Sunday, February 28, 2010

Crunch, Crunch

I just placed an order for Rolemaster Classic. I used the coupon that was posted on the RPG Blog II. I'm pretty excited about it. My main goal for this year is to actually get a consistent tabletop gaming group. I thought I had a group starting up in November of this year (and I didn't have to be the DM wooooo hooo!!!) but alas I'm pretty sure that will never happen. We haven't met up since we made characters in the first week of Nov. I even said that I would play some 4th edition DnD even though I'm not a fan of the rules.

I've thought about it and since my two games online use very rules light systems I'm going to play a crunchy rule system. Initially, I was thinking Savage Worlds, but I purchased the explorers edition and for some reason it didn't "click" with me. Then something got me remembering the fun that we had with the old MERP system a long time ago. I found the Iron Crown Website a couple of days ago and then I finally pulled the trigger on a package of 3 Rolemaster Classic's softcovers.

I guess the only additional book that would really be nice to have after these is the monsters and treasure book. Lets see how my initial reaction to Rolemaster is first. I haven't looked through a rules heavy system book in a long time - so I may want to take it slow. But I have to say... I'm pretty much slavering over the thought of all those critical tables.

Maybe I'll post some fliers and see if there are any folks who would like to play some rolemaster in my area.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


I think my strength has decreased in the last couple of years. Today ~20 inches of heavy snow dropped on my house. I shoveled the back porch while my girlfriend shoveled the driveway. Then I roof-raked, then I shoveled again. That was about 8-10 hours ago - my back is already sore.

I've never pressed weights above my head but I'm guessing that I peaked somewhere around a 16-17 strength (I was able to curl 140 lbs on a curling bar, and bench somewhere around 230lbs). Now - I haven't lifted weights much in ~11 years but I am guessing I have fallen to around a 10-11 strength. I did lift weights a little on a business to Shanghai but that was only for 1 month and it was because I had trouble adjusting to the time zone, so I had to occupy the hours between 4am and 8am with something. During that time I was able to regain some strength, but after returning to the states I let it go again.

I'd like to get back to a 13 at least... lol...good luck. Did I say that winter sucks?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Music while RPG'ing and the Hellraiser Soundtrack

I've never been one to find and select music specifically designed for specific adventure sessions, but during playing tabletop games it sometimes makes sense to play some music that matches the mood of the game. I think it helps to keep the players engaged a bit.

I used to play the Braveheart Soundtrack (or Celtic instrumental albums) during a lot of my outdoor games. For dungeon environments I used to put in the Broken album by NIN, or some other crazy industrial or metal album whatever the guys brought with them.

For some reason a ritual was created by my players in my 2nd edition Forgotten Realms campaign. Whenever they went into the "Undermountain" dungeon below the streets of Waterdeep they decided to play the Hellraiser soundtrack. I think it might have had something to do with traps, wandering monsters, and TPK's???

Friday, February 19, 2010

Diversity without Complexity

A few of my friends who like 3.0 and 3.5 edition of DnD think that the idea of playing something like Labyrinth Lord or Swords and Wizardry is too limited. You only get 3 or 4 classes and then a few race-as-class kits to choose from. I tell them that they can create any kind of character background that they want to dream up - but they really want it to be “on-the-sheet” and have some kind of in game effect.

I have been pitching to them the idea of using a background system that would be set up something like the cliche system of Risus or the Aspect system in Fudge/Fate. You would write down a title in the background section and then the GM and you would work through the details. My thinking is that in situations where the background is relevant you would gain a bonus to any check - to roll for secret doors, or to recognize heraldry, et... as long as you can explain to the GM how your background would help you in this situation. The GM could decide how much of a bonus to give. The GM could use these backgrounds for other bonuses or penalties also. I think as a rule of thumb, the more bonuses that a particular background grants the more restrictions or penalties

Suitable example backgrounds for fighter types could include soldier, thief, ranger, barbarian, knight, warlord, archer, rancher etc. Using the thief background in this kind of system would remove the need to create a separate thief class in S&W and S&W White Box. Clerical backgrounds could be interesting as well - maybe your cleric is actually a white wizard? or a witch, or a druid, or a mystic, or shaman? Wizards could come up with catchy titles like necromancer, or elementalist, or mentalist, or the wizard character could come up with some other sage like focus, or astronomer, archeologist (this could also work with the fighter types to create a Indiana Jones type character). I’m thinking that a lot of the “kits” from the humanoid books (the Complete Book of Elves and Dwarves and Gnomes) could also be replicated to some extent with this system.

