Thursday, December 30, 2010

Once more into the breach...MELEE!

As yesterdays post concerned Melee, I thought maybe there are readers who may never have played this classic.  Since Melee has been out of print since 1983, and copies are fetching prices of $50+ on ebay, it seems unlikely your average gamer is going to seek this classic out. Honestly if you paid $50+ for a copy would you cut out the counters and play? Nope, me either.

So save your ducats my friends as I found a redesigned copy of Melee for you!  

If you own any of the Heroscape stuff, you can build your own Melee board with those hex tiles and use D&D minis or Heroscape minis to represent your fighters!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Strange Fascination: Melee, Wizard, and TFT

This post will ramble, you have been forewarned.

I am fascinated, possibly obsessed a bit, with Metagamings Fantasy Trip system.  There is a core clarity and simplicity to it that I want to enjoy.  At the same time there are so many tweaks and changes I have to it that I can't say its much more than a muse of a game to me really.  Yet that muse for some reason sings like Billie Holiday to me.  Why am I fascinated?  Well let's look at it where it started:

 In 1977 Metagaming published Melee and it was a mini arena combat board game.  The core of the system could be used to replace your RPG's combat system to make it more gritty and tactical.  Characters were rated by Strength, Dexterity, and Movement.  The player was given a point pool to divide amongst Strength and Dexterity, while movement was governed by race of the character. You rolled 3d6 trying to roll lower than your own Dexterity score to hit your foe.  Strength regulated what weapons you could use and also acted as your hit point total.  Armor absorbed damage from weapons which struck your character at the expense of  lowering your own Dexterity score and movement speed.

The original rules were all contained in about 17 pages and eventually with revisions went to 24 pages. The rules were contained in a 4x8 game box which also came with a hex map and counters.  Complete out the door for about $3 in 1977 (or roughly $11 in 2010).

Melee was a simple game to pick up and play. Characters were really easy to create and you could manage a couple of them in a fight easily.  As a tactical board game it was great fun and we did use it in our D&D games.  There were a few problems though that bothered us:  Why did weapons have Strength attribute limitations, but armor did not?  With a low strength I could only use daggers or other low damage weapons, but I could wear plate mail and pack a shield? Secondly, anyone wearing Plate mail and carrying a shield or large shield would make some weapons completely useless!  They would absorb all the damage that could possibly be done by some weapons like: Dagger, rapier, club, hammer, javelin, spear, Longbow, Horse bow, small bow, and sling.

In 1978 Metagaming released Wizard which added magic rules to the Melee game.  This also added a new attribute, Intelligence, into character generation and rules.  Intelligence score determined which spells you could learn and cast as well as your resistance to spells like Illusion or control.  Spells were not automatically cast, instead 3d6 were rolled and compared to the Dexterity of the caster. Successful casting was paid for as damage to the Strength of the caster.   Yes Magic casting caused physical damage to the caster!  You never forgot your spells, but you paid dearly for casting them!

Just like Melee, the combat was stylized as a wizard arena duel.  For the same $3 ($11 now) as Melee you got a 17 page rule book, that with revisions went to 24 and then 32 pages.  The 4x8 box contained a hex map and more counters.  The system linked up perfectly with Melee and could be used as a substitute for magic rules in your other Role Playing Games you might be playing.

While Melee was easy to add into our regular D&D game, no spell caster wanted to adopt Wizard rules over D&D rules. Looking at it now I like the way Wizard checked the power of wizard characters.  For a Wizard all 3 attributes were very important: Strength was necessary for absorbing spell cost, Dexterity was important to cast spells, Intelligence for determining what spells you could cast and as well as resisting some spells.  You did not have a dump stat (same as Melee) they all mattered.

While I like not automatically forgetting spells and having to roll for casting, no one liked spells damaging your wizard character.  They weaken themselves to the point where any knucklehead with a sling can take them out with a rock! Since they can't wear armor that's not a far fetched idea in this system.  Secondly as laid out you needed to build a Conan the Librarian wizard in order for them to survive as Strength was incredibly important for casting! This always seemed goofy to us.

Lastly advancement in both Melee and Wizard was done by increasing your attributes.  At some point your attributes made your success nearly guaranteed in combat ruining the fun and danger. 

Eventually these two simple little games would provide the core for what would become known as The Fantasy Trip (TFT). The TFT system consisted of three 8.5x11 books released in 1980 and each had a $5 MSRP ($14 today). Advanced Melee was 32 pages, Advanced Wizard was 40 pages, and In the Labyrinth was 80 pages.  To play you also needed to own both Melee and Wizard as well as the three TFT books.  TFT added advanced combat, spell casting, and full Role Playing to the Melee/ Wizard core rules. In TFT a full system of Talents (skills) was introduced and experience could be used to raise a Talent score, or more expensively and Attribute

Originally TFT was conceived of as a complete boxed set with map, counters, and an adventure (Tolenkar's Lair).  Jackson believed in the box set, and all work had been done, but Metagaming owner Howard Thompson disagreed believing a $20 boxed set ($56 today) would be far too expensive and the TFT became too complex.  So TFT would compete with D&D by undercutting it by being cheaper as well as simpler to understand and play.  A big boxed set was also counter to Thompson's established and successful Microgame sales model, so instead all the books were released individually at $5 each. 

TFT would, and still does, have its share of adherents. I wanted to like it, and was excited to see these games become a full blown RPG system! Sadly the weaknesses I saw in the core games seemed to become more magnified in the full system.  Secondly TFT was a pain in the ass to purchase or to try an explain to someone what to purchase to play.  You had to buy and own: Melee, Wizard, Advanced Melee, Advanced Wizard, and In the Labyrinth to play the damn system!  Three of the books matched in size (8.5x11) and presentation (Adv. Melee, Adv. Wizard, ITL) but Wizard and Melee did not! They could not be merchandised together due to their variant sizes which further caused problems.  This awkwardness of presentation certainly seems like a strike against the game and trying to purchase 5 different books/ games to play seems to me needlessly complex for a game and system that strived to be a playable, inexpensive, and simple game.

