Saturday, August 17, 2013

Brawl at the Tanglebones Tavern: Turn 3

Mister Mister is still holding KISS gal and drunkenly serenading her as Silver-haired Fonzie springs into action, taking a wild swing at Mister that glances off his forearm.  It's not over for Mr. Mister, though, as the KISS fan pulls him in closer and then introduces her knee to Mister's lower vitals.  He goes down to his knees for a little breather.

Nearby Cadfael has figured out that the Bronze Skulls are not the smartest guys you'll ever meet and goes for a distraction.  "Catch!" he shouts as he tosses his pewter tankard to the guy in the filthy smock, who catches it and looks down at the mug in confusion.  All eyes turn towards smock guy, giving the holy man a perfect opening for a flying drop kick!  Smock guy is down for the count and Father Cadfael sticks the landing with a badass Batman/Spiderman style crouch!  The Father's moment of pure badassery is fleeting, as the woman with the filed teeth delivers a Shatnerian double axe handle to the top of his head!  But what is this?  The holy roller shrugs it off and stands up, a look of righteous fury in his eyes!  The Bronze Skuller covered with snake-themed tattoos isn't impressed, though, and comes at Cadfael with a left cross, who leans away from it with Ali grace.  Bumphrey the Moleman had his eye on this tattoo dude and makes his move at this moment, catching him with a solid left.  Darf the Dwarf slips past the general tangle near table 17 and ends up at the hallway between the two halves of the tavern, where he finds the two barmaids chatting in trollish and calmly waiting for the brawl to blow over.

Meanwhile jester hat guy is speaking soothing words to the woman waving the dagger around and it looks like she's maybe going to not cut him to ribbons when out of the corner of his eye he spots the stomping party on the Ugly Wizard, who has suddenly stopped swearing.  "Holy balls!  Boss!" he shouts.  With his attention turned Fritz the Cleric catches him with a Stooge Fu double eye-poke.  To add injury to insult the dagger woman strikes, expertly backstabbing him right below the ribcage and quickly yanking the blade out.  Jester hat piteously wails "Game over, man!" as blood is positively gushing out a wound that he can't quite reach to staunch.  Shit just got real.

Over at the pile of timber that used to be table 20, Quartle the Frogman and Harold the Adequate scramble to their feet.  The frogman begins an incredible transformation.  His fabulous clothes burst asunder as he grows in height and bulk.  "Quartle smash puny human!  Quartle strongest there is!"  Harold is undaunted by this development and comes at him, bro, with a wide variety of attacks, but he is unable to do any damage to the froghulk.  Seeing the carnage about to ensue, Ba Chim the Pointy-Eared Landsknecht executes a strategic withdrawal back up the stairs; Sir Grover of Sesame arrives at the foot of the stairs a split second later.  Whatever deviltry he had planned for Ba Chim is foiled for now.  Rhadamantus the Archmage screams "Sayonara, fuzzface" as he leaps through the air for a flying kick attack at Sir Grover.  Unfortunately, he slightly misjudges the height of the muppet, sails clear over his head (knocking Grover's visor down over his eyes in the process) and collides with Harold the Adequate.  They both end up in a pile at the feet of Quartle-Hulk.

Back at the bar Von the Koopa Troopa has climbed out of the mess that was the liquor shelves just as Bobo the Monkey offers him a slug of banana schnapps (after a generous pull of his own).  Von's turtly heart is full of mischief though, and he tries to grab the monkey with both of his little reptile claws.  The monkey was prepared for such an eventuality and smashes the bottle down on Von's cartoony little head.  The Koopa Troopa goes does, his head oozing blood!  Nearby the hairy jerk and the baby troll continue to mix it up with a furious exchange of kicks and punches.  The hairy weirdo catches the baby troll with an nasty uppercut, knocking the baby out.  The troll runt's cigar flies through the air, tracing out an arc of smoke and sparks, landing perilously close to the pool of liquor near area 12.  But no fire yet.

Malice the Albino Elf continues his inexplicable attack on Megasthenes with a stomp attack but the Hoplite rolls out of the way and to his feet.  Megasthenes catches the elf with a mighty double punch, but Malice is still standing.  Almost simultaneously a bottle smashes down on Malice's skull, shattered and drenching him in spirits.  Where the crap did that come from?  The elf is woozy, but still standing.

Over at the west fireplace the Blueboys have inexplicable decided to go after Big Daddy Troll.  The Blueboy with the red braided beard connects with a right cross and the lumpy kid with a left straight.  Their boss, a dude in a fancy blue cloak, follows this up with solid kung fu kick right in the troll's pot belly, but the big lug laughs in their stupid faces as he snatches up the lumpy headed kid and swings him about like a rag down.  The troll eventually releases the poor bastard, who hits a wall and stays down.

CASUALTIES THIS TURN: dirty smock guy, Von the Koopa Troopa (who scores 300xp for his participation), baby troll, lumpy headed kid, ugly wizard

Friday, August 16, 2013

One way to almost do Holmes initiative

Each round the DM rolls an extra d6 in addition to everyone participating rolling one.  Initiative is then grouped like this:

Pseudo-Holmes Initiative Groups per round
Inish Groups
18-17-16, 15-14-13, 12-11-10, 9-8-7, 6-5-4, 3
18-17, 16-15-14, 13-12-11, 10-9-8, 7-6-5, 4-3
18, 17-16-15, 14-13-12, 11-10-9, 8-7-6, 5-4-3

So if you have a Dex 16 initiative some rounds you will automatically lose to anyone with a Dex 17 or 18 while rolling off against Dex 15 or 14.  Other rounds you automatically beat Dex 15 or lower and roll off against higher Dexterity.

I developed this method for the Brawl at the Tanglebones Tavern.

