Monday, December 23, 2013

Of horse and province

Coming up with my own rules for a hexcrawl campaign and trying to simplify movement across hexes.

Detailed map: 1 hex is roughly 10 kilometers, or 6 miles - roughly!

Walk: 1 hex per hour
Canter: 2 hexes per hour
Gallop: 5 hexes per hour

Walk: 1 hex per 2 hours
Run: 1 hex per hour

A human who walks, or a horse that canters, must make a check at the end of every day or else suffers from exhaustion.
A human who runs, or a horse that gallops, must make a check at the end of every hour or else suffers from exhaustion.

Travel time multiplier for
Roads x1
Desert x2
Forest x2
Hills x1.5
Plains x1.5
Jungle x4
Mountain x3 (x2 with proper climbing gear, for everyone)
Swamp x3
Tundra x2.5

Examples: A human walking on a map through
Roads = 1 hex per 2 hours
Hills, Plains = 1 hex per 3 hours
Desert, Forest, Mountain (equipped) = 1 hex per 4 hours
Tundra = 1 hex per 5 hours
Mountain (unequipped), Swamp = 1 hex per 6 hours
Jungle = 1 hex per 8 hours

Speed isn't affected by encumbrance, but exhaustion checks suffer a penalty for being encumbered.
I'm thinking encumbrance will be a static amount modified by strength, carrying more than that is "being encumbered" and carrying twice the limit its impossible to move.
Very simple, very easy. I like simple and easy.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

the Kosranon campaign setting links page

Something terrible happened.
We don't really know what it was, we called it the Turning. When I was a child we grew up hearing the stories, the nostalgia for a place that no longer exists lingers on as each generation repeats the legends. The seas boiled, people lost their breath under the light of the sun, and the earth shook nations to dust. The world is not meant to be like this. There were wonders once, magnificent and terrible. We built towers with only our desire, every animal beckoned and pleaded to serve us, the land ached to be sculpted, and cities flew across the sky. After the Turning the cities in the sky remained, for they were once piloted like ships on the sea. Not by men, but men that were certainly like us. The men that were not like us died, or left, and they left behind their wonders and magics, though we barely understand them now. In the old days the cities on both the land and in the sky flourished together, the roads were always crowded, and the old gods still lived. I am the last of those that were taught the old ways, and I know now, after decades of lost hope, that the world will never return to the way it was.

low magic, dark fantasy

Humans are fractured into survivalist tribes, brutally twisted by magical radiation, hunted by necromancer dwarves, and rebuilding from the scavenged ruins of an ancient world.

note: I tried to make a world that was wholly unlike any published fantasy setting, and whenever I find myself following a recognizable trope I instantly change it. The old Talislanta game had a tagline that said "No elves!" and I adopted that as a motto for designing this world, along with "No dragons!"


Humanity is the dominant species, and culturally it comes in many flavors.
  • the Athomians - scattered barbaric clans of cultish humans, they value artistic merit and strength. Athomians have an unhealthy fixation with secret knowledge, driven by their nameless goddess, they will cut ties with outsiders if it suits their cravings for power and strength.
  • the Eldragoths - one of the human cultures, a collection of brutal nomadic hunters. They resolve their own inter-clan conflicts with fistfights to the death, and their ruthless violence can be terrifying to behold, but their silent impassive natures can be even more unsettling.
  • the Junian - the most populous, fortunate and advanced of the human cultures, the Junian continue to worship their oldest god, they congregate in cities and excel as scholars and soldiers. Since the last Turning they have spread out along the coasts, even though they have also divided into contentious nations bickering over local resources.
  • the Nymenians - the first humans to set up farming communities after the last Turning, the Nymenians have become dependable merchants and seek to rebuild the world into a new image but have suffered at the hands of Beastmen raids, as well as conflicts with Eldragoth and Athomain neighbors. Nymenians worship a goddess named Etzial, they say she led them to safety through the wilderness after the last Turning but then she disappeared after they settled into farmsteads.
  • the Chiryō - the oldest and most advanced human culture, sailors and scientists who live most of their lives in the oceans and value honesty and compassion over gold or property. They fared the best out of the last Turning, though they didn't capitalize upon the power vacuums on the continents and instead turned their interests towards perfecting alchemy and medicine.
  • Beastmen have been encountered everywhere in the world (jackel-headed, wolf-headed, bear-headed, tiger-headed, etc.). They work in packs, have no discernible language or culture, and are vicious killers that use primitive weaponry. They congregate around the ruins of another civilization, the destroyed and ruinous metal cities of the extinct Wuunrlan people.
  • the Masadhi - a race of grotesque nomadic mystics, revered by most others for their prophetic insights.
  • the Aurymites - an all-female race of tall, brutal and powerful warriors who live by a strict code of honor, those that fall out of favor with their Queen become thieves or sellswords.
  • the Dwarves are natural farmers and have a unique telepathic connection with the Wearg, tall and intelligent wolves that guard the Dwarven homeland; there are also strange Dwarves with no connection to the Wearg, the Svarth, hailing from the deep southern end of Kosranon. The Svarth worship a being they call the Sleeping Lord and practice a brutal kind of magic that draws power from pain, anguish, and spilled blood.
  • the Oukek are a short, reptilian race with an impenetrable and aloof society, however their outcasts are friendly and deferential
  • rune magic, practiced by the Dwarves, semi-permanent, requires time and prep
  • healing, practiced by the Chiryō, requires water
  • prophecy, endured and sometimes shared by the Masadhi
  • blood magic, used by the Svarth, requires pain (usually somebody else's)
Magic items of Kosranon come in one of three varieties
  • made by the Svarth who do not share with others, nor do they sell them, if they see a non-Svarth person or creature using an item of Svarth construction they become murderous
  • powerful items were left behind by the Wuunrlan, looting their ruined cities is a dangerous prospect since many of them are populated with Beastmen or worse
  • there are powerful crystals, Kruo stones, in deep caverns that can be infused with life energy.
Places of Note
  • Marakāven, port city of the north, a vast metropolis spanning over an archipelago stretching north from a small mountain range, the Crowkut River pours into the continent from here and is the lifeblood of Marakāven
  • the Crown, a mountain range along the northern edge of the world
  • Idelfyn's Folly, somewhere within the Crown
  • the Grethar Peninsula, where the Svarth live, volcanic and barren, riddled with labyrinthine caves

