Saturday, December 31, 2011

Melee, Wizard, TFT and me

If you have followed or read my rambling missives before you know I think the Metagaming TFT system is pretty sweet...but a just miss.  

I know I am not the only fellow who feels that way, in fact way back in 1980 Howard Thompson himself commented on how disappointed he was with the project. To quote from a letter he wrote dated 3/31/1980:

TFT is too complicated as completed by Steve Jackson. He completed the project as he wished, not as I'd hoped or even laid down constraints....All the material in Advanced Melee and Advanced Wizard didn't need to be added at all. More spells and weapons fine, more detail of combat, no.

My feeling is that in the extra two years of work TFT got longer instead of better.

I could not agree more with with HT on these points.  TFT overly complicated the game system rather than producing a streamlined game.  Some folks love it, and that's great, but it was a just miss for me. That feeling of what could have been stuck with me for 30 years now.  In fact as I mentioned before,  Metagaming's revision of the TFT system became Dragons of Underearth. It could have been the TFT basic set, but was incomplete and Metagming died shortly there after.

Next came Dark City Games and their revival of the system.  This was closer to what I hoped TFT would be, but it too did not work for different reasons.  The manual is a brief pocket mod friendly 7 pages but its only meant to usher you into playing their (very good) adventures, not actually running a game yourself from your imagination.

All of that to get to this, my own re-imagining of a basic RPG version using Melee/ Wizard/ and Dragons of Underearth as inspiration: Heroes & Other Worlds.

Weighing in at a svelte 24 pages, its the way I would have liked to see a basic TFT game offered.  Note, what is lacking from my book is any semblance of a referee's aide section or an adventure creator.  Maybe I will make one next, but for the time being, it is what it is.

If there is enough interest I'll convert some of my Pockets Full of Peril adventures for play.  In the meantime if you are interested in downloading and trying the game, charge on over to the Heroes site.  I have a download link  for the game manual up now.  .

Happiest of New Years to you and yours!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Heroes & Other Worlds

Hexploration and scale: 6 miles, 5 miles, or 1 mile?

I am not sure when nor who set the default mileage size for hexplore maps.  I always defaulted to the 5 mile size without thought...but I just read an interesting take on the subject from "steamtunnel" on his Hydra's Grotto blog. While his post is months old, it bears some more discussion I think. Below is his original post for your thought, and discussion.

So last weekend wandering around PAX the one thing I would get excited about if I had the time would probably have been Elder Scrolls V. In my opinion the Elder Scrolls Series is the heir to whatever crown Ultima wore. Technologically it picked up where Ultima Underworld, UWII and Ultima's V, VI, and VII left off - with Ultima V being the Empire Strikes Back or the series (more on this later).

But this is not a review per se of Skyrim. Rather in reading and hearing about it I was struck with an interesting piece of info: The region of Skyrim is roughly the same size as the region covered in
Oblivion, which is around 16 square miles in area. Really? 16 square miles is 4 miles on each side. My 6mi hexagon obsessed brain immediately replies: "You realise that's all on one hex." The game is supposed to be epic -and from what I can tell it is- but, the fact that the whole thing would fit in a single hex boggles my mind. So I went and got a map of Cyrodiil the land covered in Oblivion I saw once in my internet wanderings just to see how much adventure (by location) you could cram into less than 1 6mi hex. The map is below, and it is too small to see here, so I suggest looking at it here.

Places designated as cities on this map are actually more like citadels and walled towns- you can actually see their wall outline from the map. And a study of medieval settlement patterns indicates that the distances and frequencies of these in relation to each other is entirely believable. Counting each city area as a single location this map displays 89 caves, 50 forts, 15 Shrines, 16 Inns and Stables, 23 mines, 30 settlements, 31 camps, 12 cities/castles/walled towns, and 50 ruins for a total of 316 or more distinct locations. Granted many of these locations stack into way to lend verisimilitude to a quarter of a square mile. If you start walking and walk for 4 miles in the game it will take you about the same time as if you walked 4 miles in real life. Ad to it all that this is the area surrounding a major city. Also there is a representational telescopeing -a sort of illusion that tricks the video game player into feeling like there is a cast of thousands when there really is just several hundred- but my point is that when played the area seems realistic in the frequency of encounters and the amount of travel someone needs to do in an adventure.

My own stocking of a six mile hex pales in comparison. Granted I don't have buckets of money from a major video game studio and a team of people designing adventure locations- however the OPD contests and similar collaborative efforts in the OSR, not to mention the wealth of relocatable locations published in the tabletop gaming sphere (Dyson Logos alone give you a lot of maps) put similar levels of detail in the grasp of pretty much any DM.

Looking at things like google or bing mapping programs really shows how you could have several adventure locations in just one 5 or 6 mile hex and it be completely believable. This stats me wondering about the implications of a sandbox- perhaps the 1 mile hex might be more conductive. Additionally if a DM wanted to link several worlds in a setting that crosses time and space perhaps all they need do is detail the 6 mile hex around the entry point to that world. The complication arrives when the entry and exit are not in the same place. Certainly information like this makes me rethink the range that adventure needs to be epic and yet still a sandbox.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Dark Souls

Although Roguelikes, FIFA, and MLB the Show, fill the bulk of my scant video gaming time there is one console RPG I had on my list this holiday season.  Nope not Skyrim (the wife is playing that), my pick was broodingly entitled Dark Souls.

This is supposedly the ultimate "gamer cred" game as it unflinchingly hands you your ass for simply  rushing around and not thinking through things.  Wide open sandbox format, no spoon fed niceties, just a man and his will to survive.

In concept it reminds me of my experiences in RPG's and why I still play and design them.  The wide open, go exploring, try anything and cross your fingers it works out nature of RPG's is something that no other game format can equal.  In a console game, there are always going to be limits, in an RPG-it really should be wide open.  While many modern (non-OSR) games seek to codify and limit the experience (becoming more like Video games in that aspect) the OSR trend seeks to pare back the restrictions and its why I still play them.

