways to improve it.  If your suggestion is used I'll send you a copy of it once I get it finalized.

Let me know what you think and if you have a suggestion let me know.  Thanks.

Developing A Plan on the Go

As a player you are often called upon to develop a do something.  I use a variation of the Marines motto: Improvise, Adapt, Overcome.  Sometimes the plan is dictated by the adventure, but there are many times when the goal is clear, but the tactic is left up to the party.  In my most recent sessions, the party was given the task to inform a thieves guild that they needed to earn their units (a specialize form on currency used by the Consortium) not steal them.

Another night it was a simple fetch mission, grab the DNA and bring it back and get paid, but it got more complex when we were attacked as we left.  With a new (what we thought might be new) buyer we could choose to sell it to him for more.

Both of these situations we were going in blind.  So you make stuff up as you go. Sometimes it actually works.  Most of the time it fails in various degrees.  And the way I tend to roll, my average of level of failure is quite spectacular.

First thing as a player I try to define the goal.  The basics.  What is it we need to do?  In the examples:

  • Let the thieves guild know they needed to earn the credits.
  • Steal DNA bring it back.
Next thing I attempt to do is assume possible problems.  I know assume is bad, but more often than not that's all we got.  
  • The thieves guild might not like that.  Be ready for an attack.  Not sure how many there are.
  • Its in a crashed spaceship so expect other looters, integrity issues with the ship and of course returning with stolen DNA the possibility to getting caught.
So with the goal defined, assumptions we prepare for, we head in.  At this time we assess the real situation.  This is about when everyone's plan goes to shit.
  • It is not just a thieves guild, it also an assassins guild.  Yipee.  We meet them at their private base of operations so them letting us leave alive has decreased drastically.  But the leader is talking to us.  So maybe, just maybe, we return with limbs intact. 
  • There is someone watching us.  It appears that there are looters in the ship before we arrived.  Those watching us are waiting for us to leave the ship.
We have what we prepared for and what we have what is actually there.  Now is the time to adapt.  Use what we have come with to solve the problems we face.

  • Fairly simple, while they talk, I shoot them in the chest.  Take out the lead guy and the meatheads usually go away.  Not head guy, no pay.  
  • Since they aren't killing us they are interested in what we have to offer.  I play that angle up and stay calm.  Going gorilla will only get us killed.  Let them know if they agree lots of shiny things will follow.  
And lastly is to overcome and succeed as best you can.  Not all victories are black and white.  Sometimes getting out with your hide intact is the best you can expect.  And there are times when a situation presents itself where you can improve the outcome.
  • I was able to convince the guilds that it was in their best interest to join the Consortium.  It helped that I dropped a situation where an entire village was consumed by a volcano overnight.  That fact, along with the promise of allying with someone who could gain them more money made their decision easy.  The original goal was just to get them to stop stealing the units.  So this was a win+.
  • Found a number for the buyer for the DNA.  I figure we could double cross that bastard and then sell it to our original buyer.  Turned out to be the same buyer.  We extort him for the full pay because we offer him not only the DNA he wants, we offer all of them that we stole.  Instead of getting 1000 credits we scored 3500 credits.  Win+
Yeah, I realize in both these situations that we ended up exceeding our goal, its probably because I've blocked out all my failures.  It helps me to break it down in these steps especially if a goal or situation is stretched out over a few sessions.  My memory sucks so breaking it into smaller parts helps me keep focused.

Time to roll some dice.  I'm feeling lucky.  No 1s will be rolled.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Selling Your Loot Part 3: Gems & Jewelry

The adventurers return from their journey with sacks full of gems and jewelry. They sort through, divvy up what they want to keep and then sell the rest. Depending on how detailed a GM wants to get and what system you are playing, I'm guessing most adventurers are not going to have much of an idea the value of the gems or jewelry. In most adventures there will be a value listed, two emeralds worth 50gp each and a pearl broach worth 100gp.  And so on.  For someone who wishes to add a little depth to the selling of these precious stones please take a moment to read my simple and complex systems.

Simple:  The simple version is to give 50% of the value for finished stone.  Those that need to be cut 25%.  Jewelry is a finished product and depending on the condition a merchant will give 50% of the value or if it is a rare piece up to 75%.