  • the Wuunrlan Expanse, miles of plains and hills where most of the ruined Wuunrlan cities lie abandoned and fallow

NPCs, setting details, and other things that don't fit elsewhere
  • the Turning is an apocalyptic event that occurred several hundred years ago, the world was wracked by earthquakes and tidal waves and meteor storms. It is debated that either one Turning happened only a hundred years before the last one or the two Turnings were actually one long event. Kosranon once had a moon, but in the last Turning it was also destroyed, now it appears in the sky as a glittering stream of rocks that gets a little longer and thinner every few years.
  • Idelfyn was a prestigious and widely-traveled wizard who disappeared mysteriously fifty years ago. He was convinced the Turning was an artificial phenomenon that was likely to happen again.

Monday, December 16, 2013

my first Abulafia page

I wrote this page on Abulafia for the Die Drop Tavern Generator of Mike Evan's Hubris setting using the DCC RPG.
That's a mouthful!

Click the first link for an awesomely weird tavern set in this dark fantasy, horror setting. I will probably tinker with it a bit to make the results a little more random, and also to include clear references to the dice rolls. But for now it's complete!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

What's your Anti-D&D?

I've been going through Zak Smith's old posts about rules and it's slow going because blogspot is not exactly designed to be easy to navigate older entries, but it's worth it to delve into his blog-dungeon because it tells me a lot more about how Zak thinks and why he sometimes says some of the stuff he says. In other words, context!

He's got a post where he defines D&D as a list of some core things that are basically expected when you ask somebody with some tabletop gaming experience to play D&D with you. It's an insightful post about the D&D system that delves into what I like to think of as the philosophy of D&D, but will usually just refer to as "rules wankery" at the table.

Anyway, go there, read that, then come back and read my diametrically opposed list of what makes a game not D&D:

1. Characters are of one race (human?) and there are no classes.
2. How do you define who is specialized with fighting or sneaky shit? Skills. Everybody has the same pool of skills. Nothing special or restricted.
3. No levels, and no experience points. Skills and abilities go up through random chance.
4. Only 4 ability scores and you match them with the suits from a deck of cards. No numbers.
5. There are no spell lists, because there's no magic.
6. The game is set in an approximation of New Zealand in the future, they are now a global superpower that took over the world. There are lots of floating cities surrounding the island as well. The players are high-ranking members of the new world order nobility.
7. What's armor class? You won't be hitting anything because you can't fight. Everybody in the world has been implanted with brainchips by the NSA, who now work for New Zealand, and everybody is forced to be cheerful. Being nonchalant is as rude as it gets. The only way to really hurt someone is to steal from them, thievery hasn't been chipped, only violence.
8. Physical damage is recorded as a word. You're either Alive, Sick, Injured, or have Hurt Feelings. You can be Dead too, but then you'd have to make a new character.
9. There is no attacking, but if you want to steal from somebody you draw a card from a standard deck of 54 cards (with 2 Jokers). There is a simple matrix for determining if you succeed at any particular action, and a slightly more complex matrix for opposed actions.
10. There are no levels and no hit points. Increasing skills simply widens your effect on the action matrix.

This almost sounds like a Cyberpunkish hack for In A Wicked Age.
And no I wouldn't enjoy that. I once described In A Wicked Age as a game set in the world of Conan where players are controlling the characters that Conan kills.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Saving Throw = Defy Danger

OSR = trusting the GM to improvise gameplay resolution on the fly
PbtA games = trusting the players to introduce plot on the fly

This is the only difference I really see between these two kinds of games.

In Dungeon Crawl Classics (an Old School Renaissance game) each character starts with a random profession. The rules for skills barely fills up two pages, but the idea of this received profession is that your character can make impromptu skill checks related to the profession. There is no real rule for this and arbitration is left up to the GM's fancy. The idea behind this is that if one of Greg's characters was a wainwright, then he could conceivably know everything there is about carts and wagons and the construction thereof, and if confronted with a trap or contraption in a dungeon that uses a cart then he could potentially roll his Intelligence with a suitable bonus to figure out how it works. Or something similar, dependent upon profession and situations arising that might relate. For example, in the last game of DCC I ran one of the characters was a miller, and the player wanted to use the character's knowledge of how a grindwheel works in a millhouse in order to bypass some scenario.
Improvising gameplay resolution.