Think back to when you first started playing RPG's, my first character was a dwarf.  I walked down some stairs, tripped a trap fell onto spikes 20 feet down and died--the end.  I was shocked, surprised, upset, and ready to play again.  I learned to look for traps after that death lesson!  From what I read, Dark Souls is much like that experience with the same philosophy of learning through trial and deadly error.  That's a staple in earning your RPG gamer stripes, and its amazing that this is somehow an earth shattering experience in video games.

If you are interested, the manual that comes with the game is spartan-in the extreme (worthless).  Fortunately the beautiful Dark Souls guide (hardcover, 380pg full color, $25 MSRP) was an additional on holiday gift and will certainly see use.

Below are snippets of an interview with the designer and review of the game that both sparked my interest. Maybe they will interest you too.

Interview with Hidetaka Miyazaki
Dark Souls' genius – the hook at the heart of its gameplay philosophy – is the concept of death as education rather than punishment. Death can teach you something in other games too, but here it's an intentional learning device. It's a wonderfully elegant piece of game design, and one that I hadn't seen anywhere before Demon's Souls. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Miyazaki can't cite any other game as an inspiration. "Strictly, there are no other specific games that inspired this unique design," he says.

 "But the main concept behind the death system is trial and error. The difficulty is high, but always achievable. Everyone can achieve without all that much technique – all you need to do is learn, from your deaths, how to overcome the difficulties. Overcoming challenges by learning something in a game is a very rewarding feeling, and that's what I wanted to prioritise in Dark Souls and Demon's Souls. And because of the online, you can even learn something from somebody else's death. I'd say that was the main concept behind the online, too."

Death, as a concept, is the constant that runs through every element of Dark Souls (and Demon's Souls before it) – not just the gameplay, not just the level and enemy design, but its artwork and internal mythology as well. These games' worlds are places of suspended animation: places where everything has died, save a few lost and wandering souls. They have a strange, unsettling sense of the eternal about them. Wandering the Boletarian Palace or the Undead Burg, you feel like the grime-blackened medieval structures around you might have been there for ever – once full of the living and breathing, perhaps, but long, long since given over to death and decay.

"We spent a long time discussing the base concept of the art design," explains Miyazaki, asked how the team of artists and designers that he manages constructed Dark Souls' visual design. "The game focuses a lot on death, but what is death? What does it look like? What does death mean in this world? What does it mean to live and to die? That is something we discussed very closely. The story is about a fire in the world, a symbol of both living and death. The fire is what brought death to Dark Souls' world, but also the only hope for life. Demons, chaos, dragons, all of them are different incarnations and representations of our idea of death in Dark Souls.

"Dragons, for instance, emerged as a concept somewhere between a living and a dead thing – neither one nor the other. At the same time, though, I wanted to create something beautiful, with this idea of death at heart. But again, people have a lot of different definitions of what beautiful means. We had deep discussion about what beautiful should mean for Dark Souls."

Descending a granite staircase early in Dark Souls, you find a Black Knight obstructing the corridor below. He stands with his back turned, oblivious to your approach. A white loot orb glows cheekily at the far end of the passage. Lesser games might telegraph this enemy’s difficulty by showing it rear its head back and screech, flecking the camera lens with spittle. Such condescension would be superfluous in From Software’s action-RPG template. The mere outline of the knight’s horned helmet – instantly recognisable from the game’s box art – sets your pulse galloping.

You know he’ll be an ornery bastard, relentless and overpowering. He will carve you into slices finer than a deli ham. But the option here of whether or not to engage is a calculated farce. You know that, after wiping your palms off on your trouser legs and taking a deep breath, you’ll provoke the Black Knight. Because glowing loot is to the RPG enthusiast as fire is to the moth. Put simply, ‘compulsion’ is too weak a word.
In order to keep a reassuring distance, you hurl a throwing knife before switching hastily back to your primary weapon. The Black Knight hardly flinches as he pivots around to face you, still terrifyingly mute. Then he charges. Just like the moth, your flailing, flapping demise is both grim and comically Chaplin-esque.
You died, says the game, just in case you’d mistaken your hero’s slumping to the ground for a sudden fit of narcolepsy. You died. This curt declaration appears on your screen with such dispiriting frequency over the course of your time with Dark Souls, the words practically burn into your TV screen. You died.
Just like its 2009 predecessor Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls mirrors the Black Knight’s posture. The game stands with its back to gamers who feel entitled to the coddling of selectable difficulty tiers, enemies with neon-signposted weakspots, and checkpoints as tightly spaced as a trail of Pac-Man dots. Anyone who expects to button-mash their way to victory should avoid playing Dark Souls entirely and simply watch walkthrough videos with a bucket of popcorn in their lap.

Dark Souls has all the trappings of a rote fantasy RPG. You’ll select from the usual bundle of character classes – warrior, hunter, pyromancer, cleric, et al. You’ll chop down undead and skeletons and plague-infested sewer rats – and if you persevere long enough, proud dragons. But don’t be fooled. Embracing a slew of the RPG genre’s hallmarks enables the game’s designers to subvert player expectations with sadistic glee.

For a genre so handicapped by its thrall to almighty Lore – an endless reshuffling of fridge-magnet poetry using words plucked from Tolkien’s Silmarillion – Dark Souls’ most revolutionary design choice involves giving the world just enough history to feel concrete and then dive-rolling out of the player’s way.
Dark Souls’ most seismic achievement – the thing that parlays the grandeur of Demon’s Souls into something improbably greater – is its persistent open world. If you could feasibly conquer Dark Souls without dying, you’d stumble across the occasional momentary framerate freefall, but not a single loading screen. The Nexus hub world and level-based structure of Demon’s Souls tacitly marked your progress through its adventure, but Dark Souls splinters that measuring stick over its knee and dares you to approximate the dimensions of its universe.

