Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Message

That is the name of this story my oldest son has been writing.  His teacher is very proud of him and so are his mom and dad!  But beyond how cool that is, today during our Dragonslayer session he ran "The Message" for the very, very first time as a game.  This was his very first time running a D&D game and frankly I thought he did really well.

We took the Dragonslayers, including his own character as a quasi DM-PC (I'll help run him) and I got a chance to play my witch again.  The one I rolled up back when D&D 3.0 was new and my witch book was in playtest.

The adventure was simple enough.  We (the characters) had to cross Druid Woods and deliver a message (thus the name) to a Baron on the other side of the forest.   Simple right? What could go wrong?  Well we were attacked many times in the woods by kobolds, hobgoblins and (much to my joy) a rogue druther and an evil treant. Of course the Baron had been kidnapped and we needed to save him from being the main event in a sacrifice to Tiamat.  We saved the Baron (who turned out to be a Neutral Blue Dragon in human form) and we were attacked by a huge adult red Dragon (in my boy's world Reds and Blues hate each other so much that they will work with anyone to defeat the other).

Baron saved, returned home and the message delivered.  It really was great fun.  Liam (my oldest) said he toned down the Red.  We got the initiative on him and dealt what I felt was a respectable 64 hp damage to it.  Then he turned around and did a 48 to all of us on his first attack (and that was with the elemental protection my witch set up).  He toned the dragon down a touch and we all came out of it more or less intact.

It was really, really fun.  Liam did a great job and it was nice to not only see him running a game and doing a good job, but also running an adventure he wrote all on his own.

Connor (my youngest) also got in some good playing too.  We found a gold necklace and I said his character could have it for his girl-friend, to which he replied "What girlfriend?  I am too busy adventuring to have time for one of those!"  And when we fought a fire elemental he told us that "I hate these guys, when I was younger they attacked my village and killed my mother."  No idea where that came from.

Maybe next time we will hit the mountains.

Next up: At the White Plume Mountains of Madness

The next adventure for the Dragonslayers (my kids' group) is to go to the White Plume Mountain.  They know they need to recover another relic of the Cult of Tiamat, this time the tooth of the largest red dragon that ever lived.  They have heard rumors that what they seek is in a volcano.

The idea of this adventure was to go to a mountain in snowy area.  So I using the 3.x conversion of S2 White Plume Mountain (and the original) and I am going to set it in a near Arctic area.  I am also going to fill it full of Lovecraftian Horrors since my boys both know who Cthulhu is.  Meld the two together a bit for some good old fashioned dungeon crawl of horror fun.

The adventure is actually very short; shorter than I remembered it.  Plus my youngest has been asking about the most powerful swords in D&D so I think it is time he sees Blackrazor.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Zatannurday: What is Zatanna Reading?


What does Zatanna read before going to bed after a long night of performances? We go to "Catwoman #57" for that answer.



Looks like Aleister Crowley's The Book of the Law on her bed and the Necronomicon on her nightstand.

Gotta love the poster of her Dad over her bed.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Art and Content thief Jim Shipman back

You all might remember Jim Shipman; the thief that has been stealing art all over the internet and putting them on Tunnels and Trolls products and selling them as his own.

Well he is back at it.

http://www.outlawpressinc.com/

Now he is trying to lie behind some bullshit disclaimer that the items are "second hand" and not published by him and he therefore has not responsibility over their content.

Can we please shut this asshole down once and for all?

Thanks to Tran Eskoor an Doon for this information.
http://quietdayinheimdall.blogspot.com/2011/02/breaking-news-shipman-is-still-asshole.html

Mutants and Masterminds 3

I love Mutants and Masterminds.

The third edition is out, and I have talked about it before, but flipping through the pages fills me with such geek-related glee that I can barely contain it.  Then you add my favorite comics on top of that, DC Comics, in a 100% compatible system then I wonder why I play anything else at this point.  Well maybe that is a stretch.

But not by much.

Mutants and Masterminds is by far one of the the best examples of how and why the OGL works so well.  It is the same basic d20 system, stripped down to the bare bones and then fine tuned, just enough, to be exactly what it needs to be.

Is it the best RPG ever? No, not by a long shot.
Is it the best Super Hero RPG ever?  Yeah, it probably is.

Third Edition has gone a long way to fixing a lot of the issues I had with 2nd Edition.  Mind you those were "issues" not "problems" and many could have been solved had played a few more games of it really.

I am looking forward to playing some with my boys at Gen Con.  I just hope I can get in to them this year.

Season of the Witch: Episode 7

Episode 7: Desert Rose

Winter 2005
Roswell, NM

The Cast rolls into Roswell, NM. They decide to stay and check out the cheesy tourist traps and even get a “tUFO” Burger (made of Tofu). Bob complains that this is distracting them from the mission, Tara reminds him they are not on a mission but a vacation. A couple of times during the day Willow notices a coyote, first in the road (no surprise) but then again at the restaurant.

They check into a local motel (“where all the aliens visiting our galaxy stop!”) and proceed to get down to some very hot and heavy sex. Hot being the operative word, since the air is out. Bob materializes in the room interrupting Tara’s demonstrating what she can do with that mouth other than sing. Tara blows up and begins yelling at Bob. He leaves, she feels bad and goes to follow him.

Willow, the moment now gone, decides to get her clothes back on when she sees the coyote in her room. Scared at first she watches as the coyote grabs her new boots and runs out the door. Willow chases after it.

Tara returns with Bob in tow. He feels bad and agrees not to do that again (his player though is less enthused!) then they notice Willow is gone. Nothing has been moved and there is no struggle. A quick search shows nothing. Tara calls on Cordy, who takes a long time to respond. She says something is up with this place. Like it is in some metaphysical fog. She also asks Tara why her body temperature is so high. Tara asks Cordy to find Willow. She tries for a bit and says that see can’t find her anywhere. It is like she has been removed from this plane. Tara freaks, Cordy says to try scrying, see if that helps. Tara scrys and nothing comes up. She gets angry at Cordy for not finding her and Bob for making her run out, she waves her arm and the TV in the room catches fire. Tara runs to get the fire extinguisher to put it out. Cordy asks her what the hell is going on and Tara can’t explain it. In fact the only difference she has noticed with herself is she has been more excited than usual, and in the carnal way.

Tara tries to scry again, this time the crystal lands on Area 51, some 900 miles away. Tara asks Cordy to orb them all there. She can’t. She doesn’t know why herself, but the area is off limits to supernaturals, and Angels and Whitelighters are forbidden to go there. Tara tells her fine. She will go by herself then. She packs up the car and gets ready to drive out there with Bob protesting all the way. He tells here how it is the most heavily guarded military base there is and there is no way she could get in. Tara says that is they are holding Willow then that is the only thing that might stop her, but she doubted it. Slamming the car into drive she heads out into the night.

Willow meanwhile is still following the coyote. She either lost track of her steps and of time cause she finds herself in the middle of the desert. The coyote stops, drops her boots and then gets up on its hind legs and shifts (but not shape shifts) into Oz (complete with clothes). Willow tells it that she knows he is not Oz. Coyote tells her he took a shape she would trust and he admitted, he thought Oz was cool. He says he is only borrowing this visage. Willow asks if that means Oz is dead. Coyote does not answer that. She asks him what he wants. He tells her, ”you.”

