Friday, 11 December 2015

Bruno's RPG Talk episode 9: Dear 5th Edition


  I discuss my thoughts on D&D 5th edition as a product line. (In other words, I don't go into details about the rules but rather what Wizards is -and isn't!- doing with it.)

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Bruno's RPG Talk episode 8: White Star and the Space Princess


  A video where I discuss and compare the two OSR Sci-Fi games, Machinations of the Space Princess and White Star.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Mutant Class for Castles & Crusades



  This is a little conversion I made. I grabbed the Mutant (Human) Racial Class for 'Labyrinth Lord' found at the end of the book 'Mutant Future' and tweaked it to use it in my 'Castles & Crusades' campaign. (That was a mouthful!) I might use them to create evil Chaos warriors 'blessed' by evil gods, in the vein of Warhammer. Or maybe they're just poor schmuks who found themselves near a fallen meteorite and the radiation changed them. Or it could be a magical curse! Anyway, doesn't matter, here's how I converted the thing!

  • Players choose a Race as per normal C&C rules, then grab the 'Mutant' class. 
  • There's no Level Limit in C&C. Every level after the 12th requires +350 000 xp. Otherwise use the same XP progression as the one already given in 'Mutant Future'. (It pretty much amounts, give or take, to twice the amount required for C&C's Bard to level up except when it reaches levels 11 and 12! It's how I decided the amount of XP required after level 12 for the conversion.)
  • Prime is STR, according to the 'Mutant Future' book itself. (Even if Primes are different things in the two games, they still mean 'The essential stat for this class' so yeah.)
  • Attack progression as a Fighter.
  • Class HD becomes d8.
  • For all the rest, like how to use mutations and all that, use as written. (The GM might choose to replace some non-combat rolls with something more fitting to how rolls are made in C&C but the conversion for that is so easy that I'll leave it in the hands of GMs.)
  And that's it!

Updated OSR XP Budget



  The following is how I'm going to handle the XP Budget for my players in my OSR campaign for now, keep in mind I'll be using a dungeon as a template but it could be any other kind of adventure with the same basic guidelines. Also keep in mind I might repeat some things I have stated before in my previous entries regarding awarding XP to players and/or preparing games, but there IS new stuff.

 Taking a page from 'Lamentations of the Flame Princess', that book recommends adding up all the XP required for the players to level up, then dividing the result by three or four, depending on how much XP you want the players to have access to during the dungeon. I intend to divide it only by three, if only because it's possible for players not to find all the treasure, kill all the monsters or even finish the planned dungeon in a single game session, so it's very unlikely even then that they'd level up once every three or four sessions. LotFP also recommends that one stops increasing the XP Budget available once the player with the highest level reaches level 4 or 5. I'll see if I do that once one of my players reaches level 5, so that bit is still in the air for me.

  Some other OSR books recommend that one calculates the average player level of the group and then prepare the XP Budget as if all players were Fighters instead of whatever classes they are, probably under the pretext that it balances out the budget more between choosing weaker or stronger classes. Even I thought so when I first read this take, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized it didn't change things that much in the end. I guess it could be argued that it might be true if ALL players multi-class (for example) knowing that the XP will be inflated for all of them anyway, but that's not something I mind that much. I think the important aspect of different XP amounts to level up between OSR classes is more there to balance players, and not players with the environment itself. Or at least that's how I choose to see it, because honestly I'd rather go with the easiest route here.

  'LotFP' suggests spreading XP across the dungeon, 'Crypts & Things' suggests putting all the hoard together at the end. I'm with 'LotFP' on this one, although I might do the hoard at the end form time to time just to keep players on their toes. It just seems more interesting to put more choices into the hands of players. Should they leave with what they have and come back later, playing it safe, or do they really want to push forward despite their wounds and maybe level up tonight?

  As for how to spread the XP over monsters, loot and traps... I'd like to thank Henchman Abuse for doing the research for all of us. It's an excellent post and I encourage you all to go read it if you haven't already, but here's the important part for us here:


  In other words, 16 to 17% of the rooms in a dungeon should contain Monster with Treasure, and so forth. Simply replace 'rooms' with '%'. Putting it into percentages makes it easy to calculate how many rooms it would equate to for dungeons that have more or less than 100 rooms. You then add up all the rooms that are relevant to the XP Budget (For example, Empty Rooms wouldn't be included) and divide the XP Budget by that amount of rooms. This gives one a good guideline of the average of XP that could be found in a room that has XP to be won in it.

  As a conclusion, I can't emphasize enough when I say 'guideline' and 'average'. The rooms should not all contain the exact same amount of XP through the whole dungeon! It's simply an easy way (The math to prep this is really basic.) to have an overview of what each room should contain overall. From there you can add and remove from other rooms as you see fit. It's entirely viable, for example, to make a room contain a lot of XP but also be much more deadly than the other rooms. Part of the OSR is that not everything should be balanced, and that doesn't need to become false just because you're balancing an XP Budget. :P

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Update On How I Award XP In My OSR Campaign


  How I award XP in my OSR games has been a changing process over the existence of the campaign. I'll explain when appropriate why I think each thing has a balance to it (or not) as a reward and add some of my reasoning.
  To simplify this post, I will assume we're rewarding the XP in a dungeon, but it could be another type of adventure.