In Dungeon World (a Powered by the Apocalypse game) each character has access to a "move" that acts as an all-purpose skill check for your character that plays off of Intelligence called Spout Lore. Make the roll and your character knows something interesting and useful, make a partial success on the role and they only know something interesting, it's up to them to make it useful. So let's say Greg is playing a druid and uses Spout Lore to know what kinds of animals live in the region, it doesn't matter how well they did just that they didn't miss the roll, and the GM can't think of anything, and asks Greg "What are you hoping to find in these woods?" and the player says "Something that seems out of place, like venomous snakes." The GM says "Okay, sure, there are poisonous snakes infesting these woods, nobody knows where they came from." and just like that an interesting plot point has been created. Not very useful, but maybe the GM tells Greg the best way of catching one of the snakes without getting bit. What started as a player looking in the wrong direction for a clue to their current quest ends up being the seed for a potentially all-new quest, then it's up to the players whether they investigate these snakes.
Introducing plot.

These are, of course, really generic examples, and they have to be in order to express how these systems work. But there's another rule dynamic where this difference-which-is-actually-a-similarity can be highlighted, OSR gamers call it the saving throw. There are some OSR modules have so many saving throws that sometimes I think that those are the only stats worth leveling up. Dungeon World, and Apocalypse World, have their own rule for the saving throw called Defy Danger, and Acting Under Fire.

A saving throw is best described as a roll one makes for their character in order to avoid some kind of effect or hazard. Compare the saving throw with Defy Danger which is literally described as "When you act despite an imminent threat or suffer a calamity, say how you deal with it and roll." Compare this also with Acting Under Fire which is described as "Call for this move whenever someone does something requiring unusual discipline, resolve, endurance or care." In the environment of a game, one of these rules is just a mechanic that allows the GM to call for a roll to avoid some type of hazard and the other is the exact same thing!

In an OSR game a saving throw is pretty straightforward, the player rolls the dice and if they hit their save they either avoid or lessen the effect of whatever danger they're exposed to. Sometimes the number they need to roll is known, sometimes it's secret; they almost always need to roll high. Resolution of Acting Under Fire or Defy Danger works similarly, but here's that partial success area of the roll, the 7 to 9 range, if the roll comes up in that range the GM will give the player a choice, usually both involve succeeding with some kind of cost attached, and then the player decides what cost their character pays. Depending on the situation, this can change the story.
And that's the only difference.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

kickstarter + indiegogo update 3

You can see all of the projects I've contributed to on Kickstarter, but these are the projects that are undelivered and past due. I'm not going to do another kickstarter-related update until I see at least two of the prime suspects get fulfilled.


These projects are all over one year late.

Double Fine Adventure:
Estimated Delivery: October 2012
The first hugely successful kickstarter video game project, and the first example of feature creep in a project. The video game has gotten so big that now the game has been split into two parts and the first part still isn't even out yet.

Estimated Delivery: August 2012
Infamous amongst the OSR gaming crowd for the project creator's breakdown during development. Development and production has moved into the publisher's hands, with still no clear sign that it will be finished anytime soon.

The Banner Saga:
Estimated Delivery: November 2012
The best example of a video game project suffering from feature creep. Not to mention the weird multiplayer debacle that delayed everything! It's another project that is over a year late.

Drifter: A Space Trading Game:
Estimated Delivery: November 2012
Another video game project, and another project that is over a year late. Version 0.4.0 is out, but I'm going to call this project late because he hasn't gotten to version 1.0.0, and it's a project that is clearly not finished since the last update was all about what will be in Version 0.5.0

Champions of ZED:
Estimated Delivery: August 2012
An OSR rpg, and another in a long line of OSR rpgs that got kickstarted and then indefinitely delayed. Backers received the pdf copy of the game, but the print version is still ... in limbo. I don't even know. There seems to be a trend that any delayed rpg has either family "issues" or repeated bouts of illness as an excuse for the delays, but this game is over a year late.

Axes and Anvils:
Estimated Delivery: November 2012
This failed project (I don't believe it will ever be finished and delivered upon) has gotten a lot of attention and notoriety for one big reason. Namely, the project creator was an established "name" in the gaming industry before he launched several kickstarters that all spiraled out of control and died. I count myself fortunate that I only got ripped off for $20, some poor individuals gave him hundreds of dollars!

+5 Food of Eating Cookbook:
Estimated Delivery: September 2012
A gamer-themed cookbook, that I now regret backing at the print level. The creator has at least offered refunds to those who don't want to wait for a print copy.

Horror on the Orient Express:
Estimated Delivery: August 2013
Another victim of feature creep. They say it will be going to print "very soon."

Angels, Daemons, and Beings Between: A Patron Sourcebook for DCC RPG:
Estimated Delivery: December 2012
"The books have been printed but we're still waiting for delivery." I wrote that two months ago and still have nothing! Supposedly everything has been shipped and it will be here by Christmas.


These projects are late, but haven't reached that 'one year' mark. Yet.

This is Not a Conspiracy Theory:
Estimated Delivery: December 2013
A multi-part documentary explaining modern politics from the same guy who did Everything is a Remix. One of the first projects I backed and it's only hitting it's delivery date now. Backers have been able to see a little bit of the work he's done to finish it up, but the first (of six) episodes still hasn't been released and I went in for the full DVD, which means it's late.