What if you tie on the die roll with people in your peer group?  Hell if I know.

Brawl at the Tanglebones Tavern: Turn 2

Over at the bottom of the staircase Quartle the Dandy Frog continues to brawl with Ba Chim the Landsknect Elf.  The amphibian delivers a powerful right uppercut to the jaw of the elf.  Critical hit!  Ba Chim falls back against the staircase.  He's down but not quite out.   "Some thanks I get for trying to help!" he mutters as he shakes off the blow.

Meanwhile over in the middle of the room the woman with the sharpened nails and filed teeth makes her move against Father Cadfael, ducking inside the arc of his swinging mug and attempts a claw rake but the wily cleric sees her coming and jumps back at the last moment.  The motion brings him closer to the guy with the grimy hands and dirty smock, and the cleric attacks him with his mug but to no avail.  Grey-haired Fonzie and his buddy covered with snake tattoos step up into position to back up the rest of their gang.

Fast cut to the other half of the building, where Malice Aforethought the Albino Elf decides to make his move, coming at Megasthenes the Hoplite with a flying dropkick!  BAM!  A solid hit but they both go down to the floor.  Fritz was obviously about to go after either Malice or Megasthenes and seems momentarily at a loss.

At the next table over the dork in the jester hat continues to stomp the guy with the eye-patch, who writhes on the ground crying for his momma.  Dang!  Another critical hit!  The eye-patch guy is bruised and bloodied all over his arms and upper torso, reduced to a whimpering shell of a man.  Eye-patch is officially the first dude out of the running for the title of Baddest Brawler.

So far the Bronze Skull gang has shown a lot of unity and esprit de corps, acting as a group.  The Blueboy gang seems to be going with an alternative approach, as the lumpy headed kid arrives at the Blueboys' table, the redbearded dude goes at him but lumpy manages to ward off most of the force of the blow with a timely block.  The kid manages to connect with a sloppy counter-punch.  The third Blueboy present, who seems to be the leader of the group, grabs both of their heads and conks them together Three Stooges style.

The barkeep does not like all these monstrous weirdos coming at his supply of hard liquor and goes after Von the Koopa Troopa.  As he turns Bobo the Flying Monkey snatches the bottle of Auntie Grodd's Banana Schnapps sitting on the counter.  The barkeep grabs the turtlish duder but doesn't take account his grip on a high shelf and brings the whole shelving unit crashing down on both of them! Dozens of bottles of high end hooch are shattered, their contents never to be drunk by man nor mutant.  Oh the humanity!  The barkeep is down for the count, but Von crawls to his feet and, with a triumphant grin, proceeds to take a long pull from the bottle in his hand.  Too bad the bottom half of it is gone and nothing comes out.

The really hairy dude is only inches away from the spot where the top shelf crashed into the bar, but he's too busy beating up the cigar-smoking troll-baby to notice.  They mix it up and the kid comes out the better for the exchange, delivering a vicious kick to the hairy guy's shin.  He howls in agony.

Back over on the other side of the joint Bumphrey the Mutant Mole goes all Sonic the Hedgehog for a moment and in a burst of speed throws himself bodily at the Bronze Skuller with the big Mario Mustache.  Rhadamantus  takes a swing at Bumphrey as he goes past, but fails to connect.  The mole hits with a ramming speed headbutt to the groin!  Mario crumples to the floor, wishing he was unconscious.  He looks stupid, but not stupid enough to get back up before the fight is over.  His buddy in the filthy smock sees an opportunity to kick Darf the Dwarf and carpes the crap out of that diem with a solid strike to the dwarf's gut.  The wind is knocked out of him for a moment, but Darf is still looking to fight.

Nearby Sir Grover of Sesame goes all karate high kick on Harold the Adequate, landing his furry blue foot to the back of Harold's head!  It's one of those blows that is shrugged off for the moment, but damn will he feel that tomorrow morning.  Harold meanwhile climbs onto the table, which is probably too rickety for these sorts of shenanigans, but he's not on it long as he leaps off the table and over the banister at Quartle the Frogman.  It's a beautiful aerial maneuver.  Witnesses will tell their grandkids about it some day. The two brawlers end up in a tangled ball of brawl among the shattered timbers where table 20 used to be.

Over at table 10 the Wilt Chamberlain looking dude with the iron hand and the fighting woman with the grey eyes exchange a meaningful glance, cease hostilities, and proceed to double stomp the bejeesus out of Weird Merlin, who is already on the floor.  Dude is tough as leather; he continues to curse like a congressman even under this brutal barrage.

Meanwhile, KISS girl goes after Mr. Mister but he deftly counters, grabbing her and pulling her close.  "I was made for loving you, baby" he sings, but he's so drunk the words comes out slurred beyond recognition and way louder than necessary, not to mention completely off key.

Back at the bar, Daddy Troll has finished off his pitcher of mead.  He sloppily wipes off his mouth with  scabrous arm, wheels about and silently slouches towards the brawlers at tables 6 and 7, casting a long, long shadow across the room.  A fangy grin stretches far too widely across his hideous face.  As all eyes are turned on this development Man Rider tentacles up into the rafters, out of sight.

TURN 2 casualties: barkeep, eye-patch guy, mario dude

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Brawl at the Tanglebones Tavern: Turn 1 Results

TURN 1 results
The Barkeep
No one is quite sure what put the Tanglebones Tavern into such a brawling move.  Part of the blame must lie with the barkeep, an old greybearded grouch who’s been drinking as much as anyone in the place.  And the more drinks, the grouchier he seems to get.  He seems to be in a grouch-off with the exceedingly hairy man at the bar, who is obviously a regular.  Some of the blame also has to lie with the folks in the eastern half of the establishment.  The dudes at tables 19 and 20 have been giving each other the stink eye all night.  And at one point a Vietnamese elf in a poofy landsknecht jacket moves from one table to the other, apparently in a huff.  Meanwhile, the cheap thugs at table 14 are paranoid enough to think that all the meaningful glances are actually about them, like tables 19 and 20 are conspiring against their gang somehow.