Tara is still driving, but her adrenaline is now running out and she is falling asleep at the wheel. Bob tries to keep her awake, but even though he can touch her (she is magic) he is having trouble. Something about the desert is effecting him. At this point to stay awake I have the two players both tell me stories about Tara and Bob as they see them. They story is one of when Tara was in an equestrian contest and she wanted to ride a horse that was much too spirited for her (she was 7 or 8). She rode the horse anyway and did well, but soon lost control and was thrown and hit her head. She talked about how bad she felt because she lost, and Bob talked about how he sat with her night after night until she regained consciousness. This is an expanded version of a brief outline I had given both Bob and Tara’s players back in Episode 2. I gave them quite a few extra drama points for this. They continued driving until Tara finally did fall asleep at the wheel. Bob tried to wake her but the car smashed into an invisible barrier around the base. Tara hit the steering wheel hard and was knocked out. Bob was even thrown out of the car due to the magical nature of the barrier. We cut to a scene of Tara falling out of the car, bleeding from several deep cuts on her head.

Willow instantly feels the pain and wants to go back to Tara. Coyote says she can’t, not yet, because there are still things she needs to learn. Coyote explains that the world is about to change. It changes all the time, but this time will be big, maybe too big. He tells Willow she is the agent for change and that she is destruction. Willow denies this saying that future won’t happen now, Leviathan won’t enter this realm. Coyote says Leviathan was only the blunt tool of change, it was always Willow that was going to change it. He tells her that whether it was Leviathan or the time after Tara was killed, she was destined to destroy the world. She argues saying no, that won’t happen, besides she has Tara and every reason to remain in the world. Coyote just laughs. He says “Like it or not Willow Rosenberg. You will destroy the world and There. Is. Nothing. You. Can. Do. About it!”

Bob has gotten to Tara, who is in really bad shape. He calls for Cordy, but she has trouble orbing in. Bob, desperate, uses some of Tara’s own blood and calls for Cordy. She materializes, though it is obviously painful. (Player asked if in Bob’s past he would have seen “blood magic”). Cordy tries to heal Tara, but it is taking longer than it should. She doesn’t know if it is because of all the magical interference or something else. She says it is almost like Tara is not a witch anymore. They get her stabilized only to have a group of soldiers surround all three of them. They are arrested and taken to the base.

Willow is still arguing with Coyote. He tells her not to feel bad, he is also an agent of change and change is good. He asks her if she has even noticed the changes within herself over the last few days. She says nothing. But finally she asks, if she is change, what is Tara? Coyote only says, that is something she will need to find out. She tells Coyote she wants to see Tara now. He pauses and finally says, “ok. Just go over that ridge, there will be people expecting you.” Willow walks on and Coyote has shifted back to a coyote. She gets to the ridge and sees the base of Area 51. There are soldiers there who seem surprised she snuck up on them. They arrest her as well.

Tara, Bob and Cordy are all handcuffed (yes even the ghost) and lead into the base. The base CO, a Lieutenant General Ashby. He laughs at them, saying he has been expecting them for some time since they fouled up their Bureau business last year. He looks at Bob and says to him a Marine should know better than to drag his little girl into a fight that will get her killed. But he laughs anyway and says they might as well come on down and see what it is they came all this way to see since they were never going to leave this base ever again. The Lt. General goes on about Roswell and how everyone knows what happened in Roswell and how there are thousands of conspiracy nuts out there spreading this tale in sixteen thousand different ways. He stops and laughs, and says “do you know how much money a snow job like that would cost Uncle Sam? And I got every idiot Fox Mulder-wannabe with a camera and a website keeping my secrets for me.” He goes on.

“Everyone knows what happened in Roswell New Mexico in 1947. But I am here to tell you ladies and gentlemen, that everyone is wrong.”

He flips the switch for lights and bunch of high watt halogen-lamps fire up to show a holding area with one prisoner. He is trapped, spread out like a butterfly in an insect collection. His skin is bruised and his long wings are tattered and torn. Once they must have been magnificent and white as snow.

Tara gasps. Bob says “dear lord”. Finally Cordy says “Oh God! It’s Uriel.”

To Be Continued…

(Notes after I post Episode 8: Heart of Light)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

DriveThruRPG: New Zealand Red Cross Earthquake Relief

Once again DriveThruRPG / RPGNow is running a relief fund.  This time the donations are to the Red Cross to help the victims of the recent New Zealand earthquake.

For a mere $20 you can get over $330 worth of material including Supernatural, Armageddon, Cthulhu Tech and Scion.  That's $72 right there.

http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product_info.php?products_id=88713&affiliate_id=10748

and

http://www.rpgnow.com/product_info.php?products_id=88713&affiliate_id=10748

It is a good cause and the price it great.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Last night we stormed Castle Ravenloft

Or at least we did in the board game.

I got the Castle Ravenloft board game for Christmas and I had not played it all yet.  The boys wanted to play some D&D last night (so much so they they were each writing their own adventures when I told them I had nothing ready) but I have something like 65,000 courses to work on before the term starts back up on Monday (out that might be a stretch...48,000).   So we compromised a bit.  I pulled out the Ravenloft Board Game.

I knew we could set up it up and run it in under an hour and my boys love the old "Dungeon" game so I figured what the heck.

We had a great time.

The mere fact that one of the characters is blue colored Dragonborn is enough for my oldest.  I let my youngest use the new elf-archer mini I got for him over the weekend to be the ranger.  I played the Dwarf cleric and we went after the Dracolich.  Since I also have the dracolich mini we used that instead of the non-painted version that came in the box.  The game is D&D4-ish and moves really fast.  Game play is about like Dungeon.  The boys loved that the monsters were random and that combat was fast.  We all liked the "build you own dungeon" feel of it too.

The thing that gets me though...why Ravenloft?  Other than vampires, hags some undead and things like that I see no reason why this had to be set in Castle Ravenloft.  I get the dungeon-crawlyness of it, and I understand the desire to tie it in with a Classic product; but the game could have just as easily been the Tomb of Horrors Board Game or Expedition to the Barrier Peaks Board Game.  Frankly, I could swap out Strahd for Acererak and kept everything else the same (hear that WotC, your next boxed Board Game can be Tomb of Horrors and I want a cut!).   Of course their is obvious reason.  I got this pretty much sight unseen and wanted it largely because it was Ravenloft.  Now that I do have I am much more interested in Wrath of Ashardalon and the Legend of Drizzt one coming out in the Fall.

Yeah, yeah I hear the peanut gallery out there already smirking and saying they thought D&D$ was already a board game...whatever, that argument is old and no longer has any interest to me.  This was more akin to other adventure board games, like Dungeon really.  Plus it was fun.

Looking forward to taking on Strahd sometime soon.  Though I am torn.  If I ever run the original Castle Ravenloft for my boys I don't want the experience to be lack-luster for them.  I mean if they kill Strahd once in the board game, defeating him in his proper element might not have the same weight.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The new edition "They Will RUIN it!!!!"

And other things your are not hearing from Call of Cthulhu fans right now.

Chaosium has announced that they are going to produce a new Seventh Edition of their flagship game, Call of Cthulhu.

In many ways I am with James over at Grognardia, http://grognardia.blogspot.com/2011/02/how-to-do-new-edition.html

The edition changes for CoC have never been a jarring as the ones for D&D.  Even the relatively minor changes between 3.0 and 3.5 were met with more angst and yelling than the changes to 6th ed CoC.  It could be that D&D has a much larger market share and thus more people to either complain or applaud the changes.

But it does make for an interesting point.

For the longest time the collective wisdom of the game industry has said that core books are what fuels the company coffers (and make no mistake this is about making money and that is NOT a bad thing).  This wisdom is reflected in many realities.  The price I get paid for X Core vs. Y Splat freelancing gigs and what you see reflected in sales numbers on such sites as DriveThruRPG or Amazon.  It means that new core rulebooks are necessary to keep a business afloat.

I for one am looking forward to CoC 7 and I am sure it will work well with my CoC 5th ed.

New Release Tuesday

One year later two of my favorite authors have new books out again for their kick-ass supernatural heroines; Callie Reaper-Jones and Rachel Morgan.

