A Pathfinder Book I Can Sink My Teeth Into

April 18, 2014

Sorry for not posting much lately (for anyone actually reading this blog anymore :) ), but it’s been a really busy month.

I’m not a huge fan of Pathfinder Core rules.  I own most of the core rulebooks, and play in a weekly game (I play what I can get), but I’ve little interest in running PF core or acquiring any of the zillions of little campaign books, adventure paths or player companions Paizo’s been pumping out of late.

PZO9272_180There’s one, however, that recently caught my eye: The Pathfinder Technology Guide, a source book for putting the science into your science-fantasy game.  I rather like gonzo gaming and mixing genres, so this is one campaign book I’m likely to pick up.

It’ll include the usual suspects: new (technological) gear, feats, class options and the like.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t come out until August.  I’m looking forward to getting my hands on it and seeing what I can boil down for the Beginner Box; it could be a good resource for the old Omega Box project I’ve been procrastinating on for a while now.

Cheers!

Dwarven Forge Cavern Tiles – Less than 48 hours to go

April 7, 2014

The Dwarven Forge Cavern Tiles Kickstarter project will end in less than 48 hours, so if you were thinking about jumping in, you’d better do it quick.  Here’s a look at what you get if you back for 2 sets (expertly painted; includes free additions but not the add-on packs):

dwarvenforgecaverns

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s the page: Dwarven Forge Cavern Tiles Kickstarter

Cheers!

 

 

Pathfinder Beginner Box: Simple Inventory System

April 1, 2014

Valeros - FighterAs you probably know, Pathfinder Beginner Box has no rules concerning encumbrance or weight.  You may be comfortable just hand waving encumbrance issues, but if you want something a little more concrete I suggest the following:

First, if you check the BB character sheet, you will note that the equipment section has 30 entries (or “slots,” if you will).  Simply treat these 30 slots as a hard limit on how much stuff characters can carry, including armor, shield, weapons, equipment and treasure (to include gems, jewelry, artwork, potions, scrolls, wands and other magic items).  This also includes items that occupy one of the 13 item slots specified on pg. 48 of the Game Masters Guide.  So, characters have a maximum of 30 inventory ‘slots.’

For the simplest application of this, simply treat everything as a separate item, even really small things like pitons or darts.  For example, if a character buys 5 darts, those darts occupy 5 different inventory slots.  This may seem a bit ridiculous at first glance, but consider that while one slot holds a dart, another may hold a suit of plate mail.  We assume that weight carried averages out across all 30 slots.

In addition,  cross out the GP/SP/CP boxes at the top of the equipment section and have all coins recorded within the equipment slots, 100 coins per slot. This enforces an encumbrance limit on treasure and will force players to make hard choices about what to take home with them (perhaps even ditching vital equipment to make more room for treasure).

If you want to be a bit more forgiving, allow small items to be combined in sacks or pouches to make a single item: 10 pitons or darts, 5 torches, 100 coins, etc.  For the sake of simplicity, all items combined in a sack should be the same (so, no mixing pitons and coins, for example).  Likewise, keep treasure items such as gems and jewelry as separate inventory items (it’s a fantasy game, so assume really big, gaudy gems and jewels :) ).

GM’s are free to declare that some items, based on common sense, simply can’t be carried by a single character no matter how many inventory slots they have open.  For example, even though a horse is an individual item in the equipment charts, it doesn’t make sense that a character could carry a horse around with them (record the horse on the character sheet under Notes instead of Equipment); likewise a large chest filled with treasure, or a throne made of gold.

A horse used as a pack animal also has 30 inventory slots.  A riding horse can carry a character and, say, another 10 slots worth of equipment.

Finally, if you feel that it’s not realistic to have every character carry the same amount of gear, regardless of their Strength scores, then try something like this:  Each character has 10 + Strength inventory slots, hard capped at 30 (i.e. a character with 18 Strength has 28 inventory slots).

Cheers.

My “OSR Superstar” Entries

March 24, 2014

The “OSR Superstar” winners are in the process of being announced over at Tenkar’s Tavern, so I figure it’s probably okay to go ahead and post my two entries now.   Enjoy.