Whatever the source of tension, everyone on the western half of the bar knows exactly who started the ruckus: Bobo the Flying Monkey.  He’s been bugging the barkeep for a while about getting another banana daiquiri, but dude is too busy talking to his hairy chum.  Bobo snaps, leaping up onto the bar and taking a wild swing at the barkeep, who barely ducks out of the way.

The whole establishment explodes into a maelstrom of fisticuffs and swearing.   The Bronze Skulls at table fourteen rush towards the back of the room, in the lead is a woman with nails and teeth, both of which have been filed to nasty points.

Over on the other side of the Tavern, Malice the Albino Elf broods and warily sips his drink as the fight breaks out.  There’s one in every crowd.

Meanwhile, Ba Chim the Vietnamese elvish landsknecht is stumbling down the stairs, trying to clear his head, arriving back in the room just in time to catch a right uppercut from Quartle the Dandy Frogman square in the jaw!  Ba Chim rolls back on the balls of his heels for a moment, but he’s still standing.

The oldest of the Bronze Skulls, a fellow with silver hair and an equally silver scar across his face, doesn’t seem to be in a rush.  He pulls out a comb and adjust his hair Arthur Fonzarelli style as he saunters towards the south end of the room.

Father Cadfael grabs his pewter tankard and rushes forward to meet the Bronze Skulls, swinging it left and right in wide arcs to fend off a Bronze Skull zerg rush.  This stops the advance in the middle of the room.  ʺHarold, watch my back. Darf, keep an eye on that muppet!!ʺ shouts the cleric.  Are either Harold or Darf sober enough to understand what he’s saying?  No one knows.
Meanwhile the lumpy-headed kid in the Blueboy gang (seriously, something is wrong with the shape of that dude’s head) rushes over to table 9 to join his comrades.

Over at table 7 the guy in the jester hat is the first one up and kicks the eyepatch mofo at his table, knocking him to the floor!

Von the Koopa Troopa scrambles onto the bar and over the large barrel of mead behind the west end and leaps across to the shelves where the high end booze is stored.   The shelves begin to lurch forward...

The woman at table 7 yanks her dagger out of the table and begins waiving it menacing at the dude in the jester hat, “I’ll cut you, punk.  I will!  And the DM has crit charts!”

Meanwhile in the other side of the building Bumphrey the Moleman attacks Sir Grover of Sesame!  Grover tries to fend him off but Bumphrey tags him with a right cross.

The barkeep jumps back to avoid both Von and Bobo and is cursing like a sailor just back from graduating with honors from Fuck You Naval Academy.

On the other side of the join the young mage Rhadamantus gets up from his seat at table 20 and gives Bumphrey an evil look.  "I've got better things to do than hang out with losers who look like extras from The Wind in the Willows."  He turns to stride away haughtily, only to find Father Cadfael partly blocking his way. "Forgive me, father, for what I am about to do," intones Rhadamantus as he deftly steps inside the the wild arc of Cadfael’s mug-swing and nails him with a powerful uppercut!  Cadfael’s caught off guard for a moment, but now he looks angry.

Another member of the Bronze Skulls moves up to join the sharp lady in menacing Father Cadfael.  This chap has a shaved head and earring look, but he’s not exactly Mr. Clean.  His hands are covered in dried clay, as is the smock he’s wearing.  He doesn’t attack, yet.

The belly dancer jumps up on the stage and backs into the corner, watching the action.

For no apparent reason the really hairy guy at the bar goes after Man Rider the mutant paladin with a Shatnerian double axehandle attack, but the tentacular weirdo easily schlorps out of the way.

One of the Bronze Skull gang, a dude with cool ass snake tattoos on each arm, has been losing all his coins at cards.  At the first sign of trouble he ‘accidentally’ flips the table as he rushes to aid his comrades, sending copper and silver coins flying across the room.

A Blueboy, a fellow with a ridiculously braided red beard, doesn’t get up yet.; he’s busy finishing his drink.

In all the confusion one of trollish barmaids spills an entire tray of drinks all over the floor near table 7.  All brawlers pause for a moment to mourn the fallen, those wearing hats doff their chapeau momentarily as a sign of respect.  The brawl resume.

Darf, who is quite probably the ugliest dwarf you’ve ever seen, moves up to left of where Father Cadfael is holding the line.

Over at table 6 as everyone stands Fritz (the Von Helsing lookalike) deftly grabs Megasthenes the Hoplite and twirls him about in a beautiful waltz, as Fritz dips the Hoplite you think he’s going to lean in for the kiss, but at the last moment he lets go, dropping Megasthenes flat to the floor.  Ah, romance.

All night Sir Grover of Sesame has been drinking Alligator’s Milk, which he assumed was some sort
of local cocktail.  Just before the brawl breaks out he complains about how weak they are.  Harold the Adequate explains that no, that’s actually the milk from a lactating alligator (no explanation available).  Sir Grover proceeds to spew a mouth full of the stuff right into Harold’s face.

Harold wipes the Alligator Milk out of his eyes and replies in kind with a mouthful of mead.  For a moment the muppet thinks this is a straightforward tit-for-tat, until Harold swings his tankard at his felty head.  The wily Sir Grover drops under the table before Harold can connect.

The three weirdos at table 10 start to mix it up with each other.  The woman with the vicious grey eyes kicks Ugly Gandalf; dude stumbles for a moment, dropping his sweet ass pipe, but remains standing.

