Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My Daughter's First Character

Well, it's actually her second, but this is the first time she rolled her own dice.

As I mentioned in the T&T actual play, our daughter sat with us while we played, and wasn't feeling too well. Turns out a broken collarbone is to blame (!!!), so kids -- don't run in the house.

Anyway, Lily saw everyone making characters and wanted to join in, so she went to get her dice and Mommy helped her roll up...

Sarah here is a 2nd-level Thief (well, a Rogue, technically) who is, in Lily's words, "a really good singer" (Nerdy Girl, aka "Mommy", prompted her with various questions which she then answered). The stats she rolled all by herself -- including the triple sixes that resulted in that Dex of 24. She was proud of that; she even told Grandma about it at the doctor's office yesterday.

Sarah also has some spells, written on the back of her sheet:

  • Rain
  • Sunshine
  • Wind
  • Mist
  • Fog
Lily declared these; you won't find 'em in the rulebook.

The best part came when I was getting everyone their weapon stats. "What weapon does Sarah have, Lily?" asked my wife. Without missing a beat, the kid replied:

"A lightsaber. And it's pink."

Those aren't in the rulebook either, but -- what the hell? Maybe they oughtta be. I originally said "3 dice", but I'll revise that.

Lily ended up not playing, what with being hurt and kinda bummed and all. But obviously we kept the character sheet, so that someday, she can play.

And, yes, she can have the spells and the lightsaber. They might come in handy!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Chuckles' Revenge: A T&T Actual Play Report!

"Let's do an old-fashioned dungeon crawl!" said my wife, not just spontaneously and for no real reason but rather because we were having friends over yesterday but hadn't planned on entertainment shenanigans. "We haven't done one of those in a while." She's right; we haven't.

Eventually our friends showed up: Leaky Pete, The Jake With No Nickname and Party Gorilla. We sat around and jaw-jacked a while, hem-hawed about something to do and finally I said, "Screw it, how about I run a dungeon crawl with Tunnels & Trolls?" No one tried to punch me for suggesting it, so I handed out some papers and clipboards and grabbed my copy of 7.5.

In short order we had some characters rolled up:
  • Jake rolled up Zando, a 2nd-level Dark Elf Wizard (remember that in T&T 7+, characters can begin at higher levels if their attributes are high enough!) with a low tolerance for other kindred;
  • Leaky Pete again played Snot, a (very annoying) 2nd-level Goblin Rogue and possessor of Herschel the Crab-Slaying Hammer (not magical, but quite storied);
  • Nerdy Girl -my wife- rolled up Meraana, 1st-level Human Rogue with no spells; and
  • Party Gorilla created Glorkk, 4th-level Wolf-Troll Warrior, with an ungodly appetite and ungodlier Strength of 46.
[A fifth character was rolled up -- by my 5-year-old daughter. That, my friends, is a subject for a post all its own.]

The game began in the town of Elminster's Privy -- which was quickly changed to Rathelmet [pronounced "rat helmet"], because my wife thought i twas funnier. The players were alone in the Mopey Fish-Head Tavern, availing themselves of the wares (Glorkk picked up a whole cask of ale, tugged out the cork with his teeth and downed the whole thing, prompting Meraana to exclaim, "He's drinking straight from the bunghole!") when the door swung open and there, silhouetted in a sudden flash of lightning, stood the stubby form of a dwarf.

The Dwarf strode in and eyed the party. He wore a purple hood with a yellow tassel, which I described as looking like he had a Crown Royal bag on his head. "Are you adventurers?" he asked, at which Snot ran up and said, "Yes! There are Snot's Adventurers!"

He justified this by pointing out that he is Snot, the rest of the party travels with him, ergo they are Snot's adventurers. Well enough; the dwarf, who introduced himself as Grubble Hooch-hood, declared that he needed adventurers for a dangerous mission from which they might not come back. Grubble produced a map showing the Winter Mountains and the Valley of the Unknown Oaks. He explained that in the Winter Mountains was the ancient Dwarven Hall of the Mystic Heroes, long since lost to time, blah blah blah. Within its shadowy depths lay The Hammer of the Gods, and he needed it back. The PCs could keep anything else they found but the hammer was for him only. You know the drill.