Amber Benson takes us back to hell, heaven and everywhere in between with Callie, the Daughter of Death in Serpent's Storm.


Kim Harrison gives book 9 (nine! already?) of the Rachel Morgan series, Pale Demon.


There is a really good review of this book up on All Things Urban Fantasy now that say buy two copies, one for you and one for a friend.

Looking forward to both of these!

Monday, February 21, 2011

April Blogging Challenge, Part 2



I did a bit of quick work today between meetings on campus and have about 20 posts I can do right now out of 26.  So I think I am in good shape for this!

I also see the idea is catching on, there are a few other RPG/OSR/Cool blogs out that I follow and they follow me that are also taking up the challenge.

So here they are:
Porky's Expanse! This is the blog that first signed up that I got the idea from.
Axe & Hammer, a new one to me, but love what I read so far.
Sea of Stars, an Other side regular!
Places to Go, People to Be. One of my favorite names for a blog ever.
Calvin's Canadian Cave of Coolness.  Still not sure what this one is all about, but I like it.

I plan to follow them during April to see what they do all month long.

A to Z blog challenge.

Blogging A to Z



I am going to be taking part in the BLOGGING FROM A TO Z APRIL CHALLENGE 2011 this April.  Everyday will be a new letter of the alphabet, A to Z, that will form the base of my daily post.  I'll post something everyday, save Sunday, for a total of 26 posts.

Topics will stick to topics I have done here in the past and possibly others that the letter would give me the excuse to post something different.

It should be interesting and fun and I am looking forward to the challenge.

Weekend Recap

Had our first Northlands game group on Saturday.  It was fun. We are playing Pathfinder and have a good group. I am looking forward to more.  The world we are in is one the GM has made, so there are some familiar names mixed in with some that are not, so I am looking forward to seeing how this all works out.

Speaking of Pathfinder. I went to one of the closing Borders books here in the Chicago area and picked up a new Pathfinder core book for my kids to have. It was 30% off.

Mike Mearls has a new column up on WotC's D&D page called "Legends and Lore" which is designed to talk about D&D and it's past, present and future.
http://www.wizards.com/dnd/Article.aspx?x=dnd/4ll/20110208
Of course, as expected the OSR glitterati have weighed in, most with predictable comments.
http://grognardia.blogspot.com/2011/02/legends-and-lore.html
http://platinumwarlock.blogspot.com/2011/02/in-which-warlock-has-bone-to-pick.html
http://akraticwizardry.blogspot.com/2011/02/mike-mearls-plea-for-unity.html
http://moldyvale.blogspot.com/2011/02/mike-mearls-whines-for-solidarity.html
http://wondrousimaginings.blogspot.com/2011/02/oh-yeah-mearles-then-put-your-money.html
http://batintheattic.blogspot.com/2011/02/wizards-needs-to-take-leadership.html

I am one of those people that sees more similarities in the games than I do differences, so Mearls' post, while written toward me is not actually directed at me if you know what I mean.  Nor is it really directed at the OSR (which is frankly  too small to be a concern).  While most of the reaction is the same knee-jerk stuff I'd expect, there is a point that nearly everyone makes that I think is worth WotC's time to look in to.  Bringing back older edition in PDF form.  Yes the cynic in me says why should they bother to sell rules to people who already own them, the deeper cynic in me knows that people will buy them anyway (I have) and make money for WotC.
I think a perfect world in WotC's eyes would be that people play what they want, but still buy a DDi subscription.

Gonna be a busy week.  Posting might be light.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Season of the Witch: Episode 6

Episode 6: Deep in the Heart

Fall 2004
San Antonio, Texas.

Willow and Tara encounter a young Native-American woman (Lisa) possessed by the ghost of dead shaman. The ghost, a buu-kha, is stronger than other ghosts they have encountered before. It can effect physical objects and normal people. Magical people and the Iquanni can see it.
The girls attack it, but magic only makes it stronger. They scry for it (more Charmed influences) and finally learn that they can trap it in a “soul jar”.
The Iquanni do not trust the cast and they do not want to help Lisa.
Finally they get a soul jar, Willow and Tara perform the ritual and Bob fights the buu-kha.
They trap the ghost, but the damage to Lisa’s soul was too much and she dies.

NOTES: This was a fast one. This adventure was actually the first one written for the old “Road Stories” season and it does have a different feel than some of the others. DitH was also written by my friend Kirk Baldridge, who is not a gamer but a writer. He has credits in “Slayer’s Handbook”, “Magic Box” and “Ghosts of Albion” as a playtester and was instrumental in “The Dragon and the Phoenix”.
Deep in the Heart is more Willow focused, even if it is less “arc” focused. The Buu-kha is a new creature that later gave me ideas for Oblis in Ghosts. The Iquanni are a made up tribe, so we didn’t have to worry about making mistakes about a real native American tribe and allowed us some freedom.
As per other adventures I stole from a lot of books. This one had some White Wolf new World of Darkness stuff in it, or least the little I could learn from the web at the time. I also used some GURPS (as I had in “Under a Cajun Moon”) but GURPS has no soul and there was very little I could grab there in terms of style. GURPS Horror though was a good read for this.
Lisa does die in the end. Now it is well known I don’t like to kill characters, including NPCs. But this is dangerous stuff and Kirk wanted the players to be reminded that there are innocents out there and they can get hurt. Lisa was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
There are some nice scenes here though. Willow and Tara buy cowboy hats and boots. We did a quick mention about Dark Magic and that was it.

Next Time: Everyone knows what happened in Roswell New Mexico.
Everyone is wrong.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Playing D&D with Kids, Part 3 New Old or Old New?

So I am going to chat with my regular DM this weekend (the start of our new Northlands game) and he has run tons of games for kids.

But I wanted to catch the opinion/pulse of all of you.

What "D&D" should I play?

I kinda want to run old Moldvay/Cook Basic/Expert to be honest.  I'd make the characters, and do a old timey dungeon crawl.  But truthfully other than my want there is no reason why is has to be B/X.

Should I run it as a newer Retro-Clone (something the kids can go buy)?  As D&D 4 (something they could buy and I know is fun for kids)? Or keep it as B/X?

Basic Fantasy is my current favorite retro-clone, but Labyrinth Lord runs a very close second.
Spellcraft and Swordplay is also a huge fave of mine for Original D&D feel, but I think for this I want to go with something in the Basic realm (which is why I am also not opting for OSRIC).

Thoughts?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Playing D&D with Kids Follow-up and Question

This is directed specifically to the parents of D&D playing kids.

What do you all think of a classic-style Dungeon Crawl that features a lot of undead, wolves and a big bad vampire to kill at the very end?

What would this be age-appropriate for?

My boys (ages 11 and 7) know all about zombies, vampires and werewolves and they know that if they defeat them then they will get their characters instead.

They are cool with it.  Have you ever run these horror tropes with young kids?

Playing D&D with Kids

There have been a lot of posts in the blogs and on the net about playing D&D with younger kids.

From WotC: http://www.wizards.com/DnD/Article.aspx?x=dnd/4tut/kids2#73004
and this classic article, http://www.wizards.com/dnd/Article.aspx?x=dnd/4news/april2010

Of course there is my kids' group, The DragonSlayers.

Well I am thinking about running some games at Gen Con for kids this year.

I am also thinking of using the Moldvay/Cook versions of Basic and Expert for it as well.    Nothing is set in stone yet, I am going to chat about it over the weekend with my regular group.  But this might be a chance a debut my long delayed "Return to the Cavern of the Vampire Queen" old school dungeon crawl.

At the moment to make it really old school I need to include more treasure.  There is not really enough of that.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Like Alexander, I weep...

My FLGS is having their next auction in March.  It is a great time to go and get some games that you didn't buy when they were new, buy games cheap or even pick up something you have never heard of before.

