Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Gameable bits: Books have assumptions

Fairly often I put books in as loot in my games. Or offer up books as sources of knowledge of sought out.

Recently I have been reading a number of books about English history. Written by English writers. What is striking is how often they assume you are intimately familiar with modern England and its layout and geography. Also, that you are familiar with European power structures, religion, and noted people and books.

In a world with fewer but more widely read books, this will be magnified.

Now imagine the society for which that book was written is gone. The books it references off hand are lost or obscure.

This justifies a lot of vagueness. It explains a lot about why players can't expect a found book to clearly spell out what they need to know. The author always makes assumptions about the background of the reader. If the expected knowledge isn't there, you don't even need a code or deliberate vagueness for the information to be tricky to puzzle out.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Happy Birthday Gary Gygax

Hope this doesn't post too late.

Thanks, Gary, for the game and the hobby.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Wow, that was fun.

So, the Bones Kickstarter is over. I slept through the last hours because of my current time zone. I didn't miss anything I wanted and I can add on later if I change my mind.

Now I wait a year for the minis and get to painting them.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Reviewing my latest

I don't think this counts as a leak. I've got my latest work back from SJG for a final look-see. So that means you'll see something published from me sooner rather than later.

In the meantime I'll keep working on the book after that - I'll be away from my computer for a while (so don't expect a lot of big posts) but I'll take notes and keep working on it in the spare moments I get.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Three Game Book Writing Tips

Here are three quick game book writing tips:

Write Every Day - Put something into the project every day. Skip as few as possible. Make sure you open the file, write some new words down, and just get things flowing. You'll delete a fair amount later during editing but it's easier if it's already down. Better to put a bad idea down now just to get something written than to wait for the perfect idea later.

Copious Notes - Write down why you did things even if you aren't sure if you'll need it later. That way in a few weeks when you see the note you won't think, why did I do it that way? Delete these at the end, or save them in a side file for when people ask. But you won't regret having them and might regret not having them.

Outline First - Write the whole outline, and then fill in the blanks. Seriously, this is the best way I've learned to write. Copy the outline down into the main file, and start writing.

Bonus tip: Off site backup. Have one.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Does Post-Apoc need a sense of loss?

To answer my own question, I think it does.

I think part of the attraction of post-apoc play is the tramping around in the destroyed bits of a civilization you recognize, even if only superficially.*

It has to come with some sense of what was before. Earth-set post-apoc has this. Games where science and magic blend together in a lost past (Tekumel, say) or there is just ancient tech (Traveller, notably) are more science-fantasy or science fiction with superscience than post-apoc. You can't mourn what you never felt you had.

In other words, it's not enough to just have the remnants of older civilizations around to explore, use, or play with. It's not enough to have old tech or old magic to be found in the ashes of destruction. The players need to feel some kind of loss for what's gone.

I think that's why Gamma World is effective. I think that's why Metamorphosis Alpha works (it's a ship, but it's a world gone bad based on a world you live in now). I think that's why T2K works. You can't go home again because home - all of it - is wrecked. But you can try to build something new out of it. There isn't some great shining beacon to retire to, but you can try to build one.

To me, no sense of loss = no post-apoc feeling. Just science fiction or fantasy or science fantasy.

* This is why 25th century Gamma World has STOP signs and revolvers and "No Nukes!" shirts in the art.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Bones III update

So Bones III is rolling along. I've already decided to spend more than I did on either Bones I or Bones II, with little hesitation. I have a bit more to spend on gaming right now, and the deals are good for minis I like.

Stoneskull - yes, I'm in on this. The only monsters in the whole pile I'm not too into are the kobolds, and they look pretty good. I'll trade them if I get them and I'm disappointed by them. Or if someone makes me an offer.

Otherwise, I can use all of those for something. Even the brain in the jar, if only to direct the twin Ape-X figures I have.

Unlike the mishmash of Core Expansion I and II last time, the thematically tied Stoneskull means it's a much easier choice. The Core Expansions were a mix of "really want" plus "kind of want" plus "don't want" and the price was a bit much for the first pairing. Stoneskull is all "really want" plus "tradeable or useable" (kind of want) and even ignoring the ones I don't love it's a great deal for me.

Kyra & Lavarath - Maybe not, after all. The dragon seems small in the video, which makes me think I'm better off converting the dragon I have into a mounted dragon using bits, greenstuff, and riders. I may get one of the $15 dragons, instead. Not sure which one. The crawling one - Mathrangul - is very cool but I can already feel the stress of arguing with my players about how its eyes are clearly in range because its head is so low. But it's a better design than the others, and I can already see myself painting it.

Shub - Maybe. It would be nice to paint a Lovecraftian horror like that. Probably. He's cool but I'm not sure if I'd use him or not. So he's a maybe. Same with the Mythos expansion - it'll need to fill up really nicely for it to be worth $50 to me.

By the way, I love that artillery piece. I have no use for it, especially at $30. That's way beyond my means for a piece that I'll never have a real use for.

It's worth a look. Right now the core set alone is over 100 minis plus bases and weapons for $100, and more coming for sure.

Disorder vs. Disaster

I've been having an interesting discussion about post-apocalypse vs. disorder in the comments of this post. Basically, are fantasy games like D&D post-apoc?

Personally, I think most fantasy settings assume disorder more than post-apocalypse.

Disorder assumes that the situation is in flux. There is enough of a breakdown in central order that small bands of adventurers can find a use for themselves. Yet there is enough civilization out there to sustain a (often mostly off-camera) support network for the same. Things may have been better in the past, and knowledge may have been found and lost, but generally the tech level is about the same. Access to magic may have changed, but PC's interaction with it will be largely encounter relics meant to give them a boost in power (or an interesting challenge) without allowing anything to be replicated. Yet, overall, civilization exists even if it's not very calm, peaceful, or well-organized.

Post-apoc, to me, assumes a drop in technology level* and a severe change in the setting. A period of small technology drop can just be a big period of disorder. This is much bigger - civilization as a whole, across the entire game setting (with rare and often inaccessible exceptions), has been trashed. High tech (and possibly magic, too - think Tekumel's setting here or Thundarr) is available but the level of ability to replace it has dropped precipitously.**

Post-apoc thrives in the "rebuild civilization" mode and the "damn it all to hell" Hestonian/Maxian vibe. It's not civilization wilderness that may have been civilized in the past but isn't now, but rather civilizing everything. It's all wilderness except for those pockets. Greyhawk and its Suel/Baklunish war may have been metaphoical Cold War gone hot with magic swapping in for nukes, but the lands of Greyhawk are civilized (yet in just enough disorder to be primed for war and adventuring on the seams.) The occasional crashed spaceship notwirthstanding, it's lacking that "the whole world has gone to hell" feeling of post-apoc. Settings of this sort are generally as post-apoc as Futurama. Disaster struck in the past and reduced humanity to spears and sharkapults, but it's back to civilization. Even Tekumel is just science mixed with fantasy - for all of the post-apoc nature of the setting, it's just a background explanation for the monsters and the magic and the science-based magic items. It's not really post-apocalypse as it is disorder bolted onto a mix of science and magic mixed together.

It's this combination of tech loss* and reducing civilization to tiny pockets (or to nothing) that makes for post-apocalypse, not just if an apocalypse occurred in the past. Disorder is more localized. Note that during the Dark Ages in Europe, for example, access to knowledge fell, technology changed for the better and the worse, and major powers were broken into many smaller powers (basically). Yet civilizations outside of Europe continued to develop. Disaster wasn't worldwide and utterly destructive. Most fantasy games take this tack, and assume that even if things were better before there are still glittering cities to spend your loot in and decaying grandeur of the past and bright new futures being forged. You can still hire soldiers, swear fealty to distant lords, and buy things from far off lands.

One comment I've seen before is that the random encounter tables tend to show that even in civilized areas, you get pirates on the high seas, bandit armies roaming about, and monsters. But I'd argue the random encounter tables of fantasy games are skewed to the interesting, not the statistically accurate representation of society. They assume that there is a role for armed vagrants like PCs, especially those who'll tame the wilderness, beat the bandits, and rise to prominence at the point of a sword and through the strength of their arms and magic. They assume that's where the players are, too - even if they never suggest there are better, more civilized places, it's likely because the game doesn't take place there. After all, fantasy RPGs tend to leave a lot of blank, uncovered stuff and focus on monsters, treasure, characters, and violence because that's the game they're meant to provide rules for.

I think if you assume any game that assumes that, in the past, things were better in some ways and wars and death and disaster changed that are "post-apocalypse" you're in danger of making the term too broad to be useful. If D&D is post-apoc and so is Gamma World, then what's the difference? Magic? Gamma World swaps in sufficiently advanced technology - and a crossover game can easily mesh the two. Truly post-apoc fantasy (like, say, Prince of Thorns) exists, and lets the characters interact with the "lost" technology in a very direct way. It's not just color to explain why the writer isn't explaining how things work, it's part of the basis of conflict and action.

Short version? Post-apoc has pockets of civilization and widespread and deep destruction. Disorder assumes civilization exists and people adventure in the disordered areas or during periods of war. Even shorter? Post-apoc has nukes you can set off, disorder has ones you can't. (Mostly joking.)

* Lost magic is an interesting variation on lost technology, but generally it's "lost" to allow the GM to make unique magic items and spell effects and weirdness available without allowing PCs access. That's not really necessary - you can play a modern game where there are nuclear weapons and not let the PCs play with them, so you could really make a fantasy game with super-powerful spells that take so much precision, time, power, and skilled manpower that it's unrealistic for PCs to have access. It doesn't actually have to be lost. Being lost is just a way of saying, "I don't want you to be able to do this but I want it around."

** For this reason, I think of Car Wars as disorder, not post-apoc. Mad Max helped inspire it, but you order heat seeking missiles and lasers from Uncle Al's and compete in organized duels.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Review: WGR6 The City of Skulls

This review is based on a read-through of the adventure. I've never played it, so my evaluation of how it's likely to play is colored by that lack of experience. Actual play may vary.

For more reviews, look at my Reviews page.

WGR6 The City of Skulls
by Carl Sargent
Published in 1993 by TSR
64 pages

The City of Skulls is an adventure for 2e AD&D. This is a mission-based adventure. To make a long story short, the PCs are tasked by the King of Furyondy to go to Dorakaa, capital city of the lands of the demonic demi-god Iuz, and spring a valuable prisoner from jail.

The PCs get well equipped with potions, a few magical items the kingdom has spare, and scrolls of the spells they need to get close to Darokaa and back - specifically Plane Shift. They basically need to shift into Darokaa, close but not too close to the reality- and movement-warping gate that Iuz has to get back and forth to the Abyss.

The pressure is that, naturally, it's a one-shot raid. There isn't time or a safe place to rest, so the PCs have to stay alert with Potions of Vitality and conserve their HP and spell resources. Not only that, but there are the usual complications of a raid on a prison - prisoner location information is vague and passwords, locations, and details must be extracted from those in the know. Which is to say, only those high enough up to be trusted with that kind of information. So the PCs need to move constantly, conserve resources, deal efficiently with problems (which doesn't always mean lethally), and otherwise find a way to get by obstacles. Groups which methodically hammer through foes and take their time will find the task too big to complete.

The module itself is well put together and well written. It does open with a really long bit of boxed text - no multi-page nightmare like WG6 The Isle of the Ape, but still long. But the information that follows it is valuable - there is excellent guidance for the GM on how the principals will react to questions, what they know and what they'll share, what they have available for trade if the PCs want to swing some extra magic items out of their own extras, and so on. But otherwise it's just simple information on what is where, tactics and reactions special to the encounters. No boxed text, no fancy stuff, and enough details to run each and every room and scripted encounter area.

The adventure takes advantage of - and account well for - the problems with Team Chaotic Evil. That is, everyone is on their own team. Many NPCs will oppose the PCs for their own reasons, turncoat their nominal allies for personal reasons, and otherwise act in a disorganized fashion. They act well given their own powers and limitations, but the friction in a chaotic society is clear.

The need for stealth and the effects of a too-brutal too-obvious approach is handled with a mechanism called Notoriety. Any actions which draw attention to the PCs - fighting, being obvious enemies, killing major NPCs, causing wide-area damage or trashing the environment - increase their Notoriety score. The higher it gets, the more chance the PCs are noticed enough to draw patrols or a hit squad. The mechanism rewards stealth and cleverness nicely, and punishes brute force in a vicious circle. The PCs need to find the right measure of exterminating witnesses and letting those whose death will be felt too quickly escape. Hint: the really minor types will be too worried about their own skin, and the death of major types will be felt immediately even if they're killed secretly. Knowing who to fight, who to kill, who to let escape, and who to suborn, charm, or bribe is critical. At the same time the response is proportional to their actions and makes sense given the internecine violence of a CE society - the PCs aren't perceived as an existential threat right away, just as a problem to be solved by the underlings that can be spared for the task.

The adventure gives a lot of useful guidance for when the players get clever. Writeups of actions taken by actual groups in play-throughs (in playtest or tournaments, it's not clear) are given along with the results. It's very inspirational for the GM and helps drive home the idea that the GM needs to stay on his or her toes. Further, it has some great advice for GMs in general. For example, one powerful foe is only in the location occasionally. The adventure suggests that if the PCs have played well but luck has put them low on resources, then just skip the fight - the foe is elsewhere. If the PCs have played well but are still ready for a big fight, give one to them. I like that kind of advice because it's how I GM - I'm willing to let things slide if the PCs are having a hard time despite clever play, and I'm willing to give them an extra challenge if things went too easily and a good hard fight would make it all the more interesting.

The adventure itself is well-written. The maps are clearly drawn and easy to follow. The NPCs and monsters make sense in context and enough information to run them is present. Traps, treasures, and other details are well spelled out. Oh, and the traps are appropriately lethal. The only complaint is that some of the magical items and spells refer back to WGR5 Iuz the Evil. Some places give suggestions for replacements, others just assume you have that supplement. I'm not a big fan of supposedly self-contained material that needs stuff in other supplements not listed as required. Still, it's easy enough to just replace the material.

How would this be for GURPS?

In general, I think it would be good. The fights would be tough, but they're well-suited to both the brutally short fights that GURPS combat can result in and the tactical challenge of the set-piece fights and traps.

Standard GURPS mages would be much more able to access spells since recovery time is so quick, and those with Energy Reserve have dual-track recovery. Even so, this is a double-edged sword. The temptation to rest in a dangerous area for just a few minutes - or a lot of minutes - can spell disaster in Darokaa. At the same time, the more limited effects of GURPS spells would mean the PCs are less likely to go for broke on major spells.


The adventure is well written and interesting. It's long for a one-shot, but it's a high level adventure with lots of bits, so it doesn't feel too long. The challenge makes sense, the exposition fits, and overall the module conveys what you need to know to run it. If you're looking for a good D&D "prison break" module, this is a good deal.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Nature is Noisy

When your PCs enter the woods, are the woods quiet? Maybe too quiet?

Are your jungles quiet and sound-suppressing except for a few monkey noises?

Are your prairies and hills lacking noise until the wind kicks up to signal danger?

Yeah, mine are too.

One thing I get reminded of whenever I'm back in Japan (like right now) - nature is really, really noisy. It's not car noises and fire trucks and neighbors fighting at 2 am. It's not the whine of engines and the buzz of lawnmowers at the exact minute they're allowed to start working.

But nature? Nature is cricket noises, cicadas buzzing, bugs and beetles, birds chirping, animals in the undergrowth moving around. Cows lowing, horses nickering, trees creaking in the wind.

Unnatural noises can be louder - much louder - but the idea that nature isn't a din of continuous noise and action is easy to think if you live in the city or suburbs. Natural surroundings seem like they'd just lack the man-made noises and thus be quieter.

No such luck.

For example, the cicadas in Japan are astoundingly loud - so much so you have to flee indoors to get a respite from the noise of the trees in the suburbs. (Sadly, I don't have the video I took a few years back on a small island off Shikoku, Japan - it's just a nonstop drone of insect noises meshed together. It's on another computer or I'd post it here.)

I think some of this also comes from fantasy fiction - the woods are always quiet. The caves are always dark and quiet. The outdoors is a place of peace, serenity, and bucolic calm even in the presence of humans. One fleeing adventurer steps on a stick or a leaf and alerts the entire woods to their presence and gives them away to the honed ears of the pursuers. In other words, nature is always -0 to hear anything.

In my own games, even when I mention noises I don't always keep mentioning them. It happens once, then I let it go in my distraction doing everything else.

Maybe I need to make a general "noise and disturbances" number and put it up on the GM screen. It's -2 to hear, here, for everyone. You make a normal Stealth check, but your opponents get a -2 to their Per roll to hear. Putting it up on the GM screen or out on the table would mean it's easy to remember. It'll also make it clear how painfully easy it is to be heard underground when that becomes a bonus.

By the way, I'm all for Survival being a constant Complementary Skill check for Stealth while outdoors. Make both rolls, always - the wilderness newbie doesn't sneak as well as the experienced survivor.

In short, though, nature is noisy. Don't let all of your woods be quiet and your grasslands peaceful. Add some noise - it's realistic and makes the environment matter more.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Adventurers, by Rich Burlew

This is my favorite quote from the origin story of Belkar Bitterleaf:

"Basically, an adventurer is an armed vagrant who solves more problems than they cause."
- Rich Burlew

Yes, yes, and yes. Well, generally that last bit. It's more like, "in general" or "hopefully" solves more problems.

Otherwise they're more like the guys from Will Save the World For Gold (posted here a while back.)

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Adventures are armed vacations

As I pack for a trip within a trip - a mini-vacation within my vacation - I just keep thinking . . .

"At least I don't have to pack weapons. And ammo. And potions. And trail rations." And all of that other stuff.

Oh sure, changes of clothes and a book and my Japanese study tools. But nothing half as important as the rations and weapons my players are eternally worrying over in my games.

An adventure is like an armed vacation. To a place everyone else wants a vacation from.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

What to get with my Bones III?

So Bones III is rolling along. But I need to make some decisions in the next two weeks about what I want.

Right now, I am thinking:


Core Set - Of course. Best deal, really. Even with the stuff I don't want the price per figure for the stuff I do want is excellent.

A dragon - I don't know which one, but I'm settled on getting a big dragon. I have one in progress at home, but it's full metal and heavy as can be. A Bonesium one would be nice because I can more easily transport it to game. I may get two - that dragon with a rider is cool, but if I can use it without the rider that would be a huge bonus.


Extra monsters - if more monsters show up, I may get more of them. Generally I need 2+ of a given monster in game, so if we get another Dungeon Dwellers type pack (from Bones 2) I may splurge. I tend to paint those immediately and use them soon, so it's a good deal for me.

Tiamat - Long rumored is that Bones III will include, eventually, a multi-headed dragon. I could go for that, if it shows up.


Terrain - I'm not terribly interested. I have some terrain pieces and I don't use them much. I can always use more pillars, more doors, more tables, etc. but rarely need a big Stonehenge looking bit or more specific pieces.

Characters - I really don't need more PC-types. Same with the unique types, like Mouslings. Just have no need of them.

Set Pieces - That awesome set piece of Dragons Don't Share II last time was amazing. But it's a display piece. I don't need a display piece.

Weapons - I'm glad I get some weapon in the core set, but I've got a lot of metal and plastic weapons already. I don't need more - and I have those specific ones already.

Giant Animals - Cheap toystore plastic animals are great for these. I don't need to pay a lot and paint my own.

What I am hoping for

More Fodder - More lizardmen, small orcs (I like the big bones orcs, but they're really big - I'm thinking of the old Dark Heaven Legends orcs), more ogres, etc. I get a lot of use out of these types.

Golems - I'd like to see more golems. A Bones version of Tiki, the wood golem, and the hippo-man stone golem, and so on would be cool. I'd pay for them as an add-on if they became available.

I don't expect this, but it would be cool:

More Core Singles - Actually I'd love to be able to get more singles of the core set members, like the two-headed dog, the regular dog, and the pack mule. It's not worth $60 to get a dupe of all of them, because I only need multiples of a few.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Writing for Other People

I've been going through some of my materials for my game. I've mentioned before how my notes are for me, and just have enough information to remind me of what I was thinking when I wrote it.

In a lot of ways, the really old monster descriptions are like this. Information can be a bit haphazard, because what's there is just the stuff the creator needed notes for.

For example, my monster descriptions in my own notes are short. They don't describe the monster especially well, because generally I have a mental image or a miniature in mind already - so they don't need it. They lack mentions of treasure, mostly, because my placement method doesn't care about that and I do everything case-by-case. They don't always mention numbers, because that'll be set in play.

They go into great detail on combat stats and the effects of special powers on foes. They mention if they'll negotiate or not and the effects of specific magical colleges (especially if Immune to Mind Control or affected by Turn Zombie or Pentagram). Colors get brought up a lot because I have a terrible mind for what colors to mention.

But I've also written monsters for other, and even posted one or two.

The big difference is when I'm writing for others, I need to give them everything. I can't assume the stuff I am perfectly comfortable winging is what they are perfectly comfortable winging. You have to spell it all out because that allows the reader to decide what's worth using straight-up and what they'll change.

Don't get me wrong - short and incomplete descriptions can really inspire people. Generally if you have enough information about how things are meant to work in play (combat stats, mostly, and effects of special powers) the person who reads it will have what they need to play. They'll have the monster fight and affect others the way the writer intended, which is good because it's better to vary from that with intent than by mistake. Better they are deciding for themselves if trolls should be a different color than deciding what you meant by "Special Attack: Petrification Ray (20')" because you didn't explain it out.

Reminders are great for yourself, but when writing for others it's better to spell it out. IMO.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

1st edition A&D Players Handbook PDF

In case you missed it in the excitement of the Bones post and me going on vacation, you can now get the AD&D PHB in PDF:

It's listed at $34.95 and marked down to $9.99. I'd argue that $9.99 is the fair price for it, but you never know if it'll go up.

If you play AD&D or just want a PDF reference copy, that's not a bad deal.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Idle Thought on Dungeon Fantasy & Risk/Reward

Idle thought occasioned by a discussion I had yesterday.

When there is a choice between A) going home empty-handed and B) going home short-handed but with loot, in DF, the right answer is B.

This is doubly true in games rewarding wealth recovery over accomplishment - like early editions of D&D and my current GURPS game.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Yes, I'm a Bones 3 backer

Almost 3 hours after I pledged, my Wave 1 shipping pledge went through.

Looks like cool stuff:

Am I a Bones I I I backer?

Like the title says. Am I?

I pledged a minute or two after 11, if even that late. I chose Wave 1 shipping and put in my cc information. Since then it says I am a backer but "your pledge is still processing."

I tried to pledge again but I am marked as a backer. Hopefully it will eventually go through and I will be Wave 1.

Hopefully . . .

