28 February 2013

Ancient Economies!

I've been trying to find some decent, reliable information on how, exactly, ancient economies worked. It's a bigger pain in the ass than it seems!

First, obviously, the amount of information on the wars, battles, heroes, and tactics are all covered, in exhaustive detail, across a thousand thousand books. Literally 95% of history books are just about wars and generals and kings and conquerers and I can't blame them (warrior-kings are a whole lot more exciting to read about than prudent and responsible ones), but it does mean that when you're trying to be an armchair trader instead of an armchair general, your options are limited.

So imagine my delight when google revealed to me this treasure: Ancient Economies. Don't let the format fool you; it might be a horribly tacky and poorly formatted Tripod page, but the information within in scholarly, well-researched, and just plain interesting. Did you know that they used to collect gold dust with sheep skins? Me neither, but that's something that's good to know now.

It's pretty in-depth, and I hope there's some good information I can mine out of it.

27 February 2013

Redesign And: Tweaking Dead Meaty Guys

I redesigned my blog today, which is something you certainly do not care about, but it is a thing that I care deeply about. The header had been bugging me for a long time, but today's the day I did something about it. Now the blog's sporting a regal dark purple and yellow look. It's like the blog of kings. Except better. You dig?

Anyways. I've been peeking around the corners of my blog (nearly spring cleaning, you know) and I've spotted some old, dusty games that don't seem to have gotten much attention. One of those things, as you know, is AIM FOR THE HEAD.

Now, I believe that AFTH is a decent game. Oh no, not perfect by a long shot, but it reminds me of Dead Meat, which is probably the only zombie game that you can read through in one sitting without your eyes glazing with the remnants of some awful d20 hack that's never been playtested and contains almost no interesting rules. Sorry, let me reel myself in. I like AFTH- it's fresh and easy to play. But it needs some love.

The way zombie infection is handled is great- when you're infected but not killed, you halve your attributes and you're pretty much doomed. And the three stat system (Fight, Flight, and Toughness) means that characters get created in the blink of an eye and when they die, that's ok, because here comes another one. Besides, because in the apocalypse, those three things are pretty much what matters. The pseudo-FUDGE task resolution system set in place is good (but for the next edition, I'm turning it into 1-3 is bad and 4-6 is good, to make it more equivalent to FUDGE and leave out the "on a 2-5, nothing important happens" thing that I forget to deal with), but ultimately flawed. I'll probably replace it with a One-Roll Engine inspired idea if I don't go with pseudo-FUDGE.

The way that Stuff is as abstracted as it is doesn't work for me; I believe the game would be better served by more concrete examples for each category of things that are useful. The fact that I neglected things that help you Flee (bikes, cars, helicopters) is nearly criminal. The fact that there aren't any good rules for "don't make noise or you're boned" is bad. The non-existence of rules for battling hordes is nearly as bad. Something as easy as "when there are multiple zombies, add together their Fight and Toughness and roll it as one enormous organism," and bam, you have zombies that are pathetic one on one and nigh-lethal as a horde.

What few bits of setting information are there would have been better left out, so as to give more of a framework for the game, and I think that the PDF deserves to be expanded to five or six pages. What the game really needs is a section on stuff the GM can do to ramp up tension, because that's completely missing anywhere. The bit about not trusting other survivors? There's absolutely no in-game reason to betray anybody else, and there's no hint of even being able to fuck with the other players. There has to be a bit of tension, and I think a better design than the blank floorplan I came up with would highlight that. Things like in The Walking Dead video game- you have six pieces of food, so who do you give them to? Or even something as simple as: one of the people in your party's been grabbed through the window and is going to be bitten. Do you save them and possibly die yourself, or do you leave them?

That's what's important about a zombie game, not some half-assed hints about Other Survivors or A Cure or Destroying Zombies. The game needs a section about Death, Difficult Choices, and Inevitable Death. The tone should be grim, because there's nothing shittier than being in a world where everybody you know is probably dead.

Still, it's good that it was released even in a half-playable state; even in the resounding silence that followed, it's been just long enough that the faults are clear. It's not what I'd want to play, so why should anybody else want to play it?