Anyway, my girlfriend is calling so I gots to wrap this up.... Overall, I think some kind of system like this would give players some extra “on-the-sheet” record of their character background and come with some bonuses (and potentially some penalties also) for use in game. It wouldn’t add much additional complexity that making specific classes does but still keep things fresh game after game.

Peter ($20) Bradley

I was looking through my C&C Players Handbook and Monsters and Treasures. Peter Bradley is a damn good artist. His look and feel are great! Here is a link to his website... He has a bunch of images from C&C and other sources up there.

I really like that they C&C guys got him to do a good 75%t of the monsters in that book. It made the look of the monsters section of the M&T book look really consistent.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Pub Crawl #2: The Rise of Risus

This drawing is something I found on Google images, if you read the Risus core rules you'll understand...

A long long time ago in a land far far away there were these people who spoke latin. Their word for laughter was Risus. Today, this guy named S. John Ross used Risus as the title to his comedy rules light game. Coincidence you say, the jedi thinks not...

The core rules to Risus are free and they are only 6 pages long. This is the same number as the sides to the only dice used in the game! So, with a pack of yahtzee dice purchased at the dollar store and computer access you can have yourself some side splitting comedy gaming... or you can use it for more serious and sinister purposes. If you want to be cool like me you can become a member of the international order of risus (I have my card hidden away in a safe deposit box somewhere) by purchasing the Risus companion. It is 64 pages of additional goodness cooked up by S.John Ross himself. For this review I’m going to stick mostly to the original 6 pages and talk about what the companion can add to your game toward the end.

Elements Analysis: Risus is nothing if it isn’t rules light... First up - character creation - this process takes 10 minutes You come up with a ~50 word or less description for the character. The GM tells you how many Dice total you get and then you break down your character concept into 1 or more Cliches. A cliche is like a packet of skills or like a character class. Cliches could be “outdoorsman” or “elven ninja” or “grizzled battle weary soldier” - you get to be as creative as you can with the wording which tells a story about what you can do with that cliche. After the cliche in brackets you assign some dice to the cliche. This is a representation of how awesome you are in that cliche. DM’s may say that there is a max number of dice you can add to a particular cliche. In most cases, once you have assigned all your dice to cliches - character creation is done. It usually takes between 1 minute and 10 minutes to make a character - unless there is some GM to player squabbling. If you want to do something, the gM makes up a target number and tells you to roll against one of your cliches (the one that fits the task best (tracking goes with ranger or outdoorsman, cooking a fine feast would fall under the “top chef” cliche)

Additional elements added to the original 6 pages are the idea of Tools of the Trade it is assumed your character has all the items needed to function as their character is laid out. Particular items may be written down on the sheet if the game will last more than one episode. If you battle another character, the GM specifies what kind of combat or skill test it is “sword fight” is different from “car race”. Each round the players roll contested against each other and whoever loses has to remove one temporary die from that cliche. If you have multiple cliches in the same skill set you can switch back and forth for max munchkin power gaming.

If a certain comedy level looseness is employed in your risus game then the idea of “Inappropriate Cliches is enacted to allow all players access to this combat. If you use an inappropriate cliche and win the round - the opponent looses 3 dice instead of one. This is typically not allowed in more “serious” games.

