Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Revised Plan; Generational Mega Plots

I plan to come back to Cartoon Action Hour here in a bit, but I have something I want to get organized first.

So a while back I posted a plan for the adventures I wanted to run with my family using 4E.

Well since that time, some gaming has happened, some looking over various adventures and some tests on my part has brought me to the conclusion that I can't run some of those old school modules under 4E after all.  Certainly I am still working on my current 3.x adventures with my kids.

Now mind you, this is not a bad thing nor is it reflective of the modules, 4e or "Old School".
But it has forced me to change my plans.

So for the "Dragon Slayers" game I am running I'll add some of those classic modules.  The characters are all right around 13th level now, with one just on the verge of 10th.  The ultimate goal of this game is to defeat Tiamat in the "Graveyard of Dragons". What can I say, my kids like the old D&D cartoon.    The rules are under 3.x edition, which has an odd mix of D&D 3.0, with some 3.5, minor bits from Pathfinder, BESM d20 and Star Wars d20 (the revised one that came out after Attack of the Clones).

Also some of these modules are going to be played by me under Pathfinder in either my "Big Kids Group" or the "Little Kids Group".  Currently the LKG is going through "B2 The Keep on the Borderlands".  I have already used bits of "X1 Ilse of the Dread" and "B4 The Lost City".  I know that in the one of the Pathfinder groups we will go through the GDQ series at some point, most likely the Little Kids Group.  I will be running "C2 Ghost Tower" under the Doctor Who Adventures in Time and Space game.

After that those characters will retire and their descendants will complete a new Quest.  The defeat of Orcus.
I'll run this one under D&D 4E and I do plan on it taking many years.

I am not 100% certain how the adventures will pan out, but I do want to use the D&D4 ones for ease.


Part of this is my desire to have them battle Orcus at the end. Plus I like to overall plot of involving the Raven Queen vs Orcus and Orcus getting a hold of some ancient artifact of Tharizdun.

Those modules will get them from 1st to 30th level.  But I might want to add a couple here and there.  Not sure yet since I have not read them all in detail.   I also know some people have had issues with these modules, both in terms of how they fit together, plot and playability.  So I want to get things that are out now, and then tweak them as I need.  Afterall, if this is about fighting Orcus who gets an artifact from ancient Tharizdun then I can lay some ground work in my 3.x game now for that.

So after all that I have some modules left over.

  • B3 Palace of the Silver Princess, levels 1-3 (using bits from both the "Green" and "Orange" versions).
  • L1 The Secret of Bone Hill, levels 2-4
  • X2 Castle Amber, levels 3-6 (place it in the Shadowfell, which is the new Ravenloft anyway)
  • I6 Ravenloft, levels 5-7. That is if I don't use it as a convert Ghosts of Albion adventure. Use some of the Ravenloft campaign/world setting stuff here too.
  • S2 White Plume Mountain, levels 5-10
  • I10 Ravenloft II, House on Gryphon Hill, levels 8-10.
  • S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth (with some of the info from the 3.5 update), levels 6-10
  • WG4 The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun, levels 5-10
  • S1 Tomb of Horrors, levels 10-14 (though I might just wait for the new D&D4 version)
  • S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, levels 8-12
  • CM2 Death's Ride, levels 15-20. 
Then there are these modules:
  • H1 Bloodstone Pass, levels 15+
  • H2 The Mines of Bloodstone, levels 16-18
  • H3 The Bloodstone Wars, levels 17-20
  • H4 The Throne of Bloodstone, levels 18-100

Like the E series for D&D4, these send you to Orcus's layer to defeat him.   Of the lot, H4 would be the best one to use, maybe as a buffer between E2 and E3.   The others seem more suited for the Dragon Slayer's Pathfinder game.    Of course I could convert the H1-H4 Bloodstone series to feature Tiamat instead of Orcus.   S4 and WG4 are linked and deal with Iggwilv, her Demonomicon and Tharizdun.  They are good to set up the history of Orcus and Tharizdun.  They can happen in either game. In the 4th Ed game I'd stick it in between H and P.  CM2 Death's Ride has some cool stuff in it. Good to set up the whole Orcus wants to be a God thing in the 3.x game.  Plus it would give me a good arch-nemesis for the characters to fight through out.

The Ravenloft ones would be great for the Sunsword (a good weapon against the undead) but there is the Board Game coming out and I want it.  Plus I'd rather run Ravenloft these days under True20.  So I might have to find something similar.  If I use the new Tomb of Horrors then I could place a good aligned sword there.  There is a D&D4

There is a lot to do and figure out here.  But I see this as a good thing. Look at all the time I have.  I can plan out a mult-year arc of adventuring that would take my kids all the way to college.  Wouldn't have died to have done something like that?

Though I do need to figure out a way to get more dragons into the 4th Ed game for my oldest.

Now this is my attempt to bring Old Schoolers and New Schoolers together.

NEW SCHOOLERS:  What things should I be aware of when running the HPE series?

OLD SCHOOLERS: What classic, epic modules are a "must run" for a group of kids that were not even alive when Clinton was in office, let alone Carter.  What memory of "D&D" is a must have?  Barrier Peeks?  Tomb of Horrors?

Clarifications on Games being Played
- "Dragon Slayers" is a 3.x game that I play with my two sons and sometimes my wife joins us. The goal of this game is to defeat Tiamat.
- "Big Kids Game/Group" is a Pathfinder game where I play a Paladin.  In this group are my kids and the DM's kids (6 players, 1 DM)
- "Little Kids Game/Group" is a Pathfinder game where I play a Witch (same witch as I do in Dragon Slayers).  This is the group with the Problem Player.
Both Pathfinder games have the same DM.
- "Untitled 4th Ed Game" is a 4e game where the players are the same as Dragon Slayers, but the characters are their children or descendants. The goal of this game is to defeat Orcus.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Orcus is mine!!

So I got my Gargantuan Orcus today! And I am ready to sick him on some players.


There is Orcus next to Aspect of Orcus and the figure I use for my paladin.  It is very cool.
I already stated up Orcus for Unisystem, and I was comparing his 3.x stats with the newer 4.0 stats and it looks like he got weaker, 3.x had less hitpoints, but more hit dice than 4.0 does.    Anyone notice this?

Anyway there was something else I noticed while taking the pictures.


Left to right: Destroyah, a little Destroyah, Aspect of Orcus, Orcus.
The sizes are just about exactly the same.  I can have a Destroyah and an Aspect of Destroyah in a game.  I think if I did that I'd go with the idea that Destroyah is female.  Orcus' mate maybe?  More like a rival demon.

BTW that 6.5 Destroyah lists for 12 bucks.  We got it for 6 at Toys R' Us.  The little Destroyah came in a pack of a bunch of Godzilla monsters.

My fellow Eden Fan, Majin Gojira, has done up Angel/Ghosts of Albion stats for Destroyah (and others) over at the Eden boards.  I have also seen 3.5 d20 stats for Destroyah, but I think these are a tad high, though in line if she was an Elder God and not a demon.  She does seem to be more in line power with the likes of Cthulhu.

Of course as I am writing this my two boys are trying figure out what they need to fight both of them.

I remember being a young munchkin too!

Cartoon Action Hour, Season 2: Review


So a while back I picked up a game I had known about for a while; Cartoon Action Hour. I had heard a lot about it, how it was perfect for umlauting cartoons like G.I. Joe and Transformers and even He-Man and Thundaar. Well I'll be honest, I didn't watch many of those cartoons as a kid. I know of them, yes, and I watched episodes here and there, but my preferences were running much more to fantasy and slowly into horror and cartoons were not a good source for that then. But I wanted to get this game to see what the big deal was and to see if it could in fact do all these different kinds of stories. So I bought it.

 Well. It lived up to the hype.

Cartoon Action Hour: Season Two (CAH:S2) is an updated version of the earlier Cartoon Action Hour. You don't need the first game obviously to play this one, but it does come with conversion notes. Both were written by Cynthia Celeste Miller of Spectrum Games, a name that often comes up when people talk about Genre Emulation and Indie Games. Her other efforts were "Slasher Flick" and "Wild West Cinema", both games I also know of, but don't (yet) own, and like CAH, both come highly recommended. In addition to doing the writing for this game she also did all the layout, and she is also a drummer in a metal band, Slaygound. That is pretty cool if you ask me.

