27 December 2011

Stuck on Setting

So I've written a pretty decent game about action heroes that's about halfway done when I wanted to put in a setting. I've got two ideas: one where the cold war basically decimated South American society and created an unstable breeding ground for terrorism and drug running, and one where the players are the special forces for the New World Order and assist in black ops against the kinds of people who resist the New World Order, in kind of a shadowy spy vs spy sort of way.

But see, the problem is that my game is explicitly designed for one-shot adventures, and I'm finding that the more time I spend creating an interesting and detailed setting, the more it feels like the game should be more episodic and long-term. The more the setting is treated like a character in its own right, the more you'll naturally want to see players interact with it and make things happen, which means that the players are going to be involved in a long-term game where they make the world a different place.

So I'm stuck between basically creating a game with no setting and creating a setting with a game that doesn't support it, and either way I feel like I'm about going crazy.

25 December 2011

Ham Fisted: A Game of Action Heroes

I wrote a quick game after I wrote about that "Spades as Conflict Resolution" thing, and it's almost done. I'm just trying to figure out what in the holy hell I'm missing, which is frustrating, because it's got a bit about Task Resolution, a bit about weapons and items in general, and then some stuff about being injured. Then I have a section about the little wrinkles players can use to their advantage (since they are action heroes, for crying out loud), and then stuff about how to make their characters.

It's all of four pages, and is currently the shortest RPG I've written yet, but I think that's probably ok. I like short systems better than long ones, and if you presented the real basics of D&D you end up with all of four pages too (as the Microlite games show), so maybe I'm spot-on.

I'll snag a couple of public domain shots to spice up the game, pop out a PDF, and then make it happen up in here. Hoping to get some good feedback on the 1KM1KT free rpgs site, they seem like good people with a smallish community, which is pretty much what I'm looking for.

Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays, everybody. 

Although I'm not exactly a christian, neither is Christmas anymore, so it's all good. I like presents, trees, mistletoes, fat jolly men in absurd suits, the whole nine yards. 

Hope you're having as good a holiday as I am!

20 December 2011

Bound to Happen: I Got A Virus

And it happened, ironically, years after I stopped using peer-to-peer services and had almost stopped using torrents entirely.

Luckily, I know my way around a boot disc and I'd had my hard-to-find-again files already backed up on my external, so little of value was lost. I think all I lost were some Pathfinder PDFs, but I don't know why I had them in the first place.

So, that's that. If you own a computer, you owe it yourself to either get a Live CD of something easy like Ubuntu, or a boot recovery disk so that if you ever get a virus, you can save your files and reinstall your OS instead. Not that you should always reinstall your OS when you get a virus, but I digress.

18 December 2011


My girlfriend is back down from Great Lakes for the holidays, and that means I finally get to watch the prequel series Gods of the Arena.

Clearly, I am a happy clam.

If you've never watched Spartacus, it's basically a sword-and-sandal soap opera. Quintus Batiatus and his wife Lucretia are two plotting owners of a ludus, basically a training ground for gladiators. You watch as they maneuver and plot their way around society while the gladiators deal with the consequences of a life without choice and doing what must be done. They know their place in the world is not high, and their rivalries and brotherhoods is interesting to watch.

Oh, and there's a lot of gore and/or sex, often in the same scene. The world of Spartacus is a dirty, grimy world. You won't find bronzed gods of gladiators here, with squeaky clean love lifes and noble aspirations. They're forever talking about their own penises, or of women and wine, or of killing. Their ludus is often covered in dust and filth, the city is crumbling and shitty. Look at that picture below- the people there are dirty, the arena is cracked and makeshift. You can believe in the world of Spartacus. Exquisite care has been taken to make sure that this world of ancient Rome looks like ancient Rome would, in a world without spray cleaners and germ theory.

Honestly, I don't care if it's not high literature, or destined to be a classic, or what. It's just plain good. The plots are thick, the dialogue is quick and snappy while still being in what is recognizeably a foreign dialect, and the action is presented in such a way that while you know it's not real, you can't help but squint every time somebody gets decapitated or beaten up somehow.

It's fantastic, and I love it.

11 December 2011

Spades as Conflict Resolution

Something I've been thinking about just now, like a bolt of insanity and inspiration. What about SPADES as a conflict resolution thing?