Last October I went to the auction and got some really awesome deals (see here and here).  The trouble is that my successes have been so good of late, both at the auctions and finding books online and at cons, that I have nothing I want to buy anymore.

Zip. Zilch.  Nothing.

I have hundreds of books, thousands of PDFs and who know how many printed out play-test documents.
If there is a game out there, chances are I have or didn't want it.

Sure I am missing a lot of Star Wars books, need more Traveler and could always expand my Star Frontiers library a bit.  But none of those are "needs" or even "wants" at this point.

So I sit on my mountain of books and weep over lands I can never conquer again.
Or something like that, till the next new thing excites me.

When is D&D 5 due out again? ;)

Monday, February 14, 2011

And you thought your High School had Drama

I just picked up two new games this weekend and I really like them both. "The Silver Kiss of the Magical Twilight of the Full Moon" and "Byron Falls". Both are short games and both are just 5 bucks, so for just a little cash you can get a couple of really fun games.

Both take the very ripe and ready genre of "High School Supernatural Romance" and run with it.  And yes I do mean things like "Twilight" and many other books and TV shows like "Vampire Diaries".  Set it all in some small town where the girls are super smart and beautiful, the boys are all emo and everyone is trying to date the local supernatural populace.

The hard core horror guy in me wants to rebel, saying that this is what is so wrong with the genre today.  That last generations monsters are this generations would be dates.  But in truth I just can't get worked up about it.  The games are fun, there is a bit of tongue in cheek here (ok, maybe more than a bit) and if these games can capture just a fraction of the "Teen Angst" market that sells the books and TV shows, then they will be the ones laughing at us hard core horror types. ;)

So what are these games?  Well if you have ever listened to a Smiths song, then that is what you have here.  Take those high school kids, mix in a supernatural and let wackiness ensue.  Both go for very rules-light presentations and instead focus on the relationships and interactions with the characters.    In fact the rules are so light that an enterprising GM could add these games to any current modern supernatural game (or even supers) for another level of play.

The Silver Kiss of the Magical Twilight of the Full Moon 
Silver Kiss, or SKMTFM in the book,  was the first one I picked up.
There are some very interesting things going on in this book too.  First I loved the idea of chocolate as XP, great thing to do and something I have used with younger kids too.  The game assumes four players; two humans and two supernaturals.   The stats are very simple and include names like "Emo" and "Bad Ass".  You get some points to redistribute, so you can have a high "Pretty" and a lower "Emo" for example.  The supernaturals get to choose their race and what they can do is agreed on by the group.  So vampires can walk around in sunlight or faeries can't go into churches.  Then the first scene, or soon after that, one of the humans and one the supernaturals fall in love.  It is designed to be very fluid and fast.  When there is conflict a simple d6 resolution mechanic is given.  The idea here is not who could beat who in a fight, but rather what would be more dramatic and even angsty for the game?  For example if tonight is the big prom (and there is always something going on "tonight") then if two characters get into a fight (let's say the brooding vampire boy and the pining werewolf boy) then the winner will be the one that causes the most drama for our human girl.  She wants to take the vampire, but if the vampire beats the crap out of the werewolf then she will feel for the poor werewolf!  So much drama.  And that is what the game is all about and I think the author Jenni Dowsett does it very, very well.  The game includes tons of "Secret agendas" for the supernatural creatures.  Everything from the personal (X is already in a relationship with Y) or the global (You can't be with her because you are a Z).
My favorite though is a bunch of Emo Quotes that are cut up and given to players to use.  The only thing that is really missing is a rule on how to handle the "long meaningful stare".   The character sheets are easy to fill out.  I suggest printing out the book two page per sheet, that gives your characters sheets a nice portable size that you can fold over like a small journal or diary.  An appendix of recommended reading, watching and listening is included. The game ends with a Halloween themed episode/adventure.
The author also has an active blog where she is posting new ideas for her game all the time, http://jennitalula.wordpress.com/.

Byron Falls
Byron Falls works in a similar manner.
Written by RPG demi-god John Wick Byron Falls focuses more on the human side of the equation.  The town of Byron Falls is full of beautiful, highly intelligent girls and women that only have eyes for the supernatural creatures in town.  And the town has more than their fair share.  Character generation is also very simple.  You have Interests, up to five Friends, an Enemy (or not) and your Grade.  All characters start out as High School Freshman (Grade 9).  The mechanic is a very simple one.  If you want to do something and it relevant to your interests or friends then you roll the number of dice that you have points in that area. Evens mean a success.  No success and your enemy gets to decide what the outcome of your actions are.  Again here it is not whether or not you have enough points in a area to beat someone up, but rather what is most dramatic for the game.  The supernatural creatures of BF also have to be agreed on.  Do Werewolves and Vampires hate each other? How do witches react around humans?
The game is designed with playing humans in mind, and female high schoolers in particular.  But over time more supernaturals can be added and even some characters may discover they are supernatural themselves (like becoming a witch on your 16th birthday).
The town is fleshed out and situations are given for role-playing.

Both games simultaneously poke fun at and respect their source material, which I think is about right.  They can see the silly side of this but at the same time understand that to the people in this situation it is all seriousness.  It is high school, where all drama in Big Drama and every choice is Life and Death.

If you are fan of the source material then these games will be fun.  If you are not a fan then these games can also still be a lot of fun if taken in the right mindset.

Games for Games Sake

OR: "How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Game"

Following up on a series of posts that basically have been asking, "Why aren't Games Better".

This morning I read this from Amber Benson's blog, Art for Art's Sake.
Amber is a multi-talented actor, writer, director, singer, dancer and even RPG author (she did write the adventure "Almasti" in the Ghosts of Albion Core book) and she is reflecting on the lack of good opportunities for many actors in today's world and how she has decided not to let that get to her and she will instead only take the jobs that please her as an artist.

I think that is great advice and one that can be extended to the whole RPG biz and the OSR in particular.

I am very fortunate. I don't have to write games to pay my bills.  I can write what I want or take the odd for hire writing gig or more often than not, reject others that while would be nice to get paid for, I don't have the love for them.

So I have decided to take all games on face value.  The questions I'll ask begin and end with "is it fun for me?", everything else is only details.

When writing something now, unless it is a for pay gig, then I am working from the point of view of "is it fun for me?"  IF other find it fun then great! If not, then that's ok too.  I am not trying to be elitist here, actually just the opposite, since I believe that if I find it fun to write and play so will others and hopefully that means a better product.

There are plenty of people out there that need to write to put food on the table, or keep the bills paid off for at least one more month.  For them, since I can't say my laid back attitude would help them or not, I just promise to stay out of the way.  If you are doing something I like and find fun then be assured I'll tell people.  If I don't like it, well then I might not know enough to tell anyone anything about good or bad.  But if I do, then be assured I'll give you a good, intelligent reason why I don't like it.  Your job then is to listen to me or ignore me as it benefits your enjoyment of your game.

The truth is there is just too much good stuff out there to worry about the games that don't work for me.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Zatannurday: Zatanna's Love life


There are basically two things that make for a complicated love life.  Living on the road and being a superhero.  Zatanna strikes out in both cases.

But unlike some other supers, she tries to make the best of it, even if her luck never really changes.

So here is a special Pre-Valentine's Day Zantannurday.

I think, maybe more than any other super-hero, Zantanna seems to have been free to express her sexuality.  Even more so than Wonder Woman, the feminine ideal according to her creator.  If Zatanna wants to hook-up for a one night stand, be Constantine's occasional tantric sex partner or what have you, she seems to be freer to do that.  Maybe it is because she didn't have her own series till recently?  Anytime WW gets a new boyfriend that is the stuff of cometary in Newsweek, but Zee, not so much.