CAH is divided into "Channels" and not Chapters or Sections. Clever huh. Channel 1 (which we didn't have in the 80's but that is ok) is the obligatory "What is role-playing" and a definition of the cartons we will emulating; the Retro-Toon. The book goes one to explain why the Retro-Toon, and not say toons of the 90's and more. For example this game really focuses on the black and white morality of the toons of the age. G.I. Joe was good and Cobra was bad. End of discussion. While you certainly could play a bit more loose with the morality of the game (the He-Man episode "The Witch and the Warrior" comes to mind as one where evil may not be so evil. BTW also written by Paul Dinni. Mr. Dini and I will be in "witch-aholics anonymous" together one day. ) I would say don't. That is missing the allure and appeal of this game. Miller takes a bit of time and page space to break down why and how these toons worked the way they did and I think that it would be an injustice to run the game differently. Not to say your game can't be "dark", but this is not World of Darkness nor is it even Buffy.

Channel 1 ends with the best overview of 80's cartoons I have ever read. Frankly I'd love to see more of this, but this is fine as it is. Nearly worth the price of the PDF alone. Well….sorta, it is good, but we still have the whole book to read.

Channel 2 is about creating the series. This is an important step away from the normal Player make Character, GM makes World process of many games. In CAH:S2 everyone has to work together (see that!), so the GM makes the world first, with of course input from the players. Then when the world is defined the players can start on their characters. What does making a world, or a Series, in CAH:S2 mean? Well typically it means what sort of show are you going to do? Will this be soldiers fighting a multi-national terrorist organization? Robots from another planet? A hulking barbarian in world where magic and technology collide? All these are possible and there is even a "Character Sheet" for the series. I liked this sheet and I can see using it to plan out say a Buffy RPG or Supernatural season; it is flexible enough to use in any game. I love it when I get something like that. Once that is done and the tag line is created ("A Real American Hero!" or "More than Meets the Eye!") then it is time to create our stars.


Channel 3 is Character Creation. Character creation is a point buy system based on a number of "Proof of Purchase Points", with the amount allocated set by the GM when she makes the series. Guidelines are given. There are no set traits a character has or can have. Players need to come up with a concept and then they build that into a list of traits ranked 1 to 5 (or so, again set by the GM). So a "gigantic transforming robot" might have the following traits: "Robot 1, Transform 3, Plasma Gun 3" and then something that makes him unique "Leader of the Transbots, AF 4". This unique feature or features is called an "Action Feature" and it comes into play later. Think of G. I. Joe, Snake Eyes was the Ninja with a Sword so his Action Feature might be "Sword master, AF 6" since he never talked that is a negative trait "Never Speaks, X2". Miller does provide a list, but is very much against providing one. The purpose of the character creation is to find out what the character can do; not create a bunch of numbers to define them.  
I also liked this character sheet quite a bit.  The one from CAH 1 I think had more detail, but this one is great.  Now here is point of serious untapped potential.  Nearly any character from any game can be converted to a CAH:S2 character in a few simple steps.  Take Eric from the D&D cartoon.  We have stats for him thanks to the box set of DVDs, but in CAH he has traits like "Brave" and "Magic Bow, AF, 5"  So for his combat rolls he gets +5 and Snake Eyes above gets +6.  See, two different cartoons, two different series and concepts and we can already pit one against the other.  Cynthia Celeste Miller has written the Geek Rosetta Stone!

Channel 4 is Rules of Play and it is pretty simple, but good stuff. I want get into all of it since that has been covered elsewhere, but I like the "Setbacks" and the return from "Commercial Breaks"; again something I could see using in Buffy or one of the Anime RPGs I have reviewed. The dice mechanic is based on a d12, so nice to see it get some love. Roll a d12 add the appropriate trait and that is it. Sometimes there is a target number, sometimes there is a contested roll. The mechanic is not difficult. In fact I think the best way now to do "Animated Unisystem" is swap out the d10 for a d12. You can add "Oomph" to a roll like Drama Points, or you can have an issue with one of your "Sub plots". For the Snake Eyes example there is the issue with his former master and his arch rival.

The interesting thing about this is, it is on the same level as BESM 3.0 or even OVA. Use one to get ideas for the other, or combine them all for an Anime fueled 80's style retro-toon of mammoth quality.  Add CAH:S2 supplement "Going Japanese" and you are set.

Channel 5 is for Game Masters. It has all cool new rules and ideas for this game. How to run commercial breaks, sub plots, allies, hazards and threats.

Appendix 1 (dropping the style for a bit. Was UHF 1 too obscure?) We are given three complete series to run as our own with stars, enemies and even faux 80's television histories. "Warriors of the Cosmos" fills the Thundaar/He-Man void, "Strike Force Freedom" is the obvious nod to G.I. Joe and "Transbots" is about, well, Transforming Robots. With all the bases covered here (more or less) GMs should have not problem creating their own series.

What Else? Well there are conversions for Cartoon Action Hour 1. The bickering between the evil Kargorr and heroic Bravesteel is entertaining; very much in the vein of Space Ghost Coast to Coast I felt.

All in all this is a crazy fun game. Easy to learn and play. Some thought has to be put into the series and then the characters to get the full feel, but there are plenty of characters and series in the book. Plus this is a game that screams for splats. Do a series bible up, list some potential traits, add some ready to run characters with histories, put it all in a PDF and there you go. I am surprised with the flexibility of a game like this the Miller has not included some sort of Open License for it.

So in the tradition of RPG Net:

Style: 5
This game is stylish as all get out. Proof you don't need an art budget of thousands to get your point across.

Substance: 4.5 to 5
The funny thing about this is the subject matter can be a bit fluffy, but this game does such a great job of emulating it. I would like to have more examples; say something like Scooby-Doo or even a magic-centric series.

Name: Cartoon Action Hour: Season Two
Publisher: Spectrum Games
Author: Cynthia Celeste Miller
Category: RPG
Reviewed: PDF
Pages: 145 (including covers)


Like OVA, CAH:S2 takes a very simple approach to emulate their medium perfectly.  By begin simple it allows either game to go after all sorts of genre.
 
Links

Monday, June 28, 2010

Blogs you should Follow

So, my brothers were in town all weekend so I didn't get a chance to prepare any new material for this week yet.

But instead I thought I use today for something my brothers pointed out to me.  I follow a lot of blogs.
Maybe too many really, but there is so much cool stuff out there and so many interesting insights that I keep following more.

So I wanted to share with you all some of the smaller, lesser known finds.  Now just cause I am linking these and say not someone else's blog does not mean I like these better or even best.  I may not know the other blog you are thinking of, or I might not just have anything I want to say about them yet today.

So here are some I like and think they worth checking out.

Swords Against the Outer Dark
http://swordandsanity.blogspot.com/
Old School D&D + Old School Cthulhu.  I like this blog beasue it has this cool almost 70's occult revival + pulpy dark 30s vibe to it. It updated often and always with something that can be used.  Reminds me of a bit of the games I liked to run back in the day.

Daddy Grognard
http://daddygrognard.blogspot.com/
Another cool Old School blog with a lot of content.  It's blogs like that that make me think "man we should get all the coolest content together into one PDF."  But I think someone does that now anyway.

ChicagoWiz's RPG Blog
http://oldguyrpg.blogspot.com/
Ok, this one really doesn't need me to tell people how cool it is.  But ChgoWiz is a local guy and I have seen his games a few times.  He is back in the Blog scene and frankly I like to hear what he has to say.

Asshat Paladins
http://asshatpaladins.blogspot.com/
I like this blog because it is a cool eclectic mix of things.  He covers a lot of systems and games styles and averages a new post a day.  So not too bad really.  Everything is tagged for easy reading of the archives too.

Destination Unknown
http://unknownzine.blogspot.com/
Not just a song by Missing Persons another cool, eclectic mix of things.   All sorts of topics are covered and there is even a weekly video blog entry.

Rhonin's Ramblings
http://rhoninsramblings.blogspot.com/
Thoughts and posts of a 30+ year vet of the game scene.  Greg may be the only person I know who has played more games than me.  My DM for my current Pathfinder game (which he will post actual play reports, so you see how I do as a player.) and, hopefully, his postings on how do re-make the Marvel Universe as D&D 4 characters.

So there are just a few.
Like I said, these are ones I like.  There are a lot more.  Hopefully I'll talk about them soon too.

Blog Pimpin'

I wanted to give a shout to my DM.

He has a blog now and will be doing more with it including detailing the "Big Kids" Pathfinder game I am in and how we dealt with the Problem Player.

http://rhoninsramblings.blogspot.com/

Go by his blog and "follow" him so he writes more. ;)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Willow & Tara: Chill

Willow and Tara in Chill

The world the girls live in is not exactly the same as the world described in Chill. A lot of what is “Unknown” in Chill is common knowledge to our girls. Let’s be honest even Tara has seen more vampires than the average 1st Edition Chill character would see in a lifetime.