Eventually Steve Jackson split off and formed his own company, and Thompson retained the rights to the TFT system.  Thompson felt TFT became too complex for its own good.  The simplicity established by Melee and Wizard became buried under TFT's advanced rules. To that end Thompson created a new TFT compatible boxed set entitled Dragons of Underearth in 1981. In 16 pages this game condensed Melee/ Wizard and a few bits of TFT (talents/skills) into one book. This was a digest sized box set/ book which came with a map and counters.  I am unsure of the original retail but I assume it was $5 ($14 today).  This stripped the TFT system back to a Melee/ Wizard level of simplicity and with that, stripped it back to more of a tactical board game with RPG flavor.  Reading it now, besides just trying to strip Jackson out of the system completely, it was a true TFT basic set.  Unfortunately in the drive to simplify, it also left out a lot of what I would consider necessary explanations. As written, the rules lead a prospective player into confusion and a sense of incompleteness.  Another 12 to 16 pages of explanation, details, and potential RPG application could have made this into a little gem of a basic set.  As is, the set feels like a half arsed attempt at overkill system simplification done with a mega dose of spite.  That's a bad brew.

Jackson went on to create GURPS, Metagaming crashed in April of 1983, and publishing/ production for the system died a swift death.  It is rumored Thompson was seeking $250k for the rights to TFT but no one ever paid, and Thompson (and TFT) disappeared.

Currently, Dark City Games is publishing programmed adventures compatible with the basics of the TFT system.  In addition their version of the rules are available as a free download.   Their adventures cover fantasy, wild west, and sci-fi-are taking TFT far beyond its original scope.   Full disclosure, I have an adventure published by DCG, but I make no revenue from its sales by choice.

For years I had hope they would flesh out and create a complete RPG game, but the fine folks at DCG seem content to focus on publishing adventures and leaving the rules as a free download to support module purchases.  I spoke with the owners actively for about a year regarding a full RPG while I worked on my module, but it became clear they were not going to do it.  Hopefully that will change someday.

So all of that to get to why do I like the system? As stated earlier, their are many things I do not like, but the core elements are very good. I like the simplicity of the 3d6 system and the bell curve averages inherent in the workings of the system.  I like the simplicity of a few core attributes and leaving things like "charisma" to game play and character/ NPC interactions in game.  I like wizards having to compete like warriors in combat with dice rolls to cast spells and not being sure if the spell will be successful or not rather than the automatic success/ target resistance model of D&D.  I like the combat always being perilous rather than the deadly to dismissive path of D&D.  I think the programmed adventure model is interesting but I'd rather create see a series of adventure opportunity/ battle scenes ala Orc Slayer for the GURPS pre-cursor Man to Man rather than the choose your adventure hooks of the original.

Note I recently (11/19/12) released an RPG that is a "basic set" inspired by Melee/Wizard/TFT. Check it out at Heroes & Other Worlds.

Hope you come along for the ride!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Holidaze Salez

House full of folks since last Sunday and company here until next Monday so not much time for blogging.

I wanted to point out a quick sale I took full advantage of at Troll Lord Games.  In my mind they kind of kicked off the OSR with their White Box Castles and Crusades set.  Anyway their looooooooooooooong awaited Castle Keeper's Guide is due out soon and they are producing digest sized versions of all their core books!  You can get all 5 core C&C books in digest size for $50!!  That is a steal!

They have tons of great sales too on full multiple module series, boxed sets, and stacks of their Crusader magazine.  Load up my friends!

Thanks for riding along this year and taking time to read and comment on these random ideas and missives.  I sincerely wish you and yours the happiest of holiday seasons and I look forward to dumping even more random mental flotsam and jetsam onto your mental beaches soon!

God bless you and yours!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Pocket Full of Peril #5

Pocket Full of Peril #5: Troll and Toads
Strange croaking in a chanting rhythm is heard by those walking the path around the Deadmarshes.  In ages past the toad god Roarabat was worshiped in caves under the swamp.  Perhaps the dark rites have begun anew? There is only one way to find out, venture forth!
Tip of the cap to Stoneworks for the great geomorph inspiration!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Pocket Full of Peril #4

Pocket Full of Peril #4: The Ruins of Rabon Nov Dranbon
Rabon Nov Dranbon was an exceedingly twisted ruler.  He would fetch women from various realms and markets of exceeding beauty and have them fight to the death in the gladiator pits under his fortress.  Visiting dignitaries would seek out an invitation to the games and would pay handsomely for the fights or for a stolen night with a survivor.  Dranbon's power and wealth grew until suddenly his castle collapsed crushing all who were inside.  For ages many tried to loot his castle ruins finding instead death amongst the cold stones.  A wood cutter is said to have spied what could be an opening near the castle ruins amongst a dense outcropping of blood thorns. Do you dare Dranbon's wrath?
Tip of the cap to Dyson for these geomorphs!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Defeat the Kaiser and his Luftmarine on Mars!

Over the last couple weeks I have developed a new fascination with World War 1.  I read All Quiet on the Western Front in high school and it left quite an impression along with Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms.  Later, Barbara Tuchman's books in college were required reads, and I devoured John Keegan's account of the War to end All Wars years ago.  Here and there I have collected numerous books on the development of sea power during WW1 and how the submarine and the aircraft carrier changed the way we fight.

In amongst these and a number of other books, I also played Space 1889 and a few years ago picked up and played Aeronef.  Aeronef is sort of a Sky Galleons of Mars, except with many, many, many, more models to choose from, and a cleaner and simpler rules set.  There are models to cover nearly every nations sky fleet from Austria, to Italy, Japan, to America, Turkey, to Prussia, and Mars pirates!  Very fun, but collecting dust now.

A few weeks ago I was listening to Iron Maiden's Dance of Death and then looked up a few fan made videos for the song Passchendaele.  My interest was suddenly renewed in this era.  I re-watched All Quiet on the Western Front, and The Lost Battalion.  Now I was picking up steam and such was my growing mania  I then purchased a small wargame Trenches of Valor and its expansion from Victory Point Games. The simple but intense man to man trench raid game sent my poor mind spinning.

