Wednesday, April 23, 2014

another Kickstarter crook?

Angels, Daemons, and Beings Between

DriveThruRPG: This title was added to our catalog on January 15, 2013.
DriveThruRPG: File Last Updated: November 02, 2013

Nov. 6, 2013

Jan. 14, 2014
    Hi Sean,
    I backed your Indiegogo campaign at the $30 level and I still haven't received anything in the mail. I'm just wondering if you have a way of tracking when it got shipped, or if it hasn't been shipped yet?


Feb. 20, 2014
Sean Connors' youtube channel gets updated.

Apr. 1, 2014
    Hi Sean
    I'm doing a rundown of all of the Indiegogo and Kickstarter campaigns I've funded that I haven't received yet and yours is the only one where you've announced that the books are shipping yet I still haven't received anything. Your last update claims the books should arrive by Christmas, but it's April now. Any response would be appreciated.

Apr. 2, 2014
Erik Tenkar: Sean, this project is about to become a post at The Tavern…

Apr. 23, 2014
Still no communication heard from Sean Connors. According to comments on the indiegogo page he has not spoken to anyone via email since December. The book has been done and available as a pdf for months, and there are several reviews on DriveThruRPG for it which suggests that the book is indeed selling there.

As for me, I'm expecting some eventual public declaration that either A) he got sick and it incapacitated him so the project suffered some slowdown near the end, B) a relative died and coping with the stress tore him away from sending out the final books, C) he'll claim ignorance of any problems and insist books have arrived/the books are on their way, or perhaps D) all of the above.

I'm not optimistic. Can you tell?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

I'm so sorry

It was bound to happen eventually. I never got much spam on this blog until I posted an entry entitled "How to cast a spell" and then it slowly started to trickle in. New Age-y pagan spam, ridiculous in its content, would occasionally appear on the page, obviously attracted to the words 'cast a spell'

But now it's spreading to other pages, I'm getting pagan spam on both older and newer posts I've made, and to stem the tide I have put up one of those 'type a word' comment gates. I hate those things when I have to go through them to leave a comment, and so, I apologize.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Mitch the Dwarf

I've alluded before to how I once made the same dwarf in all four versions of AD&D. This is basically a reproduced transcript of that:

I started with 1st edition because I knew it was the most random, and ended up making a dwarf fighter. Each edition afterwards was simply an attempt to recreate the character from the previous edition, using the rules and character creation methods of the later editions. Here are the stats, straight up, along with some notes I added for explanation.

Mitch the dwarven fighter!
1st edition

the Player's Handbook does not give any specifications on how to roll up a character, it just says The range of these abilities is between 3 and 18." so I'm just using the classic method of rolling 3d6 and putting them in the abilities as I roll them. Rolled 15, 11, 5, 8, 11, 8, the stats after racial modifiers are in the order the book ascribes to them.
Strength 15 = weight allowance +200, Open Doors 1-2 on d6, Bend Bars/Lift Gates 7%
Intelligence 11
Wisdom 5 = magical attack -1
Dexterity 8
Constitution 12 = system shock 80%, resurrection survival 85%
Charisma 7 = maximum number of henchmen 3, loyalty -10%, reaction -5%
Dwarf = saving throws vs. wands/rods/staves & spells +3, poison saves equal to wands/rods/staves, infravision 60 feet, detect grade or slope or new construction 75%, detect sliding/shifting walls 66%, detect traps or depth underground 50%, to hit half-orcs goblins hobgoblins or orcs +1, ogres trolls ogre magi giants and titans have -4 to hit dwarves
Fighter = Hit Points 9, Alignment: Lawful Neutral
Languages: Dwarven, Lawful Neutral, Common, Elvish
Money: 190 gold (before buying equipment), 5 gold and 3 silver (after buying equipment)
Weapon Proficiency: Axe, Dagger, Mace, Sword (non-proficiency penalty is -2)
Equipment: Banded Armor, Large Shield, Great Helmet, Battle Axe (speed 7, damage 1d8), Dagger (speed 2, damage 1d4 vs S/M, 1d3 vs L), Boots (high hard), Belt, Cloak, Leather Backpack w/ 100' rope & 20 large iron spikes & 10 torches, Small Belt Pouch w/ mall silver mirror & 3 wax candles, Draft Horse ("Smythers")
Movement 9"
And that is ALL of the information the 1st edition Player's Handbook gives the player!