Monsters: Assume that when I refer to 'monsters' I also include other forms of enemies. I award XP for monsters as in the default manner of 'Crypts & Things'. I like that it has a handy chart for how a monster's special abilities would specifically increase its worth. 'Castles & Crusades', the system I use (although house-ruled) has something similar but it also requires me to keep track of the HP of a monster to calculate its XP worth. While I initially appreciated that, it ends up giving me more book-keeping to do and an average XP evens out over the course of a campaign, since sometimes the monsters will get less than average and sometimes they'll get more. (Plus I often roll a monster's HP during the game on the spot.) I don't award XP for avoiding conflict with a monster, when doing so the players are already rewarded by avoiding the risk of death. (Even lesser monsters can weaken you by a few HP, which might make all the difference later on against a more powerful creature or trap.) Monsters don't give that much XP and they are dangerous, but once they are killed their XP worth is ensured to you if you survive the dungeon.

Traps: They are a challenge and they can hurt or even kill you, so yes I think they should give XP when disarmed or survived. I use the rules given in 'Machinations of the Space Princess' for those. The philosophy behind their XP worth is basically the same as with monsters. Unlike with the monsters though, if you knowingly avoid a trap (and don't just avoid it by accident without even knowing it's there.) then you DO get its XP worth.

Treasure: 1 xp per 1 gp. Back to being the main source of XP in my campaign, it's not dangerous in itself as a way to win XP but you need to prepare accordingly and you have to bring it back to civilization, so in many ways it's the easiest XP to lose on the way, therefore I think it balances out.

Magic Items: When I include them, I do award XP for them. A lot of people argue that they are a reward already, but oddly enough many of those who say it still give XP for gold pieces, which are also a reward in itself. Anyway, I use the XP worth from 'Castles & Crusades' but do it a bit differently when it's time to award said XP; I actually split it among the party, I don't give it all to the person keeping the magic object. The magic item needs to be Identified (or otherwise somehow triggered, or even drank in the case of potions) to receive its XP worth. If the characters don't realize what it is, they don't get any XP even if they still have it with them. (But they might later on.) If they sell it, then they'll sell it according to its price if it wasn't magic but without an XP worth. If it takes some time to Identify it and the people doing so are not the exact same as the characters who initially looted it, I reward XP to those who were there to initially loot it only, and with the same split as if the other original looters were also there to receive it. I think XP for magic items are balanced in that there's always the risk that a magic item will not be recognized as such and be entirely overlooked. I'm not particularly afraid of giving something too powerful for the party because it still has to fit within my XP Budget. If a single magic item takes most of my XP budget, or so much that there's little left for monsters, traps and regular treasure, then I know it's too powerful.

Story/Goals: I used to give XP for those things, but don't anymore. In the end, D&D is about fighting monsters and looting treasure. Those ARE the story and goals. Sure, it might be nice to do a session at the royal court making contacts or solving mysteries, but those are very low-risk and are rewarded by a growing character knowledge of the setting and the possible gain of new contacts and allies, or at least knowing who's the enemy. Or maybe they aren't low-risk if assassins and other dangers do show up during those moments, but then that's what the XP rewards from my list are for! (Avoiding a poisoned drink because you smelled it in time would be discovering and avoiding a Trap in game terms, for example.)

  Let's use the Death Star as an example.


  Surely blowing up the Death Star was a huge moment in the story of the characters and their entire setting! It SHOULD be worth lots of XP, right??? Well, I would say that in itself, blowing up the Death Star was maybe worth the same as a very, very low-level trap, and only because it did require a skill roll from Luke to shoot and not miss at a crucial moment.

  Blasphemy? Not so. I would say that the Death Star RUN, the assault itself, was worth LOTS of XP! Along the way, there were plenty of Traps (all those cannons shooting at them) and Monsters (The enemy Tie Fighters, one of them being particularly dangerous, the one piloted by Darth Vader!) The dangerous environment that was the trench is also a trap in itself, it could even be argued that it was worth XP for every round inside it! One wrong skill roll while dodging an attack while in there and you hit the side of the trench or a nearby ally! So in the end, attacking the Death Star and blowing it up was worth lots of XP, but it was all of its elements that made it worth so much, not the single act of blowing it up. Succeeding in the mission and surviving it doesn't mean you get extra XP for the goal, it means you get to receive your XP for all that happened while in that 'dungeon'.

As a side-note, I use the treasure listings of monsters from the books mostly as a guideline. Sometimes I use them, sometimes I ignore them. In any case, in the end it has to fit with my XP budget.

Next, an update on how I handle XP Budget when preparing a game!

If You Can Stake, You Can Headshot!



  While I'm posting this with 'Vampire the Masquerade' in mind, it applies to any rules system that uses vampire staking rules.
  First of all, I want to clarify that I don't mean staking a vampire while he's sleeping or otherwise vulnerable.


  No, I mean staking a vampire mid-fight, or when the vampire is otherwise ready for conflict. 




  To me, having rules that can stake and paralyze a vampire mid-fight is the same as having rules for, say, a headshot during a gunfight, or simply stabbing a normal dude in the heart with a knife. What I mean is that very often, games that include vampires will also include rules for staking them. Sometimes the rules require that the wound inflicted by the stake is the final wound required for the character to be defeated anyway, and it basically just means it has to be by stake specifically. Other times, like in V:tM, you can do it as a single attack, and if you succeed you won the fight. It's difficult in V:tM, I'm not saying the opposite. The attack has to be at a difficulty of 9 and you need to cause three health levels of damage for the vampire to be staked and paralyzed.
  I think it's fine to have such rules. The problem is when all the other beings in the game, including plain humans, don't have to deal with the same rules. It actually makes the vampire characters more vulnerable in an odd way. You CAN skip the normal combat conditions and just stake a vampire through the heart, but you can't  just shoot a normal guy in the head? Again, not really a flaw in the game, just a problem if the Storyteller/GM doesn't acknowledge this.

