Monday, May 28, 2007

Finally, A Use for Booze

If I haven't mentioned it before, I am a teetotaller -- that is, someone who drinks no alcohol, does no drugs, etc. I'm not "Straight Edge", whatever that means, because I think it involves bad haircuts. I just don't drink alcohol, smoke, or use the goofballs.

So beer and wine are low on my list of priorities when I go to the grocery store, right underneath tampons and axle grease.

However, yesterday whilst swinging through Ye Olde Grocerye Store, I spied out a display of wine bottles which sported this logo right here:

In that magical moment, my friends, I was struck as though by a bolt from the heavens. A notion entered my head -- nay, a task, a crusade, a Thing Which Must Be Done.

So I got my copy of the D&D RC.
Pyrurse
Armor Class: 6
Hit Dice: 6* (L)
Move: 120' (40')
Attacks: 2 claws/1 bite or breath weapon
Damage: 1d6/1d6/1d8 or see below
Breath Line: 60' x 5'
No. Appearing: 1 (1d2)
Save As: F2
Morale: 8
Treasure Type: U
Intelligence: 2
Alignment: Neutral
XP Value: 500

Monster Type: Animal (Rare).
The pyrurse can be easily mistaken for a black bear, until it attacks its foes with its fire-breath (3 times/day, damage equal to current hit points). Being fiercely territorial,the pyrurse does not hesitate to attack at the first sign of perceived danger.
Its first attack is always with the breath weapon; on subsequent turns, and until its breath weapon is exhausted, roll a d6; on a 1-3, it attacks with the breath weapon, and on a 4-6, it chooses its physical attacks instead. Like a normal bear, it causes an additional 1d8 damage if both its claws hit -- it has grappled its opponent and dealt a crushing hug.
It lairs in woods and hills, near caves. It is usually solitary, but sometimes mated.

Hah! Who knew booze would come in handy?

Friday, May 25, 2007

30 Years Ago, In A Galaxy Far, Far Away...

Today, May 25th 2007, is the 30th anniversary of the release of Star Wars.

No, not "Episode IV: A New Hope".

Star Wars.

I was only two and a half years old, almost three. My Mom took me to see it anyway. Why? Hell, I dunno. She says I liked the commercials.

I ended up watching it today, with my daughter, who is the same age now as I was then (we were born just under 30 years apart). She's already a fan, as I've mentioned before. She loves this stuff the way I loved this stuff. She has toy lightsabers, action figures by the boxful, and pretends to fight Stormtroopers in the hallway. Her face lights up when we talk about Star Wars.

My wife put the DVD in today and, because she was doing so quickly, put in the wrong one: the Special Edition. We were about 20 minutes in when I decided that I couldn't observe the anniversary of The Greatest Space Fantasy Of All Time by watching that, and quickly replaced it with the "Extras" DVD which contains the original, theatrical version.

That's the movie I fell in love with, warts and all. That movie is the reason there is tons of Star Wars junk in my house, the reason I wanted to be a filmmaker all my life, the reason I'm a gamer, the reason I never, ever, ever gave up my sense of wonder, no matter what I faced in my real life.

In my house, Han Shoots First. All day, every day.

Sitting there watching the trench run with my wife and daughter, a simple thought entered m mind and I quickly voiced it to my child:

"You know, Lily, when I was about your age, this movie was my WORLD." And I quickly added, "Kind of like it is yours."

It's silly, maybe, but that movie means so incredibly much in our home...it's hard to overstate its importance. It's not like we list our religion as "Jedi" on official documents or stuff like that; it's just so deep and so important and so natural a part of our lives. I cannot think of my childhood without thinking of the thrill and the constant joy that that movie gave me. It's not just a movie to me.

It's an icon of my life.

Happy Birthday, Star Wars.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

This One Goes Out To The Ones I Love

Man, the computron here at work keeps borking Firefox. I'm having to write this post in Internet Explorer, and I feel dirty.