As you butt up against what you naively assume to be the outer rim of its world, a defeated boss drops a key that opens a door leading into subterranean sewers. Beat another boss at the bottom of the sewers and the world peels back further, sending you down into a massive cylindrical hole leading to a foetid shantytown. You delve farther down, expecting to hit bedrock. There can’t be another layer. Can there? You shrug off your claustrophobia and spelunk deeper still. Yet another sprawling domain opens up. You get dizzy with the scale, unsettled and insecure about the progress you’ve made, like the explorers in Danielewski’s House Of Leaves descending the book’s infernal, ever-expanding spiral staircase. After all, this is just one of many paths you can explore in the world of Dark Souls. You could’ve explored the Catacombs instead. Or the Darkroot Basin lake, shimmering in moonlight, with its projectile-spewing Hydra. Welcome to the most memorable game world since… wait a second, did we just consider deleting the word ‘since’?

Most contemporary games are unctuous, clingy suitors, welcoming players with fawning deference and open arms. Conversely, Dark Souls beckons the masochistic with its chilly indifference. If you steel your nerves and persevere, the loot you'll uncover is an adventure so exquisitely morose and far-ranging that it will tug at your mind insistently during the hours you spend apart. After more than 60 hours into our journey, an NPC clucks: "How do these martyrs keep chugging along? I'd peter out in an instant." We do so, quite simply, because other games feel comparatively bland, facile and unsatisfying. Few will complete Dark Souls, but that fact won't nullify the adventures they've had straining toward its elusive summit

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

Far Trek adventure seed

Lots going on and not much time to post recently, sorry! 

I posted an adventure outline I ran for my Far Trek game RPG game.

It's kind of a Star Trek version of zombies entitled No Mercy...and it was a hit!

You can download Far Trek for free and give the adventure a go yourself, let me know how it works out for you.

Live long and prosper fellow gamers!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Treasure Island

Growing up, Treasure Island for me was my best loved tale.  My edition was illustrated by NC Wyeth, and I destroyed 2 copies with constant reading. I've never tired of it, and the movies never captured the magic of the tale for me...until 1990.

Home from college, my brothers and I saw what I consider to be the best version ever.  It blew me away how great the adaptation was and how much of the story they stayed true to.  Better yet? CHARLTON HESTON is in it as Long John Silver...along with Oliver Reed, Christopher Lee, Pete Posthelwaite, and Christian "Batman" Bale as Young Jim Hawkins.  Add in musical score by The Chieftains and you have one of the best pirate movies ever.

I had the VCR tape, and wore it out with viewings...and finally the day I never thought would arrive is here...21 years later, the DVD just released.  I've yammered endlessly to my wife about the film for ages and tonight it arrived, and we are settling in to watch it.

If you are a fan of pirate movies, Hornblower, Patrick O'Brien, or Treasure Island... do yourself a favor and get it while you can. I bought two as I have learned my lesson, and won't repeat the mistake of not having it.

FYI-Fraser Heston (son of Charlton) directed and wrote this version, because his dad read it to him as a boy, the illustrated N.C. Wyeth edition. Those Wyeth illustrations formed the look, feel , and overall cinematography of the film.  A commentary by Fraser is an option on the disk...and it reinforces why this filmed version rings so true to me and why I still love this story.

Don't make the mistake of missing it.

Friday, December 9, 2011 you have never seen it before

Can a brother get a Greyhawk version?  Hey WotC--why not unleash the kraken on THAT idea.

Also I have a hankering to make a Game of Thrones Risk game now.  I experimented with one for  Wizard Kings block game a few years back...but I think a Risk version would be easy to sell, easy to play, and like the LOTR, Star Wars, HALO, and Metal Gear Solid versions-could be unique and flavorful.  Heck, there's another multi-million dollar idea I gave away...damn.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

What if: Dungeons & Dragons for sale

It's clear D&D 4th did not turn into the lucrative cash cow that Hasbro wanted (needed?) it to be. For modern fans of the game (3.0+) 4th edition did not deliver, and for many classic gamers, it was a bit of an abomination.  Note this is not meant as edition wars stuff, its just the lay of the land.

How can I tell it failed?  4 things: Look at the rise of OSR during the 4th edition era.  I see that as a sign of Old Schoolers who may have rediscovered the game in the 3.+ era, but then went further back when 4th went forward.

Second the rise to dominance of Paizo during 4th edition era as gamers who liked the 3.5 rules, were happy to keep playing them.

3rd, the demise of 4th edition products: nothing says failure like people not buying your game, right Radakai?

Last: Distributors, they confirm Pathfinder out sells D&D in their channels.

Net result: people still wanted to play D&D, just not the official game as currently presented by Hasbro.

So let's put you in the shoes of Joe Hasbro (my these are expensive shoes): You have an RPG property that:

1. Is known world wide
2. Has a mixed public perception
3. Has high costs to support: art, publishing, warehousing, staff, support teams
4. Does not have a solid repeat purchase model
5. Has lost market share
6. Is in a declining/decaying market category
7. limited mass market placement (book stores)...which is on very shaky footing.

So if I am Joe Hasbro, why would I want to make 5.0?  Why wouldn't I license a company to produce the RPG for me....or maybe I just sell the RPG portion of the property outright.

 The boardgames do well enough for me, and I could make those in my sleep. For me they are cheap to produce, and I can charge a premium for them.  I have tons of miniature molds so I could dump out minis like there is no tomorrow into my games as modules.  A couple maps, some cards, a few scenarios and I'll make that random monster in red, blue and green for different power levels or what ever the kids call them.  I have enough clout to get these games into Target, Wal-Mart, and TRU. That's where the sales are!  So I'll make the board games I am good at and get them placed where I know they will sell.  We did D&D clue, so why not Greyhawk Risk...and Forgotten Realms Risk.  LotR Risk worked quite well... Why not a D&D version of Trouble? or Dungeonland instead of Candy Land?  Chutes and Ladders-how about Traps and Tunnels? What if Sorry was re-themed with magic spell cards?  Can I keep giving away million dollar ideas for free? Anyway, as Joe Hasrbo, I'll let some other schmo can relieve his dreams of the 80's (checkered bandana not included.)