2nd edition
I thought about just transferring the stats as is, but that wouldn't be fair to each version since I know 3rd edition uses a completely different method and I'll end up with much higher numbers. Using Method V from the rulebook (roll 4d6 dropping the lowest and assign where you like), since that's the one most 2nd edition games I've ever been in used.
Strength 16 = damage +1, weight allowance 70, maximum press 195, Open Doors 9, Bend Bars/Lift Gates 10%
Dexterity 15 = defensive adjustment -1
Constitution 17 = hit points +3, system shock 97%, resurrection survival 98%
Intelligence 13 = languages +3, spell level 6th, chance to learn spell 50%, spells/level 7
Wisdom 13 = bonus spells: one 1st, spell failure 0%
Charisma 11 = maximum number of henchmen 5
Languages: Common, Dwarf, Elf, Orc
Dwarf = saving throws vs. wands/rods/staves, spells & poison +4; 20% of magic item failure if not made for dwarves; +1 to hit orcs, half-orcs, goblins, and hobgoblins; ogres, trolls, ogre magi, giants, and titans are at -4 to hit dwarves; infravision 60 feet; detect grade or slope in passage or new tunnel/passage construction 1-5 on ld6; detect sliding/shifting walls or rooms 1-4 on ld6; detect stonework traps, pits, and deadfalls or determine approx. depth underground 1-3 on ld6.
Height: 4'2" , Weight: 150 lbs, Age: 53, Maximum Age: 347
Fighter = Hit Points 11, Alignment: Lawful Neutral
Weapon Proficiencies: Battle Axe, Dagger, Broad Sword, Halberd (non-proficiency penalty is -2)
Non-Weapon Proficiencies: Animal Handling Carpentry, Rope Use
Money: 100 gold (before purchasing equipment), 9 gold & 1 silver
Equipment: Splint Mail, Battle Axe (size M, type S, speed 7, damage 1d8), Backpack w/ 100 feet hemp rope & 20 pitons & 10 torches, Small Belt Pouch w/ flint & steel (total 109.5 lbs)
Armor Class 3 (Splint + Dex), THAC0 20
Encumbrance: Light, Movement: 5"
Saving Throws: Paralyzation/Death Magic 14, Rod/Staff/Wand/Poison 12, Petrification/Polymorph 15, Breath 17, Spell 13
And now that's it.

3rd edition
Third edition rules use the Method V dice-rolling equation from 2nd edition, with the option of re-rolling if your scores are too low (i.e. if no score is above 13). So here I go, rolling again:
Strength 15 (+2) = to melee attack rolls, damage
Dexterity 12 (+1) = to ranged rolls, armor class, Reflex saving throws
Constitution 15 (+2) = bonus Hit Points, Fortitude saving throws
Intelligence 10
Wisdom 10
Charisma 8 (-1) = checks to influence others
Dwarf = Medium size, speed 20 feet, darkvision 60 feet, +2 Search stonework, +4 to resist bull-rush or trip attacks, +2 to saving throws against poison and spells, +1 to hit orcs and goblinoids, +4 dodge bonus to Armor Class vs giants, +2 to Appraise stone or metal, +2 to Craft stonework and metalwork
Languages: Common, Dwarven
Fighter = Hit Points 12, Base Attack +1, Fortitude +2, Martial Weapon Proficiency, Simple Weapon Proficiency, Proficient with ALL Armor
Skills (8 points at 1st level): Handle Animal +2, Ride +2, Use Rope +4
Feats (one for 1st level, one bonus Fighter feat): Mounted Combat, Power Attack
Alignment: Lawful Neutral, Age 57, Height 4'2" , Weight 170 lbs.
Money: 140 gold (before purchasing equipment), 2 gold (after)
Equipment: Dwarven Waraxe (damage 1d8 vs S, 1d10 vs M, crit x3), Chain Shirt (check penalty -2), Backpack w/ 100 feet hempen rope & 20 pitons, Belt Pouch w/ flint & steel (total weight 65.5 lbs)
Armor Class: 14 (15 w/ Dex); Attack: Melee +3, Ranged +2; Initiative +1
Saves: Fortitude +4, Reflex +1, Will +0