Zee has had her troubles like trying to summon the man of her dreams and getting a monster:


Proving yet again that you should not drink alone (see the empty bottle there) and then try to summon.  That whole careful what you wish for thing I guess.

Of course any excuse to have her work with John is usually and excuse for them to have sex on panel.



Or a one night stand with a fellow magician,


Or making a subtle pass,



But none of these have ended out well and she seems to be settled into single life by the time The Books of Magic series is out.  Though by the Alex Ross series Kingdom Come we see the son of Zee and John. Not that it means they got married, but they were at least still having sex.

Course Zee's most interesting relationship has been with Bruce Wayne/Batman.  Depending on which continuity you subscribe to, Zee and Bruce have know each other for years and she had something of a crush on him in those early days when he was training with her father.



Of course then came the whole Doctor Light mind wipe issue and their friendship was strained.  Mostly by Bats.  They came back around to each other, eventually, but the relationship issue was not fully resolved just yet.  http://readrant.files.wordpress.com/2008/05/zatanna-and-bruce-1.jpg and http://readrant.files.wordpress.com/2008/05/zatanna-and-bruce-2.jpg

Couple of blog posts and sites,
Zatanna's first dates:
http://www.comicsalliance.com/2010/05/20/zatannas-magical-mystery-date/
Given that I am working my way through the "Dresden Files" now, I give Harry a better than average chance, which just means he would find a way to screw it up.

Zatanna's Love Life:
http://asylums.insanejournal.com/scans_daily/986029.html and
http://scans-daily.dreamwidth.org/946188.html

Zee and Constantine
http://www.ugo.com/the-goods/zatanna-constantine

So happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Season of the Witch: Episode 5

Episode 5: Veteran of the Psychic Wars

Fall 2004
Texas.

The girls are driving from NOLA and end up in Southern Texas. They get a phone call from Faith (much to their surprise). She mentions she talked to Dawn and heard they were “in the neighborhood” and gave them directions to where she and a friend was. The go to the place Faith tells them about (a little out of their way) and the meet Faith (remember, this is AU Faith, the Faith of this world died in prison when the Knights of Eolhim attacked her) they also meet an older man, Nigel. Nigel recognizes Tara, whom he accidentally calls “Megan”. Bob recognizes him and Nigel can see Bob.

Nigel and Faith are here hunting Bigfoots. Bob does not trust Nigel and indeed, Nigel seem more interested in Willow and especially Tara than he does in Bigfoot hunting.

Faith is excited to see old friends and to be out of the demon hunting biz. She claims that she was approached by Nigel last year and he works for “The Hoffman Institute”. Bob knows the organization, a group of cryptid hunters.

Slowly it is revealed, mostly from Nigel himself that, that there is more history between Nigel, Bob and Megan than Bob has let on. During an argument between Bob and Nigel, Nigel reveals that he had slept with Megan (something Bob knew) and that the timing was right that Tara might his daughter and not Bob’s. This fun filled family moment is broken up by an attack on their camp by Bigfoot.

The creature is driven off and the cast discover that Nigel hunting Bigfoots is actually a ruse. Even Faith was fooled. Nigel is still working for S.A.V.E. and they are interested in Willow and Tara. In fact they have a rather large file on them and even know that Tara had died and her “sister” Kara never existed. Everyone is angry. But Nigel points out that while his methods were bad, he is really the good guy, he even asks Bob to vouch for him and his mission. S.A.V.E. also knows about The Awakening and wants to make sure that whatever happens that the population of normal humans are safe.

Though now they have a giant cryptid on their hands and Tara’s empathy tells them that the creature is afraid and being hunted by other hunters. The Cast decides to forget Nigel for a bit and instead focus on the Bigfoot. They find it with hunters on its heels. Willow and Tara cast a masking spell on it so it can get back to its home in the swamps unnoticed.

Nigel apologizes for his ruse and says the offer to join S.A.V.E. will always be open to them. He ask Faith to go with him to the Pacific Northwest where he has been told some strange occurrences are going on. She agrees and they all part.

Tara tells Bob that it doesn’t matter what Nigel told her, her father was the man that sat by her bed when she was sick and the one that taught her to ride a horse and drove her all her equestrian events. Packing up, they drive to Central Texas to get back onto course.

NOTES: Not everything in an adventure works. This one is a good example. I had higher hopes for this one. I had been reading a bunch of “Conspiracy” games at this point (DarkMatter, ConX, Delta Green) and I wanted to pull in material from all of them. I was also playtesting the new version of Chill. Well things just never clicked. I tried to merge various elements of all these games (the Hoffman Institute was from DarkMatter) but the problem was not the contradictions but the similarities. While I had not quite given up at this point, this did lay the seeds for me that WitchCraft/Buffy is fairly incompatible with Conspiracy X or DarkMatter.

I brought back S.A.V.E. since I was playtesting Chill 3.0 at the time, which led to my Chill conversions, and I even detail some of the information that Nigel claimed S.A.V.E. had on Willow & Tara.

Of course S.A.V.E. is the third “big org” interested in the girls and The Awakening (The Witches Committee and Lilith). S.A.V.E. is pretty upfront about what they want; to protect normal humans with Willow and Tara’s help. We still have one more big organization to go.

Cordy is missing here. Not for any plot based reason other then her player was not here. So I claimed she had other charges to deal with, after all she was only their “probationary” Whitelighter.
The adventure itself comes off as a weak monster of the week episode and even the monster, Bigfoot no less, is less than threat and more of an annoyance. This partially because at this point in the game it is becoming obvious that your garden variety monster is no match to the cast and my Bigfoot was nowhere near anything like a threat to this group.

I brought Faith back and totally underused her, meant to bring her back again, but could never find anything that I wanted to do that would do her justice. More daddy issues, this time it is Tara that has to show her support and love for Bob. Nigel really is not her father, but he did sleep with Megan. But to be fair she was still suffering from the after affects of dealing with demonic possession. Nigel had been tracking Willow and Tara all this time. He was using Faith as his way in with them.

Bigfoot was originally going to be a chupacabra, but I had watched this Bigfoot documentary a while back and they were hunting the Skunk Ape in Texas, so I figured I would go with that. The research I did then helped in the formulation of some my ideas for the Ghosts of Albion adventure “Almasti”.

One thing I established right away in this adventure was that Bigfoot is NOT a demon. Too many things are labeled “demon” in the original series; it was dull and unimaginative. Bigfoot is a bigfoot. Here are the stats for our guest star. He is a young (say adolescent) Bigfoot and not quite up to his full stats yet.

Bigfoot (young) Motivation: To live alone
Creature Type: Hominid
Life Points: 38
Drama Points: 0–1

Attributes
Str: 7
Dex: 5
Con: 7
Int: 2
Per: 6
Will: 3

Ability Scores
Muscle: 20
Combat: 22
Brains: 10

Maneuvers
Name Score Damage Notes
Grapple 24 — Resisted by dodge
Punch 22 19 Bash
Spear 22 26 Slash/stab

Next up. The Ghosts of Alamo.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

How I stat out characters

I post a lot of characters here.  Lots.

Usually I have something in mind or I want to try out a new system with something I already know or a combination of the two.  But how do I take a character like Zatanna, or Red Sonja, or Willow and Tara or anyone and figure out how they are supposed to "be" in a particular system.  I have a couple of things I like to do and it has usually worked pretty well for me.

I always start out with what the character can do and who is this character supposed to be in my mind.  If I am working on Dirty Nel then I have a good idea, "sassy street faerie prostitute. cute. smarter than anyone gives her credit for. Enjoys her creature comforts and knows how to get them."  Some of that doesn't translate into game stats. Well...most games anyway. But a lot of it does.  I know she has quite a bit of knowledge about the world, street life and the occult.  I know she has a bit of magic in her and I also have a good idea about what her fighting prowess is like.