Right away, Zando posited that they didn't need Grubble -- they could just go get the whole kaboodle and be done with it. Grubble insisted on coming with them, at least to the foot of the mountain, and hinted that if they skipped on him it'd go bad for them. They accepted the quest anyway; they promptly stole a wagon and two mules and were on their way.

Yes, it was that kind of game.

They rolled out of Rathelmet and were halfway to Bungleston when Zando, the wagon-driver, fell asleep and ran off the road -- and straight into a bandit ambush. There were 7 bandits, each with MR10; 3 had bows and were ready to shoot. The bandit leader help Zando at sword-point while the wily Dark Elf immediately sold Grubble out. "There's a dwarf in the back. He has a treasure map. You can have him; just let us go." One of the bandits went to check the back of the wagon...

Glorkk made his Luck roll and woke up in time to see the bandit pull open the flap -- and thus did the troll quickly put into use his Ignite Belches Into Fireballs With A Spark From Flint And Steel In The Fingertips Of His Glove talent, rated at 27. He rolled doubles.

The bandit exploded into flames, and ran off screaming into the night. The other bandits then attacked.

Here's where T&T combat breaks down a little for me. The bandits had MR10, but they had bows; missile attacks are made with a Dex SR (Saving Roll). So what's an MR10 bandit's Dex? I just called it 10, because whatever. Their three attacks missed, and Zando was scot-free. He cast "Hold That Pose!" on the bandit leader, while Glorkk went into melee combat...

By himself, Glorkk generated a huge Hit-Point Total -- more than enough to wipe out the 5 bandits who were still able to participate in melee. He hopped out of the back of the wagon, waving about a huge metal club with spikes on it, and flung bandits hither and yon while their leader stood with sword in hand, blinking absently, trying to remember who he was and what he was doing. Soon, he was trussed up and threatened to be fed to Glorkk.

The bandit bought his way out of indentured snackitude by agreeing to lead the party to his hideout. He led them to th-- well, actually, Glorkk held him out in front of himself ("Medieval GPS", quoth Mr Party Gorilla) and thus led them to a clearing in the forest, where stood a ruined villa and the bandits' hideout. In a cellar, they found treasure: a crossbow with 20 bolts, a set of 5 golden stud earrings with inset crystals, and a mithril ring with an onyx stone -- which they couldn't identify until Meraana made a successful Roguery SR, and then she and Zando argued over it until she claimed it by putting it on. Ha!

Glorkk, meanwhile, found treasure all his own: under a loose floorboard in the cellar, he found some jerky, a cask of wine and a trussed-and-gagged 17-year-old girl, who woke up, began to scream, and made it very hard indeed to enjoy his fortuitous repast. The bandit sheepishly suggested that he was "done with her" and that she could be set free...but Glorkk had other ideas.

He decided to make her his pet, and to call her Chuckles.

Yes, as in the title of this post.

Chuckles eventually passed out, and the party rested. (The bandit, by the way, took several punches to the face from Meraana, and was tossed under the floorboards in the girls' stead.) Snot took first watch, and was witness to a mighty battle between a bear and a beehive. The beehive ended up being flung at the hideout, prompting Snot to make a Luck SR so as to avoid getting hit...
...on which he rolled a total of 40.

Well! Needless to say, Snot dove for cover, an act which caused him to unwittingly kick a snake high into the air; the snake hit the beehive, wrapped around it, changed its trajectory and sent it rolling downhill to a nearby stream.

That's some luck, right there.

The next day, the trip continued. Chuckles alternated between screaming and passing out, then finally begging and pleading to be fed -- but of course no one could understand her, because she was gagged. Glorkk picked a squirrel off a tree and tried to feed it to her; the squirrel's wild clawing ripped her gag off, allowing her to scream "LET ME GO, YOU SONS OF--" at which point Glorkk squeezed the squirrel a little to hard, spraying, uh, squirrel all over her.
He then gagged her and licked his fingers. ("Squirrel fruit good!", he remarked.)