There are a huge number of other ideas in the core rules and the compaion. For example if you want an extra die to make your character with give him a sexy Hook or write up a 2-3 page Tale about what made your character who he/she/it is. In addition, for streching the physics of cliches, you can PUMP or Double Pump your cliches to try and make a critical role in a situation. In regular pumping you add on extra dice but lose that number of dice automatically in the cliche at the end of the turn. For double pump dice (usually saved for extremely powerful cliches such as magician, or telepath, or what have you) - in this case the double pump dice give you two extra dice to roll for each dice you are willing to automatically lose at the end of the round.

Finally - if you want to run a supers game or a fantasy game with wild abilities, enact the funky dice rules - for this characters might be given some d8’s and d10’s or even d20s to add to a cliche. This makes characters who are extremely powerful relative to a normal risus character especially when combined with pumping and double pumping - muahhh ahhh hhaaaa. Sorry, I just had to burst into an evil cackle.

Adaptability (8 out of 10) - these game rules can be used to run any genre possible - look it up - probably somebody made a risus game out of every TV show, movie, or book world ever made. The rules are adaptable. The only reason I didn’t give it a 10 is that sometimes you just want more crunch to go with certain types of games. Traveller type settings or anime type games fall under this umbrella in my head.

Feather Scale (10 for 10) - there are six pages of core rules. This whole rules set can also be boiled down to a single page by someone with better english skills than me. Nuf said.

Combat (5 out of 10) - Risus combat is fast with its action. You can have quite a bit of fun with a descriptive group in fight scenes and the mechanics play out quickly. The loss of dice during combat is a bit clunky as far as “wound” tracking goes but it is part of the flexibility that makes Risus so adaptable.

Longevity (5 out of 10) Risus has a nifty way of advancing characters (you get an extra die in a cliche if you roll all evens on all the dice in that cliche, so character advancement slows as you progress in the cliche. This simple method for character advancement will work ok as long as you don’t take it too seriously. I’ve never played the same Risus campaign for more than about a half dozen sessions so I’m not too sure how Risus holds up over longer campaigns.


I think this game has more to it that most give it credit for. You can make characters quickly and have fun role-playing in a single hour - this is truly a rules light game with some substance. Armed with the risus companion - you are equipped with a lot of extra rules that allow you to adapt Risus to many other situations and handle things like healing, etc.. that aren’t covered in the core rules. The companion also has a whole section on GM’ing that is really neat and something that is left out of many other rules sets. I really like S. John Ross’s list of dirty little thrills. They are something that I have used and thought about in my adventure design with every game since reading the rules for this game.

Monday, February 15, 2010

PBEM Resource

Just a quick post today... here is a sight which has some really nice resources for PBEM.

I'm working on the next review for my pub crawl and working on my game. Here is the most recent map from our adventure...

I'm trying this new thing where I draw maps and then keep evolving them as the players move through the dungeon. I use graph paper and then keep scanning the images and loading them up onto our site. I also sometimes draw things if the pc's are in need of some visual aids - but since my drawing skill is limited I try to keep that to a minimum. I think the little hand drawn maps help keep my players "in-the-game".

Another interesting note - my campaign may actually make it to the 1 year anniversary - this is big in PBEM games, most die in their first several months.

Friday, February 12, 2010

First Stop on the Pub Crawl: Fudge

Fudge a game not just a chocolaty treat - it is a "way"of thinking about running games. I personally love Fudge and I’ve used it to run several games in the past. My favorite Fudge game I ever played was a low power level supers game where one PC had the ability to split himself into a molecular fog and then recombine and the other PC had perfect aim (he couldn’t miss with a ranged attack). Fudge is really easy to learn and is very rules light. Well lets get started with elements analysis:

