Friday, December 10, 2010

OwlCon XXX

Texas gamers! Mark your calendars next year for the 30th annual OwlCon, to be held on the campus of Rice University. This will be the first year I will attend, but I've heard great things about it from Troll and Flame. There's a wide variety of scheduled board games, minis games, tabletop rpgs, and even some larps.

Since I was super-smart and registered early, I got all my first choices:

Barbarians of Lemuria

Caravan of Flowers
3 - 6 players
Sat1000 (0)
Minimum age: You must be 18 years of age or older to participate in this event.
No job is more time-honored among the sell-sword and his brethren than caravan duty. Seeing goods across the wastes is a fine source of income and adventure. But when the goods turn out to be something more than you expected, the adventure is likely to be extraordinary as well. Barbarians of Lemuria is a rules-light system designed for classic Swords & Sorcery adventure. No previous experience needed.
GM - Theron Bretz

Burning Wheel

Dogs of the Waterfront
3 - 8 players
Sat1500 (6)
There is a time to talk. There is a time to demand. There is a time to kick in the door, shoot out the lights, and take what is yours. Do you want to play the film Resevoir Dogs? For real? Back again this year for a repeat performance, one showing only. Returning players welcome (no spoilers).
GM - Dwight Frohaug

Swords & Wizardry (Stellar Quest variant)

Old School Star Trek: Mission to Carcerus III
4 - 8 players
Fri2000 (6)
You are a crew member onboard the survey cruiser USS Des Cartes. Your team's mission is to deliver Dotar Karth, the reknowned mass murderer, to the prison planet of Carcerus III. Other ships have recently disappeared in this region of space, so you are advised to proceed with caution. This adventure uses a variant of the Swords & Wizardry core rules; pregenerated characters will be provided.
GM - Jason Kemp

Most games still have plenty of room, but why chance it? Give yourself an early Christmas present and register today.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Guest Post at Troll and Flame

Over at the Troll and Flame blog, I wrote a guest post in return for the Gaming Aids post Norm wrote for me:

The Necromould

Norm is an avid gamer, an obsessive tinkerer, and a true patron of the tabletop arts. Be sure to check out the rest of his blog, which features a ton of gaming goodness.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Guest Post: Tabletop Gaming Aids

[The following is a guest post by my good friend Norman J. Harman of Troll and Flame. Norm is a great enthusiast and promoter of pen and paper gaming, and also happened to be the DM of the first D&D game I ever played. Be sure to check out his blog.]

I'm a bit OCD when it comes to counters, trackers, props and other play aides. I've play tested more than a few.  This is what I've learned.  DM's and games are different so, as always, YMMV.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Stats from Scratch #1: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution

I'm not satisfied with the original array of six character abilities of D&D. I picture ability scores as representing the major, fundamental qualities of a character, and while the original six are serviceable in this regard, they don't perfectly jibe with what I'm going for. Some abilities seem over-broad in what they encompass, whereas others seem somewhat ill-suited for the purpose they serve. In this post, I'm going reexamine ability scores from the ground up, trying to keep the flavor of D&D in mind.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

One-shot After-action Analysis #1: Too much information!

Recently I ran an original one-shot adventure for 4 players using D&D 3.5 edition rules. This was the third time I'd ever GM'd a game session, and only the second time I'd run D&D. It was also the first time I'd had more than two players. Was it a success? Well, I at least succeeded in learning a lot about the art of directing a game. In order to ensure this knowledge doesn't slip away, this is the first in a series of posts exploring my lessons learned.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Pregen Chars: Dwarven Fighter

This is the first installment of 3rd level pre-generated characters for a 3.x one-shot. Stats below the jump.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Twingol's Tales: Aurora Campaign Chronicle #2

Year of the Bounding Lamb, 5th Waning, Day 4 – The Escaped Rout Pt. II.

Ah, there is nothing like the aroma of a cool Spring morning! The crisp air invigorates the body, and the sounds of the songbirds clear away the shadows and cobwebs from a burdened soul! I have always relished greeting the sun as he first peers over the horizon, though it appears that several of my compatriots find more comfort in the embrace of their bedrolls. The only two who are awake, besides myself, are Sir Ravenmantle and Lady Proudfinger. She kneels in prayer, arms raised in supplication towards her God. She spends far more time praising her God and interceding for others than I would think necessary; certainly more than any other novitiate I've known. It seems to work for her, though, and her demeanor can be like a soothing balm after a hard day. Sir Ravenmantle certainly appreciates it. He's supposed to be keeping the final watch of the night for the whole camp, but I suspect were we to fall under attack, his priority would be to protect the holy woman. It's natural, I suppose; I believe they were traveling together before they fell in with the doomed militia.