  You want to knock a guy unconscious in one attack? Difficulty 9, three levels of health. You want to shoot him in the head? Same. Because at the end of the day, undead vampires shouldn't be the ONLY guys you can take out in one shot.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Vampire the Masquerade idea: The Real Play


[On filming an actor without his giving permission to be filmed]
Robert K. Bowfinger: Did you know Tom Cruise had no idea he was in that vampire movie till two years later?        Bowfinger (1999)


  A Real Play is when a vampire directs other Kindred to create a semi-improvised story in real time, similar to a story you would see in cinema or at the theater, with one or many mortals as unwitting participants. The public will be composed of vampires hidden via Obfuscate, either by their own power or by vampires with the Discipline high enough to mask the spectators.

  The Real Play genres can be varied and can last from a single night session to weeks or even months of story. It is often frowned upon by the Camarilla as being risky, which draws many rebellious neonates to it, but even they will make sure their Real Plays do not endanger the Masquerade. They are nevertheless very cruel plays. A romantic-themed Real Play might involve a handsome Toreador courting a mortal woman for months, helping her in her life through countless difficulties (many which will have been arranged by the Director) and finally ending like many romantic stories would end, with popular choices being a promise of moving in together or matrimony. That is normally considered the end of the story, and then the Director, Actors and Obfuscators move on to their next project for the enjoyment and entertainment of the Kindred Spectators. The fact that the mortal woman's life actually continues with her wondering what happened to her beloved fiance just isn't a concern for most of the cruel vampires who participate in this 'art form'.
  It could have been worse for this theoretical mortal though. As you're about to read, the Sabbat handles it a bit differently.

  Sabbat vampires, as is to be expected, are much more extreme in their Real Plays. Vamprie Disciplines can, for example, re-create very easily a Haunted House scenario. The Obteneration Discipline of the Lasombra can prove particularly interesting for those. A vampire with good Fortitude and Potence can play the role of a Slasher to perfection. Technically, as long as they don't reveal themselves to be vampires and don't expose any actual Kindred weaknesses, they're not breaking the Masquerade, so while Camarilla elders would fall down hard on the participants of such a Real Play, the Sabbat elders will probably overlook it.

  In any case, while a Camarilla Real Play might end with the vampires leaving the mortals to their lives (Sometimes leaving the door open for a 'sequel' with the same 'protagonists'), Sabbat ones will often celebrate the end of a Real Play by feeding on the protagonists, so even in the event of a risky Play outright breaking the Masquerade, it changes little in the end.

  If the mortals behave in such a way that it leads to an unsatisfying or anti-thematic ending, the Director and/or Actors can lose face, either for having chosen the wrong mortals to involve or for not having done their job properly. Everyone's a critic, a no one likes to critic more than a Kindred at the Elysium.

 

Friday, 2 October 2015

Vampire The Masquerade - Generation House Rule



  The news of a fourth edition of Vampire: The Masquerade coming in 2016 has me pretty excited. So excited that I grabbed my 20th anniversary edition and started re-reading it, and it really put me in the mood for playing it again. (Especially now that we're in October!)

  That said, one thing that cannot be denied is that the rules for a vampire's Generation at character creation are broken. There's no reason not to max out that background, as it makes you so much more powerful. I remember reading one of the books in the early 2000's that discussed this, and the argument that the book had was that someone who put all his points in Generation would have no allies, no contacts, etc. That they would be sorely missing in other backgrounds. And I remember thinking how false that rang with the existence of bonus points.

  Vampire: The Requiem has fixed the problem since then by using Blood Potency instead of Generation. But we're talking about Vampire: The Masquerade here, where Generation is a strong story element. Changing Generation basically changes the very lore of the setting.

  Making Generation cost more points could be the simplest solution, but that's boring, let's make the solution more interesting here. (And all the while keeping an 8th Generation vampire just as accessible as it would normally be during character creation!) A player who chooses that background has to take a supernatural Flaw for every dot he puts in it, without getting any bonus points from those Flaws. You want to put three dots in Generation? O.k, but your vampire won't be able to cross running water, will be vulnerable to silver and will cast no reflection in a mirror. (Just a quick example, the book has plenty of other flaws which make this house rule very viable, it wouldn't run the risk becoming repetitive anytime soon.) Or to make things more interesting, the Storyteller could choose them, or they could be picked at random. (While of course dismissing choices that would break a character concept.)

  I wouldn't apply that rule to Generation lowered from Diablerie since that comes with its own drawbacks, the first of which is that you actually have to manage to do it to another vampire.

  Expect more Vampire posts during the month of October and as always feel free to leave some feedback!

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Zombie LARPing Taken to Insane Levels in Spain



  So we've all heard of zombie LARPs, but we can agree that this one from Spain takes it to a whole new level of insanity, as they do it in actual streets at night... It's all in Spanish but you can still get the gist of it by watching what happens.
  They filmed the whole thing, then edited it and put some cinematic bits at the beginning and along the video to make it into a story that can be watched, which is also pretty cool.

What the Coins Were For






  One of your players has stolen the coin purse of a random NPC. What were the coins for?

Roll a d4

1. The coins were to pay a doctor to save a sick family member. The NPC doesn't have enough to pay the doctor a second time and the doctor is Lawful Neutral, so he won't help without being paid.

2. Why, hookers and ale, of course! This NPC spends almost all of his weekly pay in the local brothel... To the point that when the brothel owners hear he was stolen and thus could not spend it all at their establishment this week, they send thugs to go looking for the thieves!

3. The NPC was going to rip off someone with his FAKE COINS...

4. The coins were for a local charity and the NPC is well-known for giving them a lot of money... Except the NPC has a deal with the charity manager and is actually recovering the money afterwards, it is all to avoid the King's taxes!


In conclusion: Remember that the players might never learn about any of it unless it makes sense in the context of the story. Or they might just learn parts of it and react according only to the information they have, which is like a funny secret joke for the GM.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Help Jim Ward



 From the Go Fund Me page: As many of you know, Jim Ward has been in the hospital for several weeks.  He has had some problems with his insurance and his bills are rising.  It sure would be great if we all pulled together and helped him out as much as we can. 

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Cruel RPG Idea: The Thief's Moral Dilemma



  As soon as a thief-like character is not entirely good, you can bet the player of said character will sooner or later declare he's picking some pockets in a public place. It's often done in a very nonchalant way. The PC won't really think much of it, just something to make some quick gold, or even to pass the time, or look for trouble. It's what Thieves and Rogues do, right?

  But what of the consequences? And I don't mean by that what about City Guards who might catch the PC, or the victim noticing and maybe putting up a fight. What if the coin purse is successfully stolen? That NPC will have less gold than expected, that has repercussions in his/her life!

  Every time a PC steals a coin purse from a commoner NPC, roll a check of the percentage of your choice. If the check succeeds, it turns out the victim was on his way to find a doctor to save his dying child. The doctor (magical or otherwise) is Lawful Neutral and will not be swayed by the fact that a child is dying, he will only get involved if he's paid for his troubles. There is no way for the victim to make enough coin again before it's too late for the child. (The child could have 1d4 days left, up to you.)

  Do the PCs even hear of this? And if they do, do they hear about it in time to do something about it should they wish to? Hey, it's your game, not mine. But the death of a child might certainly make even the most chaotic of Chaotic Neutrals reconsider their life choices, and all that without shoving a mandatory fight scene as the only possible outcome to pick-pocketing.

  As a side-note, I'll soon post a random table for 'What the Coins Were For'. I just wanted to showcase this specific outcome first, because it feels like GMs will often try to punish Thieves with violence instead of making them face the consequence of their actions. (Which also gives the Thief some great opportunities for role-playing and/or character development instead of a random fight with an under-geared and under-leveled NPC. Even if the PCs decide not to do anything about it afterwards, that's a very serious life decision right there if they just let a child die.)

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Inspiration Is All Around You

  Here's a little exercise in creativity that should also help you prepare your next games. During preparation time, instead of browsing countless books and taking notes the good old way, let's try something more chaotic. Admittedly this works better in the city because by default there's more stuff surrounding you, but it should work anywhere given enough time and imagination.
  You'll still need to take notes in some way or another, I recommend a camera/cell phone but there's no reason why you can't write it down or simply take mental notes of what you see if you have a good memory.
  O.k, enough set-up.
  Go outside and take pictures (or notes) of anything that even remotely reminds you of the game you're running. So for example if you're running D&D, take pictures of anything Fantasy-related.

  Here are the pictures I collected, taken from trucks, graffiti, store windows and a liquor store:



 An Oriental Dragon.

A Kraken.

Just by the title I'd say I'd include a Magic-User, but that's a demon. 
So a fireball-spewing demon.

A Gnome, sure. 
He's looking at the ground, so let's say he's Tracking. 
A Ranger.

 A knight. No wait, two in a row, knights.
Two knights.

A skull of some important significance? 
An undead? A representation of a poisoned bottle?

As this parodies Game of Thrones, I could have almost decided not to use it. 
Too obvious. But this is a Gnome KING. 
I'll be using that instead of anything GoT-related.

 A raven. So much for avoiding GoT influences.

  So now that I have my chaotic collection of inspirational material... I have to use it all! 
  This is what I came up with:

  A Gnome King has witnessed a Demon Imp turn into a raven within the King's domain and fly off with the skull of his grandfather, stolen from its resting place. The Gnome King sends his best Ranger after the Demon Imp, fearing the blackest of magics and overall insulted at the desecration of his grandfather's tomb. The Ranger initially had a squad with him, but they were all killed during an ambush set up by two corrupted Human Knights (brothers) hired by the Imp. (The Imp mostly watched the fight from the branch of a tree while spouting orders at the Knights and the occasional Fireballs at the Gnomes!) The Knights are very competent and take full advantage of their riding skills when they have enough room. They did seem in a hurry though, which is why they left the Gnome Ranger for dead instead of taking the time to confirm their kill. 
  Following the tracks to a human city with a port, the Gnome Ranger learned that the knights left for a boat heading to the Asian continent of your setting of choice. Having no time to wait for back-up from other Gnomes, he sends a message to his King to keep him updated and hires the Player Characters to help him.
  From there they all take a boat heading for the same place as the Imp and the two Knights. On the way they fight a Kraken, of course. Once they all reach the Asian continent, they face off against the Imp and the two Knights, as well as the evil mastermind behind it all, an Oriental Dragon
  (Quick reason off the top of my head, the grandfather of the Gnome King was part of a group of adventurers who once showed up in the same land the dragon lives in and thwarted his plans. It took the dragon many decades to find out the identities of all the adventurers involved and in the case of the Gnome, since the original adventurer was already dead, the dragon decided to settle for his closest living relative. The skull would have been used to curse the bloodline.)