Complex:  Gems and jewelry are fickle things.  Their value goes the way of trends or fashion of the times.  Emeralds may have been in last year, but don't be caught wearing those this year.  This year topaz is all the rage.  So I use a simple equation.  The value of a gem that is trending is worth 50% more, those that wear last year's favorite suffer a 50% loss.  The one exception to this is diamonds.  They never decrease in value.

I use this sub-system of selling to add a little flavor to a campaign setting.  Those nobles and richie riches like to show off that they can keep up with the others.  Or surpass them in superficial displays of wealth.  And it adds a little stratgy for the jewelers and gem buyers.  Maybe they chose not to buy gems that were last years because they don't want to get stuck with them.  Or you have a thrifty merchant who is buying all the emeralds up at a lower cost and willing to wait the years for them fall into favor once again.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Inspiration from Camp Full of Crap

This past month has been a killer.  Work has been kicking my ass and not even taking my name.  Work just grinds its heel into my testicles and leaves me whimpering.  I think I am on top of it now.  I had the misfortune of having two audits scheduled around the same time.  I must have angered the gods.  The audits have gone fine, exceptionally well overall, but fuckn' hell it takes me down.

But fuck them, time to get back into a gaming groove.  I've been watching random weird shows on YouTube lately, not that there is anything else on there.  I'm a paranormal show junkie.  Love them.  Although I would put my ass in the camp of 'you are full of crap' I'm still fascinated by it all.  I would love to see something that would convince me to pull up stakes from Camp Full of Crap and join the much more interesting, Camp Holy Shit This is Real.

Despite all the creaky noises, unintelligible radio static and ghosts farts they capture, these shows give me ideas.  They usually tell the story of why places are haunted and that is where the gold is.  And you damn well know there is going to be a fucking sacred Indian burial ground nearby.

The stories are about murders, lost dreams, and usually just plain misery of some sort served up in various ways.  There never seems to be a haunting in the Happy Miller House where ghosts sing songs, do nice things, massage your feet and fetch an ice tea from the fridge.  Ghosts general seem to be of the dickhead variety.

But the dickhead, unwise, twisted and vile are characteristics that make up antagonists in game.  I'm not sure I've ever read an adventure where the kind and friendly Millers are big boss at the end of an adventure.  Sure there are some that appear that way and end up being spawns of the dark gods, but I am not talking about I?

So here we are at the haunted house of farmer Johnson.  His three bedroom house is haunted by shadow people and a feisty ghost in the kitchen who likes to open cabinets and turns off the stove.  Shadow people are sort of the equivalent of orcs in ghost world.  They are everywhere and they are always dickheads.  Now what is haunting the house is only mildly of interest.  Why they are there is the meat.

We find out fifty years ago Great Farmer Johnson was married to a Hungarian gypsy woman named Betushca, a rotund woman with a gift of channeling the spirits.  They had nineteen children, one day two of the youngest died when one of the other children was possessed by a spirit Betushca had channeled, and the child threw boiling water on the two sleeping children.  Grief stricken by not only the deaths, but by the possession of their other child and a possession that Betushca caused.  A darkness was planted in her.  She became non responsive except during periods of uncontrollable rage and crying.  One night Betushca awoke and took a knife to kill her possessed son seeing no other way.  Before she could complete the task, Farmer Johnson shot and killed her.

Grim?  A little.  I made this one up to make my point.  This story becomes the vehicle for the adventure.  It grounds the supernatural events so they make sense.  Give them purpose.  The two shadow people could become the dark spirits Betushca attracted that feed off the misery.  And the ghost in the kitchen could be Betushca herself trying to right the wrong she caused.  She opens the cabinets to alert anyone in the house that the shadow people are here.  And she turns off the stove so no one will get hurt, residue memory leftover from the death of her children.

Now I have a setting, Farmer Johnson's House.  I have some critters, the shadow people/dark spirits.  And I have a twist, Betushca trying to warn others and right her wrong.  And what an adventure designer needs to do is develop the current situation.  Why do the adventurers need to adventure here.  Maybe Farmer Johnson the Third is living at the house and one of his children has become a homicidal monkey.  The local priest is terrified to enter the house.  The last time he was there he was attacked by a shadow person and got a boo boo on his back.  FJ the 3rd needs help, and the adventuring party is brave and has a reputation of kicking the asses of dickheads, alive and undead.