What if WW1 raged not just here at home, but on the moon and on Mars.  What if the colonial expeditions of the Victorian era carried not just to the darkest Africa...but to the Darkside of the moon.  Looking at some of the art of the time on posters it is not altogether too far a reach to believe that the Kaiser emboldened by his Beastmen allies from Mars decided to evict other nations from these new worlds, and to try and subjugated the home world.  What if the Boer War was actually a Boar War against classic Orc like beasts armed by their Russian Allies? The secret of the darkside of the moon is the dead do not die in the dust...they rise again from the obsidian sands to take revenge on the living.

I am not sure there is a substantial Role Playing Game idea in here anywhere, but I can't shake the feeling that there is something here waiting to be written and I think Red Coats, Red Planet has a nifty ring to it.  Besides, I really dig my 10 minute toss together Microsoft Paint bootleg war poster for Colonial Marines!

Yet my mind's eye sees me probably more like Richard Dreyfus in Close Encounters of the Third Kind playing with a heap of mashed potatoes and claiming, "...this means something..."
So there it is, post 100.  I have managed to randomly hit nearly every thing I dig in one post: history, literature, movies, tv, RPG's, sci-fi, miniatures, war gaming, zombies, and Iron Maiden.  Out of respect to my wife and baseball I have left them untouched by the ramblings of this post.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Pocket Full of Peril #3

Pocket Full of Peril #3: The Spider Riders of Pren
You arrive in a small battle ravaged village. A few buildings are burned, and the wounded men and wailing women stumble amongst the wreckage.  Worse is to come as you survey the battle scene finding thick sticky webbing hanging from various buildings and a massive spider still smoldering in the remains of a smoking building.  In fear and despair a group of women cling to you pointing out towards a rock formation on the far horizon.  From the visible drag marks, their sob choked story, and the lack of children in the village, its clear a treasure more precious than gold was taken from them and they want it returned.

Tip of the Cap to Stonewerk's for the geomporphs  used in this weeks Pocket Full of Peril. Check out his blog for a lot more great maps and resources.

I will be posting PDF versions of each of the Pockets shortly, look for a link soon.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Sorry for lack of updates/ responses

Quick note:

My wife's birthday was this week, my boss is in town this week at work, and we are buttoning up year end, and 2011 business plans.  Very busy and late nights on all fronts.  I will have an interesting post on my COLLAPSE blog for you to consider this weekend and a new Pocket Full of Peril as well this weekend. 

Monday, December 6, 2010

Are you paranoid if you have proof they are watching you?

So I posted the beta manual v1.1 for my COLLAPSE RPG recently. While the RPG is in the motif of a government manual, clearly it is not in any way, shape, or form anything more than just a game.

Strangely enough though, my little blog was snooped by the FBI today.  Specifically by the FBI Criminal Justice Information Systems in Bridgeport, West Virgina.  So to my friends in the FBI a cheery hello, and I hope you enjoy the game! If you ever need some help setting up a game or running one, I guess you know how to get a hold of me!

I have great respect for the men and women who serve our great nation in many capacities in its defense.  Many of my own family have served our country.  Yet, I can't imagine a little nothing blog read by fewer than 50 people about role playing games and being a nerd would illicit any interest from our  Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Strange days...but maybe given what's currently being wargammed by our government it is not as strange as I had thought? Anyway, I need to go make a tinfoil hat real quick, mine will be the one with the Red Sox logo on it!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Complete COLLAPSE Beta v1.1

The full Beta edition of FSM 5-01c COLLAPSE v1.1 is now available as a download for a limited time.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Pocket Full of Peril #2

Pocket Full of Peril#2: Tomb of Ice
High above the village along the Frostmarch trail, travel and trade has come to a stop.  While winter's icy grip normally chokes the pass from time to time, whole groups have gone missing recently and the abundance of massive sized tracks and blood in the snow signifies something besides old man winter is attacking travelers.  Are you brave enough to discover who or what it is?
Tip of the cap to Dyson for the geomporphs used in this Pocket Full of Peril

Thursday, December 2, 2010

We're off to outer space...

Over the past few years I've read any number of Sci-Fi themed postings on blogs. Whether its about Sci-Fi TV shows, movies, novels, comic books, or games, it seems like nearly every possible one I'd ever heard of has been covered...except for one.  There were three major sci-fi influences in my life growing up: Star Trek (Kirk/green slave girl style), Star Wars (Make mine midichlorian free please), and STAR BLAZERS.  Hands down one of the best theme songs ever.  I'd watch an episode while scarfing breakfast, then sing it running all the way to school, and I still find myself singing it now and then out of the blue.  In fact I am sure if call either of my brothers and say 'Our Star Blazers" they'd sing every damn line.  I can't think of a whole lot of things that stick with you through life or make such a huge impression on you, but Star Blazers is certainly one of them.  Here is the opening theme...get ready for greatness!

In my mind Star Blazers is kind of the best mash up of Star Trek (one crew, one ship) with Star Wars (save the world mission, young boy grows into manhood and leadership, old trusted Sensei passes on, lots of combat).  What also made it so intense was the time limit: One year to save the Earth! At the end of every episode it would say something like, "Only 214 days left for the crew of the Yamato to save the Earth!" Holy Cow-will they do it?  I COULD NOT miss an episode because I had to know IF Derek Wildstar, Mark Venture, and the rest of the crew of the Yamato would save the Earth! We'd gobble breakfast while watching the crew struggle to save the Earth battling the foppish and evil Gamilon Leader Desslok to reach Iscandar!  

If for some reason you are unfamiliar with the brave crew of the Space Battleship Yamato, the power of the wave motion cannon, and Star Blazers in general you have a fantastic new discovery!  A live action movie version of Star Blazers just opened in Japan!  I can't wait to see it, here is a clip below.
We're off to outer space
We're leaving Mother Earth
To save the human race
Our Star Blazers

Searching for a distant star
Heading off to Iscandar
Leaving all we love behind
Who knows what danger we'll find?