See, it'd work like this: You're walking about, when suddenly! GUNFIGHT! You and your opponent (probably the GM) deal out a quick hand of standard playing cards. Say, five of them. You both pick out a card, slide it onto the table, and WHAM. Flip 'em. High card wins.

You've got a couple of cards, permanent style that you hold in your hands. Think of 'em like your luck. You get them for doing cool stuff, or acting in character, or for saying something really badass that everybody around you likes. You keep them separate from all your other cards, because they're kind of important. You can use them whenever you want, and even switch out one of the cards you've already played with one of your Luck Cards, because that's kind of what luck is for. If you play out too high of a card, you can swap it out for one of your lower ones, and if you play too low of a card, you can swap it out for a lower one.

What's on your character sheet? I'm thinking about making this game a game about high-stakes modern-day action- picture Die Hard and stuff, where the heroes have plenty of luck until the going gets rough and shit starts getting real, real nasty. So your character sheet's got your character's goal, two of his vices, and three things he's really good at. Maybe some posessions, but since you're playing like an action movie thing, that'll probably boil down to a very few things you've got on your back. At the very most, I could see having a backpack or some sort of duffelbag, but the point of the game isn't the items or whatever, it's the fact that we're playing ACTION MOVIE: THE GAME.

This was a snippet of thought I kept track of about a week ago. I wrote about half of a mini-roleplaying game based on it, so I figured I'd let this caged beast go.

Gelston, city of Wanderers

There is a city that stands in the shadow of mountains, made of tents and broken down wagons. It was once no more than a temporary stopping place for a band of vagabonds, but one day they stopped. Nobody really knows why. Some say it was the wealth of the travelling merchants that compelled them to settle down and make a living. Some say it was the fact that the leader of the travellers grew great with child and, when she gave birth, was too sick to move. She lingered for years, and when she finally died, her people lost the will to wander and settled forevermore. Some even say it was the result of a curse a wizard put on the whole group, punishment for theft and mockery.

Whatever the reason, Gelston remains a ramshackle city built by a people with nearly no knowledge of building. Houses are little more than long-standing tents, large wagons with their wheels removed, or earthen mounds. Low, crooked fences mark the delineation between neighbors, and fires burn randomly. There is but one temple- a broken, dead tree, blasted by lightning, surrounded by a circle of low, round greystone. The villagefolk call Heledis' Grove, after one of the goddesses of their nearly-forgotten homeland. Though they are not a religious people, they have been known to pray for her mercy and make offerings in her honor.

10 December 2011

Masks of Death

I've liked the idea of masked assassins for a long time. So long, in fact, that I almost put them into a campaign setting I was working on (Me'dia), even though they didn't really fit in the highly-elemental world they were being designed for. See, these guys were a religious order of assassins who would always kill their targets while wearing a white mask over their face. Why? So that their victims can't see them, and hopefully won't be able to recognize them, and possibly haunt them. It also means that, if they should meet in the afterlife, they won't recognize their murderer. I thought it was a fun idea.

Firstly, it means that hauntings are a thing that happens. If these guys are afraid of being haunted, does that mean that the spirit of somebody that the PCs kill could possibly come back and make their lives miserable? What exactly does a ghost do when it's haunting people? Can it harm the person it's haunting, or does it just make noise and act creepy?

Secondly, it means that there's a little bit of cat-and-mousery going on. Since the assassins' habits are known, it means that anybody who sees somebody they don't know wearing a white mask is highly suspect, and they're going to run, so the assassins aren't going to wear their masks until they have to (leaving aside the fact that it's vision-obscuring and probably uncomfortable). But if they wait too long, they might have to pass up an opportunity to strike in favor of wearing their mask, or worse, run the risk of having the perfect time arrive and not be wearing their mask!

They were given a pass for Me'dia, but in Rodiel, the IRC campaign I'm working on, I think they'll fit beautifully. Why the change?

Well, Me'dia, like I may have mentioned, was a highly elemental world. Everybody was blatantly made of elements, everybody knew about the elemental planes that leaked to the mid-world, wizards and clerics alike had mostly elemental and anti-elemental worlds, and the Masked Assassins never really fit in. They kind of have a theme, but the problem is their religion. In a Forgotten Realms-esque world where the gods have been seen stomping around and clerics really do have powers that wizards can't access, disbelief is just ridiculous. Similarly, with the way that elementalism and the inherent symbolism that Me'dia had pervading every aspect of the world, an order of temple assassins who don't believe in the Elemental Gods was sort of jarring. It'd have given them an aspect that I really wasn't interested in pursuing.