GW did it with Warhammer RPG, so let's assume it happens, and Hasbro licenses, or maybe sells, the RPG business to someone: Who would it go to, and would (could?) they cancel the OGL as part of the agreement to take it?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

From the Pipeweed Gnome: Realism vs. Rationale

AS I get older (not necessarily more mature) my tastes in gaming have changed.  At one point D&D was enough, but there were gaps I wanted filled.  Then TFT fixed some issues but left out some of the fantastic in favor of realism.  Experimenting with game systems went to and fro: from Gamma World to Aftermath or the Morrow Project, Conan to Palladium Fantasy, Chill to Cthulhu, Dinky Dungeons to Chivalry & Sorcery, Marvel Heroes to V&V and DC Heroes...and on and on.  If I sat and tried to recall all the various game systems I have owned and played I am pretty sure its well over 120 at this point.  From the simple to uber-complex each offered something I liked...and things I did not.

Now I know I am firmly on the side of simple game engine, and players ability to add their own complexity. In the end though, one of the greatest issues in adventure games for me is the conflict of realism versus rationale. I think I have finally resolved this issue (for myself) as well.

So let's define both before proceeding further:

Realism: concern for fact or reality and rejection of the impractical and visionary, the theory or practice of fidelity in art and literature to nature or to real life and to accurate representation without idealization 

Rationale: an explanation of controlling principles of opinion, belief, practice, or phenomena,
an underlying reason or basis.

At this point I have steadfastly learned to limit the need for realism in fantasy games of any stripe, at the same time I have replaced and increased my need for rationale in my gaming.  Orcs that breathe fire and fart poison gas clouds-okay cool, but why? I am all for weird fantasy and the oddities of some of the more creative minded, but I can't simply go there with you just because you say so.  
Many decry the fun-house nature of some dungeon crawls, wanting a logical ecology or reason for things operating the way they do.  I agree with a rationale for the setting, but not with a need to create an ecology to turn the fantastic realistic. An old dungeon becomes the lair for a lich and his legions of undead? That is a rationale for the undead dungeon crawl.  An old king or wizard kept a menagerie of beasts in dungeons under his castle from foreign lands-okay there is your fun house rationale, I am good to go.

I am no longer looking for accurate damage models based upon the unicorn horn piercing strength while charging at 33.7 MPH versus the tinsel strength of adamantium armor blessed by King Gruffenwald. At one time I was, but having given up on most realism in my games, all I need to know is: what the rationale is in your world for this happening.  
Oh to be clear, I don't desire a frustrated fantasy novelist exposition.  Given a couple sentence of description regarding your rationale, maybe 3 at most, I am happy to play right a long and enjoy the ride.  

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.  Antoine de Saint-Exupery

In praise of pig faced orcs

I never had an issue with orcs being pig faced.  In fact it never struck me that they would be anything but.  Which is odd considering my first memorable look at orcs was not D&D, but instead the Bakshi Lord of the Rings animated films.  In Bakshi's roto-scoped vision they seems more like fanged beastmen.  Cool looking and spooky, but I'd be hard-pressed to call them pig faced.  Even so I don;t think I ever thought of them as "pig faced" until D&D.
Now these green skinned guys are more along the lines of the orcs I had in mind from D&D.  Pig faced humanoids, boar tusks, and green skinned.  I never understood why they were green skinned though.  For what ever reasons goblins being green was fine (probably a pre-established mental tie-in from Marvel's Green Goblin) but orcs as green skinned? Well I guess  if there are other oddities in a fantasy world, why not this one.  But...on the front of module B2 we see Roslof's interpretation...maybe.  There is still dispute over are these hobgoblins (with their samurai like armor) or are these orcs give their pig faced attributes...if orcs, why are they reddish and not green skinned?

Either way, the orc never really held too much overt interest as an enemy for me.  In fact in the starting monster hierarchy (Kobold-Goblin-Orc-Hobgoblin) they were just a stop along the way, with more HP and who could do more damage.  I blame two things for this: one is my own youth and (lack of) understanding in DM-ing monsters and two, the level up mechanics of D&D which pre-supposes only creatures of a certain level are deadly to you at certain levels.  Advance in levels, and the previously deadly monsters disappear like a bad dream from your world. Any orcs in the S series of modules? Goblins? Kobolds? Hobgoblins? not so much...

That's why in Roguish, monsters are going to be treated a bit differently.  More along the lines of TFT where monsters are always dangerous. Recently I watched the series "American Hoggers."  In it a family (with help) goes after wild boar in Texas.  Thinking back to the pig faced orcs of old, and watching how wild, deadly and destructive actual boars are, I have a new paradigm for using orcs in my games.  Now formerly pig-faced green skins, my orcs will be more boarish in appearance with short bristled hair.  They will be tough, deadly, able (and ready) to eat anything (or any one).  They will breed quickly and thus pose problems to all other humanoid races because of these.  As voracious eaters they are a threat, and as a fast breeder, their numbers swell quickly.   They will be tough and dangerous fighters. Oh..and no half orcs, that's just lame.  My orcs will be more like this:

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A little Roguish Magic

Here is a sneak peak of one spell in my Roguish Fantasy RPG.  Magic is one of the most difficult (for me) bits about designing (and for that matter playing) an RPG.