  Feel free to comment on this idea of preparing games and/or to share your own story based on those pics!

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Rolling Super-Powers At Random With Daredevil


  There used to be a time when I thought the best way to handle superheroes in tabletop RPGs was with point-buy or some approximation of that concept, where one chooses what powers one wants. I think that way is still very valid because sometimes you do have a clear idea in your head of what you want to play, but I've been charmed recently by the notion of rolling powers at random.
  My best example for that argument is Daredevil, who is very popular lately thanks to his new Netflix series. I mean, he was popular before but this is a new high for the character in main pop culture, in my opinion. If anything, outside the world of comic-book fans he was considered a joke because of that below average movie. But I digress.
  No one wants sucky powers. No one is going to choose them on purpose. I mean, sure, some people might, but they are extremely rare. But what if you just have to roll them at random and then, well, roll with them? Then you can believe that whatever player got a character with 'lame' powers will do his or her very best to make them seem cool after all, because it's their character gosh darn it!
  You see it all the time in other sorts of RPGs, where for example that one character type who's not good at fighting but has some specialized skills will always try to fit those skills into the game.

  "Maybe I can sneak around and find more before we rush into the fight..." says the Rogue.
  "If we're going up in the mountains, I have a spell to help us be more resistant against cold." says the low-level spellcaster.

  And those things, when done well and with proper effort, work. The fighter-types will turn to the specialized characters when it's time for them to shine and everyone will feel like they have their place.

  Now imagine if Daredevil was a character rolled up by a player around a table. He rolls some enhanced normal senses, a radar sense and some lie detection powers. All the other characters have gotten cool powers and Daredevil's player feels like he got the short end of the stick. But he applies himself. Let's say we're using Icons for that game. He ties in the lie detection powers to the enhanced senses thematically, gives them some limitations about working by hearing the sound of someone's heartbeat. (So he can't detect if a robot's lying, for example.) He decides to make him blind, although his radar sense will make that handicap come into play extremely rarely, when it does apply he'll be able to get some Edge for it. He makes him an acrobat ninja, works on making him an interesting character.
  The other players are all bragging about their awesome powers while Daredevil's player is working on other ways to make his character cool and gives him a job you wouldn't expect for a superhero, being a lawyer. And so on and so on, until Daredevil is the most exciting character at the table.

  Now, of course a player could end up with someone at Superman's power level and also make an interesting character, I'm not saying that superheroes who are too powerful cannot be interesting. Anyone who whines about Superman being too powerful needs to read All-Star Superman, where the first thing Grant Morrison does as if to prove a point is make him even more powerful than before, and then he tells one of the best stories ever written for the character!
  And let's face it, except for when players are trying to replicate Batman or something (whose gadgets are a super power when it comes to gaming terms if not story terms!), if everyone chooses their powers you don't end up with a weird mix of power levels in the same group like in all the best superhero stories! You don't get the lines Hawkeye delivers during Avengers: Age of Ultron.

  Without randomly rolled powers you don't get someone like Daredevil, who makes a radar and enhanced senses seem like way cooler powers than they should have a right to be.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Thank You For Everything, Dave Arneson



  And once again, while everyone keeps singing the praises of the guy who helped co-create D&D, the guy who came up with it in the first place continues to be forgotten in comparison. (And this isn't an attack on the co-creator.)
  Of all the blogs I follow, not a single one mentioned that Dave Arneson died on April 7th 2009.
  No, I'm not trying to guilt-trip anyone. My goal here is to point out how unbalanced the scale of recognition in our hobby is.
  Thank You for everything, Dave Arneson. Some of us still recognize you as the original creator of the game we love so much. 


 

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Cheesecake in RPGs!

Blueberry Cheesecake is my favorite.

  So this guy here wrote about being uncomfortable with sexuality in marketing RPGs and tabletop games and this guy here attacked him a lot about it, pointing out how Fantasy needs to be dangerous and shocking and all that.

  I agree with both in certain parts and disagree with both in certain others. It just depends which part of which post I'm at.

  I think what is being missed on both sides here is context. I'll be using examples outside RPGs to better illustrate my arguments, but I'll bring it back to our hobby. So yeah, context. Context of what the product is and who it's aimed at. I remember way back on another blog I once bashed this poster:


      I still think, years later, that it looks outright ridiculous. Yes, she's giving the sword a blowjob, we get it. But I don't have a problem with it anymore. Why? Because of context. This is who Red Sonja is:





  She's a bikini chainmail hottie whose goal is to be a fantasy for Conan readers. So, y'know, it's kind of natural to sexualize her. I'm not saying you can't tell good stories with her, I'm not saying she's not a valid character in fiction and I'm not saying women can't look up to her if they want to. A lot of female cosplayers seem to like dressing up as her so I imagine her appeal is not only for the male or lesbian gaze. But she's a very sexual character by nature, so her being sexualized should not be criticized, if anything it should be embraced.