Or some other hook to grab the adventurers attention.  The more you blend the adventure in with the history the more interesting the adventure.  If you get a chance watch some weird ass paranormal shows on YouTube and write an adventure.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Big Concept in a Tiny Cabin

With a title like that you would think this was an epic adventure or something.  But this is just a tiny cabin, barn, underground room and a god-like being whose experiment could change everything.  Epic things come in small packages. 

John Carpenter has his Apocalypse Trilogy (The Thing, Prince of Darkness and In the Mouth of Madness) where the movies foreshadow the death of the world as we know it.  All fantastic movies, go see them if you can.  This adventure is in the same vein.  Powerful forces are planning on reshaping the world.  In Carpenter's case  those forces are evil.  In mine, one could argue that my catalyst for change is a good guy (Zazriel), but lacks the imagination and forethought to understand what he is doing might destroy the very think he hopes to save.

Maybe I am getting too philosophical, but I like the idea of an antagonist that has good intentions, but doesn't realize that what he is planning could have disastrous results.  And maybe the party can convince Zazriel otherwise, maybe not.  Brute force won't work.  If they can't convince the Zazriel they will have to learn how to survive what he has done.

Poisoning Chaos could be a catalyst for a campaign world changer.  If you need a reason to nuke your campaign and start fresh without having going back to nothing, Poisoning Chaos can give you that reason why things are familiar, but everything is different.  And it also gives the players a role in exactly how it ends.

I hope you enjoy Poisoning Chaos folks.  I want to thank my new patrons.  I've had a recent up tick in patrons which I very much appreciate.  And headlocks to all my old crusty patrons who keep me going.  This adventure will be a half sheet laminated version that will go out to all my $2.50 and above patrons at the end of the month.  Everyone else can grab the PDF for free on my patron page.


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Charcoaler's Ransom: A Mix of History and Gaming

I think nearly all gamers are amateur historians, mixed with a few professionals.  Because the genre most often used in RPGs is fantasy and that fantasy is generally based in medieval Western Europe (and recently, several other cultures have been included).  The great thing about this is the plethora of books available on that certain time in history. 

One of the things I like to do in game is research small things in history.  A society, a custom, or in this case, a profession.  The charcoaler was critical to a lot of industries.  I considered how isolated they worked and how easily it would be for a party, or in this case a bandit king, Margesh Blackblood, to paralyze an economy of an area by simply taking out a group of charcoalers. 

I read up on how to create charcoal, what the camps looked like, and how they seemed to be the first to be into forest restoration.  It was an interesting read and I thought would make an interesting backdrop for an adventure. 

The Charcoaler's Ransom is what was created.  An adventure where combat is a losing action.  The party will discover that if they attempt to solve the problem with force they will find themselves in the very rare position of being overwhelmed.  I created a situation where there are no good guys.  Not really.  Owen, can be a sympathetic villain in some ways, but in the end, he is a bandit who obeys orders even if it is to kill.  And poor Samuel, the star of the show, well, it won't end well for Samuel no matter what the players do. 

The Charcoaler's Ransom is available for free on PDF at my Patreon page.  If you like what you read consider joining and getting print copies at the end of the month.  My $5 patrons will receive a print copy of this adventure on cardstock as the end of the month along with anything else I whip up by then. 

Enjoy the adventure.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Selling Your Loot Part 2

In my previous post a few people were interested in how Charisma affects the pricing.  I do this for a couple of reasons.  First, in my mind, it makes sense.  Second, in old school games Charisma is a dump stat or just forgotten.  This gives it purpose.  It directly affects how the character advances.  With extra gold comes extra experience.  

These price adjustments are not automatic, just because you're pretty doesn't mean you'll get the better price.  I use the price adjustment as a suggestion, a suggestion on how much more a merchant will pay...or in low Charisma cases, a suggestion on how much lower they will pay.  Haggling and roleplaying impacts this of course.  But like in the old game Dark Tower, if you haggle too much the merchant shuts down and refuses to deal with the party.  