Anyway. Thanks for the kind words in response to the podcast; I'm working on another. It's taking me a bit because of time, health (damn cold just HANGS and HANGS) and...

...well, first few stabs at it were pretty sucky.

Other than that, uh...Phil & Erin came down from Muncie this weekend, and we got back to our D6 Fantasy game. My old high school buddy Simon was also in attendance, and he played the first-ever cleric of St Benatar. The faith's pretty vague right now, 'cept that it involves judicious use of compassion vs. whackass, lutes with axeheads and reciting song lyrics. "Invincible" casts Barkskin, did you know that?

Kyle and Tom were there, too, and of course my wife, and while we didn't get much done in the game...we had a great, great time. We ate vegetable lasagna (Phil & Erin being dirty commie vegetarians), had some cake, drank some tea and generally goofed off and said things like "My adventuring juices are a-flowin'!" as well as a unch of double-entendres which I would not repeat here if I remembered them.

Plus, they killed an arboreal squid.

It was great to see these people because they are my friends, and they're one of the biggest reasons I game.

Guys...you're great. Thank you.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

PODCAST!

EDIT: No, it's good now! Click and enjoy!

Finally! Thanks to Blue Devil's The RPG Lounge, I Waste the Buddha With My Podcast has a home!

And, uh, you can download it!

Click here to listen, or right-click and "Save Link As..." to Save Link As... and then you can put it on those tiny Walkmans you kids use these days for your MTVs.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Mercenaries, Spies & Private Eyes

I almost gave this book away.

There used to be a comics shop in Downtown Bloomington, IN, called 25th Century Five & Dime. It was in the basement of the Allen building, and they sold comics, weird books, incense and games both used and new.

I spent a lot of time there.

MS&PE sat there for a long time, used price $13.95, and I looked at it and kept moving time and time again. Then, one day, I was down there with my (then) girlfriend, looking over the used stuff. She was into espionage, mysteries and so on, so I got got bold and bought the game at last. A couple of the old school gamers hanging out there at the time gave me the big ol' thumbs up for my choice, and I was starting to feel good about my impulsive choice.

When we got back to her place, though, I looked over it and was disappointed. I asked her if she wanted it, but she never said yes.

What'd I miss on the first read-through? Was I blind to its flexibility? Did I miss how simple it is? Was I so enthralled with shiny, new, more complex games at the time, that this game's trim, uncluttered design registered as a primitive bicycle and not a streamlined roadster?

10 years later, you cannot have my MS&PE. No, no, my brother -- you got to get your own.

Look, this game is not perfect. Skill point costs for starting characters are, in my estimation, a little stiff, but house rules will resolve that very, very quickly. The experience system (where your character gets XP and so do his skills) comes off as a lot of bookkeeping, but the clever GM and/or player will find shortcuts soon enough (1 checkmark next to the skill = 50 APs). And guns? Guns will mess you UP.

No matter. These are trifling issues, and if not dismissed can actually be embraced (hey, guns can mess you up!). And even these few flaws (if they are flaws at all) are vastly outweighed by the game's many merits.

Mike Stackpole built this game out of Tunnels & Trolls, which was recently described by The RPG Site regular Sosthenes with the phrase: "Roll some dice, add them, tell a story. Take that, you indy fiend!" It inherits most of the combat system, adds a simple system for guns, throws some in some twists for unarmed combat, inserts skills and gets down to business.

And what business! Character creation is swift if trim, and gameplay is only so involved as it needs to be, which means "roll 2d6, add appropriate attribute and skill levels, and try to beat a number." There are a few skips on the track here and there (Brawling skill modifies a Luck save against...what?), but again, it's nothing that the enterprising GM cannot clear up on his own.

I decided that the Brawling save is made against damage taken that round, for instance.

There are lots of guns, rules for car crashes, equipstuff to last you a while and a swell bibliography.

And then there are the essays.