We must be strong and brave
Our home we've got to save
If we don't in just one year
Mother Earth will disappear

Fighting with the Gamilons
We won't stop until we've won
Then we'll return and when we arrive
The Earth will survive
With our Star Blazers

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Pocket Full of Peril #1

In a moment of chocolate and peanut butter like inspiration, I took this idea from the geomorphs from Dyson and mashed it up with  the note card genius from ze bulette.  As a result I have the first of what I hope to be an on going project called: A Pocket Full of Peril.

Each will print and fit onto a 3x5 card.  The story set up will be given for each Pocket Full of Peril.  Each room type and basic contents will be listed in note form so they are system generic.

Pocket Full of Peril #1: The Mines of Dol Muir
It was once a fledgling dwarf hall, while mining the dwarfs unearthed an horrific idol that unleashed an ancient evil.  The dwarfs managed to imprison the beast back in the idol and then abandoned the hall.  The tale is a legend, but someone or something is now digging in the old halls trying to find the idol and unleash its power.  What is the idol? Who is trying to find it? Can the players stop them?

I decided it would be a Necromancer and some cultists using undead labor to do the digging. So with out further ado, here is my take on Pocket Full of Peril #1: The Mines of Dol Muir.

Ideally I'd like for other people to create their own contents for each Pocket Full of Peril on their blog. Each person would base their version on a specific theme.  Like Goblins, Dark Elves, Undead, Bandits, or Frog Men, etc. Below is a blank for you to use and post on your site filled out. I look forward to seeing your version!  Please post a link back to the original on your site, and put a link in the comments section here under each Pocket Full of Peril to create a complete resource for each release. Thanks!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Happy Birthday to the Corps and me

11/10 is coming up and I share that day of creation with our own U.S. Marine Corps!

Regardless of who sits in the White House, or which party is currently guiding the U.S. nation, the men and women of our armed forces stand ready to serve.  My dad served in the Air Force in Vietnam, my step father served in the Navy and Coast Guard,  and my youngest brother served in the Marine Corps.  Needless to say I have a lot of respect for those who serve, the difficult tasks we give to our armed forces to perform, and the ultimate sacrifice we ask others to pay on behalf of our nation.

With Thanksgiving (in the U.S.) and the holidays in general coming I'd like to point you to a couple charities that you may not be aware of:

There is a Marine Corps charity that is nearing its goal of $25k.  In a nutshell they purchase electronics equipment to help Marines wounded in combat.

In addition, the Wounded Warrior Project aids our injured men and women returning home from service.

For those in the Seattle area, the Union Gospel Mission could really use additional help especially as we head into winter.

I am sure that wherever you are, there may be a family member, a friend, a neighbor, or an organization you trust that would benefit from your donation of time, food, clothing, or finances.

I won't lie to you and say by giving it has changed my life, or that somehow giving has made me magically a better person.

I give, because its not about me at all.

Semper Fi Marines!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Damaged Again

This option would allow for the players modified attack roll difference (vs target number) to imply mechanically a deadlier blow was delivered.

How it Works
You roll to hit as normal.  If a successful strike was delivered, subtract the target number from the players modified die roll total. This result is then compared to the chart below :

Damage table
  • Difference of 1 to 3 = 2pts damage
  • Difference of 4 to 6 = 4pts damage
  • Difference of 7 to 9 = 6pts damage
  • Difference of 10 or more = 6pts+1d6 damage  
  • If a two handed weapon is used in combat add +2 to the damage done

Damage effects
You may wish to add a bit of flair or impact to combat.  To do so (for roughly man sized opponents)see the options below:

  • IF DAMAGE RESULT IS 4 POINTS roll an additional 1d6.  If the result is an even number there is no additional effect, if the roll is an odd number the target staggers back a distance in feet equal to number on die roll.
  • IF DAMAGE RESULT IS 6 POINTS roll an additional 1d6.  If the result is an even number the target staggers back a distance in feet equal to the number rolled.  If the result is an odd number, the target falls to the ground and must spend their next action standing up.
  • IF DAMAGE RESULT is 6+1d6 use the total sum of damage.  If the result is an even number the target is knocked down and must spend their next action standing up.  If the result is an odd number, the target is knocked down and stunned and may make no action on their next turn.  The next action the target makes is either to stand or flee.

Mechanical Example: The player attacks a target wearing leather armor (AC12) The player rolls a d20 and gets a result of 16. The difference between the target number (12) and the die roll (16) is 4.  Using the damage chart it shows 4 points of damage are applied to the target. Using the optional rules the player would roll another d6 to see if there was knock back.  The player rolls and gets a result of 3, so the target would stagger back 3 feet after taking the damage

Cinematic version: Toshiro Redcap spies an archer guarding a passage way up ahead. Clinging to shadows cast by flickering torchlight he creeps to within striking distance. Edging closer his final step  suddenly sends a sharp squeak into the silence. The nightingale board gives away Toshiro’s movement and the archer spins round on him drawing back his bow. The archer turns too late as Toshiro’s katana slashes down cleaving the gap between them and biting through the archer’s armor.  Blood wells from the cut and the archer staggers back in pain and surprise.

I think mechanically it works and fits with the cinematic combat of earlier editions. Jim at Carjacked Seraphim posted a simple to use chart for this mechanic to use with OD&D and/or other d20 systems.  Kudos Jim! I can't wait to use your chart for my Halloween haunted house game.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Damage via d6, another option (edit v 1.1)

Recently JB made an excellent post regarding the d6 as the arbiter of weapon damage.  I agree with much of JB's thoughts although I have a twist on it which I am using in my ROGUISH RPG.

I believe there should be at least some sort of subtle difference between daggers, spears, sling stones, battle axes and long swords.  Yet I do not want to use multiple dice types (ROGUISH is d6 only) nor have everyone running around with the same weapon because it does X damage.

So how to make them interesting and different while using d6 only?  I decided to create damage classes.