All of these tweaks I add are to enhance roleplaying by rewarding it with a benefit here and there.  How I do this with examples, is shown in the complex sections.  And if buying and selling isn't something I want to spend much time on, I just use the simple section to streamline the process.  

Weapons & Armor
Except for coinage, weapons and armor are the second most frequent thing found.  All those bandits, orcs and goblins don't run around naked.  Their armor is not only to protect them, but to protect you from seeing their junk swaying in the wind as they charge down the hill.  No GM needs to describe that in detail.  

If you want the easiest of systems here it is, Low End Loot 20%, Regular Loot 40%, High End Loot 60% and Magical Items 80% of listed prices.  I'll get more into magical items in a later post.

I like the idea of different qualities of armor and weapons.  A quick example is low end items suffer a -1 penalty because of their lack of craftsmanship.  So a suit of crappy chainmail would give you +4 to your AC instead of +5.  Weapons may be -1 to damage.  And they break if a 1 is rolled.  The high end quality items would get a +1 advantage.  The 'plus' is representative of the superior quality, not magical bonuses.

Low End Loot 
Low end armor and weapons, or crap quality.  The party has slain a scouting party of goblins.  The players grab the weapons and the chainmail off the leader.  The party comes into town to sell their bloody treasures.  The quality of the weapons and armor are poor plus the armor has a couple of gaping holes where your axe hacked through.  Trying to sell these as short swords and chainmail for the same price as listed ain't gonna happen.  

Simple: I start at 20% of the list price. This may seem low, but this is crap stuff.  Anyone who is buying it for resale needs to mend the holes and sharpen the blades.  Merchants aren't buying stuff out of the goodness of their little, black hearts, they are there to make money. 

Complex: In my campaigns there is always a smith or some sort of metalcrafter who buys scrap metal in bulk based on the weight to re-purpose the metal.  Such has making nails, iron spikes, horseshoes, any number of simple metal objects that apprentices can practice their trade on.  The price of course varies, but generally I give the price in copper (I use a silver system, if you use a gold system I would suggest using silver).  It's not a lot, but I run a low-level grind campaign where a few coppers can make a difference.  If you run a high fantasy game where gold pours out a unicorn's ass, then this approach will not work for your game.  But in general, most merchants won't touch the stuff, no profit in it.  That is unless you have a war raging, then even the crap stuff because a viable option for under equipped soldiers. 

Average Loot
The party finds an armory of a bandit baron.  They have a nice collection of armor and weapons in relatively good condition stockpiled.  Or the party removes the bandits need to breath.  Standard quality stuff.  Basic, no frills. 

Simple: If the equipment hasn't seen action or much action I  start at the 50% mark.  If the armor and weapons have seen action then I'd use a 40% starting point.  

Complex: I use the percents above, but outside influences affecting pricing.  If there is a war on, then pricing rises.  Merchants may sponsor adventurers so they can get first dibs on the loot.  An iron ore mine could have collapsed or taken over by murderous bugbears.  This would cause the prices to go up.  A 15gp short sword could double in price.  Adding outside influences to the economics of a game helps to add a depth to it and players can take advantage of the situation if they play it right.  

High End Loot
The party is now moved on to murdering innocent anti-paladins and virtuous mercenaries who have spent a little more time and money on what they wear and what the kill with.  These weapons and armor are well taken care of.  They need to no alterations ande ready to be put on sale.  

Simple: Give the party 70% of the list price.

Complex: When you start getting into better quality goods there is often some sort of symbol, etching, something where the weapon came from.  Most crafters have a mark.  It can also signify who owned it before hand.  For example, the mark might be for Abercrombie the Smith, someone who works strictly for Duke Fussy Pants.  Filing of a makers mark can be akin to filing off a serial number on a gun in some towns.  Should the party run into this they will have to sell their goods on the black market.  Most of the time this reduces the value, but with the right connections, a lot of money can be made.  Most merchants are willing to buy this level of merchandise.  They now it will sell and it has the largest profit margin. 

I'll cover magical loot in another post.  And I will also post about the merchants themselves.  How to develop a merchant with a few quick easy steps to give them a depth of what they are like, what they'll buy and so on.  There are different levels of merchants, some that will buy only the highest of quality down to the scrappers who buy the junk metal to repurpose it.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Work in Progress...