Stackpole wrote a section each on how to build and run espionage, detective and merc scenarios. They are concise and meaty, and the advice is golden no matter who you are. Some of it you may already know, but -- do you have a sword that never needs sharpening?

Also, there's a section that talks about how law enforcement agencies work, two pages on using "live" clues, and the absolutely delightful chapter entitled "Tunnels & Thompsons":

The first testing of the MSPE firearms system that ever took place was a game session referred to jokingly as "Tunnels & Thompsons" because it took place inside a dungeon. This expedition was a group of second level Tunnels & Trolls characters armed with automatic weapons and thrust into a 5th to 10th level dungeon. The saying that "God made man, but Col. Colt made him equal" never seemed so true as on that adventure - the only casualty was a demon with a low DEX and a grenade launcher. After that a great archaeological expedition of mercs, preppies and the elite of spydom was launched into the Sumatran jungle to track down a lost Japanese regiment from WWII. In the ruins they discovered that, while a full clip from an AK-47 will not kill a vampire, it can sure slow one down.
Yes, that tingling you feel is your sense of adventure.

Now that you want this game real bad, go get one. Yes, it's still available. No, I'm not getting paid for this.

Ahh, sweet sweet impulse.

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Importance Of Being "Out"

A lot of gamers with whom I talk online are guarded, in their daily lives, about their hobby. "I never bring it up," they say. "I don't read my books in public."

I can sort of understand why they do that, but I do things a litt- okay, very differently.

Take today, for instance.

My company is training a bunch of new people for my department. I have already introduced myself to a few of them; today, I saw one of these guys, Alan, talking to a trainee whom I don't know.
Normal-looking dude, khaki dockers, close-cropped hair, glasses. just a normal dude, y'know? Oh, and he had a big ankh around his neck.

Now, that in itself means little. Maybe his family is Egyptian. Maybe he likes it. Maybe he's just flash. Maybe he's just weird.

So I say to Alan, "Hey, Alan, who's this guy?"

New Guy holds out his hand. "I'm Anthony," he says. I shake his hand and introduce myself.

"Now, Anthony," I say to him, "The ankh around your neck prompts me to wonder if you're one'a them dirty Vampire players." I'm not kidding; that's exactly what I said. (Well, maybe I didn't say 'prompt', but certainly I said 'dirty Vampire players'.) I said it freely and openly, as if I expected him to know what I meant. Like if I said "Cubs fan" or "Golf guy".

Anthony laughs and says, "No, I'm not a Vampire player. But I have friends who are."

"Good," I reply, "'Cause if you were I'd hafta stake ya." I'm thinking, Well, I could be weirding this guy out, but let's see. "That'd be rude, and there'd be a lot of this," I added, making rock-paper-scissors motions with my hands.

And Anthony kinda laughs and says, "I'm a hard-core D&D fan."

We-he-hell! Whadday know? "No kiddin'?"

"Nope," he replies.

"Don't go pullin' my leg, here," I say.

"Seriously."

Turns out Anthony is a big AD&D 2nd Edition fan, used to play Marvel Super Heroes until he memorized the chart, and got kicked out of high school once because he'd cut class to go to the library to play D&D with his buds. We talked for a few minutes on our way back to real actual work-related stuff, I gave him a tip on the FLGS, and on who in the office is a big gamer nerd (The other one is Derrick, aka Leaky Pete). Aces.

So. What came of my boldness, my openness, my sheer refusal to talk about gaming like it's some kinda goofy secret?

  • I made a new friend.
  • A newly-arrived gamer has a hookup in the local scene.
  • Said newbie also has a new contact in the office.
  • I have a cool story to post on my blog.
I dunno if what it takes is confidence or stupidity, but...dude, try it sometime. You are what you is and you is what you am, and you're not the only one out there knows what a d20 is.

Shift-X!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Stat And Deliver!

In looking again at FATE, and at how Aspects work, it occured to me that those could be used not just to define a character but also to describe a character. Not a big leap of understaning but a realization nonetheless.