Trait Levels (instead of having numbers to describe how good you are at something you get adjectives, good, terrible, superb, etc.), Attributes - the gm will specify how many of these - they describe physical or mental qualities for characters in a game world where almost all characters should have a description for how good they are in this area, examples, Strength, Agility, etc... Skills - these described abilites that are typically trained, where attributes are something determined by Genes. Skills are not connected to attributes in standard fudge so you can run games without attributes if you wanted. Gifts - these are character qualities describing particularly good traits or benefits that a character has, examples include wealthy, good looking, quick reflexes. Flaws - a trait that limits a characters behavior, abilities, or other peoples reactions to the character - opposite from the gifts. Fudge Points - I think these were an integral part to the game which made the game special. Fudge points allowed a character to manipulate fate to some extent in the game. In a critical moment they could use these to change the outcome of dice. Wound Levels - wound levels were the default method for tracking damage from combat in fudge - this is something I would modify if I was ever to run fudge again. Since the trait levels are so granular, a great swordsman has a huge edge on a good swordsman, so in a combat between the two the great swordsman will land a few blows which will penalize the opponents future attacks and soon the fight is over. I’ll talk about the benefits of this and the penalties later in this post. Super Powers - self explanatory - magic, psionics, etc... Fudge Dice - fudge dice are cool. They are d6’s with two sides marked -1, two sides marked 0, and two sides marked +1. You can roll multiple fudge dice to create a distribution of +/-X where X=the number of dice rolled and the center of the probability curve is always zero. The default for most fudge rolls is 4dF giving you a +4 to -4 range to modify the result of a skill or attribute check.

Adaptability: (8 out of 10)

Fudge can be used to run almost any game genre imaginable. There are certain genres where it doesn’t perform as well. I’d say games where the focus will be on hack n slash - fudge is lacking. The combat system is meant to be quick and deadly - not detailed or multifaceted. You can’t really run combats where the contestants rock back and forth in a duel. Instead, one opponent will quickly gain the edge and the other will death spiral. Another area that fudge is lacking is rules for technology - so sci fi games would be hard to run without a lot of modification of the core rules. I personally like technological items to be quantitatively described with all their features, not just a “good magnetic accerator”. I could see fudge used to describe a “firefly” or serenity type of sci fi where the technology sits in the background for the most part. Another neat thing about fudge is that things can be ported into the game easily and almost all the rules that I described so far could be modified or removed :) to create exactly the game that you want.

Feather Scale: (7 out of 10)

This game is pretty light. Anybody can create a character pretty quickly - although you could also spend hours creating a character if you want to be really detailed about it. You can add more and more rules to Fudge and bog it down to maybe a 3 on this scale or you could strip everything back and be close to an 8 or 9. I picked 7 on the feather scale as representative of the average fudge game using the rules as presented with few changes. There are some nice pre-thought through versions of Fudge like: Five Point Fudge, or Fate which already give you a less fuzzy version of the game rules and clearer descriptions of how to get from point A to B.

Combat (7 out of 10)

I’ve already described combat in fudge a bit so I won’t spend much time here. The attacker rolls his attacking skill in a contest vs. the defenders defense skill (or against a dodge check). You roll 4dF as a contest against your opponent - rounds can be dealt with using a turn system or via a simultaneous system. I always used an agglomerate of both. The combat system is quick and lethal although there are ways to adapt it toward more combat focused game by altering the wound system and by adding little intermediate levels in between the ranks to spread out the scale a bit and add more variation to the ranks.

Longevity (7 out of 10)

Fudge can easily be used to run a long campaign. There is a system of giving out experience or you can just work subjectively to improve characters based on agreement between the GM and the players.


Fudge is a great game system. It is rules light, adaptable, and the rules are very familiar since the use of adjectives makes it so everyone can understand the level of ability. I’ve had a lot of fun playing this game and I think aspects of this game system have shown up in many newer systems. Remember the golden rule, if you don't have a rule to cover it - just fudge it...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Rulz Light Pub Crawl

I think the next thing up on my blog agenda is a rulez light pub crawl. I'm going to cover all the rules sets that I have a special love for. I'm thinking of rating them on a couple of metrics - some quantitative and some categorical:

Elements analysis (what are the core elements of the game - does it have skills? does it have classes? is there a probability mechanic and what is it like?