So how do we explain the differences? I see the worlds as being the same, the different rules are just different ways at looking at it. Let’s steal a page from the WitchCraft RPG core book. Chill and S.A.V.E. were most active in the 80’s and early 90’s before their Dublin HQ was destroyed. So we only have records up till then. In WitchCraft it has been documented that as we approach the Reckoning supernatural occurrences have become more and more frequent. By the time the girls start their “career” in battling the supernatural in the late 90’s early 2000’s supernatural occurrences are far more common than 10 or 20 years ago.

This is even supported by the move from 1st to 2nd Eds of Chill. 1st Ed was lighter, a little campy, but emphasis was on things that go bump in the night. It was more Ghostbusters than Ghost Story. 2nd Ed was a child of the paranoid late 80’s and 90’s. Elements of X-Files were abundant and the same zeitgeist that gave us the World of Darkness, Kult and yes WitchCraft was at work in Chill as well. To further the “world is much darker than you think” idea, 2nd Edition Chill makes the (somewhat silly, somewhat crafty) claim that the Pacesetter version was propaganda by S.A.V.E. sent out as disinformation. And let’s be honest, a lot of people played Chill as “monster of the week” adventures anyway. Maybe it was years of “Dark Shadows” and “Night Stalker” or more likely years of AD&D, but that’s how we did it in my house.
Chill 3rd Edition looked darker still, but it did not come out so I can’t say.

Relations with S.A.V.E.
Willow and Tara’s relationship with S.A.V.E. (Societas Argenti Viae Eternitata, Society of the Eternal Silver Way) begins before either girl was born. In the “Dragon and the Phoenix” canon Robert Maclay had been an envoy of S.A.V.E. working in the southern part of the United States. They had discovered an area of reported spiritual activity during the Summer of ’76 and were ordered to investigate. They came to an old plantation that later been converted to a brothel after the Civil War and was rumored to be haunted by the ghost of the former owner. Realizing that Maclay’s team would need magical aid, S.A.V.E. assigned a “craft worker” to the team. This infuriated the young Robert Maclay. He was a devout Christian and the idea of working with a witch was as unacceptable to him as working with a vampire. The young witch, Megan Rose O’Kelley, was however more than a match for Robert’s head strong attitude. The mission would have been a complete failure had it not been for Megan’s magic, though it was not with out complications. The reported “ghosts” turned out to be demonic ethereal spirits. Megan had been possessed by one of the demons in the course of the fight, she fought off the demonic thrall (with Maclay’s aid), but she suffered reoccurring ill health and nightmares. These persisted into her courtship and marriage to Robert till the end of her life in 1997. The demons were banished, and Robert and Megan left S.A.V.E. soon after.

S.A.V.E. knew that any offspring of Robert and Megan Maclay would be a formidable witch in her own right, so they watched Donald and Tara for years. It was soon obvious that while Donny lacked the ability to even do a card trick, Tara was a different story. She began to manifest her powers very early in life. They even observed her display feats of power that would have been difficult for a witch three-times her age, though she was always very careful to not show her power anytime she felt her father or older brother were watching. When Tara was murdered, the remaining members of the fractionalized S.A.V.E. prepared to close the book on what would have been a promising recruit and recorded it as a profound loss for humanity. To their shock and surprise S.A.V.E. found themselves “re-opening” that book when Tara was discovered to be alive and well due to a rare occurrence of divine magics (S.A.V.E. was later made aware of the miscast Art that substituted Tara’s death record for a previously unmentioned or unrecorded twin sister, Kara).
In late 2005 S.A.V.E. operations in Washington DC approached Willow and Tara (after observing what they refer to as the ‘Leviathan / Pan-dimensional Incident’). S.A.V.E. had learned of the supposed recent activity of Erszébet Báthory (Elizabeth Bathory) near the girls’ new Boston home and hoped to make use of the girls unique understanding of vampires and witchcraft. That it was reported that Willow had encountered Dracula was only another bonus in their favor. The details of that encounter will be dealt with at a later date. Willow and Tara are not members of S.A.V.E. at this time, but their contact is Dr. Robert Samuels, Deputy Director of S.A.V.E.’s American Operations. (Geek Note: Dr. Robert Samuels was one of the pre-generated characters from the 1st Ed. Chill rule book.)

These stats represent Willow and Tara after the Dragon and the Phoenix, during the Season of the Witch, series but sometime before the Mid-Semester's Nightmare mini-series.  So about 2005.

Willow Danielle Rosenberg

BASIC ABILITIES
Strength 30
Perception 67
Dexterity 33
Willpower 81
Agility 42
Luck 50
Personality 67
Stamina 50

Unskilled Melee 36 (1st Ed)* / 18 (2nd Ed)**
Sense Unknown 13%
Movement 34
Sprinting 92
Initiative 4

EDGES & DRAWBACKS**
Name CIPs Notes
Ambidexterity 1
Attractive 2
Curiosity -1
Improved STA Rec 1
Improved Will Rec 1
Phobia (Frogs) 1
Psychological flaw 1 Addictive personality

SKILLS
Name Rank Score Calc
Armed Melee S 51 (STR+AGL)/2 +15
Crossbow S 48 DEX +15

Anthropology T 101 (PCN+WPR+PER)/3 +30
Biology T 104 (PCN+WPR)/2 +30
Computers M 129 (PCN+WPR)/2 +55
Investigation M 121 (PCN+WPR+LUCK)/3 +55
Language, Latin T 104 (PCN+WPR)/2 +30
Legend/Lore T 104 (PCN+WPR)/2 +30
Mathematics T 104 (PCN+WPR)/2+30
Mechanics T 80 (PCN+DEX)/2 +30
Occult Lore** M 116
Ritual Magic** M 116

PERSONAL DATA
Age: 23 (in 2004)
Ht: 5’3”
Wt: 115#
Hair: Red
Eyes: Green
Gender: Female

Nationality: American
Profession: Software Engineer
Education: B.S. in Computer Science, 2003 University of California, Magna Cum Laude


THE ART
Name Score* Calc Base** Rank**Score
Telepathic Sending 67 (PCN+PER)/2 44 M 94
Telepathic Empathy 67 (PCN+PER)/2 44 M 94
Sphere of Protection 61 (PCN+LUCK)/2 39 T 69

* Indicates a 1st Edition Rule.
** Indicates a 2nd Edition Rule.

Tara A. Maclay

BASIC ABILITIES
Strength 38
Perception 70
Dexterity 32
Willpower 65
Agility 36
Luck 40
Personality 65
Stamina 40

Unskilled Melee 37 (1st Ed)* / 19 (2nd Ed)**
Sense Unknown 14%
Movement 32
Sprinting 86
Initiative 4

EDGES & DRAWBACKS**
Name CIPs Notes
Animal Empathy 1
Attractive 1
Destiny 1
Improved Will Rec 1
Pet (MKF) 1
Psionic Ability 1 Empathy

SKILLS
Name Rank Score Calc (1st Ed)
Armed Melee S 52 (STR+AGL)/2 +15
- Axe S 52 (STR+AGL)/2 +15 SR 2/4
- Sword S 52 (STR+AGL)/2 +15 SR 5
Crossbow S 47 DEX +15

Animal Training** T 87
Art T 98 (PCN+WPR)/2 +30
Calligraphy** T 81 (AGL+WPR)/2 +30
Horseback riding T 81 (AGL+WPR)/2 +30
Investigation M 113 (PCN+WPR+LUCK)/3 +55
Language, Japanese T 98 (PCN+WPR)/2 +30
Legend/Lore T 98 (PCN+WPR)/2 +30
Occult Lore** M 108
Painting** T 81 (AGL+WPR)/2 +30
Ritual Magic** M 108
Psychology M 123 (PCN+WPR)/2 +55

PERSONAL DATA
Age: 24 (in 2004)
Ht: 5’4”
Wt: 125#
Hair: Blonde
Eyes: Blue
Gender: Female

Nationality: American
Profession: Graduate Student in Counselling Psychology, working as part time QMHP.
Education: B.A. in Art History, 2003 University of Southern California, Cum Laude,
M.A. in Psychology, Counseling emphasis, 2005 University of Southern California. Thesis: “Daughters without Mothers: Long Term Depression and Survivor’s Guilt in Adolescent Girls and Young Women” ERIC Abstracts Online

THE ART
Name Score* Calc Base** Rank**Score
Telepathic Sending 68 (PCN+PER)/2 45 M 95
Telepathic Empathy 68 (PCN+PER)/2 45 T 75
Sphere of Protection 61 (PCN+LUCK)/2 36 T 66

* Indicates a 1st Edition Rule.
** Indicates a 2nd Edition Rule.