Hopefully the next revision is better.

26 February 2013

No More Weirdness

Is it too much to ask for a decent game about the West that doesn't include demons, spirits, witches, "steampunk," or any other sort of bullshit?

I guess so, because even a quick google search will give you 90 thousand shit steampunk games, 10 thousand weird west games, and then two Old West games that nobody posted the PDF of and nobody is selling because the world's gone shit-stirring, fuck-faced crazy over "steampunk" because everybody likes the hats and goggles and nobody seems to give two shits what sort of game it involves because they don't plan on playing it anyways.

Like, seriously, just write a game where you can stare down some punks, maybe fend off an Indian raid, gamble with some banditos, and get in a shootout with some assholes. But no, people want their overblown pseudo-anime steampunk more.

No robots or goggles or top hats or giant wrench-swords or phlobotinum rays, just  six-shooters and shotguns and rough frontiersmen. (You can keep the shamans if you want, but I wouldn't.)

Even on Stack Exchange, all they've got is the massive Aces and Eights, which I plan on checking out despite the nut-bustingly thick tome it is in, then some shitty generic games (GURPS, HERO), Coyote Trail, and then the old-n-crusty Boot Hill. That's about it, apparently. The only shining light might be Dust Devils, but c'mon.

Looks like I'll have to strip entire chunks out of, say, Deadlands if I want to get any decent non-supernatural frontier games out.

23 February 2013

Hero Quest

This is an allegro version of  Hero Quest  that apparently runs pretty well in DOSBox. I'm putting it here so that I don't lose it anywhere without having to bookmark it.

That's the kind of guy I am.

22 February 2013


This is apparently from the D&D Next playtest. While the system seems like a load of shit, at least this picture is pretty cool.

You know, it makes one wonder why there aren't more interesting hybrids of creatures. I mean, all you ever hear about are the human-animal hybrids, but why not owl-squids, or hawk-dogs, or hyena-cats. Well, we sort of have some of those, I guess, but, still.

Less drawings of elves, and more drawings of monsters, say I.

21 February 2013

Aleshar: World of Ice

Not anything I'm working on; this game stopped being made in 1997.

When I get DOSBox working on the ol' laptop, I think I'll give it a download. I've never heard of it, but it seems well-made enough. I can forgive it for having tiny graphics if that's its only real flaw. Apparently you're required to use your in-game sextant to navigate, which seems charming, and I do enjoy keyword-based conversations. I think it's an elegant solution to the "I want you to shut up now please" since if you aren't interested in reading you can just click the words, but if you want to know more about the world about you, you can actually read it and ask about things that are only tangentially related.

Also apparently you've got to hunt for food and stuff. It kind of sounds like an old tabletop game, which shouldn't be too surprising. These sorts of games wore their inspirations on their sleeves, after all.

Wonder why I haven't heard of this before.

Ancient Libya in Swords and Wizardry

This could be you, if you work hard enough

If you wanted to play D&D in ancient Africa, what kinds of changes would you have to make?

You'd want to excise the Cleric almost entirely, I think; a warrior-priest with healing magic isn't really a thing in the early African worldview, I don't think. It isn't really in any worldview, when you think about it, but I'm not here to complain about the Cleric. That's for another time.

If you took out the healing spells from the Cleric's list and gave them to the Magic User, you'd have a pretty good mystic or shaman. He'd have the detecting spells (can sense evil spirits), can purify water (an old mystic trick), can charm people (hypnotism), that sort of thing. And since, under Whitebox rules, you don't get actual flashy fireballs and lightning bolts until 5th level, there's really nothing else to change. And honestly, when you're at 5th level, you can throw a fireball once in a while.

I'd probably want to give the mystics something cool they can do, and some sort of ritual or taboo they have to obey. Something like "Must never bathe, but can always find food, given time," or "Must wear white face paint to ward off Bambu-Paku's ghost, but can find water with a dowsing rod." You know, that sort of thing.