Skills
In most systems there are skills.  I look for signature skills the character has, say being able to program computers or speaking 4 languages and figure out how these are represented in the system.   For someone like Willow I look for high numbers in computers, science but also occult knowledge.  I know this is going to suck up most of her points and want to get them figured out first.  Plus they are very iconic to the character.  If I am working on Batwoman then I want to be sure her acrobatics are good, if I have Robin Sena I know she is young and most of her skills are weak except for things like occult knowledge and maybe her languages.

I like to stay within the rules as much as I can.  This helps me define the character in terms of that world's reality. If a Unisystem character gets 25 points for skills then I need to have good reasons for going to 35.  If I am using PL 9 as a base for Tarot and PL 11 for Tara in Mutants and Masterminds then I want their skills to comparable to those realities.

Skills are good Rosetta Stone really.  Most systems have them and there are lot of good translations.  Knowledge (Supernatural) could be the same thing as Occultism or Occult Knowledge.

Magic
Since I tend to make a lot of magic using characters using magic as another yardstick is good.   For D&D and d20-like games I know they need a certain spell and they need to be a certain level to cast that.  That is how I came up with Willow and Tara's levels in d20 Mod, a combination of spells and skills.
In a game like Ghosts of Albion the same is true, but then I can decide on how many levels of magic they might need.
For something like d20, this is pretty easy to work backwards from.  Find the spells, find the levels that can cast those spells, fill in the details.
For a point buy system like Ghosts, it is only part of the equation.

Combat
A lot of games feature combat or fighting.  To ignore this does the character an injustice.  Even in Call of Cthulhu or Doctor Who the character might need to stop running or talking and fight it out.  Thinking about combat like a skill then is a good way to figure out a character.  In M&M I know Tarot for example is a better fighter than Willow or Zatanna, but she can't match either of them (or even come close) in magic.  That doesn't mean she can go toe to toe with the likes of Red Sonja either.  It means that there is a good balance to be had.  Where that balance is sometimes is up for debate.  My Red Sonja may be different that someone else's based on the same PL (to use an Mutants and Masterminds example).

Feel
This is less "quantitative" really.  I'll start with a premise, "Willow is the most powerful witch in my game" then I work down from her.  I think what would it take to get the character to this level, what would it take to get a different character to a similar level.
For characters like the Hex Girls I want to make them total novices at magic.  So in Unisystem they have Magic 1 or 2 tops.  But still give the points where they would be better than average, music and showmanship.   I usually feel pretty confident in my builds, but each one usually takes longer than say just stating up John or Jane Doe Character.

Sometimes I have such strong idea for a character concept, like Justice, that I also just like to see the character in different systems too.  In the case of Willow and Tara I am also seeing if I can stat them up in as many systems as I can.

Horror is a matter of tone

Quick question.  Which movie is scarier, The Shining or Mary Poppins?
Have an answer?
Are you sure?

Watch these movie trailers then and come back.  You may already seen these.

Shining
Mary Poppins

Horror games are like that.

There is a theory out there on the net (I think I first read it at Krell Laboratories)  that if you take the final girl of horror films and turn her into an ass kicking male then you have an action film. The converse is also true.  Take an ass kicking hero and depower him, or put him is a situation he can't control then you have the start of horror.

The recent trend in books has been the Modern/Urban Fantasy.  You take the tropes of horror and make them into a fantasy story.  Vampires are not hideous monsters, they are different now. Same with witches, werewolves and all sorts of beings that just a few of decades ago were creatures of horror.  We can't blame the Twilight crowd for this, this dates back to even long before Anne Rice and Lestat.  Dracula, was still a monster, but a sexualized one.  Movie Dracula even more so.

What does this mean for games?

Nearly any game can be horror.

D&D has always had a strong undercurrent of horror. Fantasy and Horror have always shared a link.    So often times you can turn a fantasy game into a horror game with something as subtle as the presentation.

The Ravenloft setting had a great example of this.  In D&D you if you go up against a kobold it is described as a sort of reptilian humanoid.  In a horror game it is some foul combination of human, reptile and dog the size of a child, but with murder in it's eyes and blood on it's lips.

I think it is this tone that attracts me most to horror.  I like the tropes, but take the same tropes and given the hero a lot of guns and well there is the action flick again.  "Underworld" is action adventure, "Silence of the Lambs" is horror.

I try to do this in my games as much as possible, but I try not to over do it.  Even the scariest horrors become yawn worthy after to many repeated occurrences.

Some of my favorite books that helped me the most as a GM and author are Nightmares of Mine, Chill, Vampire the Masquerade (oWoD, for personal horror), and Call of Cthulhu.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

D6 or not?

D6 from West End Games has always been one of those systems I have known about, toyed around with but never actually played.

DriveThruRPG has the most recent collection of D6 games for free.
I had Hercules & Xena for a while and still have a copy of DC Universe.

I get the basic system (and even better now after talking to Jason Vey).

Is there anything I am missing by not playing/knowing D6?
Is it a system I should investigate further?

I am not a huge fan of dice pool games and I have enough games to keep me busy for the next 10 years to be honest.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

February DriveThru Specials

It's time for some new DrivethruRPG codes!  Just my way of saying thanks for being loyal readers and visitors here.

This code is good until March 8th.
The basic discount code is:

FebChatterTwenty11

It's good for 20% off the following products:

Weird War II Player's Guide [Pinnacle Entertainment]
Wu Xing: The Ninja Crusade [Third Eye Games]
The Echoes of Heaven Bestiary/The Tainted Tears (OGL Version) [Final Redoubt Press]
USHER Dossiers (ICONS) [Vigilance Press]
The Floating Vagabond BarFly Bundle [Reality Cheque]

I also have one code for someone to receive all the above products for FREE.

But I don't have a good contest/give away idea in mind.  In fact this post has been sitting my computer all day.

So here is the deal.  In the comments section below please post an idea on how I should give away this code. It can be a trivia contest, or a link sharing idea, something.  Whomever has the best idea wins the free code for all the PDFs above AND that idea will be used next month for the March free code.

So let me know!  I'll let it run for the next couple of days or until I get a winning entry!

Orcs of Mystoerth

I have been wanting to write more on the creatures that inhabit my game-world of Mystoerth.  I thought maybe I'd go with the classic nemesis, the Orc.

I have talked about the Desert Orcs of the Zakhara Desert and their allies the Desert Elves.  I also plan to use Harvard's more beastial Orcs of Blackmoor for my Blackmoor area (north pole).

Sure my Orcs have a lot in common with Tolkien's Orcs, but I also borrow a lot from Shadowrun, Orkworld and other games.  I also like to think of orcs as some sort of human predecessor/off-shot. Almost like the gods were trying to make humans (or maybe the elves were) and the orcs were their their disastrous first draft.  That would put more emphasis on the human-orc wars than the orc-elven ones. Unless there are some good reasons for the elves to be involved.

My write-up on Goblins can be read here, in case you were curious.

History of the Orcs

Orcs began as one of the first experiments of creating life by the elves.  It is said that the greatest sin is that of hubris. In this hubris, feeling they were equal to the gods that had made them, the first elves, nearly immortal beings of great power, created the first orc through their magic.  They wished to instill the sturdiness of the dwarves (a race created at the same time as the elves), the tenacity of the goblins and the adaptability of this new race known as human.  Though to their horror what they created were the Orcs; a word that means "horror" in the elf tongue.  The elves did not know what to do with there creations, so they hid them away in dark mountains, and underground and anywhere where the clime was harsh hoping that nature could do what they could not, kill their creations.  But nature didn't instead she took iron of the Orcs and tempered it into steel.  The orcs flourished and when the other races discovered what had been done it was too late to stop the orcs.