Notes:  I advanced the characters to 2005 and have Willow and Tara graduated. Education level was a big deal in Chill; I am thinking this is because it was a big deal in Call of Cthulhu, so I detailed that here.  This is right before (game world here folks) Willow created a small company that wrote security programs for industries.  Her stock split many times and she sold off most of it and was retained as executive consultant to Red Witch Software.  This gave her a lot of freedom and a few million dollars.  That though is a detail for another time and game system.

The biggest issue with Chill and witches like Willow and Tara is one of power.  Chill simply does not handle PCs with a lot of power well.  Chill was designed as "normal people fighting the monsters" game, a role that is serves well.  Call of Cthulhu has the same issues, but again at least in Chill the PCs are expected to make a difference.  Willow and Tara are beyond what most humans can do.  Chill is great for "Supernatural" or even some episodes of "The X Files", but not the likes of "Charmed" or "Willow & Tara: The Series".

What I did do during "Season of the Witch" was have a flashbacks with Tara's parents, Robert and Megan, and they were perfect for Chill since it was the late 70's and the power levels are much less than they are today.  Like Harry Dresden said in "Storm Front" the world is getting weirder and darker all the time.  This is something I have used in my games quite a bit.

Chill was great to look back on, but it is not s substitute for a more modern game for me.  If I ever run another 70s-80s flashback game though I will pull it out.

Another note.  While the stats above reflect the girls in or around 2004, the Chill timeline above is 2005.  So there is one crucial element missing from Tara's stats.  In 2005 she gave birth to a baby girl.  That is also for another day and system.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Chill: Adventures into the Unknown

Chill: Adventures into the Unknown 

To many role-players around my age their first introduction to Horror roleplaying was the venerable “Call of Cthulhu”, but not me. Mine was Chill. I had the Pacesetter version (1st Edition), which I remember quite fondly, even if I did not get much of a chance to play. The Mayfair version (2nd Edition) is of course superior, but it lacks some of the feel I associated with the game. Maybe it was the lack of the Jim Holloway art or the darker tone. Picking up a copy of the Mayfair version now I get the impression (true or not) that the makers of Kult saw it and thought, “yes this is good, but what if the world was much, much worse?”
Recently I started going through my Chill books (Chill Vampires for either version is a must buy if you are at all serious about using vampires as adversaries in any game) and started thinking about converting some of my characters over. It has been interesting because I never actually played. I ran some Chill games (I was a ChillMaster!), incorporated Chill into my AD&D games, but I never actually made any characters. It’s very odd…

I liked Chill also because it had Midwest sensibilities. Pacesetter was from Wisconsin; Mayfair was/is in Niles/Skokie, a suburb of Chicago than is not to far from where I live (and has one of my favourite pizza places). It was while playing Chill that learned that the best horror was horror close to home. I don’t know, or much care really, what Hollywood thinks is horror. How can a place that gets like 350 days of sunshine know what is horror? On the other hand East Coast horror (Lovecraft) has a completely different flavor. It’s almost alien. Chill may have had a global scope, but the horror is home grown. Chill remembers that there is simple horror in the haunted house, or the strange creature from the Unknown. It is not about the bigger-badder-more horror of some games, where every game has to up the ante on the last game.

Chill has influenced pretty much every horror game I have ever played.  Ideas in my game like "the darkness can be fought" and "the heroes matter" are from Chill, not CoC.

Converting Chill Ability Scores 
Conversions between any game is no easy task, especially between a point based game system like Unisystem and a random generation one like Chill 1st Ed. But here is a go at it.
The basic Ability conversion formula is to take the square root of the Chill Ability and then minus 4 to get the Unisystem Ability; to convert to Chill from Unisystem, take the ability, add 4 and then square.

So your basic Unisystem scores produce the following Chill scores

Chill  Unisystem
25        1
36        2
49        3
64        4
81        5
100      6

For normal humans Unisystem Abilities typically run 1 to 5 and Chill Abilities typically run 26 to 80 (10 to 90 for 2nd Ed.). Starting Unisystem characters are usually a bit tougher, but rarely does a starting character have any “6’s” before qualities. Sure there are Vampires and Ghosts and things like that in Unisystem that go beyond 6, but none of these are normal humans nor are they playable types in Chill.

The average roll you get with Chill is 53 for any of the eight scores, based on a normal curve. The average score for an Unisystem character is about 3 (based on a flat point distribution) so, they are about equal.
The biggest trouble is of course, using a normal distribution for one and a flat for the other. Squaring helps that, but it will never be perfect, at least not without some more math. This can be seen by comparing the max lift for each game at their converted Strengths. The distributions show the greatest differences at the extremes and coming close right around Unisystem Strength of 6. So characters in the 3 to 9 region will make the best conversions. This is assuming the Max Lift distributions are roughly equal, which they are not but they are close enough.

Not everything translates as well as strength. So here is a proposed Chill/Unisystem translation matrix. Use the math above to get the scores. In all cases the formula is
Chill = (Unisystem+4)2

Chill  Unisystem (qualities and/or skills) 
Strength  Strength 
Dexterity   Dexterity (missile combat; fine motor skills) 
Agility  Dexterity (melee combat; acrobatics) 
Personality  Charisma Quality* 
Perception  Perception + Notice 
Luck  Good/Bad Luck Quality* 
Willpower  Willpower 
Stamina  Constitution 

*For Qualities such as Luck and Charisma use the Unisystem Quality (-3 to +3) add 3 and use that number in your equations. So a character with a Good Luck of +1 has a Chill Luck score of 64 (1 + 3 = 4 + 4, 8 squared is 64).
In some cases in stead of adding 4 I added a skill, half the skill or the average of a group of skills. This is helpful when making a differentiation between Dexterity and Agility.

Again, with all conversions, math is only half the answer, the other half is decided what is the best way to portray the character in that particular system. This is why I use Willow and Tara (and another witch of my own), they represent a “golden mean” or a standard I can use.

2nd Edition Chill Abilities
This also works roughly for Chill 2nd Edition 10-90 point spread. Again, no conversion is perfect. The range of 10 to 90 is roughly equal to Unisystem’s 1 to 6, or in this case 0 to 6. Unisystem converted characters then will not produce Chill characters below 25 points in any attribute.

There is the added caveat that Chill has 8 abilities while Unisystem only has 6.

2nd Edition has some other minor differences, but nothing that should matter here except for maybe magic rules.

Skills run from 41 to 135 and have levels of Student, Teacher and Master. The easiest is to just convert the levels. Student = 1-2, Teacher = 3-4 and Master = 5-6. Rough, but it works well enough.

Fortunately to play Chill only requires only d10s. Something a Unisystem player should have in abundance. Course in Chill you need to roll a percentage less than your Ability. And there is the Action Table…but that is basically the same idea as Success Levels.

In Chill 2nd Edition the rules were expanded to include Edges and Drawbacks (still a somewhat new idea at the time) and the various skill levels were altered slightly. Also a big change was now Disciplines of the Art were now Schools of the Art and now could be rated at S, T and M levels.

New Unisystem Rules based on Chill
A lot of the rules in Chill can be found in one way or another in Unisystem. In fact one gets the feeling of seeing evolution in process when comparing similar rules in Chill and Unisystem. Successes, Fear Checks, even proto-Drama point usage (of a sorts) are all here. If one is more used to modern games, the Chill versions do seem unwieldy and even a bit primitive, but looking at them the other way, the Chill rules were a landmark for the time. Indeed there are a lot of rules in existence today that we take for granted that were still cutting edge in Chill.
But that is not to say that Chill does not have something to offer the Unisystem player.

Ambidexterity
1-Point Quality
You can use either hand as effectively as the other. You suffer no penalty in using your off hand in attacks or skill checks. This includes any writing, melee or other handiness skills, but not Disciplines of the Art (Magic). This quality does not increase the number of attacks you can make per turn.

Model
4-Point Quality
You have the grace, the looks and the talent. You have even hired an agent and shortened your name to a single word. Being a professional model has its perks, and a few disadvantages as well.
Anyone with the quality automatically adds 3 levels of Attractiveness. Models typically have Attractiveness of 3 or better, with the best at +4 or +5. Unless the character is a supernatural creature (or descended from one) +5 is still the best they can be, any points above and beyond that are lost. The character also gains 2 levels of resources. This can come from work the character does as a model or in form of gifts that beautiful people also get.
The model has an Obligation to her job. This can be in form of a contract, or needing to be certain places at certain times, of being seen on the arm of the aforementioned gift giver. This is a 1 point drawback. The character must also choose 2 levels of drawbacks. Typically these will be the in form of various mental or emotional problems such as covetous, fear of rejection, fear of commitment, delusions (believes they are the most beautiful person in world), extreme vanity or even cruelty. Addictions are also not uncommon, with drugs, smoking, diet pills, and even sex being rather common. The character should not have any of these in excess, otherwise they become ex-models. One level of some emotional/mental problem and one level of an addiction is the most common combination.
Authors Note: Why Models?
It seemed to me that nearly every Chill book I ever owned has some model or former model as an NPC. Of course it also fits the role a S.A.V.E. envoy needs to serve. Successful models and ex-models are young, travel the world and have the money to spare. Plus it fits well with the early 80s feel of the Chill game.