(L) Light damage = roll 2d6 keep the lowest number rolled
(M) Medium damage = roll 1d6 use number rolled
(V) Heavy damage = roll 1d6 and use highest number
(X) Extra Heavy damage= roll 1d6 and add +2

Weapons, monster attacks, and spells all use this simple short hand notation (L, M, V, or X).  So if you like the idea of d6 weapon damage but want to keep a bit of difference between weapon types, this might work for you.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Cleric Conundrum: Van Helsing

At the same time, the cleric class, in its origins and even in its in-game description, isn't a completely good fit for medieval Christian priests. It's a bit more like a religious knight (as opposed to the paladin, which is a "holy knight," if the distinction makes sense), but its essential character is that of Van Helsing from the Hammer horror films -- a monster (i.e. undead) hunter. 
--James Maliszewki  10/11/2008

I dislike the cleric class for much the same reason many in the OSR dislike the thief class.  The argument is the thief class can be considered in game terms a broken and unnecessary class.  By creating a specialized class and skills, a broken subset of rules was made to handle previously common talents and the basic game structure was then broken.   The thief then is an artificial class construct that limits what any character should have a reasonable chance to do: climb walls, find and disarm traps, pick locks, scale walls, hide in shadows, or sneak around.

If one agrees to this then I would ask you to consider if the cleric is any different?

The cleric in essence is a specialized fighter with
1) Spell casting ability
2) Ability to turn undead
3) limited weapon choices based on deity

Spell casting
There really isn't, to my mind, any reason why the spells allocated to the cleric class should not just be part of the wizard's spell lists.  The conceit for game play is that they are divinely granted, but with the wizard class already the core spell caster in game terms, these spells should really just be part of the wizard lists.  If you can agree to that, then one is left with a fighter, on a mission from god, with weapon restrictions from that deity, that can turn the undead.

Turning Undead
In order to turn the undead the cleric must present a holy symbol.  So in game terms, isn't the power over the undead really the result of ownership of a holy symbol or blessed relic?  That being the case couldn't anyone/ or any class use it?  Of course they could, but the cleric gets a bonus to do so and in game terms is the only class that can do it.  This ability, based on presentation of a holy symbol, is something any character could do, just like picking a lock, or sneaking around.  The limit or effectiveness would be based on the power of the holy symbol, perhaps varying ranges of Holy Symbols +1 through +5, or better yet specialized symbols or artifacts that effect specific undead types.  Far more interesting in terms of game play.

Weapon Restrictions
Weapon restrictions based on deity are not something that requires a class distinction so much as it is part of a character concept.  Dwarves are fond of axes and hammers, elves bows, and perhaps due to regional or clan religion there is a ban on ranged weapons, or edged weapons.  It is an interesting concept for a character, but not something that requires a specialized class.

Van Helsing
If you think of the recent Van Helsing film, he was a fighting man in service to the church.  The church supplied him with the tools/weapons and hireling necessary to fight the undead.  He did not cast spells (any more so than did Peter Cushing's Van Helsing) he was simply armed and equipped by the church to battle a specific monster threat.

In effect Van Helsing is just a fighter, on a mission, given tools by his employer to accomplish the mission he is hired to do.  Using the Van Helsing reference, and comparing the Cleric class to the thief the cleric class unnecessary?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

"...and then what happended?"

In most forms of entertainment there is a finite resolution.  Books, Movies, TV series, board games, video games, card games, etc.-they all have in common a definitive end at some point.  Role playing is different though as there is no clear winner and the adventures never need end.  Even if a character dies, a new one can be created and can join right in.

It's the rare entertainment though that leaves one with a "...and then what happened?" ending.  By "...and then what happened?" I mean there is no clear resolution and a sense of leaving to the individual's own mind the possible resolutions.  I don;t know if this is possible in RPG's but I am intrigued at the potential.  I guess a campaign is really an extended "...and then what happened?" Yet I've never refereed or played one that really left me with that feeling. Is it possible?

For example,  did Clint Eastwood survive the swim in Escape from Alcatraz or not?  At the end of the first star wars film (1977) does Vader live? die? become a renegade?  (as an aside I remember long debates in grade school (before Empire Strikes Back) about what happened to Vader and the Empire at the end of Star Wars and frankly I still think our ideas at 8 or 9 were better than Lucas')  My point is that not resolving everything (what was in the case in Pulp Fiction?) and leaving it to individuals to ponder or resolve is a rare event in entertainment.

You probably missed it, but this week was the end of the second "THE COLONY" experiment, and it was an ending that my wife and I are still discussing.  We did not discuss the end of BSG or Lost for more than a day and frankly both of those were completely lame in comparison to how THE COLONY ended.

THE COLONY is a show on the Discovery channel that pre-supposes a global pandemic causes the breakdown of civilization.  Into this setting a group of individuals is put together and for 50 days and tries to survive.  Through the days they must find food, scavenge equipment, defend themselves from hostiles, make moral decisions over helping others and in general just try to survive.  It is an extremely interesting show not only from the "survival" aspect but from the civilization versus self preservation difficulties and moral questions that arise.  For example food and clean a water are limited, and your group of 12 has enough for maybe 3 or 4 days...and then a group of 12 women and children come by begging for food and water outside your shelter: Do you help them? Do you keep it all for your own group? If you do give it away will news of that get around to other people? What happens to you if everyone scavenging in the wild thinks you have food and decides to try and come take it? Will you be able to replenish the stock you give away?

In season 2 the scenario is: After a global pandemic wipes out most people, the uninfected colonist are dropped off in a government safe area by a group known as VOPA.  (VIRAL OUTBREAK PROTECTION AGENCY)..and then kind of abandoned to survive with a bit of food and a few supplies. VOPA appears randomly as do raiders, traders, and other interesting twists.  All the while the colonist try to survive and improve their daily lives.

...and while season 1 and 2 are both good, Season 2 is far and away a better show.  For those who intend on renting or buying the DVD's of the series or finding them online to watch, please stop reading here.  All I will says is the series, and the ending in particular, will keep you off balance and discussing "...and then what happened?"

SPOILER: At the end of Season 2 the Colonist find and raid the enemy camp, make off with some supplies and decide to evacuate to a previously discovered and unoccupied fishing house in a fan boat they constructed.  The destination house is right on the water, has a dock and is undamaged.  Easy food and clean water available and no one else around!