This is more true as I am specifically desiging Roguish to be old school in feel and style, while also NOT being another retro clone/OGL/d20 system.  There are so many (some very good) ones out already.  I can't say that Roguish will meet or fit your style of game play, I can only guarantee it will fit and meet mine.    The system uses 3d6 to resolve all game actions (combat, spell casting, resisting, tests) so the funny sided dice (as my wife calls them) will have to take a holiday when you play Roguish.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

OSR Team-Up #1

I am honored to announce I will be working with the talented A.J. of Stonewerks blog fame on a new project.  Our project will be an expansion and fleshing out of a previous adventure I posted, Pocket Full of Peril #7: Lair of the Lunartics.  Originally, I used A.J.'s unique hive like geomorphs for this adventure and posted it as a smaller part of the larger adventure I had made.

Now A.J. is using his talent and time to bring the full adventure to life...and to you true believer!  In the spirit of the Team-Up comics of yore, we've conceived of our own version: an OSR Team-Up! This is the first one, and we may even publish it in a comic book format!

A.J. is creating all new maps, as well as unique art (check out that wicked cool cover he made-outstanding!), and it will include full descriptions of the setting, the adventure, and of course expanded info on the foes! 

Stay tuned for project updates on both our blogs as the Lunartics come to life!


Friday, November 11, 2011

PFoP module D4 now available for download

The final module in the Pocket Full of Peril edition of Dyson's Delve is now available for download. 

This was a fun project and I really like formatting adventures in this manner. A couple things I learned and would change when going forward are:

1) Limit adventures to 2 maps and use more space for text or stats if using them.

2) Have an actual back cover. That will make it into an actual mini module!

When I use this format for modules for my own fantasy game Roguish I will apply these lessons, and any other suggestions or comments you may have.  Thanks for downloading the series and I hope you enjoyed them!

I plan on making an announcement tomorrow about a project in the works with another OSR blogger.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

PFoP Module D3: download it now!

The latest, and next to last, PFoP module edition of Dyson's Delve is now available for download! Click on the PFoP Repository picture to your right to download it, or any of the other PFoP's you like!  There are 13 to choose from now, holy crap I put out stuff more frequently than WotC baby! (Sure it's not as good, but hey what do you want for free!)

I have one more DD Module to go which I will post next weekend!

My nerd wallet geomorph project will begin shortly, unfortunately the actual squares of graph paper are TINY--but hey who doesn't like a challenge!

Also, another project is starting to slowly take shape, I hope to share the details of it in the next few days.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Geomorph + wallet = The Ultimate Pocket Full of Peril!

I needed a new wallet and wound up getting a Dynomighty wallet.  Actually my wife picked it out while I was at work.  At first I scoffed...but...after using it for a week, it really is a kick ass wallet.  Looking more into them, I saw a design that every gamer on the planet should own...and personalize-the Graph Paper wallet!  These can be illustrated with permanent pen (think sharpie) and individualized!  Holy crap a Stonewerks or Dyson Logos hand drawn geomorph wallet would ROCK! Crap I need to do this even though my map skills stink on ice!  Maybe I will copy some of the B2 Caves of Chaos?

Anyway I had a gamer gift exchange idea here: You buy a wallet, you draw a map on it, and you send it to someone else for Christmas.  Hell you could actually make a mini adventure for the map you draw on the wallet! Kind of the ultimate OSR Christmas gift. Then you could scan the wallet (or redraw it, with the adventure) and put it on your blog.  Damn it is Pockets Full of Peril!

The wallets run $15, so with shipping you are probably out $20--but then someone would send you a handmade one back so really-it's a break even proposition.

Anyway it's just another crazy idea from yours truly.  More about the wallets below:

The writable surface can become a convenient note pad for your Frequent Flier, Car Rental and Hotel membership numbers without having to carrying a card around for each.

The Mighty Wallet® is tear-resistant, water-resistant, expandable and recyclable. Made from Tyvek® (think express mail envelopes), these cool wallets resist tearing because of thousands of interlocking plastic fibers spun in random patterns, giving them incredible strength.

The ingenious origami construction was and is the original folded Tyvek® wallet designed by Terrence Kelleman. The stitch less design reinforces the materials own strength and allows these very slim wallets to instantly expand and adapt to your own personal storage needs. The Mighty Wallet® will expand right before your eyes (watch the videos).

Because of the slim, lightweight and water resistant features, you can take these cool wallets anywhere. They make great "night out" wallets for a slender silhouette and the writable surface conveniently acts as a quick note pad on the go.

In time, the Mighty Wallet® will gradually soften and patina but, even after years of wear, it will still offer surprise and solicit intrigue.

Historical Oddity: Female Classes for D&D

It's 1976 and the World's most popular role playing game has yet to break out.  In this pupa stage of development, many interesting, if odd, ideas were still possible.  One of them being female specific rules for classes. The article from Dragon magazine #3 below is 4 pages and there are many interesting bits from a historical and gaming perspective. I won't pontificate my own thoughts as I think this speaks best on its own.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pocket Full of Peril Module D2 now available for download

The second Pocket Full of Peril Module in the Dyson's Delve series is now available for download! Click on the Pocket Full of Peril repository image to your right to download it now.
I really like this format, and once I publish my fantasy game Roguish,  I intend on doing a few modules in this format for it.  This would be in addition to the regular Pocket Full of Peril quick adventures for it.

For Roguish, I'll expand on my Lunartics  and publish it as the first module.

As always your thoughts and comments are welcome.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Trick or Treat?

As promised earlier this week, here is a new Pocket Full of Peril..but with a twist.  I am going to do a 4 module series using Dyson Logos' Dyson's Delve as the subject.

Dyson's map work has been the feature of past PFoP's and it struck me, while looking at a copy of Stuart Robertson's Masterful mini-module CITADEL OF EVIL, that this could be a cool mash up! A Pocket Mod module series? Truly a Pocket Full of Peril!

So click on the Pocket Full of Peril repository to your right and download the first mini module in the series.