Wasteland 2:
Estimated Delivery: October 2013
Another video game project that suffered a little from feature creep. It looked like they had planned production very well and it was going to be on time, but distractions aside, video game development is unpredictable but predictably always suffers delays. They're in Beta right now and it sounds like they're almost done.

Estimated Delivery: June 2013
I keep forgetting that I backed this project. Another video game. The lateness was expected given their ambitions, but they're bad at updating backers with new developments.

Tavern Cards:
Estimated Delivery: April 2013
In all fairness, I never imagined this project would come in on time.

Alas Vegas:
Estimated Delivery: June 2013
Late but almost done, maybe, and I'm beginning to wonder why I've funded so many RPGs.

Achtung! Cthulhu:
Estimated Delivery: August 2013
Should be going to print soon. The digital rewards have all been released.

TARDIS Eruditorum:
Estimated Delivery: November 2013
Delayed to January.

The Agents:
Estimated Delivery: November 2013
They're a little late. According to them, all of the backers should receive their copies before Christmas.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

This is probably my favorite Traveller thing on the internet: Little Black Book cover generator
It's absolutely useless for gaming, but when I was running Traveller I would try to come up with titles for the sessions and would make LBB gifs for them. I can't find any of the ones I made, except for one. When I wrapped up my last Birthright campaign, and tied it into Traveller via the Flux, I made this just after the last session:
I don't remember if I ever shared it with the group.
Rediscovering this cute little toy makes me want to run Traveller again, or Stars Without Number, or just something in space. With a Little Black Book cover.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Death Frost Doom

In my regular group we've been playing Dungeon World, and I've been grinning and bearing it because the GM had the idea of trying a Lamentations of the Flame Princess module using the Dungeon World system. It was an interesting crossbreed.

Spoilers ahead, so if you haven't played Death Frost Doom stop reading here. If you have played Death Frost Doom, then read on.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


I've talked about initiative before, albeit in a slanted way, and I noticed while self-examining my GM style of DCC RPG that I no longer treat initiative as stringently and compulsory as I had in the past.

A situation arose in my last game session where the PCs were confronted with a second monster at the tail end of a round where they just finished dealing with another monster, and instead of rolling initiative and bringing in the second adversary I let the players dictate what they would do before attacks were launched. It resulted in a temporary end to combat and a need to re-roll initiative later when it started again. A later scene in the same game had a player announcing his character's attack in order to initiate combat, and rather than roll for surprise or initiative, as the rules of D&D and it's many variants usually calls for, I had him roll his attack to see what would happen first. He managed to score a critical hit and ended the combat before it had a chance to begin.

I still think surprise and reaction rules have their place, but I just believe a game is more fun for everybody involved if the GM maintains that the players drive the action of the story. In purely mechanical terms, when a player declares an attack than they should be allowed to complete it before moving on to reaction, surprise or initiative rolls.

Monday, November 4, 2013


The first GameHoleCon concluded yesterday and it definitely wiped me out. I didn't look exhausted but when I got home my head hit the pillow and I escaped into an abyss of sleep for the rest of the day.

I've never GMed at a convention before and I was very nervous beforehand. I only signed up to run three events, two games of Apocalypse World (which were identical) and one game of Dungeon Crawl Classics. I think if I do this again next year each game I run will be different because the first game only sold 1 ticket and so I cancelled it. The second game only sold two tickets, but I had a friend at the con who said he had some time to kill and he purchased a ticket and became a third player. The final game, DCC RPG, only sold 2 tickets, but given the nature of that game's zero-level character funnel I made it work with only 2 players.

Here are the events I ran, along with their descriptions:
Apocalypse World: what's the name of this town?
An introduction to the Apocalypse World rules and suitable for anybody new to the game. Players will quickly make characters, help define NPCs for the setting, and then play through a number of scenes where outside forces try to tear down or destroy the community they live in. Apocalypse World is a game about dwindling resources, filled with territorial warlords, grotesque mutants, decaying environments, and brutish savages. What you do is who you are in Apocalypse World. So what are you going to do?

I've run this one-shot a few times now, and I always think of ways I could improve it. Every time I run this game something unique happens that simply cannot be prepared or accounted for. We had a Chopper, a Brainer, and a Savvyhead, and they managed to track down and eliminate most of the threats I have loaded into the love letters. This was the first time players formed a link between two of my threats which doesn't actually exist, and it was the only time the players found out about the big bad secret of their hometown without having any immediate moral quandaries about it. The game we played was grim and filled with blood. The apocalypse? Oh, you're soaking in it!
I found myself asking leading questions a lot and had to keep stopping myself in mid sentence in order to rephrase what I was asking. I also noticed that I've stopped describing the minutia of rules, one player asked about stats and I glossed over them by explaining the dice mechanic and handing out the basic moves playbook. I'm not sure if this a good habit to start getting into, but the newbies seemed to pick up the game really quick and fell into their characters with little or no hesitation. There was a spectacular gun battle which I had a lot of fun "announcing future badness" with. It was a real blast getting to see a Chopper in action from the other side of the table, but I feel like I fell short since I never went into a lot of detail about his gang.
Overall, I think I'm getting considerably better at bringing conflict into the center stage even if I have lost my subtlety in the process.