Next, you reduce armor choices, but make padded armor more effective, like it historically was. I understand it could block arrows? So give it medium armor statistics, and you're done. You have naked (-0), light (-2), and medium armors(4), and then of course you have shields. Double their value (-2), and you're left with about the same armor values as before, except now everybody's carrying shields.

For weapons, just have everything deal 1d6, since everybody was using knives and spears and bows and slings and they didn't seem to notice too much of a difference between them. It's not important to the game anyways, what weapon does what. Maybe you can give a penalty to crap weapons and a bonus to great weapons, but I think it's fine. Magic weapons can be the only ones to deal extra damage, which suits me just fine.

The Fighter is fine as written, and so is the Thief, if you feel like including that guy. Doesn't really matter; there were sneaks and skulks around just as often as there were archers and spearmen in legends and armies.

Campaigns can be drawn from mythology; there were lots of monsters and spooks and spirits and shit running around their legends, so include a couple. "Mundane" threats like a man-eating tiger are pretty easy too. A curse from a wandering, mad mystic could be a great hook; now you've got to go find the shaman of the next town and get him to lift the curse before it's too late. Or maybe something as universal as "You're being raided! What do you do?"

If you make it long enough, you can raise your own cities. Remember, in ancient times, it wasn't an enormous desert. Ancient Greek travelers knew Libya as an incredibly verdant and fertile region with an ancient and highly civilized people. I don't know of any really good domain rules off the top of my head, but it's certainly more appropriate than continuing to adventure in caves and dungeons and kill chimeras and other beasties. Certainly, B/X has some decent rules, and I think they'd be appropriate enough for our purposes.

Anyways, I've spent far longer on this than I had intended to. Please, enjoy.

Also, on a completely unrelated note: Happy Communism day today, everybody. Yes, on this day in 1848, Karl M. published his famous Manifesto. I'm sure you've heard of it, it was quite popular for a time.

Interest seems to be flagging though, for some reason. Wonder what that's about.

14 February 2013

Still 'Talkin About Kaiju, Huh?

Yes I am, so pipe down.

When making a game about giant monster battlin', it's important to make sure that you can pretend to be the guys that you know you want to be. To that end, you've got to make sure you've got all the bases covered. You need to be able to emulate a good, old-fashioned Godzilla versus Mothra battle, and have more or less accurate attacks and stuff open to you. And since it boils down to the two of  them brawling around for a while, well, that's actually kind of easy.

He only seems vanilla because we're used to the idea of a freakishly strong radioactive lizard with a crazy-ass breath weapon, but he's not exactly standard monster fare. He's shown as being tougher and stronger than pretty much any other monster, in addition to being able to kill pretty much anything. His only real weakness seems to be electricity, for some reason.

I think that Armored Hide is a pretty good ability- a couple of monsters have it, and they're noticably tougher than ones that don't. The same with his Beam Weapon breath- lots of monsters shoot stuff out of their mouths or eyes, and you can use it for secret anti-monster weapons, too. He seems to be very strong, so maybe Mighty would be appropriate- he certainly is a lot stronger than he seems like he should be.

Mothra (Adult)
Mothra is pretty much my personal favorite. I dunno, I just kind of like bugs. Anyways, Mothra can flap her wings and create massive gusts, fly around, and slam into stuff. Sometimes she can also shoot lightning or energy or whatever, but I don't know if that's something she does all the time or what. She doesn't have very useful arms, but she can still pick stuff up, so there is that. The rest of what she does (reincarnating, molting, having pop singers talk for her, psychic powers) aren't really relevant to the smackdown, so they're all omitted. Feel free to imagine them in, though.

Mothra is Flying, obviously. She has an electrical Beam Attack in a couple of incarnations, and I think that's always fun to have. She can Gust using her wings, which I think could be fun to include- you could have a monster who can breathe really hard, or use it for a lot of other Flying type monsters, but not every flyer bothers to make tornadoes.