Tip of the cap to Dyson of course for the great adventure to work with and to Stuart for the inspirational pocket mod module design.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Pirates & Peril

Well a busy day of writing produced 3 (holy crap!) new supplements for my Rogue Space RPG.  The new setting is Space Pirates and is set in an alternate 1930's setting after Worlds War One. (no, Worlds is not a typo).  This poster says it all:
Rogue Space: Pirates &Peril

Friday, October 21, 2011

D&D, what it is and where it is going....

I read the following article 3 times to drink in all of its goodness, and I am still a bit in awe.  Think about when this was written, in late 1978 or early 1979 before the D&D rocket really took off, right as it was leaving the launch pad really.   AD&D was new, the DMG not even out yet, Holmes Box Set was D&D Basic, and the LBB's were still a core part of the product mix.  A time of transition, consolidation, clarification and anticipation.  Read for yourself, and be amazed (p.s. folks in charge of D&D @WotC, especially you!). This was published in the February 1979 issue of The Dragon #22

by Gary Gygax
DUNGEONS & DRAGONS® pioneered role playing in the gaming hobby. It brought fantasy before hobbyists, and it set before them a game-form most had never heard of. Perhaps 150,000 persons now play D&D®, but it was by no means an instant success. 1,000 boxed sets, hand assembled and labled, took eleven months to sell, another 1,000 of the same took only five or six months to sell (and Tactical Studies Rules was thrilled). Finally a third printing of 2,000 sold in five months. So from January, 1974, to December, 1975, only 4,000 sets of the original version of the game were in circulation. (Of course, I have no way of knowing how many pirated copies of D&D were in existence, but some estimates place the figure at about 20% of the total sales, some as high as 50%. In any case 5,000 or 6,000 sets was certainly nothing to set the gaming world on fire, or was it?) Today the “Basic Set” sells 4,000 copies per month, and the sales graph is upwards.
A month has not gone by in the last two years when I haven’t been interviewed by one or more newspaper writers or independent journalists who want to know all about D&D. I have likewise been interviewed by radio and TV news media, generally for the same reason. At the risk of claiming too much for the game, I have lately taken to likening the whole to Aristotle’s POETICS, carrying the analogy to even more ridiculous heights by stating that each Dungeon Master uses the rules to become a playwrite (hopefully of Shakespearean stature), scripting only plot outlines however, and the players become the Thespians.
Before incredulity slackens so as to allow the interviewer to become hostile, I hasten to add that the analogy applies only to the basic parts of the whole pastime, not to the actual merits of D&D, its DMs, or players. If you consider the game, the analogy is actually quite apt. DUNGEONS & DRAGONS is like none other in that it requires the game master to create part or all of a fantasy world. Players must then become personae in this place and interact with the other populace. This is, of course a tall order for all concerned — rules, DM, and players alike.

Relating a basic adventure, an episodic game session in the campaign, to a trip in an underground labyrinth does help the uninitiated to understand the simplest D&D fundamentals — discover an unknown area, move around in it by means of descriptive narration from the Dungeon Master, overcome whatever obstacles are there (traps, problems, monsters), and return with whatever has been gained during the course of the whole. The DM takes the part of everything in this fantasy world which is not operated by a player. While this should not mean it is then a game of DM versus the players, it does mean that DUNGEONS & DRAGONS is a co-operative game where players must interact successfully amongst themselves first, and
non-hostile portions of the campaign milieu thereafter, in order to be successful. The Dungeon Master is incidentally against the players when he or she is operating that part of the “world” which is hostile, or potentially so, but in general the referee must be disinterested.

At about this point I am always asked: “Well, then, how do you win? who wins?!” The answer is, EVERYBODY — providing that the game is well run. The DM gets the satisfaction of testing his abilities against those of the players, the fun of taking the non-player parts, and the accolades of participants when a particularly well-done adventure or series has been completed. Players enjoy the challenges of each situation and have the prospect of continuing adventures and puzzles to confront them, each with his or her game persona. Thus all taking part in the campaign get something besides a momentary diversion. 