  I do have a problem, however, when I see Wonder Woman like this:



  Look, I know Wonder Woman started as a bondage fetish character, and I am not saying she shouldn't be drawn sexy, or even busty. No problems there. It's the whole way she's positioned. If she had stayed that bondage fetish heroine from the Golden Age of comics, then fine. But she has grown to represent women in superhero comics, and I don't mean in an accidental way where people might tell me that a company should be able to do whatever they want with their characters anyway and that it's just the expectations of some readers who are off the mark. I mean in the sense that DC Comics themselves will point to her and say "Look, women are represented in comics! Wonder Woman is a role model for young girls!"
  So that's when context comes into play, in my opinion. Red Sonja is supposed to be hot and to be in lots of titillating positions. Wonder Woman is supposed to be a role model for young girls. And there she is, extremely sexualized in a creepy way. And I'm not saying Wonder Woman shouldn't be a character with a sex life, that she shouldn't date in her stories or whatever. I don't ask for superheroes, male or female, to be virgins. But there are ways of presenting your products and characters that are appropriate with what you are claiming your goals are.

  Raggi claims that with the internet it's no longer true that people will turn to their hobbies for sex, but I strongly disagree with him. I think a lot of people feel titillation from characters they 'know', which is why we so often get weird results while searching the names of fictional characters on the internet, even when we weren't trying to find anything weird. And I think a lot of people like having sex mixed with their hobbies. 

 That car has an amazing engine!

This will be an impressive display of martial arts skills!

  I myself once used a picture that prominently displayed cleavage for one of my posts and got some heat from it on Google +. I remember one woman overreacting about it and I complained that she hadn't even read the post. And she did overreact, but at the same time that picture had very little to do with what I discussed. Sure, I was discussing magic and the woman was a magic-user, but I chose an extremely sexual picture. And in the end, that does distract from an experience instead of adding to it unless you want to incorporate the sexual aspects into what you are doing.

  Anyone complaining that Heavy Metal magazine is too sexual is missing the point.


  Heavy Metal should be adult and sexual because that's the point of the magazine. And yes it should be kept out of the hands of children! But that said, I remember a childhood friend of mine from Spain reading El Vibora (an adult comic-book magazine that was more sexual than Heavy Metal!) during his early teenage years and he grew up not to be a screwed up human being and instead a well-balanced, successful person. It's true, in Europe people tend to freak out a lot less about that kind of stuff.

I Googled cover images of the magazine for an example and could only use this one. All the other ones were too explicit for this blog (which is not rated Adult). Which brings the question; What the hell is GON of all characters doing on the cover of El Vibora??? o__O

  Anyway. When it comes to RPGs, I apply the same logic. If I'm buying Machinations of the Space Princess then I expect trashy sci-fi. The cover will have naughty implications and there will be gratuitous, over-the-top stuff all over the place!


  If anyone were to complain about the sexuality in Machinations, I'd tell them that they are being stuck-up prudes and that they should find something better to do. However, if someone pointed out and complained about over-sexualized art in an official Dungeons & Dragons book, I might agree with them. Why? Because of context. Because D&D is supposed to be for everyone, and it's not an unfair expectation because it markets itself that way. Within that context it would be fair to complain it's a bit too sensual for people of all ages or that it could make some women uncomfortable.
  I don't mean that I'm particularly passionate about that sort of thing, because El Vibora. (Yes, I used the magazine title as an argument in itself.) I think that Castles & Crusades has some pretty cool art but all those butt-shots I find a bit embarrassing because in my opinion they do not belong there. (My lesbian friend Cindy who plays Torad the Barbarian in my game really liked one of those butt-shot pictures though, in the art's defense.) 
  I'm fine with the idea of owning books that I'd have to hide from my kids until they were adults if I ever have children. I will never ask a company, artist, writer or other to change what they do because of my own personal life, it is an unfair demand from the Gnome. That said, if a company does claim that you can bring a book to work, that you can let your kids flip through its pages, then you shouldn't have to feel worried or embarrassed about any of its material. But c'mon, that a cute girl in a sexy cosplay outfit is trying to sell you toys is not really a problem in our hobby. (That said, I'm sure that a lot of defenders of the bikini-clad girl at the Con would complain if a muscular dude wearing only a loincloth was trying to sell them a Conan tabletop game or something. :p )

  Context. Thanks to it, the bikini chainmail babe can co-exist in our hobby with the woman in practical armor.





Thursday, 26 March 2015

Reply to "Social Justice and Gaming'

I hope she doesn't destroy your capacity to play and enjoy tabletop RPGs just by existing in a book!


  I've recently done a post that came close to the 'social justice' trend. (Or I guess you could argue it was social justice. I don't know, nor do I care much in that regard.) In that post, I also pointed out I wouldn't make a habit of it because in this hobby about rolling dice and killing dragons, I wanted to keep my blog centered on the fun stuff and not go looking for trouble. I don't go looking for discrimination to point out, in other words.

  But come on, when I come across blatant discrimination without even looking for it, I do have to call it out. And this is where I'll maybe make a few enemies, but honestly I wouldn't want the approval of anyone who agrees with the crap I read there.

 The crap being this post here called 'Social Justice and Gaming'.