Hmmm... I should probably be memorizing spells, but my mind is still awhirl with the events of the previous day. So While my friends slumber, I'm glad to take this opportunity resume my account of the yesterday's madness, in hopes that doing so will give rest to my troubled thoughts.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

When HP are not physical damage

Everyone's been there. Your fighter is going toe-to-toe with an orc/ogre/owlbear/whatever. You hack him for 10 HP, he rakes you for 12, you chop at him for 7, he bites you for 3, and on and on. You trade blows back and forth until that magic moment when your hero goes from 1 HP to 0 (or fewer, depending on edition) HP. Last round he was fighting in top physical condition, now he's wormfood.

This rather jarring transition has always bothered me. If HP represents physical integrity or health, then the loss of HP would seem to suggest strongly a concurrent loss of physical capacity of some sort. But that's never the case. Even with systems that use the "death due to massive damage" rule, if you make your save, the character suffers no ill effects. This is unsatisfying to both sides of my brain. The left hemisphere recoils at the idea of a warrior who accumulates vague, unsourced bloodstains on his armor, all the while slashing with gusto, until he just croaks cartoon-style. It's nonsensical. The right hemisphere pipes up that's also booooring.

The problem is that if you get rid of HP, and you go to a more realistic injury system, you're going to be rolling up new characters every other encounter. Not just due to PC death; even relatively minor injuries would realistically sideline an adventurer for days or weeks. It can be fun to play with that level of lethality, and it works well in games such as Call of Cthulhu. In our group's most recent session, an apparition of an elder god clawed at one of our investigators, raking him for 10 of his 12 HP. The guy was able to get off a wild gunshot, but was then down for the count. He survived, but was in the hospital for most of the rest of the game. But usually, particularly for more pulp fantasy games like D&D, I prefer to have more of a chance to know and develop my characters. So we need some kind of buffer between Full Health and Out of Commission.

I've recently been playing Labyrinth Lord using versions of a "Death and Dismemberment" house rule. Other, slightly tweaked variants are here and here. This house rule envisions HP as an abstraction for some combination of stamina, defensive ability, determination, luck etc. When this collective store is exhausted, the character is at 0 HP, and must roll on the table to see what the consequences are:

2 or lowerInstant Death (decapitated or similar death from CtB).
3Fatal Wound (gutted, stabbed through lung, broken back, and the like) die in 1d20 x 10 minutes. A Wish or similar effect would heal wound.
Knocked Out until death unless Save vs Death is made.
4-5Severed Limb use hit location die, if head rolled and no helmet then as '2', if body rolled and no armor then as '3', otherwise will bleed out and die in 1d6 rounds. Magical healing (magic used for this will not restore lost hp), a tourniquet, or cauterization with fire will allow a Save vs Death with bonus equal to lvl of spell cast, if any. Success means character requires 3d4 weeks of healing.
Knocked Out until death unless Save vs Death is made.
6-7Broken Bone use hit location die. 3d4 weeks to heal.
Knocked Out 1d20 rounds unless Save vs Death is made.  If head bone was broke and no helmet and failed save then knocked out, "in coma", until healed instead.
8-9Knocked Out for 1d12 rounds if wearing a helm. If no helmet then as Broken Head Bone.
10-11Stunned for 1d4 rounds and lose helm if wearing helm. Knocked Out for 1d12 rounds if not wearing helm.
12+"Now I'm Mad" a surge of adrenaline returns 1d4 hit points per hit die. At the end of the combat, the adrenaline drains away, hit points are reduced to zero, and the PC faints for 2d6 rounds. If you roll this more than once in a single combat consider yourself a Berserker under the effects of a potion of super-heroism.

Each time character at 0 HP takes "damage", he must roll again on the table. This is the best way I've seen to model the fact that until someone takes actual physical damage, they are more or less at full capacity. But once they are injured, things get bad in a hurry, as each further injury brings a chance of disaster.

If you haven't tried gaming this way before, I'd highly recommend it.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

New Kids in the Sandbox

Norm over at Troll and Flame asks whether new DMs and new players can handle running or playing in a sandbox style campaign. Having never run a sandbox campaign, I can only speculate how a new DM would fare. Being an ultra-planner, I personally would not feel comfortable DM-ing unless I had done quite a lot of the work ahead of time. This may be due in part to the fact that the only systems I've DMed are D&D 3.5 and Mutants and Masterminds, both of which are on the rules-heavy end of the spectrum.

As a player, I feel that little experience is necessary to enjoy a sandbox campaign. For even the greenest tenderfoot, a short briefing by the DM should suffice. Here's an example: