Saturday, 14 April 2018

What Happens to Joe the Farmer Now? You Tell Me

  So I made a post about a simple farmer finding a Vorpal Sword in the woods the other day. It was to discuss certain aspects of magic items in a campaign world and how different people would react to them. Discussions were had that I thought were interesting and people elaborated on what they think should actually happen to such a simple farmer finding such an item. 
  The original idea itself wasn't what I'd call interesting, nor was it meant to be since it was all tongue-in-cheek. But if anyone wanted to elaborate and tell their version of what happens next, here's the place; Simply leave a comment as long or short as you want with your version of the following events in Joe's life. Anything goes, you can add details to how the sword works or behaves (if you decide it should be sentient), you can choose what happens with the cousin, add characters, etc. 

  The story's beginning itself as presented in the original post is extremely simple, here it is: Joe the Farmer is a Level 0 Commoner with 4 HP. While walking in the woods yesterday, Joe has found himself a +4 Vorpal Sword!  Joe knows it's magic because he's swung it around a few times for fun and he notices that with the magical bonus granted by the sword he somehow seems to know what the fuck he's doing with it. His stance is good, the swings are aimed right. When he tries the same with a tree branch just to see if he somehow picked up fighting skills thanks to his daydreamings, it doesn't work. 'Tis a magic sword alright!Joe is very lucky in that he has a nephew in the city who trades and sells things to adventurers and criminals in the black market. Joe could sell this magic sword, even with the cut his nephew would take it would certainly be enough to retire!

  Since previous posts were about discussing everyone's personal views of how such a thing would take place and counterargue each other, I want to clarify that this post is rather for the fun of sharing exactly how YOU would see it go down. Feel free to use gaming terms like I did if you want or to go into full fictional writing mode.

  I hope some of you will participate, as the previous quick comments on what would happen to Joe (wether for or against my own arguments) were fun and I would like to read more and see how different people have different expectations for this sort of thing. 

Thursday, 12 April 2018

In defense of Magic Shops and Vorpal Swords

   So from the comments in my previous post, it would seem that some players snob the Magic Shop and the Vorpal Sword. The latter has been accused of being 'boring'.

This is my rebuttal of those two attitudes when it comes to my own personal preferences and what I think is a world's internal logic. I think in the end it's a matter of personal taste and there is no wrong way to do it; either magic shops fit in your campaign world or they don't, either you and your players think Vorpal Swords are cool or you don't. I'm just explaining my point of view.

  When it comes to magic shops, I agree it is kind of weird to expect shops to carry more than mere potions when it comes to my sensibilities, but let's apply logic here; if in your games you have NPC Magic-Users pop up at least once every five sessions (excluding monsters and the like), they are not a rare thing in your campaign world. (Unless in your story players happen to interact with the very few Magic-Users who are all in the same place for a story-specific reason, I dunno.) And everything has a price.
  It is NOT far-fetched that some of them would choose to gain LOTS of gold from their skills in big cities or in small towns that see a lot of traffic from warriors, nobility, mercenaries and adventurers. It even makes lots of sense that they would be high-level, as much as some might scoff even more at the notion. A high-level Magic-User with a magic shop has found an easy way to make money without endangering oneself in dungeons all the while being able to deal with most (if not outright anyone) who might try to rob them. Many might claim a high-level Magic-User might have better things to do like study arcane research or take over kingdoms. Well, I'm sure evil Wizards try to take over stuff, that's why adventurers have to go stab them and then loot their Tower of Evil. And what better way to fund your research than by having a business that brings in lots of money? Commoners won't be able to afford what's in there so they might get only a few visits per week, if not per month, but when those visits happen they made countless gold already by selling potions and yes, magic items. (Even if I myself might have trouble coming to terms with it I cannot deny the internal logic of such a situation.) Plenty of time left for research.

  If you want a good RPG book that deals in how a D&D medieval society with access to magic would behave, check out THIS ONE.

  Now, on to those BORING Vorpal swords!

*Yawn* So boring... Not exciting at all!

  Look I get it, it's easy to dismiss the notion of a +<insert numerical bonus> weapon. I myself (influenced by Lamentations of the Flame Princess' take on magic items) have often created weapons that do useful stuff but also have an interesting drawback. But that's mostly just because I like to watch my players struggle. But that's just the thing, are you really gonna tell me the Vorpal Sword is boring?

  I mean, sure you can, to each their own. But as a DM with a long-running campaign I can tell you that even to this day, the excitement at the table when a 1 or a 20 comes up is still there. Players still shift in their seats, exclaim something or even stand up for a moment. Now imagine if that 20 means you decapitated a motherfucker. (So it's not just that numerical bonus btw.) How is that boring? Yes, the Vorpal Sword is simple, but to me it will never be boring. I think people mix those two things.

  In many ways I believe it's because the OSR is in such a creative moment in time that we all look to subvert some old standards while also venerating the basics, so we shift from one attitude to the other regarding those standards. These days a lot of people seem to have a dislike for simple magic items, they all need to be really complex. The LotFP players who commented in my last post seemed to be behind magic items that REALLY mess with players as the norm for what magic items should be. (And if I misread your meaning, dear commenters feel free to comment again to debate me.) To which I'd point, from the start The Game had cursed items if you want to make players wary of magic, and even as someone who includes magic items with drawbacks let me tell you, if the items basically just fuck with the players all the time that's not really cooler than one who just does good stuff. 

  It is in my personal opinion extremely valid to have simple magic items and even ones that do just good stuff, the same way you can find cursed items that basically just mess with players. Yes I'm aware of the context of Weird in LotFP and how it has different goals, but even with that context I'd keep those points in mind personally.

  I know this might be different for other groups but in my personal experience players tend to venerate magic items more from the story that's behind them and less so by their magical effects. I've seen them treat a 'boring' +X Weapon like a big deal because it had a cool visual description and they looted it from a Demon who had killed a long-time ally NPC. Killing the demon had been sweet revenge and to this day they call it 'The Demon Sword'. Not the most original name, but it's a name that came naturally between the players as they discussed it. Sure they also keep magic items that do other more interesting stuff effect-wise, but because those items were taken in less memorable ways they don't even give names to the damn things!

  The story effort behind magic items has in my experience a lot more to do with how interesting a magic item ends up being than a lot of people give it credit for. And to be clear, I'm all for weird and original magic items! I just like to combine both the simple and the complex, the overall good with the overall dangerous and I think that approach has more value in the end in making magic mysterious than it being mostly always useful or mostly always fucking with you.

  Another thing that makes a magic item memorable at the table is the story that it ends up telling when all the dice have stopped rolling. And decapitating your enemies is a memorable thing; They made a franchise out of it.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Joe the Farmer and the +4 Vorpal Sword

Say hello to Joe the Farmer, everyone!

  Joe the Farmer is a Level 0 Commoner with 4 HP. While walking in the woods yesterday, Joe has found himself a +4 Vorpal Sword!

Ayup, this seems t'be a magic sword just lost by someone in these here woods!

  Joe knows it's magic because he's swung it around a few times for fun and he notices that with the magical bonus granted by the sword he somehow seems to know what the fuck he's doing with it. His stance is good, the swings are aimed right. When he tries the same with a tree branch just to see if he somehow picked up fighting skills thanks to his daydreamings, it doesn't work. 'Tis a magic sword alright!

From 'Castles & Crusades: Monsters & Treasure' (And many other OGL games):
  Joe is very lucky in that he has a nephew in the city who trades and sells things to adventurers and criminals in the black market. Joe could sell this magic sword, even with the cut his nephew would take it would certainly be enough to retire! (Joe doesn't know this yet but the sword is worth 38 750 GP!)

  I'm sure there are some dangers to face in avoiding being backstabbed or stolen from while selling the sword, but overall if Joe can pull this off, his life is about to be amazing! Right? Well, not according to the Lamentations of the Flame Princess Referee book!

  Let me just add now that this is all in good fun and I love LotFP. Now let's proceed. I know the way Joe stumbled upon the sword already contradicts the style and treatment of magic items in LotFP, but that last sentence specifically is the whole reason why I came up with Joe in the first place. In some ways that last sentence seems like a comdemnation of how other versions of D&D treat magic items. And I suppose this is my reply to that statement.

  What is Joe supposed to do with this sword if not sell it? He's a farmer. He's got 4 HP. Oh sure, some adventurers start with about that amount but my point is that Joe never intended to be an adventurer, it's just not in him. Having the ability to swing a sword like a 3rd or 4th Level Fighter (depending on your ruleset of choice) is not gonna change much when there's stuff like this out there in the dungeons he'd have to go to in order to gain even more gold:

  Besides, by selling the sword he'll already be rich. Why risk his life? Only adventurers remain unhappy after a jackpot of over 35 000 GP! Does having the sword make him one of these guys?:

  Sure, I can see the argument coming that if he did go out there with that sword and survive long enough, he'd eventually BECOME one of those guys. But that sword doesn't make him a god. He's just like any other starting Level 0 or 1 out there. The difference is in the mindset. Joe the Farmer never wanted to go risk his life in dark dungeons. He just wants to not have to farm anymore. And despite what LotFP's Referee book would claim, EVERYTHING has a price! All of the guys above would love to buy that sword and they will very likely be able to amass enough gold to get it too!

  And let's not forget that his relatively amazing skill with the sword comes entirely from that specific sword. What if he comes across a Disenchanter or some other magic-destroying creature?

"Yum, this magic shield tastes like the tears of a Player Character!"

  Hell, let's forget about the high-level adventurers and special monsters, what about just a bunch of goblins?

  Does Joe have 25 GP to spare to buy even the most basic leather armor? I'm sure a bunch of goblins can easily shank him in one round even as he manages to slay a single one of them. Then the goblins can bicker and stab each other over who gets to keep that fancy sword.

  All of this is obviously in good fun, I love LotFP and I get the point it is trying to convey. And yes I know that PCs are (normally) not farmers who just want to avoid danger and retire as soon as possible. But I insist, everything has a price and the reality is that even for PCs there's gonna be magic items they might just not need for their purposes, just like Joe the Farmer does not need a freaking Vorpal Sword, despite it being arguably one of the best weapons you could get. But everyone needs GP!

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Bargain Bin Children's Books: Monster and Adventure Supplements!

  Look at this Monster Book I once got for 3$!:

  I discussed it a few years back in THIS VIDEO about using Dollar stores to find cool stuff for your D&D games. Hell, I even made my whole DM screen from things bought there. And you might tell me "Hey wait now, that's a children's book, that's not a D&D monster book!"
  Well sure, theoretical nay-sayer, you'd be correct... But I'm a big fan of looking for inspiration in unexpected places, as I once also discussed

  To be honest, today I was looking for a children's storybook I could buy for cheap to adapt into an actual playable D&D adventure and share it on the blog. I couldn't find the right book for that specific idea for the time being, but I'm keeping my eyes open. However, one could easily fill a hex map with unlikely inspiration. A lot of monsters from the book seen above interact with the modern world a lot, so they could fit a modern horror game perhaps. But others can work with traditional D&D with very little to no changes to their story and modus operandi.

  Don't believe me? There's some legit creepy stuff in there. Let us take a look at the Cry-Alotis:

  O.k sure, he looks a bit gooffy now (and I'll spare you my thoughts on what the front of his body looks like) but look at that thing next to him; That's a tree. This thing is HUGE. It also has a very human-like face, which is sort of disconcerting if you describe it the right way at the table. Here's the full bio on the guy:

  At the beginning of the book in the 'Monster Rules to Follow at all Costs' they mention it's good to always have monster food ready to feed those who may want to eat you. He likes Salty Pretzels so we'll take that into account. O.k then...
  Its body makes me think of a T-Rex in shape and size. A T-Rex has 18 HD in the closest OSR monster book I've at hand! (Castles & Crusades:Monsters & Treasure) Not that its mouth would be as powerful from the looks of it. O.k then...

The Cry-Alotis
Movement: 40 feet
AC: 15
Attacks: Bite 5d4 + Tail Slam 1d12
Special: Grab: Anyone smaller than the Cry-Alotis who's hit by its Tail Slam must succeed at a Saving Throw v.s Paralysis or be constricted by the tail. Only one person at a time can be held like this. Every round the victim can try a new saving throw to escape, but if it's bitten by the Cry-Alotis while constricted, the victim will be Swallowed Hole. 
Swallow Whole: While Swallowed Whole, a victim will automatically receive 4d6 Acid damage each round from inside the stomach of the creature. The victim can use small edged/cutting weapons to cut their way out, if they manage to cause at least half the creature's normall HP in damage they will have succeeded in cutting through and the creature will be dead even if it normally would have had HP remaining. All attacks from the inside will automatically succeed. Someone Swallowed Whole can attempt to use a bigger edged/cutting weapon but they must succeed at a Saving Throw v.s Paralysis at -4 before every attempt.
Loves Salty Pretzels: If given the choice between eating humanoids and eating salty pretzels, the Cry-Alotis will always choose Salty Pretzels first. (This should be a little known fact without researching the monster first but maybe Bards could have heard tales using Bardic Knowledge or the similar skill/ability from your system of choice. And if your system doesn't have Bards then ignore that last bit.)
Guilt: The Cry-Alotis feels guilt over the fact that it needs to eat humanoids to survive. (He can survive from certain vegetables temporarily but not in the long run and they are very distasteful to him.) If anyone tries to make him feel guilty or sad in any way, the Cry-Alotis must succeed at a saving throw or spend 1 Turn crying without pursuing anyone. This effect will be undone if the monster is attacked while it's crying however. If a DM feels kind, the Cry-Alotis can even hint at this guilt by talking to itself out loud or by apologizing directly to his victims for what it is about to do.
Reduced Chances of Surprise: Depends on your rules of choice for the math but between its size and its constant crying, it's very unlikely that this creature would surprise anyone.