The hatred of the orcs and elves comes from this point.  Orcs see elves and are reminded of what they are not, elves see orcs and are reminded of the failures of their own race.  Even if the true knowledge of the elves and orcs has been lost to all but the most learned scholars, the racial memory runs deep.

If orcs just fundamentally hate elves, their hatred of dwarves is more pragmatic.  Dwarves and orcs are often found in the same locales fighting over the same resources.  So far the only race orcs have seen as worth enough to be considered equal foes are humans.

Background

All orcs have a number of qualities in common.  They are typically much stronger than humans and elves, have bestial or "primitive" features.  Orcs will cross-bred with anything, but favor goblins, hobgoblins, humans, and ogres.  Orcs have interbred with trolls and some hill giants in the past which has re introduced some randomness into their genetic makeup.  Though it should be stated that orcs do not prefer this.  Orcs are extremely proud of their heritage and consider themselves to be the best of all species as they are the only species to live in every part of the world.  Though they are dimly aware that their success is due in part of their adaptability and ability to interbred with others.

Orcs give birth to 1-2 young at a time.  The gestation period for an Orc is 4 months.  A feamle orc can produce as many as 4 to 6 young per year, but only half will survive their first year. Orcs grow fast, with babies able to walk within months and eat meats by 1 year old.  Orcs also reach sexual maturity at age 10 and are considered adults soon after.  Female orcs choose mates based on their physical size and their ability to gain meat for the family unit.  Males must show prowess in battle and kill any rivals for the female's attention.   All orcs have a sense of honor, but it only applies to other orcs.  Though they have been known to extend the same code to humans; a race they see as a worthy adversary.

Some orcs do enjoy the taste of human flesh, but they typically only eat human (or demi-human) flesh as a means to strike fear into foes or as part of a shamanistic ritual.  Orcs are omnivores, though most prefer only meat.  Elk, caribou and reindeer are the chief staples of their diet (depending on territory).   No matter what though orcs will not eat the flesh of another orc.  That is one taboo they will not break.

Grey Orcs - these are the common orcs of the "Oerth" part of my world.  These are the brutish, violent orcs of most D&D worlds. They are found through out the Flanaess. These orcs extend far to the north where they are the original stock of the Blackmoor Orcs.  Some scholars believe that these are orcs are the offspring of the Uruks and generations of interbreeding with goblinoids.  These orcs are fond of raiding human villages for food and supplies.  Some of these orcs have skin tone that is almost pinkish in hue, but they are still called Grey orcs.  The largest concentration of Grey orcs are located in the Pomarj region. Here the Empire of Turrosh Mak still reigns as it has since CY 584 (the current CY in my game is CY915).  The line of Turrosh Mak greatly favors the Uruk ancestry found in the Grey Orc line. The current orc emperor is Turrosh Bane XIV who came to power after murdering his father and brothers.  Bane is devious, intelligent and violent in the extreme.

Green Orcs - The common orc of the "Msytara" side of my world. Like the greys these orcs are violent and brutish.  These orcs though also have an bit higher intelligence than their grey cousins and are bit better organized, they constantly fall prey to clan fighting among lesser Green Orc chieftains. Unlike the Greys and the Uruk there is no one leader to try to unite these orcs.   These orcs are common to much of the Empire of Thyatis and can also be found in the deep southern jungles of of Pelatan.  The largest collection of Green orcs can be found in the Broken Lands outside Glantri.

White Orcs - These are green orcs that have adapted to the frozen wastes north of Hyborea and Norwold.
In the Northwest corner of Brun there is Hyborea and here the White Orcs have interbred with the Animalistic Orcs of Blackmoor to produce a breed of orc that is both strong, violent and smart. These orcs though seldom organize enough to become more of a threat outside of a raiding party.  Due to the inherent adaptability of the orcs, these orcs have skin that is bone white.  Better to hide in the frozen wastes they call home.

Blackmoor Orcs - These orcs are much more bestial in appearance and manner.  Their sizes vary considerably and many have pronounced horns, claws, fur and other "animalistic" features. It is believed these orcs have been the results of the the strange experiments that were common to Blackmoor before the great explosion.  These orcs have also interbred so much with goblins and bugbears that within Blackmoor it is nearly impossible to tell the two races apart.

Uruks - Also known as High Orcs or even Black Orcs, these orcs consider themselves to be the pinnacle of the orc race.  Their skin is dark and they stand nearly a head taller than men.  They are thickly muscled, often with pronounced tusks in their lower jaw and they are fiercely intelligent.  While, maybe not more so than humans, but they have a cunning that makes them a horror in battle.  Their mortality rate is very high so that they never produce great numbers.  Their society is ordered, militaristic and violent.  They have a single leader, currently a charismatic chieftain, that can control thousands of these orcs.  If the Uruks ever decide to go to war with humanity then it will be a war that engulfs the world.

Desert Orcs - an off-shoot of the Greens.  They live in a land where they are at peace with the elves.  In fact Desert orcs and desert elves consider each other to be brothers.  This relationship was forged thousands of years ago when the rose up together to fight of the evil of the Necromancer Kings.  Living under the harsh desert sun has turned the orcs complexion to more of a brown color.
More detail has been posted here, Desert Elves and Orcs.

Half-Orcs - Most times when an orc inter-breeds with another species the result is an orc. The orc may have certain qualities that are similar to their non-orc parent (Goblin-Orcs are smaller, Ogre-Orcs are larger).  Though there are often times individuals that seem to posses the better qualities of both parents.  These half-orcs can often find a place for themselves in the human lands or the orcs.  Half-orcs are more common among the Green and Grey orcs, though all orc sub-species have produced a half-orc one time or another.

Monday, February 7, 2011

D&D Fortune Cards for non-4e D&D

So I picked up a couple of packs of D&D fortune cards the other day.

So far I fail to see what the big deal is.  It adds another random element to play that can be fun.  They are really not all that different than say playing with Drama points, except that you don't get choose the effect they have when you use them.

Basically you start with a deck say of 30, 40 or 50 and then you shuffle them and draw a card each round.  You can hold or play your card.  Some have conditions that need to be met (you or an ally make a skill check) or when something happens to you (you are moved or teleported) or in combat.
Some negate some bad effect, other add a +2 to a roll or even say you can have 1/2 damage or extra damage depending on another roll.

So far I have seen a single card that I would say is a balance or game breaker.  There are some that might give a character an undo advantage, but I also see it as a way to help make combats interesting and constantly changing.

I also didn't see a thing in them that screamed "this is for 4e only".  In fact outside of some minor terminology I could see these working in any version of D&D you care to play.  Sure some would need to be tweaked, shifting has a particular meaning in 4e and saving throws mean something different.  But others would be perfectly fine to use in your favorite retro clone.

There have been some images of cards posted by Wizards, so lets look at them.
Here are two.


Get a Grip - Every version of D&D has a Saving Throw.  They might mean something different, but they have them and making them is good, not making them is bad.  If an ally fails their save, then play this card and they get a second chance.  Yeah-yeah you "save or you die" types are squealing, but frankly these cards were never for you to start with.

Grim Determination needs more definition, but not so much if you just say "bloodied mean half your hit points are gone".

While I may never use these cards in my 4e game, I am going to make a point of trying them out in at least one old-school game sometime soon just to see if they work out.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

I'm having fun, how about you?

A bunch of posts this past week and weekend about the supposed creative dearth in modern RPGs.

If you have not seen them, here are some round ups.



And a few analyses.

I am sure there is more.

Now Long and Sheppard have earned their stripes with Hero Games and White Wolf respectively and RPGPundit has...what exactly has he done anyway?  Anyway, they are not some RPG noobs or someone on "teh internets" with a half-baked opinion.  But I think they are missing a very important point.

RPGs are supposed to be fun first.