He then tied a bit of rope around Chuckles' neck -"For walkies," he explained- aaaaaaaaaand that's when I said, "Okay, make a Luck save."

He failed it. He failed it with a brittle, wet crack.

My wife shot me a look that said, "Did you HAVE to go that far?!" I replied, "Don't worry, I have a plan."

They tossed Chuckles' inert form into the wagon and kept moving until evening, where they decided to stop at The Buxom Strumpet in a town called Three Chickens.
(I was making this up as I went along. Can you tell?)

At this point, Grubble silently decided that he'd had enough of this group of reprobates, and announced that he'd take care of getting Chuckles buried proper. Meraana tried to go with him, but he refused to be accompanied. Naturally, she let him go on his own...but tailed him.

She watched Grubble Hooch-hood walk over to a nearby temple and go inside. He came back out with a priest and motioned back down the road towards the tavern. The priest went back in and Grubble walked off; the priest re-emerged with a pair of acolytes and hurried towrad the tavern. Meraana then tried to pick up Grubble's trail, but a roll of 3 on a SR attempt is a fumble in T&T, so...the dwarf was gone.

Back at the Buxom Strumpet, the head priest (a man who looked like cross between Clint Eastood and a block of granite) walked in and started asking questions about the dead body out in the wagon. With deftness and good rolling, Zando and Snot pinned the rap on Grubble Hooch-hood -- and the priest bought it. Matter of fact, he even placed the Blessing of Paladar (whoever the hell THAT is; I just rolled the name up) upon the party of liars, murderers and thieves!

Ah, well. Dirty little thrills.

The priests went off to do some buryin', and Meraana caught up with the others and told 'em that Grubble was MIA. No dwarf, no map; no map, no booty. They decided that Grubble needed to be found.

Glorkk fell asleep and had an ominous dream. His usual reverie of ale rivers and clouds made of floating turkey legs was shattered by a scream and the horrifying countenance of an emaciated human female. Hmmm...

Zando cast a spell on Snot -- one called "Where'd You Go?" or something like that, which would cause Snot to feel a jab of pain if a dwarf came within 100' (the base is 50', but Jake rolled real good so I doubled it). I called for another Luck roll from Snot, which also rolled real high -- so high, indeed, that although he heard "Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho, It's Off To Work We Go...!" approaching the tavern, he also heard, "I hear the beer's bad!" and "I ain't goin' nowhere the beer's no good!"

That, too, is some luck. Right there.

Meraana stayed at the tavern to rest while Glorrk, Snot and Zando went looking for the dwarf. It was nighttime now, and they got to the outskirts of town when they heard a terrible wail coming from the woods. They followed the wail, and found a little trail with a sign next to it -- the sign read "Cemetery", but Snot and Glorkk couldn't read so Zando told 'em it said "Spa".

They went up the trail to the cemetery, where they found a freshly-turned grave. "Maybe that where Chuckles went," said Glorkk --

--when Chuckles herself appeared.

As a banshee.


I hauled out 22d6, because that's what you roll in T&T for a banshee.

Zando summoned up a skeleton to fight for him, and the party rolled up a respectable Hit Point Total of 100 or so. Cordelia the Banshee, however, got...I think 184. Anyway, the skeleton did little more than to fly into pieces and suck about 18 hit points off the toatal, laeving the other three to eat the rest. Glorkk's armor absorbed a goodly chunk of his portion, but he still lost some Con; Zando and Snot weren't so lucky. Next round, Glorkk made a stellar Speed roll and hot-footed it back to town with the other two jokers in his grasp. I gave Cordelia the chance to roll 9 sixes on her 22D6 to see if she could cast Death Spell #9 on them, but alas, she rolled only 4, so the bast--uh, protagonists got away.

Jake had to go home then, so we called it done. I gave out extra XPs and put the game away.

I gave out lots of XP in 10- and 20-point hunks for good and/or amusing roleplay and banter. This of course encouraged more of same, so we had a lot of funny quips flying around.

RESULT: A great game of T&T, as you might agree. If you don't, then to hell with you. Come back later, I'll post somethin' different.