Adaptibility (a measure of how many different kinds of games you can run with this rules system.

Feather Scale (1-10 scale with 10 being totally Free-Form-almost-no-rules gaming)

Combat (a description of how they handle combat and what to expect from combat in this game)

Longevity (how does the game handle long campaigns, or is it more suited for short gaming sessions)

If anybody has other ideas of aspects that I should cover - let me know :)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Aging, Death, and the Game Room

I went this weekend to visit the grandfather of my best friend. He is old and sick with cancer. We sat and talked of old times and what had been going on lately in his family and mine. When he napped I spoke to his wife about things - they have been together for ~58 years. At one point he woke from a nap and wandered about the house. He looked out into the attached porch on his house and asked me if there was anything I would like to grab from the room. You see, that room is the game room - and it is filled with not just my stuff, but all my old friends have something out in that room, secreted in a chest or in a desk.

Years ago when I was young, we never had a place where we could game in quiet. Nearly all my friends had siblings and our houses were crazy loud all the time with people bustling about their dailies. You see by buddies grandfather “gramps” as we all called him, decided to build a gameroom off his house for us to game in. We filled with with chests of RPG tabletop games, MTG cards, and a TV w/ Xbox and my buddies computer when he lived there for a while.

In that room - most of my greatest campaigns played out. The end of my last two Forgotten Realms campaigns that I had run for years. God, I remember such good times in there. Worlds were destroyed, dragons slain, intrigues woven, and characters grew or were slain. I remember many nights while I was explaining a really great scene or mysterious room, I could see “gramps” and “gram” in the other room straining their ears to listen in. I wonder if they would have ever wanted to play the game. I think they were just happy to listen in.

Aging is a terrible thing, and everyday we all get closer to our inevitable ends. Moments like these, when you stand in reflection of past days make you think about how you are living today. Some days make me think I should spend less time “in my head” inventing my next work related project or gaming related project and just be out there in the world - doing, exploring, seeing all that this life has to offer with every precious moment this life will give me. However, some of my best days were spent at that table, in that room or in my bedroom at my parents house, creating imaginary fantasy lands for my friends to play a game in. I won’t solve this dilemma in this post - it is like religion or the meaning of life - you will never have an answer but time spent pondering these things is not time wasted.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Clockwork Wasps

I LOVE clockwork creatures. I use them all the time. In my PBEM Greyhawk adventure I just sprung these little guys on my adventuring party. Stats for use in Castles & Crusades - but portable to any ODD product or retro-clone.

Clockwork Wasp
No Encountered: Varies
Size - Small
HD -2d6
Move - 5 ft crawl, 50 ft (fly)
AC - 15
Attacks - 1 - Stinger - 1d4
Special - Poison
Saves - Physical
Int - low
Alignment - N
Type: Construct
Treasure: Variable
EXP:20 + 2/hp


Clockwork wasps are created by a combined feat of engineering, metal craft, and magic. They appear as large wasps made of iron, with membranous wings that are constantly vibrating. They have a constant buzzing noise due to this vibration when activated. They are un-affected by magic that affects the mind and illusions. Electrical attacks will automatically paralyze a clockwork wasp for 1 turn by scrambling its power source. During this time it will do nothing but twitch helplessly. The wings of a clockwork wasp are vulnerable and if destroyed greatly reduce its mobility. Their stinger is equipped with 1d6-2 doses of poison (type selected by GM - typically death poison or paralyzation poison is used). If a zero or negative number is rolled - the wasp is out of poison (perhaps it used it on another adventurer in the past).

Clockwork wasps are used as guardians for treasure troves - their number is usually proportional to the treasure they are guarding. They can be programmed not to attack creatures bearing a token, or can recognize certain faces.

In this dungeon adventure I am running the PC's have just run across 8 of these guys guarding a wrought iron cage full of treasure (they are integrated into the iron decoration of the cage). In my campaign these guys are equipped with death poison, so if the PC's get greedy we could have some save or die rolls coming up...