Dungeon Crawl Classics: Let's Kill a Giant
An introduction to Dungeon Crawl Classics. Players will get to choose from a stable of pre-generated characters and play in a brief adventure where their characters will explore a dungeon and attempt to slay the giant that is terrorizing their village, or die trying. Dungeon Crawl Classics is a streamlined version of 3rd edition D&D that pays homage to the literature listed in 1st edition AD&D's Appendix N. It emphasizes combat that is brutal, magic that is mysterious, and a world that is unforgivably deadly.

This game I was the most nervous about. I used information about a wizard lair from one low-level module and I took a simple cave map and it's denizens from another low-level module and combined them together to form a pretty straight forward 0-level adventure that involved killing a sleeping giant. There are lots of notes and charts and tables involved in a DCC game, so having an index readily available would have speeded things up, but I had a secret passage that I was not very well-prepared to use any of and of course the players found it before anything else. I don't think they noticed though.
After running Dungeon Crawl Classics side by side with Apocalypse World, I'm even more convinced that story-games and OSR go together like peanut butter and chocolate. The cardinal rule of GMing that I think I've learned from games like Apocalypse World is that a success should not have immediate downsides and a failure should create complications. However, I didn't want to deviate from the rules of DCC RPG but whenever I did I let the players know that I was doing something different from how the rulebook was written, like allowing them to use pages in a spellbook like casting from a scroll.
They were really inventive too! They got attacked by a summoned chimera and thought luring it into a cage they had opened might be the best way to simply contain it so they wouldn't have to fight it. One person lost their life getting the creature trapped, but otherwise it worked. We had two additional players who sat and joined the table for about an hour just to get a feel for the game. In the end, they succeeded in slaying the giant and the survivors came away rich.

The whole con was a lot of fun, and GMing was a real learning experience. I'll probably do it again next year.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Mike Nystul

This fucking guy! What a sack of shit.
Two weeks ago he announced he would be couch-surfing across the country while he looked for gainful employment, and managed to also mention that he was headed to Burning Man.
You don't get a job by traveling around the country.
You can't be productive if you don't have a stable income.
And Burning Man costs money, so he isn't dirt poor like he claims.

And now he wants to start a new project.

Apparently he's already spending money that he doesn't have on it when he has still failed to deliver on all of his previous projects.

When I've been unemployed for longer than three weeks I start looking for jobs anywhere and everywhere: book stores, coffee shops, restaurants, groceries, newspaper routes. But from what I hear, he's still holding out for writing gig while he continues to post stupid shit up on his facebook all the time, every day. You don't get income by sitting on the fucking internet.

The man and his ideas are becoming synonymous with his namesake: mundane trash cloaked with a rudimentary illusion of value and importance.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Down to the Last, a Science Fiction / Fantasy meme

1. The last sf/f book I finished reading:
John Dies At The End, by David Wong

Not really a novel as much as it a setpiece of three novellas surrounded by a disjointed and unreliable narrative. Technically a horror book since the stories revolve around "things man was not meant to know" in the same vein as H. P. Lovecraft and August Derleth, but the stories take weird to a whole new level! The book has a twisted and dark sense of humor, which if you enjoy will keep you laughing on almost every page, and if you don't enjoy it you'll probably find the whole thing a waste of time. Personally, I loved it.

2. The last sf/f book I did NOT finish:
The Magicians, by Lev Grossman

My friends called this book "Harry Potter for adults" and since my biggest gripe about Harry Potter is that the books are simplistic and dull I thought this book would be complex and interesting. Well, it pretends to be complex and is very dull. I never got excited about the magic and the main character is an unsympathetic idiot. I got bored at about the point where the author manages to make collapsible dimensional spaces banal and seemingly pointless.

3. The last sf/f book(s) I bought:
Quag Keep, by Andre Norton

I just got it four days ago. I bought it because it is the very first novel written for a role-playing game campaign world, specifically Greyhawk. Also, you can't really be disappointed with Andre Norton's writing. I'll probably start reading it very soon.

4. The last sf/f book I bought that I already owned:
The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss

I've actually bought this book three times. I really love it and try to share it with other people who enjoy fantasy. I think it takes a unique spin on fantasy tropes and unreliable narrators, and I really like the main character, who always comes across as a realistic depiction of a cynical and socially inept young man.

5. The last sf/f book I shared with someone:
Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin

I read it earlier this year and enjoyed it. My wife asked to read it when she heard me talking about it.

6. The last sf/f book I raved about:
Altered Carbon, by Richard K. Morgan

Best science fiction book I've ever read! It takes transhumanism to it's logical conclusion and manages to portray a society changed by the digitization of consciousness. It never bogs itself down by asking the philosophical questions posed by digital consciousness, and instead hews closely to a noirish murder mystery narrative which is very easy to get lost in. I can't recommend this book enough, it's awesome!

7. The last sf/f book I did not enjoy at all:
House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski

Way too long, unnecessarily convoluted, dumb characters, pretentious as fuck, and boring as shit.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

12 Questions from the Octopi Lord

Click here for source!