4th edition
The 4th edition rules ask you to choose race and class before determining ability scores, so...
Height 4'6" , Weight 170 lbs., Size: Medium, Speed: 5 squares, Vision: Low-light
Languages: Common, Dwarven
Ability Bonuses: +2 Constitution, +2 Wisdom
Skill Bonuses: +2 Dungeoneering, +2 Endurance
Cast-Iron Stomach: +5 racial bonus to saving throws against poison.
Dwarven Resilience: You can use your second wind as a minor action instead of a standard action.
Dwarven Weapon Proficiency: You gain proficiency with the throwing hammer and the warhammer.
Encumbered Speed: You move at your normal speed even when it would normally be reduced by armor or a heavy load. Other effects that limit speed (such as difficult terrain or magical effects) affect you normally.
Stand Your Ground: When an effect forces you to move—through a pull, a push, or a slide—you can move 1 square less than the effect specifies. This means an effect that normally pulls, pushes, or slides a target 1 square does not force you to move unless you want to. In addition, when an attack would knock you prone, you can immediately make a saving throw to avoid falling prone.

Got all that? Okay, Fighter
Armor Proficiencies: Cloth, leather, hide, chainmail, scale; light shield, heavy shield
Weapon Proficiencies: Simple melee, military melee, simple ranged, military ranged
Bonus to Defense: +2 Fortitude

And now, finally, I determine starting ability scores. The method for randomly generating ability scores is downplayed in the rulebook with the words "On average, you’ll come out a little worse than if you had used the standard array. If you roll well, you can come out way ahead, but if you roll poorly, you might generate a character who’s virtually unplayable. Use this method with caution."
I find it amusing that they are actually trying to encourage you to not roll dice.
So using the standard method that they describe, I would assign ability scores as I see fit from the following numbers: 16, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10; adjusting for racial modifiers after placement. What I find even more amusing is that the numbers here are already arranged exactly in the order I would want them to be!

Strength 16 (+3) = melee attacks, Fortitude defense
Constitution 16 (+3) = bonus hit points, bonus healing surges, Fortitude defense
Dexterity 13 (+1) = ranged attacks, Reflex defense
Intelligence 12 (+1) = Reflex defense
Wisdom 13 (+1) = Will defense
Charisma 10 (+0) = Will defense
Alignment: Unaligned (because there's no Lawful option anymore and Unaligned is the clossest to Neutral you can get, go figure!)
Trained Skills (from the class skills, choose three): Athletics (Str), Endurance (Con), Streetwise (Cha) This is the first part that forcibly diverges from previous editions. Mitch has no animal handling or rope use equivalent amongst the class skills.
Fighter Abilities: Combat Challenge, Combat Superiority, Two-Handed Weapon Talent
I start with one feat, and there is one for Mounted Combat but it doesn't look like it's very useful or appropriate to the original concept, and there's one for Power Attack, but I'm taking something that fits the original concept better.
Feat: Dwarven Weapon Training: +2 bonus to damage rolls with axes and hammers
Class Powers:
At-Will Powers (2): Cleave - Standard Action Melee weapon, Reaping Strike - Standard Action Melee weapon
Encounter Attack Power (1): Passing Attack - Standard Action Melee weapon
Daily Attack Power (1): Brute Strike - Standard Action Melee weapon
Finally, we're on to equipment. The one thing that could clearly be improved about 4th edition is that all of this information is disorganized. The sequence of character creation has me flipping back and forth through the book, literally from chapter 3 to 4 then 2 then 5 to 6 back to 4 and then ahead to 7.
Starting Money: 100 gold (this is no longer randomized or determined by class), 4 gp (after purchasing equipment
Equipment: Plate Armor (wow! it only costs 50 gold pieces in 4th edition), Greataxe (+2 to hit, 1d12 damage, high crit.), Standard Adventurer's Kit (and with that I've already got a magic item in the form of Sunrods - the fantasy equivalent of glowsticks), 10 torches (total weight 105 lbs. = no penalty to movement)
And with that I just have to add all of the modifiers together to figure out the final stats.
Hit Points 18, Bloodied 9, Healing Surges 12 at 4 HP
Speed 5 squares, Initiative +1
Armor Class 18, Fortitude 15, Reflex 11, Will 11

Whew! And now I'm done.

The 4th edition version is obviously the most powerful, he is clearly defined as a powerhouse of destruction. The text blocks for 4th edition tend to come fairly simplified so despite the enormous amount of text written above 3rd edition is actually the most complex. It seems like 4th edition was trying to streamline 3rd edition, but in the process became a game of superheroic adventurers with very little connection to the original sulking and scavenging game that once was D&D.