Monday, July 6, 2015

Reading Tables, Not Rolling on Them

I have a lot of books full of tables - especially world-building tables. Here are just a few I really enjoyed reading:

The Dungeon Dozen - I keep the print copy of this by my bed so I can flip it open and just read a little before I sleep or just after I wake up. It's good episodic inspiration.

Ready Ref Sheets - an amazing peer into the table-heavy past of gaming. Not that gaming is less table-heavy now, so much as in the past you could sell a book of tables with little or no explanation because we craved anything to help us play. I didn't have this back in the day (I never saw Judges Guild stuff outside of Dragon ads) but it's a fun read now.

The Dungeon Alphabet (review)- this has a great deal to do with me deciding I really wanted to run a dungeon-focused game again. It should get almost as much credit as the DF line and DFA1. I have strong visual connections between this book and a place I was on vacation - I brought it with me on a trip and read it front to back. It really made me want to delve into dungeons again.

Monsters & Treasure Assortment - there is a whole world of inter-language D&D here. It's not quite OD&D, not quite AD&D, not quite anything - it's this weird mix that in retrospect a lot of early D&D books had. They built on knowledge they assumed you had and just seemed odd when you came in later. In any case, this book is just monsters and treasure on different tables. Its a joy to look through even if it oddly lacks details you'd need to use it off the shelf (HD, for example, or THAC0.)

Several versions of DUNGEONMASTERS GUIDE have great tables in them, too, with all sorts of details for the world around you.

But I rarely roll on these tables. I have, on occasion, when I'm really stuck for either meaningless detail I could potentially turn into something meaningful or when I'm just bored. But it is rare for me to do that.

Not only that, but when I do roll if I don't like the result I won't use it. I asked the universe a question, as they say, but disregard the answer. I'm the master of my made-up universe, and the dice are just advice. I need to hear from them to know what I'm actually thinking deep down inside. They get a free hand in combat but not in campaign generation.

I read these books for potential, but I don't roll on them that often. It's just another way to list potential ideas for me.

How about you guys? Do you use tables, just read them, use them occasionally?

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Gaming break

I know some people really look forward to my DF session summaries. There will be a break of about a month and a half before the next gaming session.

Long story short is that I'm taking a trip overseas to see some friends and relatives. We usually have a sporadic gaming schedule in the summer anyway.

This does have some in-game ramifications, though:

- The PCs have around six weeks of downtime. This means complete recovery even for El Murik's dismemberment with a slow and sure Regeneration spell done by an NPC healer. I'll assume when they come back there was a complete restock of available potions to buy, too.

- The bad guys have six weeks of downtime, too. The PCs couldn't manage to finish off the main Cold Fens adventure area and exorcise the evil therein, so it will lurk in the meantime. It may, within the limitations it has, get stronger.

I suppose I could just freeze time, but a successful and central conceit of this campaign is that time passes 1:1 with real time. I can't see changing that just for a vacation. Besides, we've done breaks before without breaking that very easy rule, so we'll do the same here.

I'll post as regularly as I can while on vacation (which starts in a few days) but there won't be any Cold Fens or Felltower until sometime in August.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

RW&B Wuxia Warriors

We had a rare moderate-humidity day here the other day, so I managed to spray-seal a few minis. One of them was a Black Orc Games 100 Kingdoms Wuxia Warriors figure. I'd link to them but they seem sadly out of business.

He's the one on the right.

 photo Wuxia Warriors 002s_zpssrwkyw1b.jpg

 photo Wuxia Warriors 001s_zpsvfx7skmb.jpg

The one on the left you've seen before - it's the figure I painted for Chuck Morris, the martial artist run by a player of ours who is currently on hiatus. (And it's hard to see from the poses above, but Chuck has a headband with a red sun on it flanked by C and M. I should have made it black with black rays, because CM is the best!)

They came together in a pack, with a single flying base and a regular base. I'd decided the swordsman seemed more like he was actually leaping, and that's why he is airborne. Sadly, none of the clear bases I had worked with him, so I had to settled for painting it "sky blue" and hoping everyone can pretend that's air. I may go back and change the actual base of the base to something darker, though, but I'm not sure.