I thought, "You know, if I had a Hyborian Age character with the Aspects 'Zingaran' and 'Duellist', that'd define him and be his stats. Cool," I mused. "Nice."

The very next thought I had, and I kid you not at all, my friends, was --

-- well, let's just do it visually.

THE DANDY HIGHWAYMAN
"The devil take your stereo and your record collection!"


00 DANDY (Good)
000 HIGHWAYMAN (Great)

SKILLS:

Wardrobe & Grooming - GREAT
Etiquette - AVG
Literacy - FAIR
Reparteé - FAIR
Riding - FAIR
Intimidation - AVG
Pistol - GOOD
Rapier - GOOD
Stealth - AVG
Appraisal - AVG

Weapons:
Twin flintlock pistols (+2)
Rapier (+2)

So sick of easy fashion, The Dandy Highwayman spends his cash on looking flash and grabbing your attention. But - what's the point of robbery when nothing is worth taking?

Ready to go for your next session of Harlots & Highwaymen, a game I'd totally play. So...run one and invite me.

Monday, May 07, 2007

AD&D 1st Ed. Real Actual True Play Report Summary

NOTE: Me no talk good English today. Also, cross-posted to The RPG Site.

Indeed, me hearties, I ran a bit of AD&D 1st Edition last night.

My wife brought some baggage into it, having had a bummer game in her past, but I like to think she had fun anyway; Kyle, however, just plays what's on the table. He rolled up a thief, she rolled up a fighter; they used the "roll lots of dice and keep the best three" rule from Unearthed Arcana, gave 'em 4 levels, rolled some magic items for 'em and off we went.

The scenario was a simple one. "Bonny" Stefan and Maava of the High Hill had just escorted a merchant named Twitshell (pronounced TWIGHT-shel) to Bloomingvale, a town known for its beauty and gardens, on the occasion of its annual Honeysuckle Festival. This year's fest was to be a special one, because the local Lady's daughter had just come of marrying age and was going to be "presented" during the festival.

The PCs acquired legs of mutton and fresh honeyed bread, and settled in to watch the young girls dance, and the young noblemen coming to pitch their woo. With her Comliness of 19 (yes, I was using it.), Maava turned many a head, but the young nobles did their best not to let their minds wander from the lady's daughter.

Along the way, Kyle made some funny remark which won him a treat: a so-called "Automatic 20". At some point, he would be allowed to cash it in and get, well, an automatic result of '20' on 1 roll. (His brother, Erik, used to do this in his game. Steal from the best!)

Maava noticed among these young bravos an unusual suitor: he came with no tent and no squire, naught but a night-black mare. He wore grey-green leather armor and his hair seemed...damp, like he'd just come out of the water. She tried her best to keep an eye on him, but he eluded her gaze and lost himself in the crowd.

Soon enough, Lucinda (the sexy young daughter) came down from the castle, and the boys were all over her. She, naturally, was all over Bonny Stefan, because he was a PC and the other dudes weren't. Stick it, NPCs! She coquettishly revealed she was more interested in an adventurer's life than a noble's life - or, at least, she'd rather earn a title than just have one handed to her. (Her mother, Linnea, was a former adventuress herself - an 11th level illusionist, actually.)

After a while, she was called away to watch the jousting matches, where the noble guys were hoping to impress her with their manliness or whatever crap. Naturally, that's when the army of toad-men attacked.

The PCs quickly went to work hacking up toad-men. Maava got much use out of that swell 1st ed. rule which allows a fighter in combat with creatures having less than 1 Hit Die to attack as many times as his level, while taking no damage herself on account of her AC being a 0; meanwhile, Bonny Stefan took a few spear-and-trident jazz whilst beating the crap out of monsters.