Another member of the Bronze Skulls moves up to Father Cadfael’s position, this one a woman who appears to be going to a KISS concert later tonight, based upon her black garb and  Gene Simmons make-up.  

It’s starting to look like Father Cadfael and Darf the Dwarf will be facing the entire Bronze Skull gang next turn when Mister Mister (the manly man in a black sweater and blue jeans sitting at table 20) knocks back the last of his mead and says to no one in particular “Excuse fine gents...I have to see...a man about a horse...”  He leaps to his feet and rushes over to the vicinity of table 17, which he flings out of the way, clearing a space for him to assist the cleric and the dwarf.

Megasthenes the Hoplite scrambles to his feet, unsure of the turn his life has just taken.

The trollish barmaid that had been serving the Bronze Skulls quickly gathers the coins they kindly left for her as payment and tip, then hussles out of the room.

Back at table 10 the big man (6’8”) with the iron right hand takes a swing at the woman with the
menacing grey eyes.  Note that he swings with his left (non-metallic) hand, catching her with a mean left cross.  The woman laughs like she’s having the time of her life.

Over at the bar, the bigger troll guzzles another pitcher of mead, as if oblivious to the chaos erupting around him.  Meanwhile back at the bottom of the staircase that little love tap from Quartle the Frogman seems to be enough to help knock Ba Chim the Elf out of his mead-induced haze.  "Aw, there's a bar fight going on? Where the hell is Taurus Hell's-Heart when you need him?"

The pile of tentacles known as Man Rider oozes over the bar and up the shelf in the back, grabbing a bottle of Old Panther from the top shelf and ascending to the rafters via tentacle.

The last of the Bronze Skulls, a fellow with a huge Mario-style handlebar moustache, moves into position to brawl with Darf, Cadfael and Mr. Mister next turn.
The baby troll turns his head and casually blows a big cloud of cigar smoke into the hairy guy’s face. Dude is not amused.

Finally, Ugly Gandalf has fallen and he can’t get up.  He can swear using a variety of sexual acts that are mostly impossible in three dimensional space, though.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Brawl at the Tanglebones Tavern

Of all the drinking establishments in the Snail Quarter, why come to the Tanglebones Tavern?  The location is terrible, unless you happen to run out of the back door of a nearby gambling den or boxing pit and need a place to duck into quickly.  The interior is drafty and the food is terrible, unless you favor burnt trout served with a mug of alligator milk (I honestly don't know).  Because the doors and ceiling are higher than for most gin joints in the area, the Tanglebones has become the favored venue for trolls to get their drink on.  Once the owner realized this trend, he started hiring trollish barmaids.

So unless you like the shivering by the fireplace and inhaling the funk of up to a dozen trolls, there's only two things that recommend the Tanglebones to most patrons.  The first is nightly performances of a rather good belly dancer.  The other is the cheap drinks.  No one quite knows how, but the owner can sell fairly good mead for 3 coppers a pint when every other place in the quarter charges five.

Each number on the chart is the rough location of a table and/or group.  As the brawl breaks out, here's the general disposition of the joint.

3 - A lumpy-headed member of the Blueboys, a local gang with ties to the King of Thieves, has arrived late to the card game at table 9.  The other members are hollering at this poor sap as he rushes across the room.
6 - Seated here are an albino elf looking all moody and Elricish, Anthony Hopkins as Van Helsing, and a Greek Hoplite with his armor on a spare chair and his helmet on the table.
7 - One of the trollish barmaids is serving drinks here to three thuggish types, one dude with an eyepatch, one guy wearing a jester hat incongruous with the rest of his outfit and a gal with stringy hair who's jabbed a dagger into the table in front of her.
9 - Here's where the three hollering Blueboys are playing cards.  You can tell they're members of this gang because they all wear woolen peasant caps died blue.
10 - The trio here are furtively whispering to each other.  One is a huge man with a hand of iron chased with silver, one a blonde woman with menacing grey eyes, the third is the ugliest Gandalf you've ever seen: a gnarled little man-thing in grey robe smoking a churchwarden pipe with a staff leaning against the wall behind him.
11 - The owner, a gruff old man just as drunk as the patrons, is serving mead to a pair of trolls.  One is huge, nearly 9' tall, while the other is only man-sized.  The latter is wearing a baby bonnet and smoking a cigar. 
12 - At this end of the bar sits a flying monkey straight out of the Wizard of Oz, a gibbering pile of cancer and tentacles, a Koopa Troopa, and the hairiest human you've ever seen.  Even his beard seems to have hair growing out of it.
14 - Five members of another local gang, the Bronze Skulls, sit here.  They can be spotted by their gaudy skull rings.  The other trollish barmaid has just set down the last mug of another round.
15 - The local belly dancer, Peerless Puichiena, is sitting on the edge of the stage and sulking.  Her flutist is late again.
19 - Four shadowy figures sit around a table: a scruffy fellow, a muppet (no seriously), a Catholic priest in full regalia, and a little long-eared freak.
20 - an anthropomorphic mole, a well-dressed amphibian, a man in bluejeans and a young man in wizard robes

The end results are a little more Mos Eisley and a little less Long Branch Saloon than I had expected, but that's FLAILSNAILS for you.

Each round a player will receive some small info and a list of moves.  Move Across The Room (choose destination by number) and Make Some Crap Up are always options.  Don't overdo the latter please.

Additionally, you may receive a Special Move opportunity, depending on the situation and if the dice go your way.  Additionally, you will receive between 3 to 5 attack and defense options from this chart (how many you get depends on your Int score and your randomly determined state of inebriation).   You will also receive the last defense option used by your nearest foe.