Sure creative, well manufactured RPGs that take advantage of the medium they are in is a great thing.  But sometimes what is great for me is not great for you or some other group.  There are a lot of designers out there doing really cool things, but some of those "really cool things" would bug the shit out of me as a player.

D&D still works for me now for the same reason it worked for me in 1981; it is fun.

I think that is what games should be about.

Wikipwdia, Wikia and D&D

Once upon a time I a was a huge contributor to Wikipedia.  I'd edit articles, save them from deletion and generally improve them.  I spent a lot of time researching material and I even helped get a few articles to Good and Featured status.

The trouble is it is an uphill battle against the deletionists; people that want to remove anything from Wikipedia that didn't fit with their often narrow view of what should be in an encyclopedia.  I have locked horns with people on personal crusades (often self admitted) to remove content of a certain type.  There are the anti-porn crusaders that want to delete all articles regarding porn actresses and I have lost a few battles with them.  There was also the guy that took it upon himself to delete all articles on D&D because, well, we were never really clear on that, but he had a single mindedness of it that spoke of some personal hatred (as someone that has a  psych degree and spent a few years working as professional psychologist I am comfortable to make that claim).  He was ultimately banned from Wikipedia because he was a dick.

But now the deletionists are at it again.  I lost an article I spent a lot of time on last month and now another one is up.  Frankly I don't have the desire to fight them anymore.

The article in question is the one on Glasya, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glasya

So instead I am looking for other places for D&D related articles.  Wikipedia was a great resource for pop culture but it's effectiveness is soon going to ground to a halt by factions within the site itself.

There are a few other D&D-related Wikis out there.  Here are the ones I know off and have contributed to in the past.
I am sure there are more.  It would be nice to have a couple places to go for research.

In the mean-time as D&D articles get deleted I'll try to find new homes for them elsewhere.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Post 500

Another milestone!  This is my 500th blog post.

I really don't have anything special to say here.  I have a lot more posts to come.

Here is to another 500!

Zatannurday: RPG Stats

This might seem like a bit of a cheat, but as an RPG Blog I want to post RPG stats.  Seems only right really, given this site.

Here are some links to some of my favorite versions and a Zatanna pic colored by Ginjirou,
http://ginjirou.deviantart.com/art/Zatanna-coloured-33727410.


Thom Marrion did a great Cinematic Unisystem / Ghosts of Albion version, http://edenstudiosdiscussionboards.yuku.com/reply/34516#reply-34516

A bunch great ones over at the Atomic Think Tank for Mutants and Masterminds 2nd Ed:
Baron's, Batgirl's, Jabronville's, Narsil's, Pamela Isley's, and MDSnowman's.

M&M 3rd Edition/DCA can be found in the DC Adventures Hero's Handbook.

I did one for Witch Girls Adventures here:
http://timbrannan.blogspot.com/2010/05/zatanna-every-little-thing-she-does-is.html

Will consider doing some more in the future.  Cortex might be a good choice.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Season of the Witch: Episode 4

Episode 4: Under a Cajun Moon

Late Summer / Early Fall 2004
New Orleans, Tara is possessed by the same spirit that had possessed her mother. Learn more about the summer that Bob met Megan.
Special Guests: Eliza Roberts as “Megan O’Kelly / McClay” and Eric Burdon as himself.

Synopsis Willow and Tara arrive in New Orleans. They are still getting used to the idea that Bob is tagging along as a ghost. He keeps reminding them that they need to focus on the mission, the girls remind him they are not on a mission. While sitting outside at a bar enjoying some gumbo (Cajun food was a very big deal for me when working on these adventures), a band begins to play some hypnotic song. Tara, unbidden gets up and begins to dance in a highly erratic fashion. Willow snaps her out of it, but not before she is seen by a tall man with his face painted to look like a skull.

The man is a voodoo priest, known as “Bone Man” and he works for a local crime lord/voodoo practioner Guillaume “Papa” Le Basque.

Papa Le Basque kidnaps Tara, who he sees as a pure conduit to the power of Loa. He takes her to Cottoncrest Manor. Le Basque is a legba hougan seeking the power of the forgotten “dark Loa” he knows is trapped in the manor.

The former owner of this manor was a cruel woman that turned an old slave plantation into a brothel. She eventually tried to burn the place down with all the girls trapped inside to cover her increasing debt. When it later became an insane asylum in the 1950s the women inside were driven to murderous rage to kill any man. Even mild depression became a murderous rampage. The government shut it down after a mother of two went on a rampage and killed 12 inmates and half a dozen staff. Even in notorious NOLA it was never used as a drug den or vampire nest for very long. The last known death was a when teenage couple came to the place after a night of tagging to drop some LSD. The girl who was 16 and described by everyone as shy, butchered her boyfriend. She was discovered days later naked, covered in blood and in a fetal position. She was never the same.

Bob and Megan had been here before and this was their last mission. Most of his team was killed, and Megan was possessed. They thought it was a simple poltergeist. It was a demon lord, Hysterix. A demon that feeds on the despair, fear and pain of women. He was trapped in the burned out house by occultists years ago. Occult Poet Eric Burden remains so he can make sure it does not escape. Le Basque believes Hysterix is a powerful but forgotten Loa. (His corporal form was destroyed, but he bonded with the house).

Bob always felt a little bit of the demon remained in Megan. Hysterix claimed he would have their daughter (they were not married yet, though the demon predicted that Megan’s daughter would be a powerful witch) and her daughters as well. Bob was relieved when Donny was born, but horrified when Tara was born a year later. Bob had to admit his love to Megan to drive the demon out.

The house is filled with the ghosts of all the slaves and prostitutes killed there, of all the people in the asylum, and even memento mori and apparitions of past sufferings. Also illusions created by Hysterix.

Cordy doesn’t want to go in unarmed…she switches to full angelic form. What can I say, the idea of a asskicking angel is just too good to pass up.

Demons feed on fear, uncertainty and doubt, but are repelled by love.
To force the demon out of Tara, Bob (not Willow this time) must confess his love for her and seek her forgiveness.

Part of the episode is also played in flashback with Tara’s player taking on the role of Megan, Bob’s playing Bob, Willow’s playing Nigel and Cordy’s playing the groups medic. The idea here of course is to get the Players to enact the same scene as in the past, with Bob confessing he loves Megan in the past and now making the same confessions to Tara in the present.

Notes: Obviously I wanted to focus on the relationship between Bob and his daughter and Bob and Megan. While Willow is somewhat sidelined in this episode, I came up with the flashback idea to keep her player busy at least. There were still plenty of ghosts in the manor to fight and Cordy and Willow were the only ones with the firepower to do it.

Again, and it may be a dead horse with me now, but I wanted to once again show that there is power, real power, in love. The demon is very much Charmed influenced, with the proclamation of love needing to kill rather than beating on it. The manor is based on this reoccurring nightmare I have had since I was small that I called my “Very Haunted House”. The woman who owned it is still in the house, mummified.

Papa Le Basque is of course killed by the demon, as most human dupes for demons are. But Bone Man, a character from my early Chill days, is still out there. Eric Bourdon appears mostly because I am a fan of “The Animals” and “War” but also due to a documentary I watched about him.

The biggest critique of this episode though came from my players and it is a good one. Basically this is another “Tara in peril” episode. I could not disagree. While I wanted to change things around, the truth is I needed this episode. It sets up the relationship between Bob and the Girls. Had to be done. Plus the demon makes a prediction about the future and that had to be said now. Sure there were other ways I could have done that, but this worked out well enough.

This episode I also introduced some items/plot from my old Chill game.  I had considered running the flashback in Chill, creating characters and having even a little bit of combat.  But that never really panned out.

Next Episode:  Willow, Tara and Bob find Faith in South East Texas hunting Bigfoots with the last person they expected to see in “Veteran of the Psychic Wars”.
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