It bears mentioning that my players never play bad guys; I don't know if Jake does, but the other sure don't. And anyway, these guys weren't so much evil as they were unprincipled, or maybe just stupid. Meraana herself was meant to be very loyal to her friends, which is the only reason she put up with these shenanigans (and anyway, my wife was taking care of our daughter while we played, because Lily wasn't feeling too well and was just lying on the couch watching Clone Wars).

Wow! Long post, huh?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

I Be (Spell)Jammin'!

Aaaaah, yeah. That's the stuff.

So! I'm back on the creative wagon with this Spelljammer bidness. I'm feeling inspired again, and letting my brain go places for fun. It's good to be here.

First, I should mention to anyone who's interested that I'm not anchoring myself (ha!) to any one iteration of the Spelljammer campaign, at least not in anything but the most basic sense. I'm keeping all the jazz about Spelljamming helms, phlogiston, solar systems surrounded by crystal spheres, things other than suns as the "primary", wacky ships, air envelopes, the 180ยบ plane of gravity, &c. -- not to mention the core "fanatsy RPG crap in space!" angle. Out go the Griff, the Neoghi, the Giant Space Hamsters and Realmspace/Krynnspace/Greyhawkspace; in go copious porals to other planes, art nouveau, fantasy-flavored weird science, choice Planescape stuff and whatever the hell else I feel is right.

I haven't actually managed a whole lot of development so far, but what I have done is pretty vivid. I've come up with a sphere full of mist. At its center is a portal to the paraelemental plane of mist, constantly spewing outward. In lieu of planets, there are large chunks of raw earth floating about; these are covered with forest, and there is almost constant rain (roll a d6; on a 1, the rain stops for an hour). Occluded in the grey-blue haze are great stone ruins, meticulously built of fist-sized brown and black stones, mesoamerican in design. Some kind of quest item is tobe found in there, otherwise it's just a pretty -if moody- place.

I'm trying not to make too much sense out of this stuff, but I did start to wonder -- if the flow of mist is constant, wouldn't the bubble burst, so to speak? So I added another portal...this one, to Limbo. The mist gets sucked back through, like down a drain. To make things even more exciting, I made the Limbo portal free-roaming, and random. Which means that it's totally possible for the PCs to be inside one of those temples when the black hole comes a-callin', set to engulf the whole rock in T minus ten minutes...

For some reason (probably because I read it on Uncle Bear's blog and the notion stuck in my head) I've also wanted to incorporate music and sound effects into this game. I used to do that before, but fell away from it after a while. I want to keep it to a minimum --maybe just have a piece of music that's like a "theme song"for the campaign, maybe a few bits of music here and there to help set the mood for a location or a scene. As for the sound effects, I have a 2-CD set of rainstorm sounds, which would be perfect to play when we go to the aforementioned land of the Aztec rain-temples (or whatever). My only worry is that it may become distracting or worse -- annoying.

My wife will probably fight it, but -- I AM THE MAN!

Anyway. as a special bonus, here's an NPC I wrote up. She'll probably show up pretty early in the game, and she looks like Selma Blair. This is what you get when you're thinking about Sorsha (from Willow, you know), a song by Muse and girls with big hair:


Humanoid female, age 25, 5'8", 130lbs.; an attractive woman with leonine sandy-blonde hair halfway to her waist, wearing tight brown breeches, black hip boots, a red sash and a sandy-colored tunic, with a cutlass at her side.

BACKGROUND: Cydonia was a captain in the Royal Army of Lum Ator, until that kingdom made a deal with the Illithid lord Kleizor, allowing the Illithids hunting rights -- which resulted in Kleizor secretly taking over the king's mind and brainwashing his cabinet psionically. At this point Cydonia rebelled, and slew the king himself. Now she is on the run, with her own former soldiers (now under Kleizor's mind control) in pursuit.

GOAL: Her main goal is to leave the sphere entirely, but she cannot escape without a ship. She will do anything necessary to accomplish this.

QUOTE: "No one's going to take me alive!"