No dice are rolled for these attacks.  If you get a '0' you missed.  1/4 and 1/2 are glancing hits, while 1 and 2 are solid hits.  A, B, and C are special results that really lay the smack down.

Every time you use this chart you are hoping that your attack lands before the foe changes defense on their move.  If you have a substantially higher Dex than your foe, you ought to pound the snot out of them.  But your Dex may be lower than you think, depending on how drunk you are.

(Ignore the penciled-in numbers.  That's from a previous owner.)

Any questions?

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Heavy Metal Swords

Here's a concept to run up the flagpole. Magic swords must be named after a rock ‘n’ roll song, preferably metal.  Maybe if a song becomes sufficiently awesome in our dimension it hardens into a blade in the D&D universe. Or maybe I just want an easy way to give cool names to swords.

Rainbow in the Dark - Possesses Prismatic Spray powers that only work underground or at night.  Each color can be used once per day.  The red ray is available to wielders of 2nd level or above.  Another color becomes available every other level.  (I.e. you must be 14th level to get access to all 7 colors.)

Seven Seas of Rhye - Vorpal against anyone who has betrayed the wielder.

Ace of Spades - Wielder can inflict d6 damage on self (blood runs from hands) for an additional +2 to hit and double damage.

Cry for Eternity - A.k.a. the Blade of Unrelenting Vengeance.  The wielder cannot be killed until they have achieved revenge or they drop/sheath the sword, but rather can shuffle on as a revenant-like shell of burning hatred.

Heaven and Hell - Can cut through illusions, dispelling them instantly.  Double damage to anyone who has ever lied to the wielder.

Hand of Doom - Any humanoid slain by the sword rises as a ghoul.  The wielder commands the last victim to rise as henchghoul.

I think that turned out pretty good. I'd probably have never written a magic sword tied to social situations like betrayal or lies without this song-based prompt. I'd probably make all the swords written under this system +1 in addition to whatever other powers they possessed.

Anybody else got any ideas for swords based on songs?

Monday, August 05, 2013

This post probably Not Safe For Work (or anywhere else, really)

It's all my fault.  I accept full responsibility.  It all started when I posted this picture to Google+:

And labeled it "Your new PC".

I didn't expect people to help me assemble a party.  Joe D kicked off the effort with this Mage of Great Power:

Dean Collins added this guy, the enigmatic Mullet WinCE:

Kreg Mosier adds two adventurers to the team:

Gus L seems to have lined up a bard for the team:

And Harley Stroh offers "this unicorn, as a mount and guide":

Thursday, August 01, 2013

it came from a comic book

An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, & True Stories is a bigass hardbound collection of artsy-farsty "indie" style comics. It's really great, even if it doesn't feature the spandex-clad fisticuffs I normally want out of a funny book. And I even found a few items in the book that absolutely begged to be swiped for gaming.  For example, here's a panel from Charles Burns's Curse of the Molemen. The anthology only includes a small excerpt of the total story, so I can only guess that the dude below is one of the aforementioned Molemen. But I'm going to put him to another use.

# Encountered: d6 (2d8)
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 90' (30')
Armor Class: 6
Hit Dice: 3
Attacks: 2 (claws) or 1 (head beamer)
Damage: d4/d4 or see below
Save: Fighter 3
Morale: 10
Hoard Class: XXI/B

Laazghuls are mutant relatives of ghouls and have all the normal undead immunities. They cannot paralyze with a touch like their more common kin, but may use the emitter array on their heads to blast foes. Roll on the chart below, either for each laazghul or the entire group, to determine what their skull zapper shoots.  Range for all attacks is 90'.
  1. Heat Ray - 3d6 plus save or metal objects melt
  2. Cold Beam - 2d8 plus save or frozen to spot for 2d6 turns or until chipped free
  3. Napalm Gout - 2d6 plus d6 for next d6 rounds
  4. Hypno Ray - save or switch sides for 2d6 turns
  5. Pulse Blaster - 3d6 no save, but to-hit roll required
  6. Lightning - 6d6 save for half
Laazghuls turn as normal ghouls.  Anyone killed by Laazghul claws will rise in 3 nights as a Laazghul.  Those killed by their head beamers are probably too zapped to return from the dead as anything.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

I wonder if this ever happened.

It's 1979 or 1980 and you're a bright, imaginative youth living in a remote rural part of the United States.  Maybe once a month or so you get to the nearest town where you can buy a paperback novel or a comic book with your meager funds.  On one such expedition, you find the blue Holmes Basic D&D on the shelf of a toystore or the toy section of a department store (even a hardware store isn't out of the question).  For purposes of this hypothetical, we'll assume your usual bookstore doesn't stock D&D stuff.

You read the book several times, only dimly understanding at first, and eventually run the game for a circle of friends that become the only game group for miles around.  The game is played off and on for a year, maybe two.  Perhaps after everyone gets several characters each to third level, interest begins to wane.  You decide to re-read the rules and try to suss out how higher level characters work based on the mention of higher spells, extrapolating the XP charts, etc.  But on this read-through you re-discover something glossed over in early attempts to understand the book: mention of an Advanced version of the game.

You resolve that the next time you go to town you will check for Advanced D&D at the place you bought your original D&D set, but you don't find any Advanced D&D.  Maybe they sold out or maybe the person responsible for ordering stock doesn't think the toy section of hardware store needs expensive hardback rulebooks.  But you do find this:

That "Expert Set" up in the corner sounds kinda like an Advanced version of D&D, so you plonk down your cash and bring it home.  It turns out to be exactly what you need!  More spells, more monsters, more treasures, rules for characters to 14th level and lots of clarifications of the rules you didn't understand (like how elves work).  There's a passage explaining that this Expert Set is designed for a new version of the rules you are using, but also there's advice for how to use your version with the Expert book.  You keep the scroll rules from the original book and your slightly wonky initiative interpretation (you don't even realize it's a house rule), which uses Dex somehow and allows daggers to strike twice under some circumstances.