1. What is your favorite villain you ever challenged players with?
Caine is an NPC wizard originally written up in the Birthright campaign setting (circa 2nd edition AD&D). He's described as a wizard who exchanges spells and magical protection to the ruler of Endier, where his tower resides, in exchange for military protection so that no one attempts to raid his tower. From this brief description, and his listed alignment of Neutral-Good, I envisioned him as a benevolent wizard hoboing about the countryside and occasionally bumbling his way into other peoples' problems and helping them out, Doctor Who style. In the expansion material for the country of Endier it describes Caine in more detail, but for the campaigns I ran I only used the description as a vague idea of what the public thinks Caine does.
I always introduced Caine as a helpful wizard for the PCs to be doing "good works" around the countryside. His stated intentions were always to protect the status quo of Endier's independence, and if this meant assisting a group of mercenaries with some helpful magic to get their jobs done along the borders of Endier's neighbors then he would be happy to oblige. In truth, Caine viciously eliminated any rivals to his own power and always used subordinates or underlings to do it. If somebody's guild or temple was moving into a region where Caine held power he would immediately find ways to portray them as bad people and try to keep them disorganized and ineffectual. Caine's stated objective of maintaining the status quo was still pretty accurate, but it was his power base he wanted to maintain, not Endier's.
In practice, this meant that Caine would appear to the PCs occasionally and give them information that was just false enough that on the surface it seemed true but deep digging would reveal the deception. This information would always send them off on some personal quest or vendetta to stop an interloper or destroy or corrupt organization. I always expected that as Caine's lies would become more elaborate and easier to see through the group might begin to question him more openly or confront him but no, they would continue to work for him and nobody would ever question his stated motives even when he took magic items away from them (that he thought they shouldn't have) or lavish them with gold coins (which he didn't need but had in abundance), probably because the players would believe wholeheartedly in the trope of the helpful wizard.

2. What is your favorite organization behind wrong-doing in your setting?
The Northern Imperial Temple of Haelyn. Birthright again.
The setting tried to use mortals squabbling over religion as a theme, and it didn't always work because of the way AD&D structures the way clerical spells work, but I still embraced the concept of warring churches and infallible priests. The Northern Imperial Temple (NIT) were fascists and fanatics and would not accept the worship of any other deity before the worship of Haelyn, the Patron God of all Anuire. Their influence had spread to other countries in the region and they fought openly with some of their neighbors, and fought deceptively against some of their distant rivals. The NIT used doppleganger assassins whose sole purpose was to remove anybody whose influence was spreading into the NIT's home or ally territory. A major theme of my Birthright campaign was a large-scale multiple country war that was started by a minor noble being assassinated by a doppleganger that worked for the NIT.

3. What is the most interesting location you ever staged a battle in?
Inside a pocket dimension shaped like a 4-sided die where gravity pushed outward. There were fleshy tendrils rising from the center of each of the four sides which met to a small meaty sack in the center, and inside the meaty sack was a sleeping demi-goddess. Wolves made of shadow prowled the maze on the surfaces of the dimension's walls, and a constant storm pulsed around the center of the dimension with random lightning bolts and fireballs.
Either that, or a tavern.

4. What is the most interesting chase scene you ever had in a game?
A PC assassinated another character, an NPC, in broad daylight in a bustling city's dockside harbor. The NPC's personal guards, as well as city patrolmen, chased the PC through the dock and into a marketplace and then up onto the rooftops of the city. It was a brief, exciting and intense scene, with the player announcing he would jump across a horse or stab a guard in the leg in order to get away from his pursuers. He was never caught.

5. What is the most evocative scenic location you have used in a game?
The Spiderfell, from Birthright again. Probably. I ran a Planescape game a long time ago, but none of the settings I used stick out in my memory. Taking players into the Spiderfell was something I relished and still remember. The trees had grown to incorporate spiders in almost every aspect, the goblins who hunted the forest bore spider-like features, and the oppressive darkness of the place was fun to describe. Nobody ever wanted to go very far into the place, and very few ever ventured farther than a few trees.

6. What is the most interesting one-of-a-kind unique monster in your games?
Imagine a centaur, but instead of a horse the bottom half of the creature is a mountain goat, and instead of a human head it's an eagle's head. They are wild, feral creatures who will attack anyone for the meat on their bones, but are also mesmerized by magic and will attempt to kidnap anybody who shows a display of magic in the hopes they can learn this arcane art. A failure to communicate or an unwillingness to teach magic means the kidnapped will eventually become dinner.
I never came up with a name for these guys. I never come up with names for most of the things I create. I just called these guys eagle-centaurs. Eagletaurs? Nah.

7. What is the most tantalizing artifact, relic or tech you have ever used in game?
The Dragon's Amulet. I ran Birthright three times and I used it every time. It's an amulet split into pieces that gets more powerful as the pieces are brought together. It can detect dragons, it can protect the wearer from flame, it can allow you to speak draconic languages, it can regenerate flesh. It can do a lot more but nobody ever managed to get all of the pieces. Oh! They looked for them, but they never found all of them. As the pieces become stronger, they begin to pull nasty things toward the owner. Rabid dogs. Hungry goblins. Lizardmen. The longer the owner has a piece of the Dragon's Amulet, the stronger the pull gets and soon creatures are showing up almost every day looking for a little piece of ceramic that never chips and never breaks.

8. What is the most world shattering thing a player has ever got up to in your settings?
Birthright again. The one time players ventured deep into the Spiderfell, I designed a dungeon for them to explore. The Spider is a powerful hundreds-of-years old monster who resides deep within the Spiderfell, and I gave him a lair. The PCs managed to work their way into his throne room under the pretense of a parlay and then fought him. He tried to escape as his flesh succumbed to their spells and weapons, but he was too slow and they killed him. One player stole his Bloodline and another kept his body in a bucket to make sure it would never regenerate back to life.