So the Masked Assassins will probably be given a cooler name, and then stuck somewhere into Rodiel. If you're playing in the game, look out for them- they may not be everywhere, but they might be exactly where you'd wish they weren't.

Microlite74 via IRC- LOOKING FOR MORE

Hey everybody.

I'm looking for more people to play Microlite74 over IRC with me and some others. I've already got a couple of people, but, as they say, the more, the merrier. I'm looking to have enough people to have two smaller-sized groups moving simultaneously through the campaign world- wait, what's that? Sounds like the West Marches campaign?

Goodness, you're perecptive.

YES, I'm trying to run something along those lines, and yes, it's gonna be nutso insano. It's set in the boomtown of Rodiel, a wild-west town on the edge of an old, fallen empire. It's set directly after the dust clears from a massive war. Even though one side lost, the winning side (your side) hasn't managed to do anything about it yet. Both sides took massive losses, and both sides are unable to do much of anything about this massive expanse of open land between them. So your side, the winning side, has started sending settlers, colonists, and explorers out to check out this new-to-you land.

If you're thinking "I bet there are some sweet ruins to plunder," you're in-character already. Yes, there are dozens of broken-down castles, and yes, there are abandoned wizards' towers, ancient and forgotten glens of mystical might, dukes' treasuries, dusty and hidden dwarf lord tombs, and more. There are ogres invading hamlets, trolls wandering around and causing problems, gold rushes towards half-depleted mines, and more.

In short, it's the perfect time to be an adventurer. All we need now is you.

So leave a comment, shoot an email, let me know what times you're available, and we'll see if we can't have some sort of Obsidan Portal-esque thing set up and ready to roll quick.

Some quick player information:

We're planning on using the Microlite74 rules, because I like them, they're free, and they're system-agnostic and easy to expand.

We're planning on playing through IRC, because it has an integrated dice roller and I always thought it'd be cool. It's on #Rodiel, on sorcery.net. If you let me know when you're available, we can try and meet up. Bring some friends with you, the more the merrier! Since I'm looking for this to be largely player-scheduled, really, any time you want to game we can go. Let me know if you're interested!

06 December 2011

Magic in Skeleton Puncher

I've been over magic before, and there's no real reason for me to reiterate what I've already gone over. So let me get a little more specific on how magic is going to work in Skeleton Puncher, for all zero people who've cared. If you're new here, hi, I use this blog as a personal journal so that I don't waste massive amounts of paper. Now that we've got that out of the way, here goes nothing.

Magic in Skeleton Puncher is going to be a little more down-to-earth. See, it's moved a fair bit away from the initially zany sort of deal, where you're all basically comic-book versions of regular heroes smashing some dudes in the face because, as I found out when I was writing it, I don't really play my games like that. It's not the kind of games I'm used to running, so the writing felt forced and the rules, overly lenient here and overly restrictive there. It didn't have a theme, for lack of a better word. It didn't have a purpose. It didn't do anything that I wanted it to do. It was a problem, and part of it was the magic.

See, I run a pretty low-magic, high-realism kind of setting. I'm very much into Gygaxian naturalism, which means that there isn't just a dragon, there's a reason for it. Which means, as a corollary, that when there's magic, there should be a reason. It should be tied directly into the campaign world, and that not just the PCs should be using it. We've all seen the massive, convoluted threads that happen when somebody sets down to try and "break" a campaign setting in 3e and 3.5e. All that means is that the setting isn't supported by the magic in any way, shape, or form, or the setting would already reflect that. When you have a 5th level wizard who can change the world in ways that don't even make sense, you have a real problem.

So I'm doing my best to prevent that up front. I'm setting it up so that, if you've ever played Vampire:The Masquerade/Requiem, it'll be somewhat familiar. You'll have separate ratings in each type of magic, such as telepathy or summoning, and each one has a little list of things you can do with it, and how hard it'll be. And that's pretty much it. You can have Clairvoyance I and Curses II, and that's pretty much the extent of your magical ability.