The Expert rules mention two other texts.  In a couple of places a Companion rulebook is mentioned that will allow for even higher level play.  You spend years bugging the staff where you got the Expert set.  Every time you're in town you go an ask them if the D&D Companion set is out yet.  Eventually some of them recognize you and shake their head before you can even ask.

Meanwhile, it turns out that your cool weird aunt, the one who lives in a distant college town, was actually paying attention when you were yammering on about the Best Game Ever and actually tracks down a copy of the other rulebook mentioned in the Expert rules:

Go ahead and look at the bottom of the first column of page X25 if you don't remember this book being mentioned in the '81 Expert rules.

So now you got this weird little booklet from 1976 with strange rules for mass combat.  Some of the stuff in this book you can adopt right away, like the weapon reach rules or the morale rules (which are pretty sparse using Expert without Moldvay Basic to explain them).  The rest of it requires a lot of work to understand and obtaining a large quantity of figures, which is probably not practical given that you are so far out on the edge of the hobby's supply chain.  So you either don't do mass combats despite owning these rules or else you go on to make your own armies out of haphazard materials.  Maybe you even sculpt your own armies out of clay or whittle them or something.  That's what M.A.R. Barker did for Tekumel back before the hobby had a commercial sector attached to it.

Meanwhile, 1984 rolls around and your long-promised Companion rules finally appear!

There's lots of cool stuff here: new weapons, new class options, crunchy unarmed combat, level charts to 25th, weird monsters (including bigger dragons) and the War Machine, a less mini-focused and better written mass combat system.  Combining the War Machine with Swords & Spells allows you to play out in detail battles the PCs attend while the overall war is somewhat more abstracted.  Too bad the level charts don't go to 36th as promised in your '81 Expert rulebook, but the Companion rules promise a Master set that allows for characters up to 36th level as well as the chance to attain Immortality.  Pretty cool!

So there you have it.  A scenario under which over 4 or 5 years you can draw a line across 4 different editions of D&D and still be playing "by the book".  That '81 Expert rulebook connects you to three other editions.

Friday, July 26, 2013

answers for Random Wizard

 Original questions posted here.

(1). Race (Elf, Dwarf, Halfling) as a class? Yes or no?
In most games I run, yes, that's the normal set-up.  However, I would be open to accommodating someone that really wanted to play a Dwarf Druid or whatever.

(2). Do demi-humans have souls?
Souls are not explicitly discussed in the rules I tend to favor (BX).  However, the Raise Dead spell does not distinguish between humans and demi-humans, so I think the answer is "yes".  (Note that the Reincarnation spell suggests that at least some members of the following species also have souls: Gnomes, Neanderthals, Blink Dogs, Pegasi, Unicorns, Rocs, Pixies, Sprites, Rock Baboons, Lizard Men, Apes, Centaurs, Werebears, Kobolds, Goblins, Orcs, Hobgoblins, Gnolls, Bugbears, Wererats, Ogres, Werewolves and Minotaurs.)

(3). Ascending or descending armor class?

Descending.  Sometimes I'm a grumpy old man who likes things the way they used to be.

(4). Demi-human level limits?
Yep, but then I also assume human level limits.  For most campaigns the limit is either 20th (per the Field Guide to Encounters) or 14th (the upper limit of Expert D&D).  Not that it comes up much.  I usually run lower level games.

(5). Should thief be a class?
Yes, but it is often gimped by harsh rules and/or adjudicated poorly by the DM, myself included.  Opening Locks should allow one to earn another roll by continuing to work on it (and maybe giving the DM an additional Wandering Monster check).  Finding and Removing Traps rolls should be the last resort of a lazy thief; good descriptions of precautions should preempt the need for a roll.  Picking Pockets and Moving Silently should be much easier if the thief can arrange a distraction.  Climbing Walls should only be rolled when the obstacle is something no ordinary person can climb.  Hiding in Shadows should only be rolled if there's no actual intervening cover.  Hear Noise is okay, I guess.

(6). Do characters get non-weapon skills?
Yes and no.  Beyond thief skills I don't use any skill mechanics, but if someone said to me "my halfling is a decent cook" I would take that seriously.

(7). Are magic-users more powerful than fighters (and, if yes, what level do they take the lead)?
Yes.  If you keep your adventure tempo low they are always better than fighters, assuming one encounter per day and a Sleep spell.  But by fifth level the fireballs come out and everyone knows who the boss is.

(8). Do you use alignment languages?
I usually don't.  But I think I can make it work in threefold alignment games, using them as religious languages for the churches of Law, the covens of Chaos and the druids of Neutrality.  In five- or ninefold games it's just ridiculous.

(9). XP for gold, or XP for objectives (thieves disarming traps, etc...)?
XP for monsters (100 times hit dice overcome), XP for treasure (1 per GP) and XP for carousing (typically 100-600 per drunken bender).

(10). Which is the best edition; ODD, Holmes, Moldvay, Mentzer, Rules Cyclopedia, 1E ADD, 2E ADD, 3E ADD, 4E ADD, Next ?

I prefer Moldvay Basic and Cook/Marsh Expert, but I do not claim that is an objective choice.  Anyone claiming any edition is objectively superior to another is probably either a shill or a patsy.

Bonus Question: Unified XP level tables or individual XP level tables for each class?

XP chart by class, please.  I'm all in favor of crummy classes and anyone who plays one should get a bit of an XP aid for doing so.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

non-mechanical charsheet fodder

So here's a thread I started on Google Plus that I wanted to save.  Here's what I said:

I think it was the Compleat Arduin where I saw a character sheet with a spot to fill in your PCs best friend. I thought that was a brilliant example of the kind of non-mechanical info we need more of on our charsheets. Please help me brainstorm some other ideas.

Here's what everyone came up with:

Favorite Oath, Curse, Swear or Expletive:
Favorite Intoxicant:
Monster or Animal That Gives You the Willies:
More usable by the player then the character; but theme song.
no. 1 friend, rival, enemy.
What are they afraid of?
What would they be doing if they weren't adventuring?
What family role do they play? (parent? kid? foundling? weird uncle?)
Prized or lucky posession.
Most influential person -- -- they don't necessarily have to have even met and they might be entirely fictional. Alexander the Great's might be Achilles, for instance.
Favorite item of clothing
Most shameful act
How/where did they acquire their weapons/armor/spellbook etc.
biggest flaw or greatest fear, family and/or business ties. One one conveyed something in game for the GM to use. 
"I'll get that guy...someday" 
Why are they adventuring in the first place?
Important Person, a formative or influential person in the PC's history.
Hiding spot. What's hidden there.
Favorite food
accent/regional dialect (some people can't do voices but want their characters to have them anyway)
most important memor(y/ies)
most important possession and/or person
family's social/economic standing
favorite hobby when not bashing heads in
most applicable diagnosis (since most adventurers are actually pretty crazy or dramatic sorts)
Why can't you return home for some time, if ever?
[Seems like brevity would be key if you wanted these things on a character sheet.]
In #torchbearer you have best friend, enemy, parents, mentor and home
What are they going to do when they get out of this shit? (War Movie rule #38 they need to harp on that in conversation right before they get it.)
Annoying catchphrase, ofc.
Civilization level
Favorite bar/tavern/pub
favorite drink order
most successful pick up line
preferred hangover cure
Morning Temper
Mannerisms and quirks
"Tell" when lying
One thing loved/hated
Secret dream/secret shame
Personal strength/personal weakness
Favorite color (Blue!)
Beliefs about the causes of diseases and infections
Favorite LoTFP publication
Political position on the association between rats and copper pieces
[Let 10,000 designs bloom around the idea of quick-starting a character with an online dating profile instead of the traditional sheet!]
Hero from childhood
"Signs" from Over the Edge: Tell-tale signs that hint at your character's abilities without stating them explicitly (for instance, "thick veins and beefy arms" could be the sign for high strength.
I've used Drive (something like Sex, Money, Fame, Knowledge) that the character is motivated by, and Aversion (something like Commitment, Attention, Work) that the character seeks to avoid.
Rival's been one I've had fun with. "why can't you go home" also seems incredibly useful. 
Who do you hate in the party
Who do you like/need/love in the party
What's the worst thing you've ever done
Commonly used expletives
Most shameful desire
Failed Profession
Some for more modern/Sci Fi feel, some just taking the piss, some of more general application
  • PCs favourite TV/holovision program 
  • PCs favourite fast food 
  • If this was PC was a kind of fruit what kind would he/she be? 
  • How much this PC hates telesales calls 
  • Hours spent noodling on the internet per day 
  • Favourite vacc suit/combat armour air freshener scent 
  • Tattoo, location and how badly it is misspelt 
  • Organ Donor Card? 
  • Length of criminal record in feet and inches 
Battle scars and Amputations
Where they've stashed the loot.

So that's some good stuff, but also a lot of stuff.  How should we navigate all these good ideas?  The DM could pick a few categories.  That would be a signal to the players that those things were important to the campaign somehow.  Allowing players to pick would give them interesting ways to round out their characters.  Or you could turn your favorites into a random chart and have everybody roll d3 times or so.

Original post.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

a thing I made

Over the summer I've had the opportunity to take a very brief "Intro to Photoshop" class, which only gives me more tools to pull crap like this:

Artist ARP (who I don't know from Adam, but here's his tumblr) re-colored the Jack Kirby-penciled cover of issue #3 of 2001: A Space Odyssey, which features the highly non-canonical adventures of that big creepy monolith from the movie.  You can check out the original cover here.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

mapping dreams

Inside cover.
 So Alberto Manguel and Gianni Guadalupi's The Dictionary of Imaginary Places is pretty groovy, with write-ups for all sorts of places that never were, like that little German duchy Flashman got in trouble in that one time or the places imagined by the Brontë siblings set all their early adventure stories.  But I really wanted to point you to the maps by James Cook.  Good stuff, including the best map of Earthsea I've seen.  I was surprised at Cook's interpretation of the Dreamlands of H.P. Lovecraft, which the book refers to as Dreamworld.  See the southern landmass on the scan below?  That's labeled the Isle of Oriab, which is much smaller on the map Chaosium published with the original Dreamlands stuff for Call of Cthulhu. The Gug Kingdom and the Vaults of Zin, which I thought were underground locations, are marked on this version of  Oriab.

You can see Oriab as a tiny little item at the bottom of this map:

Here's a close-up:

I only caught this discrepancy (not that there can't be two different versions of the Dreamlands) because I've thought for a while now that Oriab would make a fine place for a vaguely Arabian Nights style D&D campaign.  I vaguely remember reading that Baharna is sort of a Persian mercantile city, possibly full of Omar Khayyám style poets, Hashisheen, alchemists, etc.  The ruined city of Tyrhhia, the Accursed Valley, and the nightgaunt-haunted caves of Mount Ngranak would make for plenteous dungeoneering action.  And everyone would get to ride around on zebras.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Fun with Imirrhos

Imirrhos is the local name for Antares IX, setting of the TSR Minigame Revolt on Antares.

