Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Post-Apocalyptic B/XE Playtesting Session No. 2

Or how I was trying to run a heist, and then my players went full on Rambo...

Continuing from last session, the party had just pulled up next to a giant ship suspended on tank treads. They jumped inside and met the two new party members, who were also trying to rescue people who were kidnapped and taken onboard. One was a motorist who had grenades and a hand cannon, and the other was a gladiator who used a crowbar. The inventor and marksmen were gone, so I said they would just continue driving the car alongside the battle yacht while the party explored it.
Representative of the pseudo-Vikings
The party first entered the engine room, where they beat up on the person shoveling coal into the modified train engines. They managed to do this without attracting suspicion. The cardinal sent his follower up the ladder to check on the second floor and saw three pseudo-Vikings in a distillery/brewery. They threw a grenade up and ignited the, fairly potent, brews. The cardinal then used a (human) leather jacket scavenged off of the stoker to beat off the flames while the party escaped into the next closest room. They promptly freaked out when it was full of storage tanks for 'guzzoline' and scrambled up to the third floor, which was where all of the water tanks were stored.

They bashed holes in the floor below and poured the water from the tanks down into the gasoline room, trying to stop the fire from spreading and igniting the gasoline tanks. They then hurried over to the other room on the third floor, the kitchen. The cardinal informed the chef of the fire and the chef hurried up to the fourth floor, the cabins. There were eight Norse cosplayers in this area, so the gladiator dragged the chef down back to the third floor. The monkey tried chucking his dagger at the chef but just ended up hitting the gladiator in the back.

The cardinal used his morphine to recover from the battle with the stoker and cut the ladder preventing the Vikings from coming down to the third floor. The motorist then tried to throw another grenade.... before rolling a natural one and TPKing the entire party, except for the cardinal who used his follower to take the blow for him.

It turns out, grenades aren't the answer to every combat. Besides that, the system held up quite well and I think all of the party held up well in comparison, but I should add an AoE exception clause for the follower's ability to take a blow.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

First Playtest Session for Post-Apoc. B/XE

I just ran the first playtest session for a post-apocalyptic booklet for Gavin Norman's B/X Essentials I'm working on. All in all, the system seemed to hold up, with a few minor cracks, but I did have some problems with timing.

Due to my players not necessarily being familiar with the system, which I'm not very concerned with, they did take a while trying to optimize their vehicle, and obsessing over rationing gas, which I am concerned with. I'm definitely considering using a usage die type thing like from The Black Hack to try to simplify keeping track of fuel, at least as an optional rule. I'm not sure keeping track of every last drop of gas is great for the aesthetic or the cinematic feel I'm hoping for.

Currently, the party consists of a marksman, a monkey (read: mechanic), an inventor, and a cardinal. The cardinal's player is still trying to figure out how they want to play an evangelical type, but really seems to like the vibe of the class. But the rest of the party is still trying to figure out how they want to use their class abilities and what their class selection means for the character.

We ended just as the party was heading towards the first combat, so that should be fun.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Patreon and Extinguish the Sun #01

I just released Extinguish the Sun #01, the B/X & OSR zine I've been talking about for a while. It's available in print and PDF on the Apollyon Press storefront and in PDF on DriveThruRPG. I do make marginally more money selling the PDF on the Apollyon Press store than DriveThruRPG due to varying royalties between sites and the print copy does comes with the PDF. The PDF is $2 and print is $3 plus shipping.

I also started a Patreon to help create more issues of Extinguish the Sun.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Magic is No Fun; or How Magic is Like Welding

Magic is pure, unadulterated thought-stuffs, pushed out of the wizard's mind into the world of things. This is dangerous, as concepts don't want to interact with things and stuff, they want to be shielded inside sentient minds. They will leap from existence in the real plane to the shelter of any sentient being's brain. But then they will burrow inside your brain like a wild animal during a monsoon, seeking shelter at any cost.

It is never safe to look directly at a spell, the eyes are the window to your soul and to your mind, and the path of least resistance. Magic must be looked at through your peripheral vision or in a mirror, never directly.

Looking directly at a spell is like offering an invitation, handing your neural pathways to the spell like a bundle of fresh candy floss to a child. If you are lucky, the spell is weak and will dissipate. If you aren't, it will root around and get comfortable, leaving you a gibbering mess, repulsed by all magic until the psychic energies finally drain away from inside your skull, leaving you a shade odder and much more neurotic than you were before.