This is only the second time I've managed a reasonable yellow tinged flesh tone, largely by using white underneath a very light yellow painted on in thin layers. I'm quite pleased with how the guy came out. I love his pose, his braid, and his blades. Everything about him screams wuxia to me, and I wanted a vibrant and deep color scheme to reflect that.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Four Pirates

I speed-painted two pairs of pirates, two at a time.

All four are Foundry pirates from a pirate horde my players bought me for my birthday over 10 years ago. Whenever you see barefooted hirelings, they're coming from this collection.*

 photo Pirates 001s_zpsnmxr1koz.jpg

 photo Pirates 002s_zpsgs1acmsa.jpg

(click to enlarge either one)

Each one is white primed, and single or double coated (metals are always grey under the metallic, the blue is actually two blues layered.)

They're all coated with a mix that's mostly acrylic floor wax plus a few drops of brown ink. They came out just a little more orange than I'd hoped, but no so much that they aren't satisfactory playing pieces.

The one with a stick is actually supposed to be holding a boarding pike, but the pikes are really long. So I tried a variety of spears, sticks, swords, knives, etc. until I hit on this stump of a stick I cut off of a polearm to shorten it. That works really well as a "walking stick" or maybe a fighting stick. He'd make a good pirate wizard, actually.

* One of my players is getting into painting, so I gave him a couple of duplicates (actually, a triplicate in one case) from the horde. So that's been a gift that keeps on giving.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Variant for GURPS Magic - cost & spells on

Something like this may have been done before, but I'm being lazy here and not looking though Thaumatology to see. Well, I looked through it but I didn't examine it in depth to see if this is offered up.

Magic Is Never Free

- Use GURPS Magic as written (or as modified).
- No spells are free. Minimum cost to cast is 1, after all other modifications, minimum cost to maintain is 1, after all modifications.
- No penalty for spells "on."

In short, spells are never free to maintain, or free to cast. Spells already cast don't interfere with spells you want to cast.

Options and Comments

No penalty for spells on means there isn't a limit on the number of spells you can cast due to chances of failure. In play, the spells on penalty is critical - spells that don't give it can be abused freely (Create Servant), and spells that do are capped only by the increasing difficulty of getting a further spell off.

FP and Energy Reserve are more important than skill. Skill reduces but doesn't eliminate cost, and it increases the range and effectiveness of spells. But the limit on casting is FP, not skill. Skill is mostly to overcome distance and resistance, not to overcome cost (even though it does indeed help).

You could allow a Perk that let a single spell be 0 to cast if you can otherwise reduce its cost to 0 via skill (For example, a spell that is 1 to maintain and skill 15.) I wouldn't allow 0 to maintain, personally, and absolutely not in combination with 0 to cast or you're back to where you started. A 0 to maintain spell, coupled with no spells on penalty, is defeating the entire approach. However, allowing a spell to be free at sufficiently high skill + low power levels would allow casters who can fling 1d-2d Fireballs around all day, or ignite candles with a snap without effort, etc. or do other things without allowing for the "I Levitate around Invisible all day with Dark Vision and See Secrets on" guy.

As it stands now in my game, skill is king until skill 20 or so, then FP/Energy Reserve is king. The goal is to get a lot of spells you can zip off for free and maintain for free, then have enough skill to get off spells with a -5 to -8 on for spells "on." I think this change would allow for greater effective combat use of spells (harder to resist, easier to get spells off on allies) at the cost of the need for lots and lots of FP.

I know the usual alternatives are "Don't allow skill to reduce cost" or "All it to reduce cost at a penalty to skill rolls." But I feel this is a sufficiently different approach to give a different flavor to a gave using it instead of those alternatives.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Miniature Abuse

Why do my players love taking any opportunity to stack my hand-assembled, hand-painted minis up like cordwood so I can see exactly how they've stacked up the fallen enemy's bodies?

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