About 6 or 7 rounds in, they heard a wet, splatty noise -- giant lilypads appeared in midair, and began to fall on the soldiers and populace! Maava blew a saving throw vs. paralyzation and got pinned under a lily pad, and from beneath its slimy embrace she watched as the mysterious, green-clad knight escaped on horseback, with Lucinda his prisoner! The frogs began setting things on fire to cover his escape. Bonny Stefan whipped out his crossbow of speed and fired at the escaping knight; I wrote up some quick, cockamamie stats for the toad lord and let Kyle roll. His first shot missed, but the second one hit square - he used his Auto 20.

Then he rolled a '1' for damage, so Kyle sucks.

In the aftermath, Linnea approached Bonny Stefan and tasked him with rescuing her hot daughter, promising a reward for certain. Then it was midnight and time to go to bed.

I found AD&D 1st remarkably easy to deal with. For skills, I simply let the players have a broad proficiency ("Entertainer" for Stefan, "Hunter" for Maava) and allowed that having said proficiency meant they could do that stuff when they needed to. Skill rolls were fudged expertly using Animalball's free Stories System, and it worked fine bolted on as it was.

My wife still thinks the AD&D 1st. rules are clunky, but I think that if she plays more, she'll see how freewheeling it really can be. Then again, I really have dug down to the simplest features of the system, and everything else be damned.

I'll totally run it again.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

I Must be Getting Serious; I Just Joined Dragonsfoot.

Every now and then, I haul out my AD&D 1st Edition stuff. I always said I'd never run it, but...

...that "every now and then" keeps getting more and more frequent.

Oddly, I'm finding it more and more enticing than d20.

I keep looking at it all and thinking, "Holy Cow, this game is so simple. So rich. So easy to fudge." One day, a basic realization penetrated even my dense and resistant mind: with the charts readily available on the DM's screen, players character sheets need contain little more than name, stats, class-relevant modifiers, AC, HP and names of weapons. I, sitting behind the screen, could easily run everything else for them.

And I'm really, really itching to run it.

I have more than enough to do so. Dungeon Master's Guide, Player's Handbook, Monster Manual, Monster Manual II, Unearthed Arcana, Greyhawk Adventures, Dungeoneer's Survival Guide, Legends & Lore and Unearthed Arcana. I have a couple of modules (White Plume Moutain, Tomb of Horrors, the Against The Giants series). As mentioned before, I have the old Forgotten Realms boxed set. I have the DM's Screen.

I haven't paid a dime for any of it; I've inherited it all, piecemeal.

Hmm. Maybe tonight...

Thursday, May 03, 2007

FUDGE PIRATES!

NOTE: Here's a little something I've been working on, here lately, what with Fudge having re-captured my attention.

I. WHAT IT BE?
Ahoy! Fudge Pirates* be a role-playing game of piratical action upon the bounty waves! Ye plays a member of a freebooter crew, aboard a pirate ship, in searh of booty, plunder, adventure and such as that! Savvy? Aye, and it be not one o' them namby-pamby landlubber "historical" games with attention to detail and realism and all that bilge, no! This be a man's game, and it be cinematic and fair unrealistic as such things go. Well, lasses can play, too, of course, it's not just for gentlemen. Although, truly, a real pirate crew wouldn't have -- although, there was Anne Bonny, so that'd be accu- Damnation! To hell with nitpickery! This game be japery anyhow!

Yarr!

Oh. And it uses the Fudge system. Read it smartly, else confused and kinda stupid ye'll be. 'Tis an easy and free RPG system-toolkit-engine-thing, and it can be had for free, ye dirty skin-flint.

II. CREWING UP
Okay, enough pirate talk. It was fun, but it's gotta stop. Let's build a crew member -- in other words, a character.

You get that this is a role-playing game, right...?

Attributes
In this particular iteration of Fudge, as in many others, attributes are not linked directly to skills but rather act as a broad kind of handle on the character's innate abilities. They can be used as a broad substitute for skills, or to do something not expressly covered by a skill. Use them wisely -- in other words, more for color than for mechanics.