Winning no more applies to D&D than it does to real life. The successful DMs and players gain renown via their campaigns or their superior characters. To enthusiasts of the game it is far more satisfying than triumphing in a single game or whole series of games. Simply stated, D&D is a multi-player game of fantasy role playing, where the rules give systems of resolution for common game occurrences, lists and explanations of things which are not actual (monsters, spells, magic items, etc.), systems for interaction, and suggestions as to how to put this into the campaign, i.e. create the milieu. Once begun, the campaign continues until the DM and/or all of the players decide it should end. As with any exercise in fantasy it requires suspension of disbelief. Those who find the game interesting will soon enough thereafter create their own sort of involvement and belief. But why is such a game (and similar fantasy role playing games, for that matter) so popular? What is its appeal!?
Our modern world has few, if any, frontiers. We can no longer escape to the frontier of the West, explore Darkest Africa, sail to the South Seas. Even Alaska and the Amazon Jungles will soon be lost as wild frontier areas. Furthermore, adventures are not generally possible anymore. The frontiers are receding into memories, modern communications make all of the world available to casual travellers, and the most backward places are becoming more and more civilized. Certainly it is still possible to go scuba diving, mountain climbing, auto racing, sky diving, and so on. These are expensive and risky for no real purpose in most cases. One can also have adventures as a criminal, or possibly as an agent of the government (if one is sufficiently qualified), but the former is distasteful to say the least, and the latter is most unlikely. Americans, with more leisure today than ever, crave entertainment. Some desire adventure and excitement. Obviously, various entertainment media are doing big business — TV, motion pictures, spectator sports, recreational vehicles, sporting goods, book publishers, and game manufacturers are all growing. “Escape fiction” sells better today than ever, and witness the success of the recent science fiction and fantasy films.
Looking towards space and the future for new frontiers and adventure is logical. The universe has fascinated mankind since recorded history, and today it seems quite probable that within a few decades numbers of us will live off of the earth, and in a century or so we will travel to the stars. Perhaps there will be frontiers and adventure enough then for all who care to test their mettle. But it is no less surprising for us to look into the realms of fantasy for imagined adventure. Most literate people grow up on a diet of fairy tales, Walt Disney, and comic book superheroes. We somehow relate to stories of young princes going out into the world to seek their fortune, of knights rescuing maidens in distress and slaying dragons, of dealings with wicked magicians and evil witches. The myth of all peoples contain great stocks of such fantasy lore. If nothing else, the desire to believe in such seems to be innate in humanity. Whether or not there are parallel worlds or places where fantastic creatures actually live and magic works is not germane, for most of us are familiar with the concepts as if they were actual, and we have a desire to become involved, if only vicariously, amongst such heroic epics of magic and monsters. It is therefore scarcely surprising that a game which directly involves participants in a make-believe world of just such nature should prove popular; and had I reasoned out the enthusiasm it roused amongst the first few who played it, it would have been evident that D&D was destined to become a very popular game indeed. (Naturally, hindsight is usually a 20/20 proposition, and the fact is I wrote the game for a small audience of devoted miniatures players . . . )
If millions take to the fantasy world of J.R.R. Tolkien, and nearly as many follow the heroic feats of Conan, the market potential of a game system which provides participants with a pastime which creates play resembling these adventuresome worlds and their inhabitants is bounded only by its accessibility. Access has two prominent aspects; availability is the first; that is, are potential players informed of the fact that the game exists, and are they able to physically obtain it; and difficulty is the second, for if once obtained the game is so abstruse as to be able to be played only by persons with intelligence far above the norm, or if the game demands a volume of preliminary work which is prohibitive for the normal individual, this will be recognized and the offering shunned even if it is available. D&D failed on both counts, and still its following grew. Today we are putting D&D onto the track where it is envisioned it will have both maximum availability and minimum difficulty. This is best illustrated in the “Basic Set.”
Well over two years ago we recognized that there was a need for an introductory form of the game. In 1977 the colorfully boxed “Basic Set” was published. It contained simplified, more clearly written rules, dungeon geomorphs, selections of monsters and treasures to place in these dungeons, and a set of polyhedra dice — in short all that a group of beginning players need to start play with relative ease. Later editions have cleaned up most of the flaws in the first, and the newest will do away with the geomorphs and list of monsters and treasures in favor of a complete basic module, so that difficulty will be reduced even further. This should broaden the game’s appeal to a base in the millions, and then the major factor becomes availability. Popular demand always increases availability, and D&D has been blessed by its enthusiasts most generously in this regard. Coupled with the work being done by TSR to publicize and promote the game, the availability factor will also be maximized over the next few years. Finally, to maintain interest, a series of new and interesting modular dungeon and outdoor scenarios, as well as more playing aids, will be made available periodically. The number of D&D players should certainly continue to mushroom for several years.
Fanatical game hobbyists often express the opinion that DUNGEONS & DRAGONS will continue as an ever-expanding, always improving game system. TSR and I see it a bit differently. Currently D&D is moving in two directions. There is the “Original” game system and the new ADVANCED D&D® system. New participants can move from the “Basic Set” into either form without undue difficulty — especially as playing aid offerings become more numerous, and that is in process now. Americans have somehow come to equate change with improvement. Somehow the school of continuing evolution has conceived that D&D can go on in a state of flux, each new version “new and improved!” From a standpoint of sales, I beam broadly at the very thought of an unending string of new, improved, super, energized, versions of D&D being hyped to the loyal followers of the gaming hobby in general and role playing fantasy games in particular.
As a game designer I do not agree, particularly as a gamer who began with chess. The original could benefit from a careful  reorganization and expansion to clarify things, and this might be done at some future time. As all of the ADVANCED D&D system is not written yet, it is a bit early for prognostication, but I envision only minor expansions and some rules amending on a gradual, edition to edition, basis. When you have a fine product, it is time to let well enough alone. I do not believe that hobbyists and casual players should be continually barraged with new rules, new systems, and new drains on their purses. Certainly there will be changes, for the game is not perfect; but I do not believe the game is so imperfect as to require constant improvement. 

Does this mean that D&D will be at a dead end when the last of AD&D® is published? Hardly! Modules and similar material will continue to be released so as to make the DM’s task easier and his or her campaign better. Quite frankly, the appeal of D&D rests principally upon the broad shoulders of the hard-working Dungeon Masters. The rules never need improvement if the DM is doing a proper job, but of course he or she can do so only if the rules are sufficient to allow this. With refined rules and modular additions, all aspects of a long lived and exciting campaign will unquestionably be there for the DM to employ. Will D&D dead end when its novelty dies? That is impossible to answer. It is my personal opinion that the game form is a classic which is of the same stamp as chess and MONOPOLY® ; time will be the judge. No doubt that there is a limit to the appeal of the game in any of its current forms. If tens of millions play a relatively simple, so- cial sort of a game such as MONOPOLY, it is a sure thing that a far more difficult game such as D&D will have a much more limited audience. As the game cannot be simplified beyond a certain point, we look to another means of popularizing it.
DUNGEONS & DRAGONS can be played on a computer. Computers are most certainly a big aspect of the near future, particularly the home computer. Non-programmable computer games are already making big inroads into the toy and hobby market. They will grow still more, and soon programmable games will join this trend. D&D program cassettes plugged into a home computer would obviate the need for a DM or other players. Thus the labor of setting up a campaign or the necessity of having a fairly large group to play in it would be removed. The graphic display would be exciting, and the computer would slave away doing all of the record work and mechanics necessary to the game, giving nearly instantaneous results to the player or players. Computerization of D&D has many other benefits also, and such games would not destroy the human-run campaign but supplement game participation. This is the direction we hope to make available to D&D. Let’s see if my foresight is as keen as my hindsight.
All that being so, what is the purpose of this column, the reader may justifiably inquire? Well, as I make no claim to perfection, no such claim can be made for ADVANCED D&D or D&D for that matter. This column will cover controversial rules or systems, problem and so-called problem areas of D&D/AD&D, and consider new material as well. If the games are not to be continually changing and “evolving,” neither is it envisioned that they have reached such a state of perfection so as to become immutable. What appears herein is discussion which will sometimes lead to alteration, amendment, or expansion of one or the other system. Initially, what you read here will be direct from me, but all DMs — and players also — are invited to submit article material of high calibre. A glance at the introductory sections of all of the works comprising the D&D/AD&D systems will show that many individuals contributed to the designs. The list in the forthcoming DUNGEON MASTERS GUIDE is longer still. All of these individuals, and the audience at large, are cordially invited to submit their thoughts and opinions on pertinent matters. If I am not to be “the great god gygax,” a claim I have never made nor supported, there must be input which presents argumentation and systems which are meaningful alternatives to replace or augment existing rules and systems. This is not to say that anyone’s favorite variant, even if well designed, is likely to become D&D/AD&D, but at worst reasons for why it is unacceptable will be given, and the possible results could be a major change in the game. So here is your forum. Let us hope it becomes a useful and meaningful exchange!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Quick updates...the Walking Dead