After the raid as they are packing to board the boat VOPA suddenly arrives in 3 or 4 black Suburbans.  One man gets out and says he can take TWO of the group to a safe area where they will have meals and treatment and be protected...who wants to go?  VOPA's previous involvement was about zero so this is a shock to the colonists, and despite all the vehicles the can only take two colonists because the rest are filled with agents...its odd to say the least.  So one woman colonist (and only one) agrees to go.  As the vehicles drive off, you hear the sound of aerosol spray cans  and the woman screaming while the vehicles leave the encampment. 

Cut to the Colonists camp suddenly being counter attacked by raiders.  The colonist hurriedly get onto their boat and take off.  Then you get the normal fly over scenes of their ragged boat cutting through the water in the sunlight. Now comes the camera face time for each colonist about "what they learned" and then a pan shot of the boat and colonists faces as they approach their safe house.  You see smiles and the Colonist faces as they see the house..and then suddenly smiles change to fear and or two guys pick up their makeshift weapons, and the camera pans 180 to the house again...a group of armed raiders comes charging out of the house and on to the dock threatening the colonists...then the screen goes black....and then what happened??

It's rare when you are left hanging and get so many plot twists at the very end of a TV season that will never be resolved.  There is something about the inherent gritty nature, moral quandaries and surprise plot twits in this series, and in most PA material (not of the radiated mutant variety) that is intriguing.  If you enjoy it as well, The Colony is good show for you to explore.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Pokémon + James E Raggi = ?


I am not quite sure why Mr. Raggi's work came to mind after monkeying about with this neat little site.  Perhaps the strange yet interesting results from cross pollinating the cute and the creepy and seeing their off spring become Lovecraftian nightmares of strange proportions simply fit?  Anyway its an instant creature generator for your next campaign!

I have 4 copies of the completed COLLAPSE RPG in my hands and will begin editing.  In addition another kind soul offered to do some editing as well so once that is completed, it will be up on LULU for purchase.  probably end up around 100 pages and I am thinking it will be around $12-$15.

Work has been absolutely mad recently and the first limited public test of a brand new retail concept has been central to swamping my schedule.  Hopefully things will become a bit less crazy and I can finish COLLAPSE editing for publishing, and then focus on getting ROGUISH completed once and for all.

Cheers for now!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

COLLAPSE RPG: Player's Manual now a free download

As the game is undergoing some final editing and a print test, I have decided to make the Player's Manual a permanently free download. This will give you a sample of the game system and if you like it, you can purchase the complete game manual in the near future.

Your feedback is appreciated.

Want to make God laugh?

Tell him your plans!

So I sat down to finish the Roguish player book, and my lovely wife started talking about The Walking Dead.  She has caught up with me by finishing collection 12 and we spent awhile discussing the series.  Then we had a beer or two and talked about the way Kirkman set up the world the characters inhabit.

Afterward, the furthest thing from my mind were swords, elves, and dragons.  Instead I kicked my arse into over drive and completed my COLLAPSE RPG.  In fact it is so complete I have copies on order for editing from LULU to review prior to making it a live purchase. It's an 8.5x5.5 little beauty or at least, I hope it turns out that way!

Holy crow it's nearly done.  Given the general COLLAPSE, outdoor survival, prepper, financial crisis, zombie loving vibe that is currently in vogue here in America, I have hopes that a simple pick up and play 92 page complete RPG will find some interest.

Below is a sample NPC for the COLLAPSE RPG:

Rick Brandt
Age: 25
Careers: Air Force +1
Race: white
Traits: Forgiving, reliable, indecisive, uncooperative
Econ: low middle class
Rick grew up in a small town in the middle of nowhere.  Ever since he was a little kid, all Rick wanted to do was to be a pilot.  He dreamed of it and nothing else.  When he graduated he joined the Air Force, but his eye sight and weak physique left ill suited to be a pilot.  Instead he became a mechanic.  When the collapse occurred he tried to fly a helicopter off the base but did not even manage to start it, chased of by base police he passes himself off as a downed pilot looking for a plane.  He claims great airplane knowledge which is true, and flight mechanics knowledge, also true, but he could not pilot a video game jet let alone the real thing.

Rick Brandt Adventure Hook: Rick knows how to get on to the local Airbase, and could possibly get the Players on base.  There is no telling if it is still guarded or not.  Rick knows how to access weapon, vehicle, and tool shops, but is afraid to return and be shown a fraud (not really a pilot) or be put in the brig if the base is still manned.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Roguish RPG update

I continue to flip between working on my Collapse RPG and my Roguish fantasy RPG. I have taken time with Roguish to rework it and decided to use contested rolls for nearly everything.  In the end it may be everything including spell casting.

The more I play test the contested rolls the more I am sure of it. Blame a steady diet of RISK (the board game) as young lad growing up if you like, but the contested roll feels more organic and interactive than chart consultation by level or strict target numbers. More random? Yes and no. By using 3d6 you have a good bell curve which creates a solid baseline model of expectation of result versus a d20 roll.

The three character classes : Warrior, Wizard, and Rogue will each have class limited class abilities. This allows a character to add a bonus of 1/2 their current level in any attempt to do a few limited tasks. For example a wizard applies his bonus to spell casting, a warrior to attacks, and a Rogue to pick locks. Each race will also have an ability bonus or two so your average character has a total of six abilities with a bonus which makes them a bit unique. The simple add 1/2 your level as a bonus to attempting certain tasks  is easy to remember and apply with out using charts or elaborate formulas.  it also allows any character to try something, they simply do not get the class/experience bonus.

I hope to have the character generation and combat book aptly entitled SWORD & SHIELD done this weekend and the Magic book STAFF and SPELL possibly completed as well. Taking a page from Metagames Melee & Wizard each will be short and easy to digest.  A third book focused on the referee generating adventures, traps, treasures, random tables galore etc. will follow along.