And the attributes are:
  • STOMACH - General health, stamina, constitution, and ability to put away grog**.
  • BRAWN - Muscle power, strength, etc. You know.
  • SAVVY - How clever (but not educated) your pirate be, or not be.
  • SEA-LEGS - Agility 'n' stuff. Foot-work, balance, etc. Can be used on land, but why would you?
  • FINGERS - Hand/eye coordination.
  • COURAGE - Spitting in the Devil's eye!
You get 3 free levels; Attributes default to Fair.

Skills
Has your sea-dog learned the finer points of piracy? Spend 30 free levels on the skills below (defaulting to Poor) and find out!

  • Acrobatics
  • Sailing
  • Rope-tying (finally, a game where it's useful!)
  • Rowing
  • Command
  • Melee
  • Guns
  • Navigation
  • Cartography
  • Medicine
  • World Knowledge
  • Bald-Faced Lying
  • Brawling
  • Speak Language (specify)
  • Sweet-Talking
  • Swimming
  • Cooking
  • Notice (covers all senses)
  • Gambling
  • Climbing
  • Survival (specify 'land' or 'sea')
Skills not appearing on this list might be approved by your GM. If it's something really ridiculous and cheeky (Knitting, Illumination, Tantric Yoga), the GM is encouarged to believe that you deserve to have it and must put 4 levels in it, you smartass. There, now your pirate is a Great Equestrian, Chuckles.

Gifts and Faults
Look, an exhaustive list of Gifts and Faults is kind of beyond the point, and more typing than I'm iterested in doing on my lunch break. So, really, just come up with two of each that seem appropriate. Anything that seems like it'd fit in (First Mate, Good Looking, Danger Sense; The Black Spot, Peg Leg, No Tongue) is OK to go; anything that doesn't (Heat Vision, Supersonic Flight, Neural Jacks), just simply isn't, and you have to get the GM a drink for wasting his or her time with your dumb ideas. In fact, while you're thinking of silly non-piratey Gifts and Faults (and getting the GM a redpop), why don't you make some notes for a game of your own and run it for your friends, huh? Its only fair, and plus it looks like you're into it. GMs want to play, too.

Rounding Out Your Character
Now's a good time to come up with a name, appearance and personality for your character. You are encouraged to keep the personality broad, the appearance interesting and the name foul and suggestive, incorporating diseases, mutilations, deformities or just plain embarassing stuff whenever possible, but you can be boring and do something else, I don't care. Leaky Pete, Gangrene Sally, Pinkeyed Jack, Clubfooted Ralph...that's what I'd do, but you do what you want.

III. PILLAGE, PLUNDER, SAILING AND STUFF

Once again, this isn't a game of historical accuracy and Osprey book detail. It's about wielding cutlasses, swining from the rigging, getting drunk at port and killing fools for their stuff. Go watch Pirates of the Caribbean, The Sea Hawk, Sinbad: Legend of the 7 Seas or Cutthroat Island (YES, I said "Cutthroat Island". Don't make that face at me.) if you need inspiration and framework. Dude, my wife got a copy of Yellowbeard at the grocery store for 10 bucks, it's got a scene with Madeline Khan and David Bowie. It's not that great but it's kinda fun.

In other words, follow your gut. Be as serious as you wish but fear not to delight in pulp and camp. Aztecs, sharks, evil Spaniards, captive noblewomen, captive noblemen, treasure, caves, sea-monsters, The Royal Navy, natives, voodoo, storms, foreigners, cannonballs...cut loose and get your pirate on.

Want a real easy campaign framework? Okay. You're all the crew of a pirate ship named The Crimson Eviscerator (or whatever, but make it punchy so it plays in Peoria). After you're done fighting over who gets to be the captain (or after someone says, "Fine, I'll use BOTH Gifts to be the Skipper"), set sail in the Caribbean. You know that a rival pirate, Captain Betrand Blood, holds a map to buried Aztec treasure. The Spaniards are after him, but you are, too. Go get 'em, sea-tiger.

Lunch over.

*Stop laughing.
** Drinking is stupid. Don't do it.