9. What is the strangest death of a character in game you have run?
Nobody has ever died in a strange way. They were always predictable affairs, except the time I rolled a random encounter for a pack of jackals in a swamp and a group of low-level characters were overrun by the pack with a TPK. That was pretty strange and unexpected. Also, very unsatisfying even for me, I've never used random encounters since.

10. What is the most intriguing challenge, trap, or non combat obstacle in your games?
The NPCs. The players either never spend enough time learning an NPC's true motives and they get blindsided by their actions, or they simply underestimate the NPC in some crucial way.

11. What is most interesting ability or character option you have added to your game?
I've always allowed players to have their characters start with dark powers from a secret pact with a demon or similar malevolent spirit. No takers yet.

12. What is the strangest mash up or weirdest system hack you have made in gaming?
My third time running a Birthright setting I used World of Darkness rules with my own added houserules for playing elves, dwarves, halflings, wizards, and/or clerics. I also had to write up how Bloodlines worked, which wasn't that hard, but getting the rules for how Bloodlines grew and gained power were difficult to keep as a slow progression. The game lasted for over a year before the group split due to players moving so I must have been doing some things right!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Kickstarter + Indiegogo update

After I wrote a summary of all of the games I had contributed to on Kickstarter, one of my friends was curious about all of the non-gaming related things I kickstarted as well, and I did one of those too. This is an update to that.

I've funded a few more projects and have seen a few others delivered. These projects are listed in the same order that they display on my Kickstarter profile page. I've also inserted Indeigogo projects into the lineup according to when I funded them. There are a couple of projects I funded just to support and follow their updates, those are marked as $1 recipient.

So here's the format:
Name of the project is a link to the project but these words are a link to my KS profile:
Estimated Delivery: May 2013, brief description of project and whether or not it was delivered on time

Green delivered on time or early
Blue not delivered yet but not late either
Yellow means late but delivered
Red means late and not yet delivered

LotFP Hardcover Referee Book:
Estimated Delivery: January 2019, another RPG book, estimated delivery is obviously a joke, just started

The Agents:
Estimated Delivery: November 2013, card game, just finished, I'll be surprised if they aren't late

Estimated Delivery: September 2014, an open world fantasy RPG video game, almost didn't fund, but has a long time to gather extra donations via paypal

Becoming: A Game of Heroism and Sacrifice:
Estimated Delivery: September 2013, an RPG, these guys have three weeks to release on time

The Name of the Wind Playing Cards:
Estimated Delivery: December 2013, plenty of time, via updates it almost looks finished

Estimated Delivery: September 2013, Burning Wheel + OSR game, the books are shipping now!

TARDIS Eruditorum:
Estimated Delivery: November 2013, essays about Doctor Who, this guy is a workaholic, my suspicion about it being late has evaporated

NUIA eyeCharm:
Estimated Delivery: Jul/August 2013, use your eyes to control a Kinect sensor, looks like these guys hit a legal snag, $1 recipient

The Doom That Came to Fiddle Creak:
Estimated Delivery: October 2013, a Lovecraft marionette play, $1 recipient

The Secret Order of the Black Diamond:
Estimated Delivery: June 2013, a not entirely serious secret society in Kansas, $1 recipient

America: Witnessed:
Estimated Delivery: August 2013, a photography book, $1 recipient

Estimated Delivery: May 2013, avant-garde fashion designer, $1 recipient

The Union Project Dance Company:
Estimated Delivery: May 2013, dance company needs a space to perform, $1 recipient

Small World 2:
Estimated Delivery: December 2013, iOS version of board game, on time as far as I know

Torment: Tides of Numenera:
Estimated Delivery: December 2014, a video game, I will be pleasantly surprised if this arrives on time, it's a long wait!

Angels, Daemons, and Beings Between: A Patron Sourcebook for DCC RPG:
Estimated Delivery: December 2012, self-explanatory, the books have been printed but we're still waiting for delivery

Deadwood Studios USA:
Estimated Delivery: September 2013, deluxe version of old board game, it was almost early

Achtung! Cthulhu:
Estimated Delivery: August 2013, Cthulhu + World War 2 rpg, hit lots of stretch goals but it's looking slowed down from feature creep

Dungeon Roll:
Estimated Delivery: August 2013, dungeon delving dice game, it's a fun little game, this is one of the best Kickstarters I've backed

Sea Dracula: Judicial Inquest at Gamestorm 2013:
Estimated Delivery: March 2013, I only funded this for the Apocalypse World playbook offered but I put in a decent amount of money

Screamin' Cyn Cyn and the Pons' final EP:
Estimated Delivery: July 2013, a local band wants to do one last album before they split up, two months late

Drinking Quest 3: Nectar of the Gods:
Estimated Delivery: April 2013, a card game, an RPG, a drinking game, and a sequel, for a game about getting drunk this project was run very professionally

God Hates Astronauts:
Estimated Delivery: May 2013, webcomic printed into deluxe graphic novel, exactly on time!