  I'll let you all read it first, but here are my main replies to this whining bullcrap:

  "You saw female fighters, barbarians and the like for the first time (again, nothing wrong with this, when it is done in moderation)."
  So there's nothing wrong with this... when done in moderation. LOL. I mean, let's not get carried away. Let's not have too many female protagonists who can handle themselves in a fight here!
  O.k, here's the thing. When a Fantasy author like Richard Morgan talks about the role of female characters and gay people in his stories, he clearly discusses them from a very realistic point of view for a type of storytelling that doesn't sweep things under the rug. How medieval society would be in serious storytelling. D&D is not serious storytelling, it's escapism, it's a social game, it's meant to be fun for everyone. It's meant to be inclusive, and that term is only a vague undefinable thing for people who are bothered by it. D&D is not a serious, historical game. D&D is a game with character alignments that could never encompass the true complexities of real people. D&D is the game where you can fight winged gorillas with laser guns if you go gonzo enough with it. D&D is a type of game where if your character is high enough level he can basically survive a fall from whatever height he/she is falling from. It is not realistic. D&D is not the place to tell your female friends that no more than one of them should play a female Fighter.  Now, I would actually somewhat agree if, say, Call of Cthulhu scenarios from the 20's didn't spotlight how things actually were back then, yet pretending something never happened is no lesson learned. But when you are bothered by the idea of seeing too many minorities in a D&D book instead of simply going "Let's see what this book has to offer my campaign." then you are doing something wrong.

  "Social Justice has taken over our hobby. It is up to us to take it back." 
  Yeah! Let's take back the game so us straight white male gamers are once more fairly represented in games and... Oh wait, we already are.

  "The LGBTQ movement (not a representative of the whole) began to force its worldview down the throats of the American people through legislation (“anti”-discrimination laws) and the courts. They pushed for gay marriage and won in many court cases." 
   Hey idiot, drop the quote marks, they are fighting for anti-discrimination laws. When two consenting adults cannot marry unlike the majority of adults just because the majority likes to rub their genitals against a different type of genitals, they are being discriminated against. It's not even an argument to be had. What you could try to argue is why this discrimination is good for society if you wanted and I would argue against you, but that it is discrimination is not even something to be argued. I find it idiotic when people go "Hey, we don't discriminate, we already allow them to be together, but now they want the same rights as us???" Right, that doesn't sound like discrimination at all.

 Oh no, two dudes are kissing on a Fantasy cover! 
TIME TO TAKE BACK OUR TOLKIEN BOOKS, PEOPLE!!!

  "As always guys, leave your thoughts, but don’t be a dick!" 
  You mean unlike you? Dude, you can't have your cake and eat it. You can't claim that you don't have a problem with the portrayal of minorities in games but then specify you don't want too much of it.

  As a final side-note, the hobby this guy wants still exists. Most retro-clones and OSR stuff is not inclusive at all and is mostly centered around white dudes and half-naked girls. It hasn't gone anywhere. But last time I checked, Pathfinder, the most inclusive mainstream tabletop RPG I can think of, was the best-selling game on the shelves. (Maybe it's changed, but it was not long ago.) So maybe this guy needs a reality check regarding who the 'true' hobbyists are. Maybe the new generations of geeks don't all look exactly the same.

  Anyway, now that I've posted about this, to hell with it. The next post is about cheesecake in gaming, and I disagree with both this guy and this guy.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Mentally Preparing To Paint Miniatures


  From the very first time I learned about Dwarven Forge, I knew that I would want to get that stuff someday. My current apartment is too small for me to start using miniature sets for my games, but in a few months I'll be moving to a bigger place and I can ponder this again. That also means perhaps facing the notion of -GASP!- painting stuff myself! In fact, all the way back in Bruno's RPG Talk episode 3 I showed some miniatures I had bought at the time.
  A fellow blogger made a painting tutorial video a while back but sadly hasn't done more since then. Not that I should worry about finding more tutorials for that on YouTube...

  Anyway, let's end this post on a high note, here's a video of Peter Cushing himself painting miniatures and showing off his army for Little Wars!


Icons Assemble!


  So I recently made a big deal out of how I was going to use Basic RolePlaying for a superhero campaign eventually. I even mentioned George R.R. Martin as an argument for the game. (It was pointed out to me that he later started using GURPS instead. I love GURPS but like I said, I don't feel like using lots of math for a superhero campaign at the moment.)
  I also made a big deal out of how I wasn't interested in suggestions for other superhero systems out there since I already own so many. And yet... Icons was brought up in more than one place whenever the subject was being discussed. So I checked out their Pay what You Want PDF.
  I read it without much excitement or curiosity at first, but let me tell you, the more I read, the more my opinion changed! Of all the systems I have read and/or used so far for superheroes (And I'll be the first to clarify it's certainly not all of them!) this one feels the most like a comic-book!
  Even the comic-books I was reading yesterday and today from my latest pick-up at Astro Books made me realize how perfectly suited to the genre Icons is!

  Here's a scene from Spider-Gwen #2:


 
  And instead of thinking "That wouldn't have worked in an RPG system because Gliding is not one of Gwen's typical powers." I went "O.k, Gwen used her Determination Points to pull a Stunt and improvise gliding web wings!"
  Or another way of looking at it is that the fall should have actually killed Gwen but she burned a permanent Determination Point to survive. It's explained via the use of improvised web wings. According to the rules, a character coming back from the dead needs at least one issue of hiatus, but since Gwen is in a solo game that can't be applied, but she is still unconscious and out of commission after the fall. Plus when she wakes up she has to deal with hallucinations of Spider-Ham as a consequence of cheating death! (Which strongly reminded me of how Bat-Mite was used in Batman R.I.P but not to the point of hurting my enjoyment of the comic.)