S.A.V.E. Envoy
6-Point Quality
Prerequisite: Sense the Unknown (or better quality); Resources +4 or better.
You are an official S.A.V.E. Envoy with the rights and responsibilities thereof. You have been recruited by S.A.V.E. not just because you have the time and money to spare, but because you have a desire to investigate the Unknown.
With this Quality characters gain financial support for S.A.V.E. sponsored excursions, legal and medical aid. They also gain a worldwide network of contacts and access to S.A.V.E. archives. All in all this will add +2 to the characters resources when on S.A.V.E. missions, a +1 to their Occultism and Knowledge skills, and increase their Occult library by +1, and +2 levels of Contacts.
These benefits come at a price of course. Envoys have an obligation to follow the rules of S.A.V.E. and they gain a Secret to boot. Research must be turned over including any and all magical tomes. Characters violating these rules, or caught participating in what S.A.V.E. considers Dark Magics, will be removed from the organization.
Ex-Envoys may find their future explorations into the supernatural hindered or even completely blocked.

Sense the Unknown
1-Point Quality
Some characters are sensitive to the varied psychic emanations of creatures from beyond. All natural animals have this ability, and some humans can hone it with practice or training. This acts as sort of a limited sixth sense to paranormal or supernatural activity.
You can make a normal perception check to include things that might otherwise go unnoticed in the mundane world such as the effects of magic and the presence of some supernatural creature. When such things are viewed with the trained eye (use of the Occultism/Occult Knowledge skill) then this quality gives a +1 to correctly recognize or identify these phenomena.
This Quality is not required for magic using characters (Gifted, Magicians, Witches) or any supernatural creature (Vampires, Ghosts, Bast) though it will give them a +1 when making any Perception based check for anything related to the Supernatural or the Unknown.
The range for this ability is limited, only 30 feet.

Chill Bast vs. WitchCraft RPG Bast
Often times the hardest thing about converting games is when there is a concept that is so similar in nature and yet developed in completely different ways. For example the Bast.
In both games Bast are cat people relating to ancient Egyptian Goddess of Bast. But there the similarity ends. Chill Bast are women with cat heads and always evil, or at least agents of the unknown; which makes them more akin to the old Irish cat-head demons. WitchCraft Bast are shape-shifting felines that are neither good nor evil. So what can we do to work out the differences.
What I propose is that the Bast seen and recorded by S.A.V.E. agents are in fact Tainted Bast or
Maahes.

Vampires

I single out vampires in Chill for a very good reason. All games before, and many after, dealt with vampires much the same way, little carbon copies of Hollywood Dracula. Sure, some made attempts at doing different things, but most were weak in implementation. But Chill (and to be fair a D&D article in Dragon about a year before) did something that no other game had done before, give us varieties of vampires. So it was not just pack your stake, holy water and crucifix, you had to know what species of vampire you were after. So that stake would be fine against a Common Carpathian and by luck the Macedonian Vampire, but completely useless against an Alpine Vampire. This played well into Chills other evolutionary concept, in game research.
Some of these vampires represented a type or species of vampire. The Common Carpathian, Macedonian and Oriental Vampires are of this kind. Others were most likely unique individuals with a specific vampirism curse, Elizabeth Bathory is a good example, she is most like a Common Carpathian with some things that are unique to her nature in life.

Chill Vampires in Unisystem
All of these are based on the base 15 point Vampire (or Vampyre) quality. Nearly all have some form of a Unique Kill Quality, though maybe not a full 5-points worth. So instead of one way to kill, there may be very limited ways to kill them. All Chill vampires also can assume two or more alternate forms. Wolves, bats, mist are common, but other odder forms such as cobras, snow drifts or even becoming extremely thin. In WitchCraft all of these could be duplicated with a proper invocation or supernatural quality. In addition all Chill vampires emanate the powers of the Evil Way. In game terms this means there is something just not right about them, even when they are guised as human. All vampires in Chill are soulless monsters. Soulless not that they lack a soul, but rather they are incapable of the things we hold the most dear. They live forever, but rarely learn anything from it. They can lust, but never love.
All in all, a Chill vampire type would cost anywhere from 20 to 25 Quality points. Players though should be reminded that in Chill, vampires are hunted, not played.

Common Carpathian
20-Point Vampire Quality (or 5 if purchased with Vampire/Vampyre)
The defacto Chill vampire. The Common Carpathian gets their name from the area they were first recorded, the Carpathian Mountains area of Eastern Europe. These vampires have many unique powers above and beyond that of the normal Vampire (Vampyre).
They can become wolves, bats, or even mist. They can cling to any surface like a spider.
A stake in the heart immobilizes it, but doesnt kill it; one has to also cut off their head. Garlic, holy water or a crucifix (but not a cross) will repel them, fire will kill them. They cast no shadow or reflection and cannot be captured on film or videotape.
Examples: Count Dracula, Elizabeth Bathory (with some modifications)





Final Thoughts
Chill was fun, but when I picked it up again to do these reviews/conversions I realised that the RPG world had passed it by. Percentile systems are not very much in vouge anymore and some of the concepts to seem dated.  I had high hopes for Chill 3rd Edition, but it never came to be.

Still though it was a lot of fun reading over the old books again and seeing the origins of things I still do today.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Old School day!

I spent the weekend with the people I used to game Basic and AD&D 1st ed with, the week opened up to some cool old school news for me.

First I got my copy of Palace of the Vampire Queen!
I plan on running this with Spellcraft & Swordplay as soon as I can.


And in other cool news. ChicagoWiz's blog is back! I was never 100% sure why he had left in the first place to be honest.  But I am glad to see his blog back with us.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Busy Weekend becomes Busy Week

Work will be crazy this week so posts will slow unless I can find something ready to go.

I spent the weekend at the wedding of long-time friend Jon Cook.  What was interesting about this wedding is it was at a civil war re-enactment.  So everyone in the wedding party and many guests were wearing their Civil War period costumes.  Since I was one of the best men in the wedding, so did I.

If you have that Facebook thing, you can see my pictures.
http://www.facebook.com/#!/album.php?aid=2061854&id=1065752655

What is also cool is Jon is the one that introduced me to Dungeons & Dragons more than 30 years ago.  Well, let me clarify.  I had seen and read the books before, Jon was the one that ran the first game I was ever in.
Jon and I played for years.  Eventually we also discovered other players including Erik, the other best man, and Bob who can be seen with his daughter in the picture here on the right. I dedicated my first book of witches to both of them.

Neither of the play anymore.  Jon stopped playing in High School when he got a job.  Bob and I played all through High School and then somewhat into college.  But they lead me down a path that eventually got me to Ghosts of Albion and one of the reasons I bought the outfit I did.  It all comes around I guess.

But in any case.  Yeah. Busy week coming up.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Willow & Tara: The Dragon and the Phoenix

Note: Work still keeping me busy.  Here is one I have been meaning to post for a while. Enjoy!

A lot of what I put up here is based on my playtest of Buffy and Ghosts of Albion.  Those playtests were part of a larger series I ran featuring the characters Willow & Tara.  I started them out in a WitchCraft game back in 2001 which led to Buffy and then to Ghosts.  But I thought I'd post the game summaries, playtest notes and actual play reports here to give context to the crunch I have posted and for the crunch I'll continue to post.

These games ran between 2001 and 2006 and reflect a lot of what was going on in my life and in my own RPG freelance career.   I hope you enjoy.

Willow and Tara: The Dragon and the Phoenix



The Dragon and the Phoenix originally began as the means for my Buffy playtest group to tell a Willow & Tara centric story in a new way. Originally titled "Road Stories", it began with the death of Tara's father and then followed Willow and Tara in their cross-country trip across the Southern US in Robert Maclay's (Tara's father) old 67' Thunderbird.