Agility d8, Strength d6, Smarts d6, Spirit d8, Vigor d6


SKILLS: Climbing d8, Fighting d10, Guts d8, Intimidation d8, Tracking d6

EDGES: Trademark Weapon (Saber), Attractive, Natural Leader

HINDRANCES: Enemy (Royal Army of Lum Ator, Major); Stubborn, Death Wish (leave the Sphere)

Friday, September 25, 2009

On Lucid Dreaming; or, Dowsers Without Trousers

Here's the bag, and behold the cat: I'm into lucid dreaming.

By "into" I mean "interested in" and "messing around with"; by "lucid dreaming", I mean "that phenomenon that occurs when you take control of your nightly REM instances and drive them around like a clown car in Aaron Spelling's house".

For the uninitiated, here's the gist of this stuff: When you're dreaming, the critical parts of your brain are on hold. Thus, when you find that stack of old Paranoia Press Traveller supplements on top of an old makeup display at the CVS, you just kind of go with it. (Incidentally, yes -- I DID have that dream.) However, there are ways to trick your brain into becoming aware that you're dreaming, thus either experiencing the dream more vividly or, ideally, taking control of the dream and making it do whatever you say.

In other words: Everything we said about VR back in the '90s, only cheaper and without a short-lived TV series on FOX.

The downside is that it takes practice, and it's not always easy to do.

The idea is to teach yourself to recognize signs that you're dreaming, at which point you can hop behind the wheel, so to speak. Once you are aware, you can interact with the dream environment and even change it around. Some folks find it easier than others do, and a lot of it -from what I can tell- is tied to one's ability to recall one's dreams. I'm OK at that, so I have a bit of a leg up, but I still find my results spotty. I've talked to a guy (Tom deserves a post of his own, if ever I get around to it) who boasts complete control, like a magical multimillionaire film director.

My greatest success yet was pretty interesting, and a little fun, but by no means complete. In this particular dream, I had to take a business trip, and that involved renting a car. I went to a car rental place (staffed by a buddy of mine who is, in reality, a computer programmer) and got set up with a set of keys. I then had to go out on the lot, match the number on the key ring to the license plate of my car, and be off.

Right away, I found my "trigger" -- I know, and most people have noticed, that in dreams, you cannot read. Words, numbers, letters, etc. just don't resolve correctly in dreams, and although you can dream about reading, the words you "see" either appear garbled or keep changing. So I went out to the parking lot, looked at the keyring, and thought, "Ha! You can't read in dreams. Here, watch this...!" at which point I viewed the numbers on the keyring as garbled, but registered them as a series of letters and numbers. Then I looked at a license plate, which ALSO looked garbled, but which registered again as a string of digits.

So I started playing with it.

I looked at the keyring again. Different garble, different digits. I looked at the plate. Different garble, different digits. I alternated between the keyring and the plates, fully aware that nothing would ever match, but just making it happen, like flicking a Bic even though you don't smoke.

Finally I decided I'd just get a car and go. I picked a little black sports car and drove away.

At this point I lost control, and the rest of the dream went on like a movie, straight through to the pond and the pier and the flying tugboat. Still, upon waking, I had -and still have- exceptionally good recall of the dream, and was able to describe it to my wife as I'm describing it now to you.

That was a few months ago, and it wasn't until this morning that I had another episode. This one was minor to the last one, though -- it involved me hanging out with some friends and, desiring to amuse them with my dumbass wordplay antics, blurted out the words "Dowsers Without Trousers!" I do that kind of thing when I'm awake, too, and I usually start thinking of related concepts so that I can expand on the joke. In this morning's dream, I did it, too. My thought process suddenly became very analytical; if someone were dowsing trouserless, the, uh, nature of the rod is an obvious one. This realization prompted me to create a slogan for a business which provides the service, and thus a catalogue of euphemisms unspooled in my head, etcetera.

But the breaking point was when I changed directions, and ditched the innuendo for something less risque -- thereby arriving at the notion of dowsing trousers, an FRPG magic item consisting of a pair of pants which, when worn, will soak through with water when the wearer walks over an underground river or stream.

And I did it all consciously. I manipulated my dream.