I originally drew the house map by itself.  Then I wanted to add a basement/dungeon room.  So I drew that separately.  Then I had the idea to connect them.  I did so very clumsily.  The transition did not work the way I wanted. 

I throw the map into my finishing program and bevel the edges to give it a little depth and framing.  Then stylize the lettering and numbers.  Basically I type the word or number twice, one in white then in black, bevel the back letter to give it an outline making it easier to read. 

Saturday, March 26, 2016

To Buy or To Bother

Just posted another micro-location, To Buy or To Bother on my Patreon page.  Those who know my page know I do adventures and locations.  The locations are not going to necessarily be a place where the party slaughters the inhabitants and takes their stuff, although it very well could be.  But the locations are usually a place where other adventures are found.  Or at least a step along the journey. 

To Buy or To Bother is what I would consider a 'found' location.  It is unlikely there will be a sparkling quest trail leading you here.  It is an isolated place that will more likely be found by accident.  However, in my intro to the adventure on my Patereon page I give two adventure hooks to use this location.

I like this location quite a bit.  It is very simple and has a nilbog inhabiting the perfectly square tunnels.  This strange little creature can cause all sorts of chaos by doing absolutely nothing.  I've given the little fellow a fetish for fours and a job that has him mining quartz crystals from the stone.  Tip-tap with his tiny hammer.  You'll only feel the first blow when it hits you in the head.

The side result in this was coming up with an occupation to develop for my game.  A Gatherer.  Someone who is hired by various craftsmen to find bulk quantities of common items.  Herbalist may need two bushels of wild sage for a new poultice, but doesn't have the time to do it herself, so she hires a gather who has some rudimentary knowledge of what to look for and how to harvest and store it correctly.  It's something I'll write up on a later post.

Please stop by my Patreon page and grab a free PDF copy of To Buy or To Bother.  And if you'd like print versions of the adventures sent every month or you think these will be great for your game, consider checking out the pledge levels. 


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Selling Your Loot: Part 1

Go in a hole.  Kill monster.  Take treasure.
A mantra I think we all can relate to.  It is the foundation of what fantasy RPGs are about.  Sure there are various ways to do this, with degrees of focus on different aspects and those who prefer a kinder, gentler game, but I'm not talking about those people.  

 I'm talking about my kind of people.  The people who like going into a hole, kill monsters and take their stuff.  It is simplistic, barbaric, some would say it suggests psychopathic tendencies in individuals.  Those are silly people, why would you tell a psychopath he or she is psychopath?

But I'm not here to talk about the repressed rage gamers feel.  No.  I am here to talk about the fourth step in this mantra.  Taking treasure is good.  But a lot of it you can't do anything with until you get some cold, hard coin in your bloody fist.  Of course this goes for any genre of any time.  Gangsters want hundred dollar bills and space mercs want a full card of creds.  Medium of exchange is different, but the philosophy is the same.  But since I am focused on the fantasy genre I'll be sticking to coins of gold and silver.  Not electrum through.  Electrum is for people who can't make up their mind. 

The fourth part of the mantra is sell treasure

Yeah, this one is not all that exciting, but it can play a huge part in your game.  Especially if you give experience points based on the amount of gold a character brings in (and/or spends).   Gotta have it to spend it.  But I've made it into a sub-game if you will.  It is the next part of the adventure, the most terrifying.  You've face undead abominations, but now you have to face one of the world's most challenging opponents, the greedy merchant.  

I'll break this down into different categories of treasure and how I handle each and why.  Some of this may sound fiddly, and if it burdens the game I simplify the process.  But in truth, this is very much apart of my game, the adventuring economics is a real thing.  There is a lot of money to be mad and everyone wants their cut.

In cases where a complex version of selling treasure is used, I opt to use a Charisma modifier to determine the percentage the party is offered compared to the full value of the item.  That could mean the party gets 50% of the value of the item instead of 30%.  Or it could mean the party just sold a pot metal charm to a noble, who now believes it is an ancient artifact of a goblin god.  And of course haggling makes the amounts change.  Value is fluid.