Overall I think the simplicity, interactivity, and brevity of the the books comprising Roguish FRPG will hopefully make it interesting enough to be found on other table tops beyond my own.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Dead are Walking

I've talked about it a few times before (how great the Walking Dead comic series is by Robert Kirkman) you can see it!  Well you will soon, for on Halloween the series begins on AMC.  See what you have been missing with a sneak peek below. As an avid fan of the comics, I am pleased to say it is a near perfect translation and seems to add even more depth to the characters.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Collapse Player Manual

The player manual has been removed for now. There are further updates to make such as a character creation example, a few game play examples, and a family member generation chart. If you have specific comments please post below.

Work progresses on the Administrator's manual as well which will have NPC's, animal stats and alien/zombie stat charts, Collapse scenario ideas, movie and book lists as well as other tidbits for an administrator.

I have time over labor day to work on this so I hope to have the revised player manual and Administrator manual ready shortly after.

Additionally should they be two separate manuals or one combined book?I feel 2 separate books allows players to access what they need while keeping the administrator stuff out of prying eyes, but your opinion and feed back is appreciated.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Fear of the Dark

One of the oldest fears of man is of the dark.  What lies out there in the darkness beyond the fire's light? It's a primeval fear that remains with us regardless of time period or technological advances.  In fact depending upon the historical era, what man feared in the darkness  seems to have changed. Whether from wolves or witches, bears or bandits, the darkness has birthed many a monstrosity both real and imagined.

Man's battle against the dark is a never ending one.  From protecting one's kith and kin against what may come in the night, to creating method's of pushing back the darkness by creating new ways of making light.  We still today bar doors and windows despite our homes, streets and cities being flooded with light...yet the darkness still clings to the corners and edges, never truly defeated-only at bay.

There is a brilliant "history of darkness" entitled At Day's Close by A. Roger Ekrich which looks at man's historical relationship with the dark: what did man do when his available light was limited and how did he live with the dark in ages past? What were his fears, real and imagined, and how did he combat and defend against them?  It is a fascinating journey into our relationship with the darkness.  When light is only a finger flick away, why do we still fear the dark?  And if there is nothing to fear from the dark, why do we try so desperately to light every corner of our homes, streets and cities?

I will be the first to admit, as a product of a technologically advanced society, I never truly used the darkness properly when gaming.  When  every switch or knob in the modern home is in effect a "light spell" how can I effectively portray ancient tombs, dusty dungeons, and overgrown graveyards? In gaming terms, it was simply dark-then someone cast a light spell, fired a torch, or lit a lantern and that was that.  I have a new found respect for what darkness means in an age when fire for light and warmth could as easily mean burning down your house or city. Where a farm or house with lights on stood out as a beacon and invitation those who rely on the darkness to prey on others.  Where the night watchman was as likely to be a participant or look out for crimes in the dark as he was to be a protector or at least early warning system.  

What use is archery in the dark? None! You have to close upon your enemy and meet them at a sword's length.  When you are weaker than your opponent (goblins? kobolds?), darkness serves to at least even the odds if not give you the advantage.  A light in the darkness tells me where you are, but further blinds you to where I am.

I think too often I have failed to properly handle light and darkness in a dungeons depth.  You have to see to fight...and if your opponent does not need to use a light to see...then those that do are at a complete disadvantage.  The party will be ambushed, and their light provides a target for an archer to fire at. If that light is lost...they become lost as well.  We see this today as night vision armed military units are able to decimate at little loss to themselves an opponent who must rely on light to see.  I never liked the trope of playing by candlelight, but am considering doing so if only to illustrate what darkness and light mean.

How do you approach darkness in your games and settings? Are your players afraid of the dark?

...they should be...

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Celebrate Indpepndence!

1 : not dependent: as a (1) : not subject to control by others : self-governing (2) : not affiliated with a larger controlling unit b (1) : not requiring or relying on something else : not contingent (2) : not looking to others for one's opinions or for guidance in conduct (3) : not bound by or committed to a political party c (1) : not requiring or relying on others (as for care or livelihood) parents> (2) : being enough to free one from the necessity of working for a living d : showing a desire for freedom

Saturday, July 3, 2010


One of my favorite poems is Ozymandias.  Not just the more well known Shelley version, but I'd say even more so the competing version by Horace Smith.  Both are below as inspiration and you can decide which version speaks to you more.

As a historian the rise, fall, and rise again of man over and over throughout history is intriguing.  Most notable is that at man's zenith in any particular civilization, he becomes arrogant and assumes his sliver of time on the top in a given age is the pinnacle of human existence and that it shall never end.  History shows time and again that is not the case, as a collapse inevitably comes, and man must find his way again through the wilderness.

In both versions of Ozymandias each poet deals with this arrogance of man and civilization in a different tone, yet both are evocative and powerful for different reasons.  It's the individual poets focus that creates a different sense and emotion for the reader.

So how does this apply to gaming?  Consider the lowly dungeon.  Though not always the case, in general it is a ruin from a past time being explored.  The Referee should consider if those who came before were at the height of their civilization?  In an ascendancy cut short?  Were the builders the result of a race in hiding or survival mode during their decline?  When you decide at what point the builders constructed their dungeon, then that will influence what is found by the new age explorers as well as color how you present the dungeon and how the builders present themselves to the players exploring.  Without further rambling-the poems:

In Egypt's sandy silence, all alone,
    Stands a gigantic Leg, which far off throws
    The only shadow that the Desart knows: --
"I am great OZYMANDIAS," saith the stone,
    "The King of Kings; this mighty City shows
"The wonders of my hand." -- The City's gone, --
    Nought but the Leg remaining to disclose
The site of this forgotten Babylon. We wonder, -- and some Hunter may express
Wonder like ours, when thro' the wilderness
    Where London stood, holding the Wolf in chace,
He meets some fragments huge, and stops to guess
    What powerful but unrecorded race
    Once dwelt in that annihilated place.
--Horace Smith 1818

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

--Percy Bysshe Shelley 1818

Additional Note:
There was a solo adventure The Security Station from Metagaming for TFT that dealt with this idea quite well.  Sort of an S3 for the Fantasy Trip...