  If anyone uses this guy for their campaign, please let me know!

Superheroes vs Death Frost Doom!

  I recently ordered Amazing Adventures, its Companion, and the Book of Powers. The latter has rules for playing superheroes. Even though I like ICONS as a Superhero RPG, I also like the idea of an OSR-like system for them. (Even if I suspect ICONS will probably run more smoothly for the genre.) 

  Henchman Abuse has some funny play recaps of when he ran Death Frost Doom for his players and it was just cool to see how he converted that adventure to fit his post-ap Sci-Fantasy setting. (Links to part ONE, TWO, THREE and FOUR.)

  The idea of having a team of Supers doing basically dungeon runs appeals to me. After all, what are supervillain lairs if not traditional RPG dungeons? How would an adventure with superheroes go with something like Death Frost Doom, or Fuck for Satan, or The Tomb of Horrors even?

  I'm gonna try it at some point. And I'll be sure to post the results on this blog when I do.

Friday, 6 April 2018

My contribution to Dungeon Lord

  Some years ago in 2016 I was contacted by Terra Frank to contribute to her Dungeon Lord magazine. I worked on it to flesh out an idea she really liked form my blog posts and she decided to make the theme of the issue all about this idea of mine. There was even an interview with me in the mag. It was very cool and flattering.

  For a long time I wasn't paying attention to Goggle Hangouts and during that time I missed Terra Frank's private message about the issue being out and how she'd send me a few printed copies once those would be ready. I finally saw the message last month. She sent that message in February 2017. Oops. 

  She doesn't seem to be on social media much these days so she hasn't seen my reply yet. No printed copies have been made of the magazine so I have received none, there's even a comment at the product's RPG Now page asking if there's gonna be a copy in print. I hope she'll eventually come around to doing those, I like the idea of people being able to hold a physical copy of my first work for the tabletop RPG world.

  The irony of it is that since I was getting no replies I ended up buying a copy. I had to pay to read the magazine I contributed to. Don't get me wrong, I'm not blaming Terra for this since at this moment she hasn't even seen my request for a PDF copy and I was too curious for the final result to wait another year. (It seems to be the pacing of our conversation after all.)

  I've found a single review of it online so far at DCC Trove of Treasures

  The review is positive overall, I'm happy to say: "Dungeon Lord continues with a kick-ass issue that marks a new high for this zine (in my humble opinion, anyway). The Do-It-Yourself ethos, combined with great artwork, makes the issue a joy to read."

  That said, there was some useful and fair critique of some aspects of it, which I want to openly address:

"Note that the prospective judge will probably want to do some prep work before running this...DCs for checks and saves are not given, not every creature has statistics, and some of the mechanics mentioned in the dungeon or the accompanying bestiary are from other systems. There is also, as presented, no way to enter or leave the dungeon, as neither stairs nor passage leads into Room #1."

  I have to make a confession, I don't own DCC RPG. It seems like a really cool book but I already own so many versions of D&D that I never got my hands on it. I wrote the dungeon with vague mentions of Saving Throws without using DCC's terms for saves and then asked someone else to convert it to DCC for me. It was a task that was not fully completed it seems. I dropped the ball there, if I was going to write for that system I should have familiarized myself with it and written all those bits myself. If I'm writing the material, I should be the one making sure all the details are right. 

  As for the entrance missing in Room #1... Whoops, indeed.

  I also want to add that some bits from the interview are out of date of course. Chronicles of Death and Dungeoneering's storytelling project where people could vote on the outcomes of a story I wrote is a project I have dropped, but I'm keeping the name and logo for a project that I'll announce in this blog when it's ready.

  You can get the Cruel Issue HERE.