King Ghidorah

Ghidorah is a funny chap. He's flying but he's kind of clumsy, and he's got a really strong breath attack, what with his three heads. He's not very good at aiming, and he's not very fast, but he's tough as nails and extremely dangerous. It normally takes two or three monsters teaming up to bring him down, which is pretty fun, especially since you're busting down buildings and maybe working together with a super secret military project. King Ghidora is probably the most powerful kaiju of them all, and really requires a lot of rule mangling to get him into play.

He's got Armored Skin and a really powerful breath weapon- maybe he's got three Breath Weapons, which he can use all at once. He's kind of slow and clumsy, and he gets shit done mostly through being big and strong rather than actually being good at aiming his lightning breath or smashing things intelligently. Like in Godzilla vs Monster X, Godzilla hides behind a rock while King G. stupidly blasts the thing. I know he's mind controlled but come on, big guy. So he's kind of Stupid. I don't know if it's worth it to have that be a thing, or just lower King G.'s Activation and Expertise. He's still Really Strong.

I dunno, I'll have to think about it some more. Guy's kind of a pain with his weird triple heads and wandering idiocy.

Flying: Flying monsters have their own wound chart. Flying monsters can move over terrain and monsters in their way, and don't have to land.*

Beam Attack: You can attack things at long range.
Gust: Everything in your line of sight has to roll against their Size or be pushed back 1d6". Failing by 2x Size means getting pushed back 2d6". Hitting something means taking at least a Str 1 hit.

*The wound chart would have entries related to damaged wings and such, so that being a flying monster means you're more vulnerable, but it also means you get to flap around and be a pain in the ass. You also get to smash into the ground and maybe make a bigass crater.

Up next time!
Mecha-Godzilla, Rodan, Gamera, Daimajin, Gappa, Guilala, and more!

13 February 2013

Fighting Draculas

This post from the Nine and Thirty Kingdoms
about the incredible silliness of turning unique monsters (Dracula, Cupid, the Minotaur) into a category of being reminded me of a comic by one Lord Nedroid Jr., Esq., IV.

I'll just post those two; the rest of the comic is in this conveniently bite-sized link.

It's worth it. Don't be lazy, your hands can use the workout.

12 February 2013

Monster Battlin'

Been tossing around the idea in my head to make a kaiju-themed monster battling minis game based on the FUBAR rules. Because holy fuck I love giant weird-ass monsters.

  1. You decide on the points scale for your monsters, then their traits. 
  2. Traits are things like Made of Stone, or Radioactive, or Gnashing Teeth or Laser Breath or  Really Really Big or whatever. These are what you spend the points on.
  3. You have to spend at least half of your points on a single monster.*
  4. Your monster has stats for Activation, Expertise, Size, Strength, and Speed. Default stat line is 3s in everything.
  5. Your Size determines how hard it is to push you, and also how hard it is to kill you (all other things being equal, a bigger monster is harder to kill).
  6. Speed is how far it can move (in inches) while also doing another thing.
  7. When you want to move a monster, you roll over its Activation. You can move it and also do another thing.
    The other things are stuff like Hit, or Climb, or Run, or Push (so you can shove each other into stuff, or knock over buildings), or Throw (so you can throw tanks or rocks or each other, maybe) . You generally have to roll over your Expertise to do things, but your Strength helps, too.
  8. If you get hit, mark it down, then roll 2d6 + your Size - how many Hits you've taken so far. Check the chart. If you lost the chart, you can just take -1 to a stat for each Hit, until you've taken as many hits as you have Size, and then your monster is dead.
  9. Now your opponent can try and activate a monster, if they have any left. If they don't, then keep trying to activate yours until you've tried each one once.
  10. New turn! Start again at Step 7.

*This is because you see tag teams of monsters, or sometimes three or so monsters ganging up on one big one, but never more than that. I'm thinking of having an Activation penalty for each monster over three- having more monsters means more actions, but they tend to spend their turn doing stupid stuff, which is what the Activation represents. Failing to Activate means you do nothing, after all.

I don't really know why that should be what I think of, when I've got an online game of Paranoia shaping up and also a lot of writing to do, and other games to finish writing, and etc etc etc but it just goes to show you that sometimes it's not possible to make your brain work the way you want.

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...