Monday, June 28, 2010

Monday Maiden

IRON MAIDEN that is!  New feature, every Monday I am tossing up a favorite Maiden tune because damn those guys still rock! UP THE IRONS!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Another Strategy Card game to consider: SUMMONER WARS

So here is another cool strategy card game we have started playing frequently.  A two player starter deck can be had relatively cheaply!  Good mix of strategy and fantasy gaming.  I'd review it for you but it's Sunday night, we finished playing it twice, and frankly I need a lot beauty sleep because brother I am not getting any prettier.

So here is a video review of it that breaks it all down.  Note This cat's voice (to my ear) is pretty annoying, but he does review it quite well.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


Just a quick note to say 3 brand new cards for Iconica are for sale!

The Brew Master looks like a new favorite card for me!

Not playing Iconica yet? A complete set of all 22 cards from the first release (including extra pieces so you can play 4 player) is NOW available.  $50 for the complete set of cards + extra bits. Crap I wish this was available when I purchased originally!

Iconica is definitely worth  a look! You can scroll down my blog and see my quick review below.  Only 4 complete sets show available right now in Eric's store...

Friday, June 25, 2010

The COLLAPSE is coming

What a busy week!  Monday was crazy busy at work, Tuesday I lost my hearing watching Dream Theater and IRON MAIDEN blow the doors off the joint.  My ears were ringing for 2 days straight!  Wednesday was a 12 hour day in the office (after 4 hours sleep), and then dinner with the boss after work that night.  Thursday was BASEBALL: 13 innings in the sunshine of Safeco field.  Whew I was spent and passed out at 8pm last night.  Fortunately I had Friday off, and managed to knock out some more good work on my Apocalypse RPG: COLLAPSE.

Unlike Aftermath! or Gamma World, COLLAPSE concerns itself with  starting during a Collapse, then playing it out .  It will be very open ended as to why or how a COLLAPSE occurs so an Administrator (GM) can do whatever they like.  It is a very simple system so the game play and mechanics do not get in the way of creativity or game play.  Old school style w/o being a D&D derivative.  Actually I'd say its more a mashup of Car Wars, Traveler, and Barbarians of Lemuria.  Note I am not claiming its anywhere near as good as those games-but it is inspired by bibs & bobs of those fine games.

The image to the left is the Character sheet.  Simple and clean plus I think the pictograms are a neat hook.  Anyway, the player sections are done.  There are 3 chapters: Basics, Character Creation, Combat.  Toss in a table of contents and a character sheet and its about 44 pages.

I'm unsure if there should be an equipment section really as it is modern times and since the game starts (ideally) in medias res, its not like you have a back pack full of stuff handy.

Example: One COLLAPSE scenario kicked off with everyone working in the same office.  You hear a strange sizzling noise then the power goes out, you see the sky turn a strange reddish orange outside and everyone grows quiet.  You rush to the window to look out and you see every car has stopped and is slowly rolling to a halt below you.  Six planes drop out of the sky slowly spinning towards the ground.  A few hit the water and a few hit portions of the city. Each crashes with a fiery boom which shakes the office tower you are standing in...what do you do?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The World of Rynaga: Iconica

I picked up a new game about 2 weeks ago and finally had the chance to play it last night.  It's called Iconica and it is set in the World of Rynaga.  Rynaga is a very stylized and interesting world that seems to be developing into a full blown fantasy world. Iconica is the first game set in this world. The world, game, and art are designed by Eric Torres, and all aspects are brilliant.  I'd really like to see a great company like LPG work with Torres and develop a generic OSR RPG world book using Torres art and setting.  Torres has created a world book which tells a story in almost postcard style snapshots and is filled with his glorious art.  Back to the game though.

Iconica is a sort of RPG card based strategy game...but each player only uses three cards.  From the Website:

Set in the fictional World of Rynaga, Iconica blends turn-based strategy with a twist of chance for a unique card game experience that's easy to learn, but a challenge to master.

Start by choosing your cards. Choose wisely, as each character comes with it's own set of strengths and weaknesses. There are several card types such as Defensive, Offensive, Adaptive, Disruptive and Supportive.

Once you've chosen the cards that will make up your hand, it's time to face off against your opponent. Dice rolls may add an element of chance, but each turn presents you with strategic options that represent the core of Iconica's gameplay. Other elements such as Final Acts, make for exciting game events and can be the difference between victory and defeat.

Iconica features:
  • Turn-based strategy and RPG elements
  • An iconic design aesthetic
  • 5x7 cards full of flavor and personality
  • High production values
  • Diverse card types
  • Layers of complexity
  • Expandable gameplay
  • Clear and understandable rules
  • 2-player and team play variations
  • It's Indie-Made

I can vouch safe, the game play is strategic, intriguing, and fun.  Each character has 6 different abilities on its card. You roll a d6, then whatever number is rolled you may select that matching numbered action from one of your three cards.   Your goal of course is to slay your opponents 3 characters.

As your character suffers damage it unlocks various new abilities these abilities change as more damage is suffered thus creating another level of strategy and chaos.  The variety of powers and abilities is remarkable considering the base set comes with 6 cards, dice, rules and markers.

I originally thought the limited card selection (3 per side) would lead to a lack of variety, but even using just the base 6 cards, an amazing amount of strategy is possible.  Adding in the additional characters only increases the team building possibilities and strategies.  At the same time, the limited card set one must manage keeps the game approachable and teachable.  My wife an I played 3 games last night and each game was quite different using just the base 6 cards.  While common TCG's are of no interest to her due to their complexity of interaction, Iconica allowed these same kinds of strategy in a more palatable bite size portion.  The initial game took about 75 minutes as we learned the rules and she analyzed her options.  The next two games came in a bit under an hour each.  I think 2 experienced gamers could knock out a game in 45 minutes easy.

The cards are gorgeous and evocative as you can see in the image.  They are 5x7 in size and of very good quality. 

While it is a type of collectible card game, it is not a blind purchase model.  Instead you can purchase just the cards you want.  Additional cards are available now and can be purchased for $2 and up. 

I highly recommend this game if you like strategy games, TCG style games, or the idea of Collectible Card games but without needing a suitcase to compete.  A solid 8 out of 10.