I'm still a long way off from turning a boring walk through the city into a high-speed chase in flying cars or full-sensory dungeon-delving adventures with robot henchmen, but these are pretty big steps for me. All I can do is keep trying. I know about the machines that you can use, the ones which detect REM sleep and flash you a subtle signal to trigger your awareness, but there's no room left on my head for more night-time equipstuff.

And all this, by the way, without ever owning a copy of The Everlasting. Imagine!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

HEX A-Poppin'

Lo! For there came upon the Blog a reader named SKelly, and upon the reading of my last post, SKelly did say:

Do you care to share your impressions of the HEX system? I have been reading it on and off, but not playing. I am planning on running a hollow earth based pulp game, and trying to choose what system to use (down to Spirit of the Century, HEX or Savage Worlds).

I started to reply in the comments section, but I would have ended up with a long comment that really deserves its own post.

Damn, SKelly, that's a tough choice. I do not envy you.

I have always liked HEX, and having run two short scenarios and played in one the best adjective I can use to describe it is quick. Task resolution is a breeze, and it's over and done with before you know it. Some folks grimace a bit at the attack rules (roll your trait plus the damage rating of the weapon), but to me it makes just enough sense for cinematic/dramatic adventure.

The first time I ran it, I was focusing on the rules because I'd never used them before. The second time, I brushed up a little (it didn't take much) during play, and found that the rules didn't need much mental processing, so I could devote the power of my mighty brain to the matter of describing bandidos and ancient glowing machines and lizard-men with obsidian spears. As a player, I found the rules to require even less thought, and I was able (with Style Points) to save my character's bacon once -- but not twice, which maintained a sense of tension for me.

The reason I said that I don't envy you, however, is because Savage Worlds and Spirit of the Century are ALSO good for this. I don't have SotC but I do have Starblazer Adventures, so I'm familiar with how it goes down; as for Savage Worlds, I've been monkeying with it the last couple of days and it, too, manages to get the job done and over with so you can get back to the real business of stealing a gem from a room full of zombies.

So...good luck, mac. Or, uh, sister. Whichever. Sorry, I can't see from here.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Wherein I Do It Twice In One Day

On Sunday, My wife (aka Nerdy Girl), our daughter (aka Squinkle) and I (aka Doofus Maximus) piled into the Rotwang!mobile and headed over to our friend Leaky Pete's house, with some chips and sodas and gamebooks and more dice than you can comfortably swallow and by god man we gamed all day.

[Well, our daughter didn't -- she was downstairs with Mrs Pete, playing dress-up and chasing a bunny and watching cartoons and who-knows-what-else.]

Leaky Pete was kind enough to host us, along with our old friend Kyle Hamster and newcomer The Jake With No Nickname, for copious amounts of gamification and GET THIS:






It's rare enough that I get to be on the other side of the screen, but to play two games in one day? WHOA! I haven't done that since high school. And if I have, then I don't remember.

Jake led off with a D6 Star Wars scenario centered around a combat on a large pleasure barge. My character, Dak Starkiller (whom I described as looking like "a cross between Michael Beck in The Warriors and Michael Beck in Xanadu") got to be all bad-ass on a swoop and helped defeat some pirates on a Clone War-era troop carrier. He also pimp-slapped a dark Jedi...

...with the steering vanes of his swoop.

After a short break, Kyle Hamster had to go off and do "homework" or "study" or whatever the euphemism was, and Jake made a Hollow Earth Expedition character for a scenario that Leaky Pete ran. This time, we were 1920s adventurers hired to retrieve a mask and a book from a Cambodian temple. Our patron, by the way, looked like Christopher Lloyd. ACES.

We went into the temple, discovered the crazy magical portal that threw us back in time (clever -- we had to drink the water from a pedestal to do the Time Warp), overcame some traps, fought some zombies and made it back out within the deadline.

It was awesome. I never get to play! NEVER! And on Sunday, I played TWICE IN ONE DAY!

Best of all, we've been invited back to do it all again. Having Mrs Pete watch The Squinkle is a great boon, and luckily she likes the kid, so...

Maybe, just maybe, my gaming life has been revitalized.

Here's hoping. As DEVO once said, "Long time no sugar/And it's starting to hurt".

