Monday, June 28, 2010

Forgotten Realms

A lot of old school players really get down on forgotten realms. During the heyday of my gaming this was my favorite world to game in. One of my favorite things about the game also runs completely counter to the Sandbox approach of gaming - it is the Aurora's Whole Realms catalogs and the Volo's Guides.

I used these products ravenously. I found that I almost never used published adventures during the times that I was running forgotten realms. Either (1.) these published adventures involved characters that were in TSR books that were coming out at the time or (2) in order for me to involve my players I had to pull some nasty tricks out of my hat. The only published adventures I used were Undermountain (a delicious megadungeon that I added 10+ levels to), Myth Drannor ( a boxed set of an ruined city megadungeon with broad strokes but almost no detail, and the Haunted Halls of Eveningstar (probably my favorite Forgotten Realms adventure module - I think I will write a blog post all about this module sometime).

However, I used these accessories like crazy:

1. Aurora's Whole Realms
2. Volo's Guide to the Sword Coast.
3. Volo's Guide to the North
4. Volo's guide to the Dalelands.

These books had wonderful items for my players to purchase, wonderful foods for them to have their characters eat, and lots of different inns and taverns to play around in. I didn't have to waste any time coming up with a tavern for the players to sleep at in each town they visited - Ed Greenwood did it all. I didn't have to worry about the price of a red and grey dress for one of my female players (she could pick one out on page 81 of Aurora's).

Anyway, I love settings where the author fills in crazy amounts of non-dungeon related detail. I can use that and then focus my energies on filling dungeons or creating the intrigues of the kings court or creating city adventures for a group of scaly rogues... in other words - the fun stuff.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Generation of Swine

I'm sitting here reading Generation of Swine by Hunter S. Thompson and what is tripping me out is how original this guys brain pattern is. Most people copy the thoughts and style of others in everything they create. Not Hunter.

Here he is riffing about Reagan:

"Reagan's children must be proud of him. With AIDS and acid rain, there is not much left in the way of life and love and possibilities for these shortchanged children of the '80's. In addition to a huge and terminally crippling national debt, and a shocking realization that your country has slipped to the status of a second-rate power, and that five American dollars will barely buy a cup of coffee in Tokyo, these poor buggers are being flogged every day of their lives with the knowledge that sex is death and rain kills fish and any politician they see on TV is a liar and a fool." ~ Hunter S. Thompson

I'm not sure what he would say if he was living in the foul year of our lord 2010... trickle down economics... lol... As I read this book I simultaneously want to laugh and vomit - now that is art. I wish I could have had brunch with him in vegas.

Anyway, the article I wrote about watery magic of vats and pools is definitely getting published - more to come on that soon. I think I am going to work on supplemental material for that article and put it up on this blog - extra spells, maybe some extra random tables.

The LL lord game that I was in flopped... our GM went turn coat on us and started a Mutant Future PBEM game. Who knows, maybe he will come back later. I wasn't feeling Mutant Future, although it received lots of good words on the nets, so in summary I'm back to a single game and I'm the DM. If anyone knows of any old school PBEM games where I could be a player - please let me know. I have some ideas for games that I could run as DM, but I would much rather be a player.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Weird Watery Magic of Pools and Vats

I haven't been posting much on this blog. Recently, I've been pretty much obsessed by the use of magical vats of liquid in my games. I created this Lovecraftian sort of monster in my Castles and Crusades game. It was an outsider "demon" creature from space that crashlanded in the Bright Lands of Greyhawk. I combined this concept with Moldvay's "The Lost City" and I'm working in this whole backstory about how the creature has spent the last 500 years feasting on the intellect of humans. My thought is that this creature is made totally of protoplasm and it can fashion itself a body and change the hardness of its goo to that of chitin plate if it desires. It's intelligence was so alien to human kind that initially it could not communicate telepathically with humans. After 500 years of feasting on human psyches it has now adapted to be able to communicate. Anyway, I ruled that during its crash landing on earth it lost a particular artifact which allowed it to live easily in any environment. It has been stuck deep underground living in certain pools that sustained its abominable lifeforce until it could regain the artifact. The PC's were chasing this Half Orc Assassin which had obtained the artifact, but they failed to stop the half orc from returning the artifact. This demon being which was revered as a god by these underground people has now been unleashed on Oerth. I'll be bringing the PC's into confrontation with the beast again once they have gained a few more levels and could survive the encounter. Anyway as a side effect of this adventure I became obsessed with pools and vats. I started brainstorming a huge number of ideas for how these magical vessels of liquid could be used to awesome effect in DnD style games. I have written a ~4-5 page article so far and I still have lots of ideas. I'm thinking of throwing it in front of some folks that publish hobby gaming fanzines. In addition, I will probably publish most or all of the ideas up on this blog and try and get some feedback for how the article is progressing. Here is my introduction to the article - I haven't done any re-writing yet, this is still a first draft:


Human kind has long had both a fascination and fear of water. Man needs this precious liquid each day to live and yet he can drown in a mere teaspoon of the substance. Vessels of water hold a powerful symbolism of motherhood and the womb, juxtaposing the origin of life itself with an environment that man can no longer enter without fear of death by drowning. Foul potions brewing in the cauldrons of witches and the embryonic vats birthing an artificial monster of a man are just two examples of how this powerful symbol has been employed in literature. This article aims to flesh out a variety of ideas on how you can use vats and pools in your fantasy RPG game. These entities should be used infrequently and each use should invoke either a pure magical wonder or a sense of horrific alien fear. The statistics used in this article are written for Swords and Wizardry, however they could be adapted with ease to any retro clone or original edition of DnD.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Detect Evil Sucks

I'm really sick of detect evil and detect alignment spells. I think these spells are roleplay crushers which yank pc's out of the act of roleplaying and into a tactical method of gaming even when confronting humans. I like to add mysteries and conspiracies to my games, but I have to go to great lengths to think about how to avoid a single detect evil spell from ruining the conspiracy that I am creating.

Instead of using roleplaying to try and solve mysteries many times my PC's will go right for detecting evil on everything - figure out what is bad and kill it. Also, with paladins in the party my group enters a dark room or something, and the paladin will try and use a detect evil spell to determine if there are enemies in the room. I'd rather the PC's resort to using their heads and try strange little tricks to decipher where the enemies are instead of getting to the door, casting a detect evil spell and saying - oh sure, there's some bad stuff in there, lets go heal up quick before we go through this door.

For my next DnD campaign - whatever actual system I decide to run, I'm going to use the simple Law, Neutral, and Chaos system of alignment and I'm not going to allow any detection of moral compass. To replace these slots for clerics I will give them more augury spells and maybe detect undead or detect extraplanar entity spells. This seems justified in that undead and extraplanar entities are not from this world and may radiate negative energy or leave some planar strands or marks that priests could identify by calling on certain magics.

I think this will also increase the power of telepathy spells, clarivoyance, clairaudience, etc... because in order to "divine" an NPC's intentions they will have to do more than cast detect alignment and then make a snap decision about who the NPC is. Using auguries might let the GM drop interesting hints to help the PC's without cutting to the chase and revealing the entire mystery or conspiracy that he is trying to weave. I think humans are more complex in their motivations than a simple good and evil bucketing allows for.