  When a system for playing superhero characters naturally, without effort, comes to mind while I'm reading my comics, that system is doing something right.
  I've already ordered the hardcover for Icons.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

XP Budget in my Campaign


  Anyone who's been following my blog for a while knows I looooove to over-think things like treasure and XP!
  So anyway, I really enjoy the idea of a 'XP budget' for when designing specific encounters. For random encounters and more story-driven situations I'll just roll with what makes sense and with what's given as treasure for specific creatures, but when I'm planning a dungeon, it's all about the XP Budget.
  I was first introduced to the notion via Pathfinder, and I have to say the set XP for monsters and notion of a XP budget made a lot more sense to me than the way previous 3.5 incarnations handled it. (Not to mention it was way easier!)
  Now that I run an OSR game, the way I do it is all about having every single thing that gives you XP be a bit different from the other, each with their advantage and disadvantage. In other words, keeping a balance of sorts. So yeah, this is how I do it:

  • Monsters and Traps: Yep, I give XP for traps too! I follow the guidelines from Machinations of the Space Princess for those. Anyway, these two are very similar. You face an immediate danger but you also get the XP right away once (if?) you overcome that danger.
  • Magic Items: They are an advantage in itself, but they do come with some disadvantages that make them legit XP rewards. The first is that they have to be recognized as such or be left behind and thus its potential XP is lost. You saw a normal-looking longsword and figured you didn't need it, not knowing it was a +5 longsword of god-slaying? Tough. There's also the fact that monsters might actually use that stuff on the players first! What better way to earn a magic item than facing its power before you can own it? Finally, the way I handle it is that it's XP that cannot be shared. That last one I was unsure of for a bit but decided that owning a magic item in Fantasy always seems like a very personal thing. So there's possible dissent in a group also being a disadvantage as a reward, in a weird way.
  • Treasure: Unless next to a monster and/or a trap, treasure is simply grabbing it and making XP! In a way it can be the easiest way to make XP... If you've prepared for it! Didn't bring with you a cart to transport that treasure through the forest? Tough! You're ambushed by thieves and have your goods stolen before you reach a civilized area? You don't earn XP from treasure. Treasure XP is XP that could potentially be lost at any moment during the way back home. Random encounters become all the more stressful!
  • Good RP and Accomplishing Goals: Accomplishing goals should be its own reward, sure, but it feels proper for some reason to give a bit of extra XP for a long-term goal accomplished. I don't mean just finishing a dungeon run, but rather for something that is relevant and important to the campaign. There's no real disadvantage there, I'll admit, but it does encourage players to get involved with the setting. Same thing for good RP, although I guess the disadvantage is that I won't shy away from docking XP from a player being disruptive to the game. (I've warned one in the past but thankfully the message was clearly heard.)
   That's pretty much it! Opinions and other comments are, as always, welcome.

  

Rats Are Not Charismatic

It's funny how entirely by accident, Charisma has become an extremely important stat in my campaign. For one thing, I use the Vornheim rules for when characters are asking for directions in a city, and that's all with Charisma. There's even been two times when the rolls were so bad, a PC was actually attacked for asking directions, which is always funny!
  Anyway, a while back I asked readers to give me ideas for what a dead rat magic item could do. I got this comment:


  It's exactly what I did, but I also added the ability to turn into a swarm of rats.


  For fun and without thinking much about it, I decided to add a 1d4 of Charisma damage for every time the user turns back into human form, because having been a swarm of rats shouldn't be the best thing to keep one social and human-like. The user happens to be a Barbarian with a Charisma of 7. Without doing it on purpose, on a whim for a set-back on a magic item that was maybe a bit too good for a then-level one character, I actually limited the use of the item to a degree that seems about right. Torad the Barbarian won't be able to 'spam' this trick for sure. Cindy, Torad's player, also did a great job of playing all rat-like without even being told that's what she should do, she just went for it. Torad used the pillows on the bed of his rented tavern room to scratch and dig inside them to make himself a sort of rat nest. Cindy even went and said Torad would try to bite Rhovanor (The Elf Fighter/Wizard) when he reached his hand towards him. I think it was the first time ever I had to tell a player that they didn't need to play a drawback to that degree, normally you have to push players in that direction. I gave both players bonus XP for an awesome RP session that night.

  As a funny side-note, Torad also slept with someone's wife and her cuckold later went after him with 4 buddies, all armed with longswords. Torad had to turn into a swarm of rats to escape and now some people are saying he could be a vampire. Since lately they mostly go out at night to fight Deep Ones in the sewers of the city (long story!) some people are starting to believe it! Not that I've warned the players of that... Also, an actual vampire has heard the rumors and moved to that tavern to see if he will find a buddy! Fun times...

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Mutant Modern!

'Angel and the Ape' from DC Comics

  Quick idea for an OSR campaign. Grab Mutant Future and instead of playing it in Post-Ap, set it in modern times! Something caused people, animals and plants to turn into mutants five years ago!
  During that time plenty of people have died from the chaos and unhealthy mutations. There are humans who survived it all unchanged thanks to a combination of good genetics and vaccines. (The game's Pure Humans.)
  The resulting setting is kind of like Sin City with mutants.

Such a stretch, I know!

  If you want to add cyborgs and more sci-fi tech stuff you could say that during those five years a lot of progress was made both in a desperate attempt to save civilization and also thanks to those who got mutations that made them geniuses, but the point of this idea is to keep the tech level in par with that of our own modern day Earth.

 Pic from Mutant Girls Squad. Haven't seen the movie, just found this on Google.

  When it comes to pricing things and compatibility with the rest of the OSR, tech beyond medieval doesn't have prices in Mutant Future as it's loot to be found. Not to worry, Machinations of the Space Princess claims that 1 GP = 20 USD and if you need something strictly GP-based, like if the economy changed drastically and society went back to gold as the default currency, Castles & Crusades: Castle Keeper's Guide has prices for modern day tech in GP.