Friday, September 11, 2009

Doctor Rotwang!: Rip-Off Artist

This is how far behind I am, kids: It was only last night that I ran across this post by Uncle Bear. I fell in lubb with this format right away, and he's probably been doing it for years and years and everyone's doing it and I'm behind the times and those damn kids are on my lawn again.

AAAAAAAAAAAaaaanyway, I immediately got a wild hair to write something up following this format, and after hemming and hawing and talking to angry, angry people at work today, I finally had a flash of inspirification on Ye Olde Drive Home:


Now dig this:

Now Playing: Spelljammer -- Seekers of the Seven Baubles

The Movie Pitch
Spelljammer meets Pirates of Dark Water on Planescape's front lawn

The Elevator Speech
Swashbuckling adventurers heroes sail through space in magic-driven ships, seeking seven magic jewels that will banish a great evil.

High-spirited pulp adventure

Savage Worlds, because why not

Player Character Roles
Anyone willing to travel the Spheres and risk life and limb to fight back the illithid threat. Stock D&D characters are as welcome as are pirates and treasure-seekers -- but all of them must have a sense of duty. Clerics won't be of any use, though.

The Evil And Insidious Illithids
Drow Conquerors and Treasure-Hunters
The Cindermen (chaotic-evil fire elementals -- basically, humanoid burning coals)
Nakharotep, The Mummy
Princess Arkanida, who wants the Seven Baubles all to herself

Various planets encased in crystal spheres: a water world, a jungle world, a desert world, Planet Renfaire, etc.
Asteroid-borne ruins
Moradin's forge, one the home of the dwarves but now a captured Illithid stronghold

Appendix N
Spelljammer: Shadow of the Spider Moon
Sinbad movies aplenty
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Pirates of Dark Water
The Dark Crystal
Star Wars

Art Nouveau

Now...obviously, I just stole all this stuff from Polyhedrom Magazine #151, stuck a quest into it to keep the characters together and the plot moving, and called it a night. However, no one cares, because it sounds like fun. And anyway, if I ever run it, it's gonna be infused with mine and my players' personal touches, and it's a swell excuse for me to shove some art nouveau groove into a game.

What's more is that it excites me, and that's actually kind of a novelty, of late.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

A little over a year ago, I crowed mightily about the absolute and unassailable wonder that is the book Whales On Stilts! by M. T. Anderson. This is the link you can click if you forgot all about that post, or if you're feeling nostalgic, or if you are simply a compulsive link-clicker, ready, willing and able to click any link that you come across. Click away, you little freak.

In the comments section it was mentioned that two books follow it -- The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen and Jasper Dash and the Flame-Pits of Delaware. Yesterday, my daughter and I went to the library, and guess what they had?

Books. Yes. They had books. Lots of them. Good job, you guessed it. Prize? No. Smartassedness is its own reward.

Amongst those books were multiple copies of The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen, and since I'm not in hock to the public liberry, I checked out a copy and read it in a couple sittings. Okay, three sittings, but one of them was laying down so it --

-- I read it. And I pronounce it good.

I guess juvenile fiction has probably long been better than I might have thought, but I didn't know it was this good. Not only is this book -like its predecessor- laugh-out-loud funny, it is also deftly written and moving.

Yes, I said moving. Not, like, the-end-of- Terms-Of-Endearment moving. I mean make-a-grown-man-laugh-and-cry-with-longing-for-what-makes-him-treasure-his-youth moving. As with Whales, Lederhosen is imbued with melancholy and bitter-sweetness as it touches (not always subtly) on the ideas of youth past and lost.

Hey! That illustration is different from the one the cover of the library book! It's much better than the one on the book; on the book, the girls look funny and Jasper isn't holding a...is that gym sock?

Anyway, the book has to go back to the library on the 25th, and it'll probably go back tomorrow. I will simply get my own copy; this one's a keeper.

Oh -- and on September 15th...

...I am on that. I am on it like something that's stuck to something else, you know, really tightly.

Friday, September 04, 2009

GenreDiversion 3 Re-evalufied

In short: Although I once said that PIG's GenreDiversion 3 would not likely become my go-to game, recent recalculations and renewed appraisals of Brett Bernstein's genre-neutral game have led me to change my stance.