The most basic of treasures.  You find a 100gp.  Bam, you already have your money, no middleman needed.  This is the most simple version.  But it can also become one of the most intricate.  Once in a while I throw in the fact the currencies change over the years, different values for different eras, different cultures.  When an adventuring party comes across an ancient burial ground and the creature thay are fighting is a few hundred years old, the coinage will more than likely be different.  Maybe some mix of modern coins from newbs who were TPKed. 

The gold coins they find may be twice as large as the coins used today.  In weight, that single coin may be worth 5gp.  Because it is different, regular merchants may not accept it.  In this case it may need to be taken to a moneylender to exchange for the modern currency.  And of course there is a conversion fee. 

Simple: The coins are valued equal to the number.  So 5gp in the outside world is the same as the 5gp you just found in the dungeon.  No fuss. 

Complex: The coins are of a different age and/or size.  A money lender needs to be involved to receive spendable coins.  I determine the actual value of the coin and then the moneylender takes a percentage.  There is no room for negotiation because the rates are set by powerful guilds.  But if the coins are rare and their is known collector, then the coins could be more valuable than the metal.  In this case the moneylender could introduce the two parties and ask for a finder's fee 'off the books'.

Here's a quick sample of something you may find behind my screen.

  • Northmen Silver, large square coins worth 4sp.  However, there are king coins, a king coins are made from hard silver.  These large coins were used as a king's currency worth 100sp of today's coins.  But the hard silver can also be used to plate weapons.  Weaponsmith will give 25% more for these coins.  
  • Myrian Era coins.  Often found in the southern section of land, where a small, but powerful kingdom, Myria.  They used small silver coins to make transporting larger sums of coins easier.  The minting is intricate.  When the kingdom was razed, its wealth was dispersed throughout the world.  The coins are valued the same, there is a one for one conversion.  Merchants won't take them because of their size.  
  • Gold bars the size of a man's palm, weight around a half stone were popular for centuries.  Each bar was stamped with the crest of the kingdom they originated from.  The allied kingdoms would recognize this currency at a standard value.  These days they were valued at 112gp for the metal alone.  But there are collectors who are looking to find bars from the thirteen kingdoms.  The value rises with the rarity.  To find a gold bar from Prayta could fetch five times its metal value.
This kind of detail is not for everyone.  I just do a light version of it to give a place a sense of history.  An element to show that something was here many years ago and some people hold it valuable.  

Monday, March 21, 2016

Two and a Half GMs

Over the weekend we got together for a little face to face gaming.  Normally we play a board game or if someone has an adventure they want to run.  This weekend we did something a little different.  There were four of us so I purposed we each run an adventure.  The first GM would run an adventure with a 1st level party.  Then the second guy would run an adventure for a 3rd level party.  Then a 5th and 7th level party in the following adventures.

A nice twist to the entire process was +Dwayne Gillingham, GMof the 1st level made pre-gen characters.  A fighter, cleric and thief.  We decided to play the same characters through the different adventures and we would be switching.  I played the thief, and when it was my turn, Dwayne would play him.  And so on.  It was a cool concept and added a little extra fun.

In the first adventure the fighter died.  Cleric went down, but I was able to get him on the positive side of life.  So we needed 'Slayer's' brother Gus to come in as a replacement.  Dwayne had us be pall barriers for a funeral.  We were attacked by a zombie horde.  While we were beat fairly bad we still plunged forward into the crypt found an underground complex and found a necromancer, the dead guy's kid, down there with a batch of skeletons.  We lucked out and the cleric managed to turn them and we whacked the necro.  We had to leave the fighter's body down there because the skeletons were free of the turn and we didn't know Slayer that well. 

Second adventure the cleric went down.  I ran another crypt adventure.  This time the inhabitants were alive.  I used an adventure I wrote a little while ago, The Bastard Baron.  The party went into the crypt to finish off the Bastard Baron, Naszer.  The cleric died because he was stuck in a rug the entire combat.  He got whack and went down.  However the party save a cleric from the prison and he became the new cleric of the party.

In the third adventure we got through half of it.  +Rob Conley had us reclaim a villa in the name of the king.  Villa was inhabited by a mage and a pack of wererats.  Before we began the session we bought some magic items to reflect our 5th level status.  Gus, was able to purchase a Girdle of Giant Strength and now doors became optional.