I adore this game, even though I don't play it too much.  The map and chits are too small for a ham-handed oaf like me. Some days I dream of doing up a spectacular 'big board' version of this game, the way you see some games at conventions.  I got a buddy who does Kingmaker at cons on a 4' by 8' board with miniatures instead of chits.  Something like that.

Anyway, there are a lot of good reasons for me to like Revolt on Antares, such as:
  • Written by Tom Moldvay, my favorite guy from back in the day.  You probably know him as the editor of the '81 Basic D&D rules or author of Lords of Creation, a whacky multigenre RPG from Avalon Hill.
  • Clearly a Star Wars ripoff game.  Star Wars ripoff boardgames generally came in three varieties back then: strategic galaxy rebellion simulators (SPI's Freedom in the Galaxy, for instance), spaceship dogfight games (like another TSR minigame, Attack Force) or planetary warfare operations, which is what we have here.
  • Art by many of the same guys who illustrated the best D&D products of the time such as Jeff Dee, Bill Willingham, and Erol friggin' Otus.  Check out this panoramic Otus battle tableau: 

From left to right we have Lyra Starfire in her airjet, the androids of the Phantom Regiment phasing in from another dimension, Magron the Invincible in his Silakkan lasertank, Doctor Death with his zombie soldiers and space paratroopers!
  • As you can see from that illo, the game maintains the spirit of Star Wars and its creator's deep connection to D&D style adventure by focusing heavily on individual characters using their special abilities to turn the tide of the battle.
  • For a minigame, there's a lot of play in this tiny box.  You get the three scenarios: your basic Throw Off the Yoke of the Imperial Oppressors deal as implied by the name of the game, the Beat Back the Alien Invaders (featuring Magron up there and his lasertanks in a starring role), and the multi-players 'Power Politics on Imirrhos'.  Good stuff.
  • Cute little alien artifacts rules, including a big bomb called the Devastator that utterly ruins the map hex it is used in and the six adjacent ones.
  • Speaking of the map, I friggin' love the colorful hexmap of the planet.  Dig it:

I know I'm not the only person who has considered setting some sort of campaign on Antares IX.  Most folks who talk about that discuss using the map and background for some sort of sci-fi game.  Me, I lean towards a science fantasy Dungeons & Dragons.  Set the planet in Tom Moldvay's Imperial Terra setting (a 2-page write-up in the back of Lords of Creation) and make Imirrhos one of the few planets in an otherwise sci-fi galaxy where magic actually works for some dang reason.  The local people are medieval tech, except the natives on the brown hex reservations (they're stone agey), meanwhile only the ruling classes having access to high tech stuff from offworld, thanks to a briskexport trade in various commodities.

Here's the Traveller style Universal World Profile for my idea of Imirrhos:

C386764-3, Red Zone, Agricultural, Rich, Gas Giant

For the non-Travnerd I'll break it down a bit: 
  • C-class starport (as in average, no big whoop), located at the brown hex with the starburst & spaceship icon.
  • Size 3, roughly the same ballpark as Mecury.
  • Dense (class 8) atmosphere, but probably class 9 (dense, tainted) around some industrial areas due to lack of regulation.  I chose the smallest (therefore typically lowest gravity) planet that can support a dense atmosphere, because I wanted the smallest planet that could plausibly support large flying creatures. (Cf. candidates for the Droyne homeworld)
  • Class 6 hydrosphere means that 60% of the planet is covered by water (by counting hexes and simple arithmetic I arrived at ~56%).
  • Population class 7 means 10 to 100 million people.  I want lots of empty hinterlands.  By comparison 12th century England probably had 2-3 million inhabitants, of which probably only 500,000 or so lived in parts depicted in my Wessex campaign map.
  • Government class 6, captive government.  At least until the Imperials are kicked out.  Then it would revert probably to class 7, balkanized.
  • Law level 4 - D&D types weapons are unregulated, as are non-auto slugthrowers and energy pistols.  PCs carrying any heavier stuff (grenade lauchers, machine guns, phaser rifles, etc.) are doubtless committing some sort of additional felony on top of their usual crimes.
  • Tech class 3 - pre-Industrial Revolution.
  • Red Zone - Following Marc Miller's protocol when he did the write-up for Trav stats for Thieves' World, Imirrhos is a restricted world due to the crazy magic shit going down around here.  Visitors better have some sort of impressive looking credentials if they want to avoid arrest.
  • Agricultural, Rich - trade classifications based upon the fact that Imirrhos is a rather nice little green planet
  • Gas Giant - I want a big ringed gas giant in the background of all the outdoor shot.  Blame the ending of The Quiet Earth.
Have you seen this awesome breakdown of a worldmaking technique based upon plate techtonics?  You should totally check it out.  That doesn't have anything to do directly with Imirrhos, but I followed up on that guy's recommendation for the program G.Projector.  It allows you to take your rectangular planet maps and turn them into a more proper projection.  Like this:

That's an Equirectangular projection, one of the less interesting options (and one I could have approximated easily by stretching the original image a bit).  But having a proper projection means I can directly compare a Size 3 Imirrhos to the surface of the Earth, like so:

Using Photoshop, I turned down the opacity on the Imirrhos layer.  Now without doing any math I can see that the larger continent on Imirrhos is roughly the same size as Africa.  That's good to know.  The other two continents look vaguely Australianish in size.  For further comparison's, somebody else wanted to see the surface of the Moon the same way:
Using G. Projector and another porjection scheme, I was able to get a more round planety-looking pic of Imirrhos.  I made several of these, rotating 5 degrees each iteration.  Then using I strung together an animated gif of Imirrhos spinning on its axis.

I didn't do a complete Imirrhosian day because the side of the planet with the map edges and the numbering looks pretty cruddy.  Still, I dig the overall effect.