But before I make the official announcement, a few words of explanation:

It's hard for me to pick a go-to game -- in other words, a single one. I just can't do that. I can't do that because I love games too much, in all their different styles and designs and tropes and what-have-you-to-add. I have favorites, yes; some more favored than others, and that's where my re-evaluation starts.

I'm noticing a tend in the games that I like -- or at least in the way I like to play them. I'm liking games that require me to roll one or two dice at a time -- preferably two, and D6s at that. I'm noticing an attraction to games with a simple, solid core mechanic upon which I can expand with simple tweaks, ideal for adjudicating on the spot. Also, I like games which allow the PCs to stay in combat for a while, because mayhem is fun.

GenreDiversion 3 hits these. All of 'em.

For those who came in late (or didn't read the page to which I linked up at the top of this post), here's what GD3 gets ya: A simple, solid 2d6-plus-mods roll-over mechanic, with broadly-defined character stats. Charcaters can further be tricked out with bells and whistles like Gimmicks (advantages/disadvantages/powers), Roles (which bring in bonus Pursuits, aka skills) and Vocations (which require certain Pursuits and/or Gimmicks but provide non-mechanical bonuses). These add to playability without requiring too much fiddling about rules, looking stuff up, etc.

In short: It's compact and elegant.

So let's put it into Rotwang!ian Hierarchy thusly: It's up there next to D6, Castles & Crusades and Classic Traveller in my personal ranking of games.

In other words, it's amongst my go-to games.

There! That's better!

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Starblazer Adventures Revisitized

Loooooots o'catchin' up to do. Whooooole lots. Let's start with this one.

At first, I was kinda iffy on Starblazer Adventures, as some of you may recall (some of you may not, and a lot of you are saying, "What the hell is this crap? I was surfin' for catfood recipes!". You guys puzzle me greatly). I wasn't really sure what a lot of the bits and bobs were for.

Early this Summer, though, my family and I were driving home from a daytrip, and I started telling my wife about the game. I'd been re-reading it recently, and had it on my mind, so I started unravelling those thoughts to her because she was effectively a prisoner in the passenger's seat and couldn't stop me without crashing the car.

In the process of talking it out to her, the game started to gel a little better for me. Aspects started to make more sense -- specifically, their use as it differs from, say, using Stunts that might do similar things. Things that at first seemed kind of silly, like the rules for Tagging aspects, slowly started to resolve in my mind as a kind of meta-game of their own -- albeit one which, rather than distract from the story and its play, instead seemed to bolster it.

Ding. Lightbulb.

I ended up running a short session for her. It stayed short because it was a sleepy Summer afternoon, I didn't feel like winging it a whole lot, and I really didn't feel like playing a one-on-one at the time. She pronounced it "Pretty OK", while I got a better feeling for what it can do as opposed to what I was thinking I had to do with it.

It wasn't a huge revelation, but it was a significant one, and it changed my mind about Starblazer Adventures. I never really said I didn't like it; in fact, I was kind of on the fence about it. However, I can now say this:

I do like it.

In fact, it reminds me a bit of Theatrix, a game wich, incidentally, I mentioned in my first post about this game. Like Decriptors in Theatrix, Aspects in Starblazer Adventures can be applied to just about anything, salting-and-peppering characters, vehicles, places and everything else with potentially game-affecting mechanics.

These little tweaks help to make such things unique. Let's say that I want my game to feature two different, specific models of sports car. Mechanically, they'll look about the same; a race between the two could get kind of boring. However, I can give them Aspects to differentiate them -- and all without cluttering up the stats. Maybe one has the aspect "Turns on a dime" and the other has "Good grip on the road". Now that race sounds like it might get more interesting, doesn't it?

So. Starblazer Adventures strikes me as a game best played in a group, though. There's nothing in the mechanics that makes one-player games difficult, but rather I think those mechanics would really rev up and rock if a group could use 'em.

Now, I just need time for that group to get together...

Remember how I was just OK on GenreDiversion 3? I've thought a bit more about that, too. Stay tuned!