Inspired by Arnold K.'s GLOG wizards and Thuvia, Maid of Mars.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Spinning Plates

My current writing work style is to work on one project for as long as I can before draining my 'idea well' and then to start a new project. Then after I have a few projects up and going, I'll go back to my first project. This inevitably leads to a lot of stillborn projects, and a few projects I can never get back to, so I'm going to do a progress report on the projects I'm currently working on:

Unnamed Island Hex Crawl; published by LotFP: ~20% done; I have the map drafted as well as the introduction and a selection of the more dynamic hexes.

Back in Green; Troika! zine: 80% done; getting some editing/playtesting feedback and going to have to commission some artwork

Extinguish the Sun; B/X & BECMI fanzine; 90% done, waiting on a couple pieces of artwork before publishing issue #1

Trampling of the Terrible Tortoise, The; 50% done; small (16pg) B/X Essentials module with artwork by Ian Hagan heavily inspired by Shadow of the Colossus; currently have a basic map and several room descriptions

Unnamed FASERIP Neoclone; 10% done; a retroclone of Marvel Super Heroes but set in a post-apocalyptic cyberpunk setting heavily inspired by Thundarr the Barbarian and Ralph Bakshi's Wizards

Unnamed Bizarro Novella; 5% done; I just have a rough outline for this.

Phantasmagoria; Sword and planet DCC setting; 20% done; I have all of the classes done for this.

Out of these, Back in Green and Extinguish the Sun are both already almost done, I signed a contract to make the hex crawl so that's 100% going to be finished, and I already have an artist for The Trampling of the Terrible Tortoise, so those will definitely be done. The FASERIP neoclone is probably 25/75 on ever seeing the light of day, and the novella is almost certainly not going to. Phantasmagoria is probably 50/50.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Bards are Agent Smith


The eternal battle of Law and Chaos, the movements of the planets in the void of space, they're all just steps in a cosmic ballet. You are the only person aware of the music of the spheres that this cosmic ballet is set to, and you are entrusted with making sure that good experiences tragedy before triumphing over evil, pleasing the ballet's empyrean patrons (A.K.A. the players). If they knew about the music, they may loose their way and step out of line, so you must do anything to prevent that from happening.

In this take on bards, they are attempting to make sure that the players accomplish their mission while never finding out about the massive play (of sorts) that they are taking part in. Their magical powers come from having their actions harmonize with the celestial music that drives everyone else's actions. From this, they can vastly increase their natural abilities, and sometimes even perform wholly supernatural acts. If ever a PC finds out too much about what's driving their actions, than it is the bard's job to make sure that the PC doesn't think too hard about the implications, or to stop that particular line of thought in its tracks.

TL;DR: Bards know about the 4th wall and want everyone to put on a good show for the players.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

OtSoG LIVE

On the Shoulders of Giants is live here: http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/232175/On-the-Shoulders-of-Giants-LotFPCompatible. I'm still finishing up the DCC-compatible version (I've had very little free time and DCC classes are more time consuming) though.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Rules Cyclopedia Review Coming Soon

I just ordered a copy of the Rules Cyclopedia (print-on-demand version via DriveThruRPG) so I will hopefully be writing a review of the print quality and maybe actual rules soon-ish.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Vagabonds of Dyfed: PbtA OSR?

TL;DR: I don't think Vagabonds of Dyfed is as mechanically rich as other PbtA games because of how they discarded playbooks and GM moves, but it can still be called PbtA under Vincent Baker's definition.

I just wanted to comment on an OSR/PbtA Kickstarter I saw: Vagabonds of Dyfed. The Kickstarter is actually structured fairly well: one tier ($10) gives a PDF and an at-cost code for a print copy via OneBookShelf, so I don't have anything to complain about there. Also the company, Sigil Stone Publishing, has created some great products in the past, like Belly of the Beast. They even offer their current draft of the rules, which is what I'm going to be commenting on.

After a brief read through of the rules, I don't think that this is a true PbtA RPG. It uses a tag system similar to City of Mist, and does use the Apocalypse World-derived 2d6 failure/partial success/success system. It doesn't have any playbooks, which is IMO the hallmark of a PbtA RPG: codified actions for a game that set the theme of the setting. Playbooks are also one of the best things about * World hacks because they let players play without ever looking at the rule book. Of course, they aren't the end all be all of what a * World hack is. As the creator of Apocalypse World, Vincent Baker, states, "Is Apocalypse World an inspiration for your game? Enough so that you want to call your game PbtA? Did you follow Meg's and [Vincent]'s policy wrt publishing it? Then cool, your game is Powered by the Apocalypse."