1) Sorry I was traveling out of town last weekend so I was unable to update the site.

2) I think I found a middle road for Roguish combat that meets my hopes and expectations.  Thanks for the feedback,  I ran through it with the wife last night and she thought it was really good and  easy to grasp.  More testing needed, but overall it works well.

3) With the wife out of town this weekend, that means I will be able to get a lot of creative game stuff done.

4) Look for a Space Pirates expansion for Rogue Space this weekend.

5) A new Pocket full of Peril will show up here this weekend.

6) I put up a Far Trek site RPG site.

7) Last, I loved the first episode of The Walking Dead season 2, try out my 8pg Zombies Attack game if you are in the zombie mood

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Combat in Roguish, a fork in the design road

Now that I have character creation sorted, I have one more design fork in the road.  Dynamic or passive combat resolution.

Both have merit, and play testers are split.  As a referee I like rolling as well as in combat players...but in the wrong hands that mechanic could lead to a "versus" feeling between referee and players...

Here are the options and reasons as I see them

Dynamic Combat
Attacker: Roll 3d6+stat bonus + ability bonus ..VERSUS
Defender: Roll 3d6+ armor bonus + ability bonus

If attacker’s total is higher than the defender roll for damage, if not-no damage done.
·         Positive: combat feels more dynamic in play both for players and referee
·         Negative-a lot of dice rolling and it does lengthen combat.

This method gives the attacker a bonus based on natural ability and specialized skill. The defender is also seen as actively avoiding being hit by also using dice +abilities to defend.

Net result: This method leaves much to the randomness of dice, or fickleness of fate if you prefer.  This randomness is somewhat mitigated by the bell curve of using 3d6 instead of complete randomness of a d20

Passive Combat
Attacker: Roll 3d6 + stat bonus + ability bonus
Defender: Armor Protection + any applicable ability total.
If attackers total exceeds defender AP + ability total, damage is rolled against defender.  If not defender is safe.
This method follows a more modern d20 style of play.

Positive: simple to adjudicate and quick to resolve.
Negative: lacks dynamic feel in combat as player juts waits to see if hit or not.  3d6 bell curve also means heavier armors make players/foes much more difficult to hit.  This makes that armor very valuable and sought after which also means in game economics, there is a good reason for very high prices.
Net result-well if you have played the reverse (modern) AC system then you know what to expect here.

Below is the play test chart I have used for Roguish if you’d like to have a go, let me know your opinion.

Small Shield
Tower Shield

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Pocket Full of Peril #10-Rising of the Wickerman

The druid Alfius Gruun was once a noble and trusted man.  As time went by he changed, secluding himself and hiding away from those seeking his knowledge.  Many years later, word came of local masons and men being hired to dig a tomb for Alfius.  His wife and daughter, sombre and thin, hired the men and work was done in secret as none of the men ever returned.  Search parties were created, adventurers hired and eventually many years later on a bleak and withered hill a tomb door was found with one word--WICKERMAN inscribed upon it.  None could figure out how to enter and a large hangman's tree is the lone sentinel guarding the entrance and  marking the spot.

Download the PDF of the full adventure to your right in the PFoP link. Tip of the cap to STONEWERKS for the map!

Also note I published my Zombies Attack! Pocket RPG today.  If you liked Buckshot or Rogue Space, you'll like this too!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Far Trek Update

Just a quick update of the PDF text cleaning up a few extra bugs I found in there.  Note I have NOT updated the printed version and will probably just remove it altogether as an option shortly.  For those who have taken time to download and give it a spin, let me know what you think.

Also if you are like me and really dig minis, I HIGHLY recommend you check out Captain's blog as he makes 15mm trek-esque minis.  I am not just a pitch man, I own some!  I am really hoping klingons, romulans and other conversions he has made of his original figs become guys I can order. (BIG HINT).  Check out the coolness below:

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A quick retrospective in pictures

So in the midst of all my work on a lot of different games and projects I thought it might be fun to share some images of my work.  In no particular order here are some pictures of some work I have done.
Some notes on the pictures:
Akratic Wizardry is a booklet I made using Akratic's house rules and adding my own pictures as an RPG reference
Collapse is my apocalypse, fall of civilization RPG
Far Trek is my Star Trek based RPG based on Mike Berkey's Where no man has gone before 2.0 rules
The Microlite 74 booklets I bootlegged this weekend myself, they have the new 3.0 rules.  It's funny a lot of my ROGUISH RPG ideas are in here, except I am only using 3d6 in my game.  Still highly recommended.
The Rogue Space menagerie are all of the pocket mod books I have made (so far) for my Rogue Space Game.

Much is done--and more to come!