There would be some strangeness along the way. That is of course till March 2002 came around and we heard that Tara was going to be murdered. Now I was (and still am) a huge Willow and Tara fan, but most of my playtesters were even bigger fans than I was. We were angry as all hell, so we changed course rather quickly. Road Stories was scrapped, and we worked to come up with a new idea. In our talks (and we were less concerned now with playtesting and more with providing ourselves with something we had lost) The Dragon and the Phoenix was born. We were going to bring Tara back. We decided rather early that there were not going to be any of the issues that plagued Buffy herself the season before. As Lisa, one of my playtesters and the brain behind the episode Heaven Bleeds, stated "without Willow even Heaven would have seemed like Hell to Tara".

The ideas flowed in pretty quickly. The name of the series, the "past episodes" of the demonic army and Yoln came from an AD&D game I had played in the 80s just before going off to college. One of my characters, Morgan, had been a character that I had set up to die and have regretted it nearly the instant it happened and ever since. So to bring her into this and make her death parallel to Tara's (and to some extent Buffy's) was poignant on a personal level but also because I felt I could do a much better job of it. In AD&D Morgan had been a Bard (1st Edition) with a particular hatred for vampires. In The Buffy game I retconned her into a Slayer.  The death Morgan was something that had bugged me forever.  I can even recall a time walking to class in 1994 thinking I had done her wrong and that had been 7 years ago at that point.

The choice of Leviathan as the big bad was also pretty easy. I loved old Godzilla movies and had this vision in my head of the Cast standing, looking up and facing a giant monster like that. I was also using the Armageddon Playtest docs in my game, so it seemed an obvious choice. Adding that Willow and Tara are the only ones to stop it was also my snarky remark that anyone playing in a world without a resurrected Tara was doomed to be consumed by the Mad God.

My playtest group was also watching a lot of Charmed, so quite a bit of those mythos entered into our games as well. The Demonic Wasteland influenced Leviathan's plane. Warlocks became more Charmed like with their quasi-demon heritage (and thus ok to kill by characters taking a Geas never to take a human life) and witches were given other choices as a secondary power other than just TK. As development in the Buffy game progressed, so did the Dragon and the Phoenix. Each adventure was designed to take advantage of the new rules in the books. Want to play the next adventure, well you'll need to pick up the next book. But we moved from that when Buffy development slowed down. Eventually we moved all moved on to Ghosts of Albion where we were joined by the kindred spirits of Amber Benson and Chris Golden. There are a number of new rules and things we wrote for Willow and Tara that later were tweaked for William and Tamara. Given the parallels, we all felt that this was very appropriate. Did we make Willow and Tara Protectors? No, that was never considered, plus given the Anamchara casting rules there was no need. Once Ghosts got into full swing The Dragon and the Phoenix had to take a back seat but when the core of the rules were laid out we went back to it. We dropped Willow and Tara into the Ghosts of Albion world and used their current stats with the magic-richer world of Ghosts. To quote my co-author of Ghosts and Dragon Garner Johnson the amount of power they could summon up was "just sick". We knew we had done good.

We tried out the other adventures with a mix of unpublished Buffy books and Ghosts rules. In "Enemy Within" we compared Thom Marion's revised Werewolves with the Ferals of Ghosts of Albion. We used Army of Darkness' mass combat rules to detail how an army of demons and angels could fight an army of tainted demonic dragonmen. Magics were mixed and matched. The episode Silent Lucidity added cinematic Bast, but while they were nice the rules for them never gelled for us.  A lot of things worked and they ended up in the Ghosts of Albion book and some I have posted here.  Other things didn't.

We decided to "release" the adventures for people to play since there was quite a bit of controversy over Tara's death and most of the people we knew gave up watching the show at this point (myself included), so this was our replacement. Outside of Garner and myself none of playtesters had ever gamed before, but all had written fan-fiction. I grabbed them for a few reasons, first if the Buffy game was going to work it had to appeal to non-gaming fans. The fact that they learned to play the game and even get to a point to where they were working on adventures is a testament to the game. Secondly I wanted fan-fic authors, and good ones at that, because they understood dialog and plot. Most RPG adventures make good dungeon crawls but terrible "books". I wanted people to feel like they were IN the show that the adventure and drama was now indeed their own. How well did this work? I was driving home one day after going to the store and I had just been given the first draft of "Identity Crisis". The main author, Sass, had pitched to me as an excuse for Tara to do a strip tease for Willow and the two of them get caught. I had read it and of course I was amused, the dialog was great the B-plot was snappy as hell and I was building up the A-Plot (the Buffy part) and then it dawned on me. Tara was alive and well and I soon could care less what was going on in the "canon", the Dragon and the Phoenix was the only thing that was "real", anything else was just a rumor.

We also had some surprising help. Amber Benson  remarked that Garner and I now knew Tara better than anyone (except maybe for Chris). We even had a writer on the show that was sending us scripts long before the shows would film. So we worked spoilers for the other Season 7 into the narrative and mocked them. The writer has asked to remain anonymous and that is the way it will stay. This person agreed with us but was powerless to do anything. We were also hearing about how toxic the set had become and how most people were counting down the days till the show was over.

Similar to the authors I got Willow & Tara fans (collectively known as "Kittens") to do the covers for the adventures, you can see them all here.

There are a lot references to music and songs in the episodes. I do my best work to music. I wrote my dissertation while listening to the Ramones and "Ghosts of Albion" was written on a steady diet of Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden when I needed horror elements and Sinéad O'Connor, Enya and Máire Ní Bhraonáin (I guess we are distantly related), and Lorrena McKinnett for when I needed to write about the fae or ancient history. Dragon had a lot of influences, but mostly I listened to a lot of Linkin Park.

The Dragon and the Phoenix was a great success in my mind. Of the adventures we released, 1 through 5, it has been translated into German, French and Spanish. There are two "unauthorized" fan-fics by authors not related to the project set in the same universe not to mention the works of the authors involved from the dramatic ("Unexpected Consequences") to the silly (Willow and Tara's drunken adventures in a adult book store by Sass) to Lovecraftian inspired horror (Garner's "Those that Feed"). Plus two more series and a mini-series that comprise what we call "Willow & Tara the Series". "Road Stories" was later revived as "Season of the Witch" and the ghost of Robert Maclay is added to the cast. "Mid Semester's Night Dream" was a mini-series featuring a semi-retired (from monster hunting) Willow & Tara being asked to investigate a suspected vampire at a private boarding school. This lead to "Generation Hex" where Tara is still teaching at the school and they have help the next generation of hunters of the supernatural.

Series Details
The Dragon and the Phoenix - Buffy game with original cast set in an alternate season 7. Tara comes back to help the Cast defeat Leviathan. A mix of "Buffy" and "Armageddon". (2002 to 2003).

This Season is designed with the idea of bringing back the character of Tara Maclay who was murdered near the end of Season 6. This Season takes place in a different Sunnydale, though the history is the same, the future is new. The Cast must deal with the notion of what love is and what it means to be a family. Other issues are of course, working together and the handling or mishandling of power.

The following information is for all the episodes.

Special Guest Stars
Though the character of Cordelia Chase should be played as an NPC. Notes will also be given for playing Giles and/or Anya as NPCs.
Tony Foster. A rookie officer on the SD Police force who stumbles into the Slayer's world. Knows a little bit about what goes on in Sunnydale (ie not a dumb cop). Is attracted to Buffy.
Luna. A Seraphim that may be aiding the cast.
Kara Maclay. Tara's "twin sister".

Little Bads
The Knights of Elohim. These three fallen angels provide most of the problems for the cast in the first episode and reoccur in a later one. They seek to return the Earth to the demons so that they may be first in the eyes of God again.

Strawberry Switchblade. She was a friend of Dawns (introduced early) and was killed by the Vampire Chicas. Now she is pissed off at Dawn and Buffy for letting her get killed. Wants to kill or turn Dawn.

Yoln. The Hand of Leviathan. Yoln was a human general in the armies of Hell. He was part demon himself. During the Dark Ages he attempted to seize control of Earth, but during a pivotal able battle in Gaul (France) he met a girl. This girl was the only person who ever bested him in battle. They fought, but Yoln ran her through with his sword, Pillager. Though she knew she was dying, she took his sword from her body and she fought him back to his dimensional portal with his own sword. She even managed to wound him, cutting off his right hand and broke his sword in the process. This girl, Morgan, died after defeating Yoln. She was also a Slayer.

Big Bad Leviathan. Ancient. Colossal. Primordial. Leviathan is a dead god. But dead does not mean the same to gods as it does to mortals. "He" is being drawn into this world. Doing so destroys everything. The world, the cosmos, everything. He has cultists spanning the globe and there is a prophecy that he will reawaken and his birth will be heralded by the death of the Slayers. (Same Leviathan from Armageddon.)

Important Items
The Codex Albius - The White Codex. The spellbook Tara returns from Heaven with. Provides all the new spells in the series. Normally in exile Tara would have had to give this up along with her healing power, but the fact she still has both leads to Cast to believe that Tara's exile may not be exactly what they think it is. This sets up the tension of will Tara need to return when the adventure is over.