So, this Kickstarter is Powered by the Apocalypse, but in my opinion, it loses the good stuff about PbtA games in trying to adapt the OSR to PbtA.

Here's an example of some moves I wrote for a more traditionally PbtA old school game:
Find traps: When you are travelling cautiously down a dungeon hallway without a direct enemy threat, roll +Dex:
     6-: Your attempts to find and disarm the trap fail, activating the trap instantly.
     7-9: You find the trap but cannot disarm it. You may be able to avoid its effects though.
     10-12: You successfully find and disarm the trap, but there could still be more.
     13+: You manage to set off a chain reaction, where each trap springs another trap, leaving them all harmless as far as you know.
Assault: When you try to attack a monster or enemy with a melee weapon, roll +Str:
     6-: Your attempt fails and the monster gets a free attack against you.
     7-9: You hit any creature with an Armor Class of 16 or below but they get a +1 bonus to their next attack against you.
    10-12: You hit any creature with an Armor Class of 20 or below.
    13+: You hit your target and deal two points of damage.
Spell casting: When you try to cast a spell under stress or in combat, roll +Intelligence:
     6-: The spell escapes your brain and destroys your carefully cultivated neural pathways as it does so. You take two points of Willpower damage and must meditate for one day in order to recapture the spell.
     7-9: You manage to cast the spell, but the toll of doing so deals one Willpower damage to you as the spell interacts with the target in incomprehensible ways.
     10-12: You cast the spell successfully but are drained by the effort.
     13+: The spell is willing to co-operate with you and all effects of the spell are doubled for this casting.

For my PbtA OSR game, hit points would ideally be divided into three categories, Willpower, Grit, and Fortitude, and don't increase with level. For example, a Magic-User would have five Willpower, four Grit, and three Fortitude, while a Thief would have five Grit, four Willpower, and three Fortitude. This could reduce the need for a save system, as mental or reflex-based attacks just drain Willpower or Grit respectively. Enemy hit points could be one pool and equal to their hit dice in the source material.
I do seem to have a lot of ideas for a much more old school Dungeon World-esque game, maybe I'll try to write some playbooks...

In summation, I think the Kickstarter is well done and I expect them to make a great looking product, but mechanically, it doesn't do what it says it will for me, or at least the current rules don't.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

50th Post and On Phantasmagoria Tech

This is my 50th post on this blog, so here's a brief introduction to tech in my DCC sword & planet setting, Phantasmagoria:

Technology in the galaxy is rare, but not non-existent. While most foes you'll encounter will be wielding a flintlock pistol, or a sword, you will occasionally find people wielding nuclear-powered firearms or with personal force fields. The technology that you find is the remnants of a long-dead, highly advanced civilization of which very little is known, save that the civilization broke down long ago. This highly advanced empire is the basis for a lot of the space-ships found in the setting as well. The Foundation series is a great basis for what the empire was like, except there was no Seldon to save civilization from the collapse.

Monday, January 29, 2018

KoA Kickstarter Update and Patreon

I'm still working on finishing up my Patreon and preparing it for launch and my Kickstarter for a Kull of Atlantis reprint is still ongoing (with ~20 days left). I also am working on finishing up several projects and will hopefully be funding one of them through Patreon.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Slave, Soldier, and King Kickstarter

I am currently running a Kickstarter to fund an anthology of Robert E. Howard's first sword and sorcery tales with new illustrations by artist all-star Stefan Poag. If you want, you can check it out here.


Tuesday, January 9, 2018

On 4-Dimensional Foes in D&D

Inspired by this short blurb, I decided to write about having fourth dimension beings in an OSR setting. Additional inspiration was provided by this part of the first chapter of the book of Ezekiel:
And from the midst of it came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance: they had a human likeness but each had four faces, and each of them had four wings. Their legs were straight and the soles of their feet were like the sole of a calf's foot. And they sparkled like burnished bronze. Under their wings on their four sides they had human hands. And the four had their faces and their wings thus: their wings touched one another. Each one of them went straight forward, without turning as they went.
 Effectively, beings that could move in the fourth dimension would be nigh-unstoppable by any mere adventurer, capable of ignoring the adventurer's armor and weapons at will. Of course, if the monster could attack the adventurer, at least some of the monster has to be on the same phase(?) as the adventurer.

Mechanically, this could be represented by a damage cap for four dimensional foes, such as five points. This damage cap would apply to all attacks (even spells) to represent how it was because the body was on a separate phase not just because it was resistant. Of course, on their turn, the four dimensional foe could shift to a phase where the party couldn't reach them at all, but they couldn't hurt the party either.