So we left off there.  +Rob Conley with half his adventure done and +Daniel McEntee who was lasts howed us his cool big mp.  We'll pick up where we left off.

Monday, March 14, 2016

The Threat of Death

I'll be discussing different gaming systems, some in a favorable light and others not so much.  The topic is infusing mortality into a game.  The fact is some systems do this and other systems just suck at it.  This is not a declaration that one system is better than the other, but better at developing a sense of mortality.  Danger!  Some got it.  Some don't. 

A sense of mortality is an element that is ever present in my game.  I GM a semi-realistic world, with a medieval European, and Asian, historical influence.  Literary wise, the books that most reflect my way of thinking are the Thieves World books, The Warhound and the World's Pain and throw in nearly any story of Dostoevsky or Kafka and you'll get a snapshot of where I am coming from.  Dark, gritty and unforgiving with occasional elements of wonder.

Some rule systems are more forgiving than others.  Off the top of my head I can think of the last two editions of D&D with their healing surges.  The party can go head-to-head with a batch of giant flaming skeletal, vampires mages, take a short break (or as I call it, taking a knee) a and jump back into the next fight.  This aspect of the game eliminates consequences of a battle.  I personally disdain this mechanic.  

Even Dragon Age/Fantasy Age, systems I really like have a similar mechanic and even allow characters to first aid during battle.  Are you fricking kidding me?  While I am not a stickler for hardcore realism, I do appreciate a little common sense.  If you have any experience with either fighting and/or first aid, you know that shit ain't happening.  It's hard enough to patch someone up who is holding still let along getting arrows shot at them or dodging axe blows.  Dragon Age claims to be an unforgiving, dark fantasy world, but with ability to first aid during a battle, taking a knee mechanic, along with heal spells, it's not.  The content may be dark, but getting when you get into a battle there are many safety nets in place.

These systems favor a heroic fantasy.  The system encourages epic battles and campaigns.  The mechanics allow a character more chances to get to the point of some epic accomplishment.  Absolutely nothing wrong with this.  I love Dragon Age.  I really enjoyed playing 5th edition D&D, but it wasn't until we started playing Pits & Perils that I felt that rush of "Oh shit, this could be it."

But even Pits & Perils is a more forgiving than old OD&D.  Pits & Perils works on a simple, but elegant system of hits.  A fighter has 10hp + say 3 armor (2 for chain mail and 1 for the shield). Weapon damage is either a 1 or 2.  That means a 1st level fighter can take between 7 to 13 hits before dying.  And they die once they hit 0hp.  None of this death saving throw.  No minus your Con score and then you are really dead.  Nope, 0 is dead, dead.  Amen!  But, look at an OD&D fighter with about 8hp, weapons do an average of 1d6.  So 2 hits can send your character into the afterlife.  And again, 0 hit points means its time to roll up a new guy.  Getting into a a fight can be very deadly.

And if you look at the healing mechanics for both these games, it is not easy to recover from a battle. If the party gets into a big fight they can't just take a knee and then charge into the next battle.  It takes a couple of days to recover, often longer.  Characters have fewer healing resources to burn through and they are not replenished as often.  So when they take on that ogre, a party using these systems has to consider the consequences because it may delay their travels for a week.

Some may complain this sounds boring.  It is definitely a matter of taste.  And there are also arguments about what hit points really represents, which I will not get into, because when you run out of them you're dead, not tired. 

Combat is of course the most obvious.  I also like having poison where it is save vs. death.  I often include disease in my games.  Imagine playing a game where the Black Plague is the backdrop.  Every village, home or encounter could end with infecting the party members.  Again, in newer versions of D&D, a cure disease or a paladin can take care of it fairly quick.  While in Pits & Perils and OD&D these curing disease options are fewer.  While a cleric can cure a person that takes up precious spell slots.

Again, this is my overall preference.  Going into a village infected with a plague become a lot more interesting if the party feels they could be next.  Some may find this kind of game boring, I can see their point.  Sometimes you just want to be the badass and wade into battle, damn the consequences because its not a matter of life or death, but how many you kill and how much you drink to your many victories.  But for me, for the victories to mean anything, there has to have been a chance, a big chance, that I would fail.  And failing can be interesting, it is often more interesting that succeeding.