Surprisingly, and I can only speak for myself, the 2nd edition version seemed the most interesting - it's the most concise and simplest version, and the character has some obvious flaws. I also found it surprising that the 1st and 2nd edition versions of the Player's Handbook led me to creating a character that was nearly identical, but also the weakest in terms of sheer power. The 1st edition book is very vague in some places, and what's most interesting is that the player is not given their character's combat scores. But you can clearly see in the 2nd edition rulebook where they were simply streamlining a proven process and putting a lot of the nuts and bolts of the system into the player's hands, likely to free up the DM so he could focus on the challenges of the adventure.

So, if you are limiting yourself to using only one version of Dungeons & Dragons for your role-playing group, a summary of what each set of rules exemplifies might be:
If you want action with superheroic characters, play 4th edition.
If you want complexity and rules headaches yet clearly defined equalities and powers across all classes and races, play 3rd edition.
If you want weak PCs with obvious inequalities and no sign of modern or innovative rules that enhance PCs, play 2nd edition.
If you want even weaker PCs, vague but complex rules and a lot of arbitrary randomness, play 1st edition.

Each has their own strengths and weaknesses for style and ease of play. Convoluted or confusing creation process notwithstanding.
Or maybe you will draw your own conclusions.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Hidden Fortress

There are plenty of places online to find out how to draw or places that will teach you techniques for drawing, especially for RPG maps. Dyson's Logos immediately comes to mind! But there are scant few places where anybody teaches you how to design a map, how to make it interesting, or how to put a good adventure around it. I had this idea for a castle built into the side of a mountain, and as I worked on it, that's how I came to start calling it the Hidden Fortress.

I wanted to create a defensible castle, but I had no idea what it would be defending. I just had this image in my head of a wall jutting out from the mountainside, so I started drawing a rough outline with some notes about what the different rooms were. I focused a lot more on the names of who would be living there than I did on what to call the place, or the reasons for its existence.

I sat down with some graph paper and started drawing rooms, making sure to connect the first and second floor towers. By the time I got done drawing and I was ready to ink it, I realized I forgot to put stairs along the walls or in some of the towers, many of the towers have a simple ladder marker.

First Floor

Second Floor, 30 yards up

In my mind's eye this place is run by Cassandra, a cruel slaver and bandit. The prison cells have no walls or bars on the cells overlooking the courtyard below, leaving the prisoners to risk jumping down into the middle of a training ground. Some of the walls still have rough edges which were left deliberately by the builders to fool any invading force into thinking the fortress didn't extend deeper into the mountain.

Beyond that, I haven't really detailed it. I'm thinking of redrawing it and putting a town around the outside wall.

Monday, April 7, 2014

three magic items

I entered the OSR Superstar Competition. None of my stuff got picked, but that's okay. When I use magic items I prefer to design them to fit my own game and within the context of whatever the story is. This was an interesting exercise as I tried to write concise entries that could easily be dropped into any GM's world. Here they are:

the Loyal Blade of Death
This is a simple dagger made of iron. It appears to be slightly dull and the handle is made of wrapped leather that appears torn at the ends, as if it may unravel if used too much. The dagger itself is impervious to harm, though the leather wrapping is just the most recently fashioned handle.
If wielded against an opponent it will inflict 1d4 damage. If a sapient (Int 2+) creature is killed with the dagger, the wielder will feel a surge of energy from the blade and the damage will increase to 1d6. Killing a sapient creature continues to increase the die type of damage every time one is slain with the blade itself. Thus 1d6 becomes 1d8, 1d8 becomes 1d10 etc. until it maxes out at 1d100 (if the GM has access to other die types such as d16s and d24s she is encouraged to include those as well). If the dagger is lent to another person, or even touched by a sapient creature other than the current wielder, the damage die type resets back to 1d4.
The dagger will radiate as powerfully magical and resists all forms of divination to reveal its powers, but a Commune or Legend Lore spell might reveal that the blade was not crafted on the mortal plane of reality. Sleeping while having the dagger on one's person, or under their pillow, will cause the owner to dream the deaths of all of the people and creatures the blade has killed, from the dead's perspective. In truth, the blade has recorded all of these experiences, and being so close to the blade causes a mortal mind to share those recorded sensations. Some demon will some day come looking for the blade to drain all of the experiences from the dagger. They may already be looking for it...