The Ankh - Given to Willow by Isis. This prevents her from feeling the effects of the dark magic. Believed to have been influenced by Set, it is learned in time that the "Dark Magic" is in fact Taint and set up by Leviathan centuries ago to use Willow as his portal into this realm. The Ankh can be later used to stop Nox in episode 11 (cast choice).

Pillager - Yoln's Hellforged Sword. His first task in the series is to find the pieces he needs to reforge it. Once he has this he goes on a killing spree, killing every demon (who he feels betrayed him in the 7th Century) and supernatural creature he can find.

The Hand of Yoln - A gauntlet from Yoln's battle with the Slayer Morgan. She had cut off his lower arm with his own sword before knocking him into a portal to the Astral. The gauntlet has been protected by an order of Witch Knights, an order blending both Christian and Pagan beliefs. The gauntlet appears as a clawed hand and may be used to kill Yoln (cast believes), in fact it is the last piece Yoln needs to fully manifest into reality.

The Spear of Destiny - Also known and The Spear of Cúchulainn or the Gáe Bolg. This is the weapon the cast must find to kill Yoln. Buffy, Willow and Tara's first quest for it takes them to 7th Century Gaul were it is being protected by members of the Church and the Ban-Drui. Yoln was leading an army of demons to take it by force but is defeated by the Slayer of that time. She dies, but passes a bit of her soul on to Tara (who tires to heal her).

I will give episode summaries and actual play reports in the future.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Character Life-Span Development

So I am working on getting my Life-Span Development course up and running for the next term and it got me thinking about the life-span development of characters in games.
I know sometimes people just want the collection of numbers so they can beat the crap outta monsters and steal their stuff.  That is fine and I like to do that too sometimes.  Other times, most times I would say, I prefer to invest in a character and know what makes them tick.

Well this course, which I took as an undergrad many years before, has had me thinking; what effects a character at different stages of development?  Obviously we have a Nature vs. Nurture thing going on here.  In a game that can be viewed almost as Stats and Concept vs. Game system.  
I have explored this a bit with my Willow and Tara conversions, but to do it properly I would need something different.  I want to look how a character develops over time, using different games.  For this I need a pretty strong character concept and games that help emulate reality at particular age levels.

Given a number of factors (games I have, books I read and interest) I would want to create a character in a modern supernatural fantasy setting.  One where magic is not known, but is real.  Why not use Willow or Tara or even characters like Rachel and Ivy or the Hex Girls?  Simple, their pasts are fixed and their futures often times are being determined by other factors; either by books or games.

But how should I do this in depth detailed life-span development of a character?  Well first I should see what games I have and what ages they cover.  I'll also use the stages from the course I am writing as a guide.  Why not.  I went to grad school for years, I rarely get to use that here.

So here are the stages and the games I think will cover them well.

Life Stage Game
Infancy NA
Childhood Little Fears
Pre-Teen and Teen Witch Girls Adventures
Adulthood Unisystem / True 20 / Cortex / Savage Worlds
Later Life ???? maybe Mage to reflect the higher power levels?
After Life* Giest; In Nomine

*Maybe I'll use this or not.

I am sure there must be others.
Any suggestions?

If I go with the above then I am certainly going with an urban supernatural deal.  Possibly some sort of supernatural character like a witch or vampire (shocked I know).  I did have an idea for this new game featuring two twin sisters that are witches.  Maybe I can develop them here.

Here is what I have so far.

Kim and Kelley's life had always been surrounded by the strange, supernatural and sometimes horrific.  They were both born on Oct 31, Kelley a few minutes before Kim and Kim a few minutes before her mother died.  Raised by their father Kim and Kelly began encountering ghosts at age 5.  They spent their life together learning about magic and monsters.  Then one day something happened to Kelley...

I obviously don't want to develop too much here since I want the games to help in the development.  Kim and Kelley are not a veiled reference to Kim and Kelley Deal, but they were certainly an influence.  They are more an allusion/homage to Kim Harrison and Kelley Armstrong, two of my favorite authors in this genre.  I wanted to have twins since I could assume the stats are mostly the same and then do different things in the world to them.  I plan to focus on Kim in terms of stats.  I have no idea what either of these girls look like or anything.  Kinda nice to make a new start here.

Plus I would want to include some games that detail world or character development very well.  Something like Dresden Files would be good or even OVA or Cartoon Action Hour.

Something to think about.

Problem Player, Part 2

Wow. Lots of posts on this. Both here and the redirect on Facebook.

I'll keep you all posted.  In the end though like I said, it is the GM's choice.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Problem Player

So I play a lot of games.  It is cool really, it gives me the chance to meet all sorts of people and really get to know them.  I have made some great friends while gaming and I hope to continue to do so.

But this time I am not talking about any of that.

Today I want to talk about the problem player.
We have this guy in one of my groups.  I am not going to mention his name or which group he is in, but suffice to say he is just not working out.  He seems to be a nice enough guy.  He isn't a freak or psycho or anything like that. He just doesn't fit the group dynamic well.
So far through his actions at least two characters have died over the course of the game.  I am not sure what exactly he is trying to do half the time and he spends the session getting so jacked up on caffeine that it is hard to watch him.  No he is not running around like a squirrel on meth or anything, but there it is like his whole boody is vibrating at a frequency that only he and the Flash can relate too.

I think part of the problem too is there is a significant age difference between him and the other players.  The GM is ready to cut him, based on the "he should know better" principle, a couple of the players want him out now and the rest are rather non-committal.

I want to restate it is not that he is screwing up.  I am playing a different character type than I am used too (we all are really) and all of us have made silly rules mistakes that noobs would not make and some "type" mistakes (ie I keep thinking I can throw spells so I put myself in situations that would be good for that).

But he is not bringing anything to the table really.  He is a good guy, but he just doesn't "get it" I think. He throws off the group dynamic.

What are your opinions?  Have you run into the same situations?  How do you / did you handle it?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Willow & Tara: Kult

Going to the vaults today!
It's the start of a new term here so I am crazy busy. I had some other posts ready, but this one was all good to go.  Plus I have been talking about Anime and Supers for so long I missed my favorite topic; Horror gaming.

So without further ado, one of the premier horror games of the 90's and into the 2000s.  Kult.


Kult, Death is Only the Beginning

Kult is a very interesting game. I had heard about it from the WitchCraft RPG list and decided to check it out. I found a copy of 1st Edition on eBay and really liked it. It was not a game I played much, but freely stole ideas from. Kult is a very different kind of world from WitchCraft, World of Darkness, Call of Cthulhu or even Ravenloft. It is almost “Dark City” in it’s feel and tone. Sort of gothic-noir-splatterpunk, something I noticed that the new World of Darkness seems to have adopted and the eventual evolution of Chill. The pervasive dread in the game is more Call of Cthulhu, while the world on the surface looks much like WitchCraft. It also has a tone (to me) similar to Warlock, Black Spiral. The two *could* be set in the same world, with some tweaking, but that might be more than I want to do.

In the end I found that WitchCraft was more enjoyable, but I keep my copy of Kult handy, just in case.

Conversions

Conversions between Kult and other systems are not too bad. Kult has 8 abilities, 4 physical, 4 mental, that range from 2-20. There are two ways to generate abilities, one (the D&D method) is roll a 2d10 for each (ì=11). The other (the WitchCraft method) is to parse out 100 points to the 8 abilities (ì=12.5). For a d20 conversion the best bet is to match up the Abilities and -2 to get a d20/D&D (ì=10.5) score.
For Unisystem conversion I take a modification of my D20 to Unisystem conversion.
To generate a Unisystem value from a Kult one, divide the Kult Ability by 2 and minus 4.
BTW: To generate a Unisystem value from d20 I divide the d20 score by 2 and minus 3 (or -2 depending on the game’s power level) I find this works a little better than just dividing by 3.

The abilities match up like this.

Kult Unisystem d20/D&D
Strength Strength Strength
Agility Dexterity Dexterity
Constitution Constitution Constitution
Comeliness Attractiveness Quality *
Education Intelligence Intelligence
Ego Willpower Wisdom
Perception Perception Perception Skill
Charisma Charisma Quality Charisma

*These conversions are covered by Qualities in Unisystem. Since these scores run both positive and negative a slightly different conversion is needed. Figure either quality can run from -5 to +5 for normal humans, but use -3 to +3 as a more realistic range. So add 6 to the Unisystem Quality/Drawback to generate the Kult ability. So a character with a -5 Charisma has a Kult ability score of 1.