In other words, you can mostly do things that real-life witches and sorcerers thought they could do, with a little bit of the stereotypical flashy fantasy magic thrown in there for good measure so that your average "lolfireball" type guy has something to play around with, and then you're done. But get this- flashy battle magic is in the distinct minority. With eight or so different magical talents you can have, maybe one of them is something you'd use while the brawny swordsmen are doing their thing. The rest is the sort of thing that'd make your everyday life better- a guy with Clairvoyance can scout out the terrain ahead of you, the guy with Precognition is just handy in general, a summoning guy has a lot of utility (and even a little bit of battle stuff), and each magical talent has something that you can do in battle, no matter how difficult. Like the Clairvoyance guy, maybe he can close that person's third eye and now they're a little worse at things that have to do with seeing. He's missing more in combat, and, perhaps more importantly, he's not as effective of a guard. You can sneak right past him, because he's finding himself with a headache right behind his eyeballs instead of being attentive and alert. The guy with weather control, sure he can summon lightning bolts, but more important is the fact that he can turn a clear night into a cloudy one, or make a little rain to cover your tracks. He may not be useful in a dungeon, but he sure is handy when you're travelling around isn't he?

The other big thing is that, since it's a point-buy system where you can choose what talents you have, you're not going to have sorcerers who are master magicians and then totally non-magical guys. There's a system in place so that you can have your war wizards, or your thief who was born with a touch of magic in his veins, or a barbarian shaman who's a masterful warrior while also communing with the spirits of his homeland. It's class-based with flexibility, if you will.

This is the sort of magic I want in my game, and it's the sort of magic I'm going to put in. It's not the sort that means that wizards rule the world, and it doesn't mean that at higher levels, magicians are able to do anything they want while the rest of the party watches. It's magic that does its own thing, makes life a little easier, and you want with you, when you can get it.

Hopefully, it turns out well.

EDIT: I've boiled it down to seven, but I feel like I'm missing something important.
  1. Battle Magic: Stereotypical fireballs and lightning bolts
  2. Clairvoyance: Remote seeing and hearing
  3. Curses: Evil eyes, effigies, etc. (This one is the hardest for me to design for, by far.)
  4. Illusions: Manipulation of senses
  5. Shapeshifting: Quintessential magic
  6. Spiritualism: Conduct with spirits (also spirits of the dead, depending)
  7. Telepathy: Reading minds
As you can see, there's a lot that screams "magic" without a lot that says "stereotypical fantasy magic." I don't mean for that to sound demeaning, as the reason it's a stereotype is that it's a lot of fun. But still. I want to go a slightly different way.

In addition, I'm thinking about adding a "Sorcery" talent, that basically controls magic and metamagic, so that you could do things like detect ley lines and identify magic and all the other basic stuff that feels wizardly. I might tie that in to just having a magical talent, like "if you have at least one magical talent, you can sense ley lines and determine if magic has recently been cast in an area," and so on. It really depends, I suppose.

05 December 2011

Fantasy Warriors (Wargame)

Has anybody played this? I found the PDF rules online, and it looks to be fairly decent. My girlfriend will be coming down in a week or so (she's about half a country away), and I think it might be fun to play a little game with her.

She's a lot of fun to play with- she's extremely competitive and hates to lose, so I'm always sure to get a great game out of her. She does suffer a bit from being impulsive and angry when she starts losing, whereas yours truly is more of a patient mastermind type- I'll lose one unit here to put you in a bad position, so I can flank you here and smash this into this...

But yeah. I thought maybe this would be a little better than Warhammer, since I really don't want to buy any of the new books, or have to buy $100 worth of minis and a $30 book to be able to play a force that's anywhere near the rules Games Workshop presents. I want to use what I have, and what I have are little squads of Dwarfs, Lizardmen, Ogres, Goblins, Orcs, and Humans. I want to be able to use them all together, decide why they're working together, and then call it a day as we crack some heads. If Fantasy Warriors can bring me this, I'm a happy clam.

The link to the free PDF of the rules follows: http://www.mirliton.it/fantasy-warriors-rules.php

Looking Back

They say that if you don't look back at who who were from a year ago and cringe that you haven't grown enough. What if I look back f...