Ring of Returning Home
This simple unmarked band of gold was once around the ring finger of a prominent magic-user who was married to another magic-user of some talent. The ring was created so that their spouse would never get lost in their work and always come back to their mutually shared home to rest. The names of these magic-users have been lost to time, but the legend of the ring remains and for many wielders of magic who construct their own towers it would be a valuable prize.
The ring only works for magic-users, and nobody else is capable of getting it to work. It allows the wearer to visualize a place they have been to before and instantly teleport there, but it must be a very familiar place to the wearer. The ring can be used as many times in a day as the wearer wishes, however the second time the ring is used it will always teleport the wearer back to the exact location they teleported from before. In fact, if they haven't returned by midnight of the same day (from where they teleported from) then they are instantly and against their will teleported back.
The ring will not function according to command, or for anybody else who attempts to use it, until the "return trip" has been made by the original wearer. Removing the ring will not prevent the "return" teleport, as both the wearer who used the ring and the ring itself will teleport back to their original location at midnight of that day. If the ring is used and the wearer dies, then at midnight their body and the ring teleport back to where the ring was first used.

Gravity Boots
Across the sea there is a city of towers and buildings that stretch unbelievably high, and to reach these places there are alleys and streets that stretch above and below ground and traverse every corner of the city's impossible heights and fathomed depths. In this city is a thief who can walk on walls and ceilings and jump from any building and land on her feet, and the gravity boots are how she does it.
The boots don't actually break gravity, but they create a localized gravity field around anybody who wears them. Down is always relative to the boots being worn and outside of this localized gravity field momentum and weight mean nothing. The wearer can walk up walls and onto ceilings as if they were solid ground. If the wearer is fighting while using the boots then both they and their attackers suffer -2 penalties to hit each other, due to the weirdness of interacting with localized gravity. This also applies to missile fire directed at the wearer when the boots are allowing them to walk up walls or jump off rooftops, but doesn't apply to missile fire from the wearer.
The boots do not enhance the wearer's ability to jump and if they make a concerted effort to separate from a ceiling or wall they will jump off of it but as long as the wearer can land on their feet they won't take damage from falling any distance of height (resolve a jump as a saving throw with a +4 bonus, a particularly difficult jump would have no bonus). Reverse Gravity spells have no effect on the boots while they are being worn, the localized gravity field trumps external effects.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

simplified starship travel

One of the dissonant things, for me, about space games is that we've learned a lot about space and the nature of space travel in the last fifteen years and all of it contradicts or deflates many of the old science fiction tropes about charting courses around stars and engaging with other starships that just suddenly appear out of nowhere. The former would be an easy task and the latter would never feasibly happen just with the level of technology we have for spaceships today. A more realistic approach would be that a ship's sensor array could be advanced enough to chart the stars.

The way that Stars Without Number currently works a character must make a successful Navigation/Intelligence roll on 2d6 against a base difficulty of 7. Navigators can attempt to “trim the course” by increasing the difficulty by +2 in exchange for increasing the effective spike drive rating of the ship by +1, but a navigator cannot trim a course by more levels than their Navigation rating. Travelling within a solar system requires Navigation-0 skill, but doesn't require a skill check unless some special hazard is involved or the navigator attempts to trim the course (difficulty 6, +1 for each level of course trimming). This skill check difficulty is increased even more based on the age of navigational charts that the Navigator uses to chart their course, and if they are charting a course into unknown territory the difficulty jumps by +4.

That's the rules as written.
Rather than fiddle with a bunch of difficulty ratings and modifiers, a simpler approach would be:

If a pilot is flying under the spike drive parameters (e.g. flying 1 hex with a drive-2 engine) and not attempting to trim the course then there is no need to roll. Trimming a course means shortening the time in hyperspace by one day. Default is 5 days (my game, it's 6 days by the rulebook).
Navigation+Intelligence, base difficulty 7, difficulty increases by +1 for every level of course trimming.
With no limits placed on the amount of course trimming a player might attempt.
Succeed at the roll and you arrive safely.
Fail the roll, and the player must select two.
Fail the roll by a margin of 4+, the player must select three:
  • drive down, ship cannot be operated until repaired
  • computers down, piloting at -1ongoing until repaired
  • navigation systems down, courses cannot be plotted until repaired
  • off course, GM randomly determines current location
  • travel time is twice as long
Roll snake eyes and all of the above are true, plus the following:
  • life support systems down, crew will die if it is not repaired immediately