Both Kult and Classic Unisystem have a set of similar Secondary Attributes that are derived from the Primary Abilities. Convert the Primary Attibutes/Abilites and then generate the Secondary ones anew from these numbers. This is the best way to handle Essence.

Kult also offers a couple of extra quirks. Dark Secrets are similar to WitchCraft’s character concept. The difference is basically that concepts define what you are, Dark Secrets define what made you the way you are today. Subtle, but in these two worlds it is a big difference. Dark Secrets can be ported over to WitchCraft as is for added (darker) variety without much trouble. The archetypes for either game would work well in the other game.

The other is Mental Balance, Kult’s quasi-equivalent to CoC’s Insanity or Mythos score. Since mental balance is the ration of Advantages to Disadvantages, Unisystem characters will always be on the positive side. To convert I am thinking that Kult to Unisystem characters will have to have a Quality called “Positive Mental Balance” or a Drawback called “Negative Mental Balance”. No points should be converted, gained or loss from these.

Willow and Tara in Kult

(Special thanks to Ronald James for helping put these together and notes from his Willow & Tara based Kult game.)



Ron’s Notes:
As anyone who has casually glanced at the GM’s section of the Kult rulebook will be aware, the world according to Kult is very different from the world according to the Buffyverse. So how do you make the two worlds collide? I offer these thoughts.

The theory that there are a multitude of Heavens and Hells within the Buffyverse can easily be explained by the idea that man’s grasp of the reality is crippled by it’s own inability to grasp the concept of one complete city. Each “dimension” is in fact merely a part of Metropolis, with it’s own rituals and doors, rather than separate entities. The ending of Buffy season 5, in fact, could be easily seen as the Key dropping the illusion completely, as any player of Kult would be hard pressed to find a better single image of Metropolis than the building that suddenly has an infestation of demons in it when the illusion shatters.

The reason for Demons who are good becomes more obvious. With the disappearance of the Demiurge, there really is no proper side of “good” as we understand the term, or “evil” for that matter. There are only the Archons and Death Angels with their own agenda, vendettas and characteristical quirks. In this regard, it easy to consider that a monster, even one in demonic form, might be a “good guy”, even in the sense of wishing to help mankind break some of the shackles. GM’s should always remember that the black and white has gone, only the grey remains, and those who wish to take advantage of that grey.

The Bete-noir of course is another reason for some demons being good guys. Any demon seen on the show who is “good” (I am thinking of Lorne in “Angel” Or Whistler) could easily be a Bete-noir who has allied him or herself to the powers of good, or to aid mankind at least.

A note on Purgatory. This place has become a virtual hell for all and sundry as they suffer for their own sins. Angel most certainly went to Purgatory as opposed to Hell, although to the layman there wouldn’t be much difference aesthetically, so it was an easy mistake to make. The bigger question becomes, who did release him? Was it an Archon or Death Angel? Or was it a lesser being with it’s own agenda? Maybe that which set him free hoped he would fight for the powers of good, as he did. Or maybe they had Angelus in mind. Either way, he was freed. I bring Angel up to give you an example of how the world of Buffy must be augmented to deal with the Kult backstory, which must take precedence.

As for the First? I leave that open to individual GM’s as to who or what it was in the end. There are plenty of ideas that would fit the First so rather than tie down the creative brain I will let GM’s in their own campaigns set their own agendas.

I will now deal with the specifics of Willow and Tara in their Kult guises.
(Note: Hey, me again.  I tweaked Ron's stats to better reflect my versions of the girls. These stats are from early on in the Dragon and the Phoenix time-line.)

Willow Rosenberg

STR: 11 Load Capacity: 11/33/6/10
AGL: 12 Movement: 6/36
EGO: 16 No. of Actions: 2
CON: 18 Initiative Bonus: +0
PER: 17 Damage Bonus: +1
EDU: 18 Endurance: 120
CHA: 15 Mod. To Ego Throw: +3
COM: 17 Mental Balance: -15

Damage Capacity:
5 Scratches = 1 light wound
4 Light wounds= 1 serious wound
3 Serious wounds = 1 fatal wound

DARK SECRETS

Forbidden Knowledge
Guilty of Crime
Occult Experience
Supernatural Experience

ADVANTAGES

Magical Intuition 20
Math Talent 10
Mechanically Inclined 5
Influential Friends 15

DISADVANTAGES

Black Sheep 5
Dependent 15
Magic Addiction 10
Mortal Enemy (The First) 15
Nightmares 5
Guilt 5
Rival (Amy) 10
SKILLS

Basic Skills

Climb 7
Dodge 11
Hide 8
Read/write native language 18
Search 15
Sneak 12
Swim 14
Throwing 8
Unarmed Combat 16

Projectile weapons
Bows 6
Handguns 8
Heavy Weapons 4
Machineguns/Automatic Weapons 1
Rifles & Crossbows 6

Melee & Throwing weapons
Axes 10
Daggers 8
Impact Weapons 11
Pole Arms 8
Swords 8
Throwing Weapons 5
Whips and Chains 8

EGO-Based
Accounting 19
Alternative Medicine 12
Astrology 12
Computers 24
Cosmology 16
Cryptography 21
Electronics 20
First Aid 14
Info Retrieval 25
Lore: Dreamworlds 10
Lore: Metropolis 10
Meditation 16
Numerology 20
Occultism 18
Security Systems 22
Written Report 16

CHA-Based
Acting 14
Instruction 18
Seduction 12

PER-Based
Forensics 14

Academic Skills

Natural Science 16
Spec: Computer Science 25

Magic

All five basic lores at 25*

Notes
Black sheep really covers her moving towards the Wiccan faith and acceptance of her Lesbianism. This would certainly upset her father, which is why the disadvantage is included. Note that this is a disadvantage as it causes lack of family interaction and is not a statement of guilt on the part of Willow.

Influential Friends refers to the Watchers Council and Giles contacts.

Dependent is Tara, which is why the score is at it’s highest.

Nightmares refer to Killing Rack and her treatment of Tara and her friends whilst under the influence of dark magic. Her Guilt is related to that.


Tara Maclay

STR: 12 Load Capacity: 12/36/6/120
AGL: 10 Movement: 5/30
EGO: 15 No. of Actions: 2
CON: 18 Initiative Bonus: +0
PER: 15 Damage Bonus: +1
EDU: 16 Endurance: 120
CHA: 14 Mod. To Ego Throw: +0
COM: 18 Mental Balance: +35

Damage Capacity:
5 Scratches = 1 light wound
4 Light wounds= 1 serious wound
3 Serious wounds = 1 fatal wound

DARK SECRETS

Family Secret
Occult Experience
Supernatural Experience
Victim of Crime

ADVANTAGES

Code of Honor 5
Empathy 15
Faith 5
Forgiving 5
Influential Friends 15
Motherliness 5
Magical Intuition 20

DISADVANTAGES

Anxiety 5
Black Sheep 5
Dependent 15
Nightmares 5

SKILLS

Basic Skills

Climb 7
Dodge 12
Hide 9
Read/write native language 17
Search 12
Sneak 10
Swim 14
Throwing 8
Unarmed Combat 6

Projectile Weapons
Bows 4
Handguns 2
Heavy Weapons 2
Machineguns/Automatic Weapons 1
Rifles & Crossbows 3

Melee & Throwing Weapons
Axes 7
Daggers 5
Impact Weapons 8
Swords 5
Throwing Weapons 4

AGL-Based

Dancing 15

EGO-Based

Alternative Medicine 15
Astrology 16
Cooking 18
Creative Writing 12
Erotica 16
First Aid 19
Herbalism 20
Lore: Dreamworlds 14
Lore: Metropolis 12
Meditation 19
Occultism 16
Parapsychology 14

CHA-Based

Diplomacy 12
Etiquette 18
Fortune Telling 20
Riding 15
Seduction 10
Singing 20

PER-Based

Counseling 22
Drive Vehicle 14

Academic Skills

Humanities Scholar 14
Spec: Classical History 16

Magic

Five basic Lores at 25*

Notes

Black sheep refers more to how the Maclay family view and treat her as opposed to how she feels about herself.

Dependent is Willow, hence the High score.

Nightmares are of Willow’s abuse of her and her family’s abuse. This is also where her Victim of Crime secret comes from.

*Willow and Tara are two of the most powerful witches in my game. So they get the
benefit of the doubt in being very powerful.

One word on the two co-operating to create a spell or device together. Either of them can be the High Priest and the other adds their entire Ego score to the other. Further there is no “tune in” time required to focus themselves unless one of them is injured or out of sorts. This does make them powerful when they cast together but they always were. One other thing, any Endurance loss is automatically split evenly between them.
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