Rifftrax wants to Riff Twilight Live in Theaters Nationwide:
Estimated Delivery: August 2013, self-explanatory, sort of late but they couldn't get the rights to Twilight... it's disappointing but not their fault

The Last Days of Coney Island:
Estimated Delivery: May 2013, animated film by Ralph Bakshi, I don't think he understood what "estimated delivery" meant

The Green Girl:
Estimated Delivery: February 2014, documentary about Susan Oliver, on time as far as I know

Alas Vegas:
Estimated Delivery: June 2013, weird horror rpg, we are assured progress is being made for a finished product

Lamentations of the Flame Princess Free RPG Day Adventure:
Estimated Delivery: July 2013, self-explanatory, a successful funding campaign even if the finished product didn't end up in everyone's hands

Fate Core:
Estimated Delivery: March 2013, got some pdfs but the printed book was very late

Tavern Cards:
Estimated Delivery: April 2013, a deck of cards + rpg resource, regular progress and updates but still late

Estimated Delivery: April 2013, tribal African rpg, slow moving but consistent, it arrived 5 months late

Adventures Dark and Deep Players Manual:
Estimated Delivery: June 2013, an OSR rpg book, delivered two months early!

Póstumo - The Deck of the Dead:
Estimated Delivery: February 2013, a deck of cards with zombie iconography, delivered two months late

"The Goon" movie:
Estimated Delivery: December 2012, a movie based on a comic book, the movie isn't finished yet but low-level backer rewards have been delivered

Spears of the Dawn:
Estimated Delivery: March 2013, an African-inspired OSR rpg, was delivered 2 months early!!

The Art of Brom:
Estimated Delivery: June 2013, a book of Brom's artwork, only ran one month behind

The Power Principle:
Estimated Delivery: September 2012, 1st issue of a self-published comic book, on time

Horror on the Orient Express:
Estimated Delivery: August 2013, Call of Cthulhu rpg scenario, success has delayed the project

Bos Meadery:
Estimated Delivery: September 2012, local business, on time and so far they've been very successful - GOOD MEAD!

Estimated Delivery: July 2013, a new rpg from Monte Cook, AMAZINGLY after everything this project added it still delivered on time!!!

+5 Food of Eating Cookbook:
Estimated Delivery: September 2012, gamer-themed cookbook, inexcusably late

Axes and Anvils:
Estimated Delivery: November 2012, a dwarf-obsessed rpg, a total fucking debacle! I will be surprised if this ever gets delivered

Black Moth Super Rainbow, Cobra Juicy album:
Estimated Delivery: October 2012, a new album by BMSR, everything was either early or on time

Estimated Delivery: February 2013, Neal Stephenson's swordfighting video game, I only funded this to support the work but I think they could have gone through an established game studio for assistance

LotFP Hardcover and Adventures Project:
Estimated Delivery: October 2012, a hardcover version of one of the Lamentations of the Flame Princess rulebooks, woefully late!

The Horror in Clay:
Estimated Delivery: October 2012, a Cthulhu tiki mug, it was a little late but was otherwise a huge success

Champions of ZED:
Estimated Delivery: August 2012, an OSR rpg, updates are few and far between and this project still hasn't been properly delivered, inexcusable!

Drifter: A Space Trading Game:
Estimated Delivery: November 2012, a video game, 6 months late but there's a "beta" build for the game (version 0.3)

Our Last Best Hope:
Estimated Delivery: August 2012, GM-less rpg about saving the world, delivered late but I have it and for some reason still haven't played it yet

Amanda Palmer: record, art book, and tour:
Estimated Delivery: September 2012, self-explanatory, on time and I actually got more than I paid for so her critics can go fuck themselves with razorblade dildos because she treats her supporters well

Phil Tippet's "MAD GOD":
Estimated Delivery: December 2013, weird apocalyptic animated film, production is moving faster than expected!

New Fire:
Estimated Delivery: July 2012, an Aztec-inspired rpg, super late but eventually delivered

Weird West Miniatures:
Estimated Delivery: None listed, I chose the cheapest reward and I've still never received it

OGRE Designer's Edition:
Estimated Delivery: November 2012, a new 6th edition for the OGRE board game, production difficulties and bloated stretch goals have really delayed this game but frequent updates are informative and show that lots of work is being put into the final product

Estimated Delivery: September 2012, a zombie board game I liken to Left 4 Dead, delivered super EARLY

Estimated Delivery: June 2013, a video game where you play a necromancer, infrequent updates, releasing next year

Curse the Darkness:
Estimated Delivery: August 2012, a horrific post-apocalyptic rpg, still haven't played it yet (what's wrong with me?!)

Shadowrun Returns:
Estimated Delivery: January 2013, Shadowrun video game, I always thought their estimated delivery date was optimistic

The Banner Saga:
Estimated Delivery: November 2012, a combat strategy video game, super late, the game is still in "multiplayer beta" which for some reason I've never been able to access

Wasteland 2:
Estimated Delivery: October 2013, post-apocalyptic video game, super excited for this one and it looks like it might actually be on time

Estimated Delivery: August 2012, an OSR megadungeon, LATE but it's moving forward again now that James Maliszewski has been divorced from the project

This is Not a Conspiracy Theory:
Estimated Delivery: December 2013, a multi-part documentary explaining modern politics from the same guy who did Everything is a Remix, appears on schedule

Estimated Delivery: July 2012, a farm-building card game, got it one month late

Return of the Deck of the Living Dead:
Estimated Delivery: April 2012, zombie-themed deck of cards, delivered two months late

Double Fine Adventure:
Estimated Delivery: October 2012, Tim Schafer's next video game, like Ralph Bakshi I don't think these guys understood the phrase "estimated delivery" when they set their kickstarter up