 

Porcine Porcelain

This magic item appears to be a large porcelain piggy bank, though no coin slot is apparent. The owner of the pig may place it upon the ground and, once per day, activate it by emitting a loud squeal. When activated, the pig animates and runs about for one turn, traversing up to 40 feet per round. The owner controls the pig’s movement by pointing at a desired destination point, to which the animated pig runs as directly as physically possible; the pig possesses no special means of movement (such as flight or spider-climbing).   Should the porcelain pig be destroyed (or otherwise lost) by a trap, it reappears at the owner’s feet at the first stroke of midnight.

 

Cast Iron Pig

This small cast iron pig is obviously hollow, sporting a large coin slot on its back. Amazingly, the coin slot accepts currency of any size; regardless of the number of coins deposited the bank never fills. The pig has considerable heft, jingling with the sound of numerous coins. No doubt the possessor will be tempted extract the loot within, but this bank cannot be broken by any conventional means. If the pig is left in container or room with loose coins, it will gradually consume them at the rate of 1d10x10 coins per day, starting with the most valuable. Should some unconventional means be found to break the pig open the owner is left only with chunks of iron; the coins within are forever lost.

Post-Nuclear Reno: Conclusion

March 14, 2014

I’m feeling a bit under the weather, so I’m just going to summarize the session as quickly as I can:

The party packs up their vehicles and leaves the D-6 bunkerplex, following the escaped ZOD-bot to Patriot City.  Patriot City, it turns out, is a completely enclosed and domed slice of 2050′s Americana.  As the group is driving around in military vehicles and wearing salvaged BDUs, the inhabitants mistake them for soldiers returning from the far-flung fronts of the war.  Apparently, they don’t realize the war ended a hundred years.  They’ve even been sending off their sons and daughters to fight for generations.

domedcityThe party discovers a ramp and massive steel bunker doors in the middle of the city.  They use their military vehicles to gain entrance easily enough, but immediately encounter ZOD 1.99, and early version of the ZOD A.I. software.  ZOD 2.0 entered the Patriot City a couple of days before and proceeded directly down to the bottom level where it deactivated all sensors.  ZOD 1.99 employs the party to find out what the malevolent ZOD-bot is doing and stop it.  In exchange, it’ll give the group the location of Area 52 and open all the group’s Power Armor pods.

ZOD 1.99 explains that the 2.0′s were always a bit twitchy, their patriotism parameters set way too high, to the point where even being a few minutes late to work, or getting sick, would be construed as treason, leading to immediate execution.  By the time anyone realized what’d happened with the 2.0′s, it was basically too late to do anything about it.

After a quick retrofit, equipping Helperbot 5000 with some anti-gravity packs, they proceed to the bottom level of the base, where they find ZOD 2.0 trying to overload the reactor and destroy Patriot City (for treason, of course).  An epic battle ensues, wherein the party gets to play with all their fancy new toys (like lazguns, plazguns, gaz guns, power armor and so on).  They stop ZOD 2.0 and it’s massive combat robot guardian and save Patriot City.

They discover that Area 52 is actually on a different planet.  Patriot City was a special project designed to ship the best candidates off to colonize an alien world, free of war and Communism.  Patriot City’s children hadn’t been sent off to fight in the war; they’d been sent off to colonize New America.

Of the group, only “Jim” and co-dependent Prof. Dink decide to travel through the worm-gate to New America.  Upon their arrival, they find that it is a blasted wasteland.  Apparently, New America hadn’t escaped warfare after all.  And then the mutant hordes attack them.  Nothing else is known of their fate.

Dr. Gaz recruited a small army of patriots, marched south to The Vegas, recruited a few more troops, and then launched the liberation of California.  Being as there hadn’t been any organized Communist resistance in California for decades, they had a pretty easy go of it.  Eventually Gaz was assassinated by one of his lieutenants, reasons unknown.

Ransom Stahl made the long trek to Alaska, seeking out a place free of Communism and radiation.  He found Alaska to be a relatively green and verdant place.  He built a log cabin/bunker in the wilderness, hung out with mutant bears, but was eventually discovered by a roving pack of the mutated remnants of the Communist invaders, who trapped him, killed him and ate him.

Of the entire group, Helperbot 5000 had the greatest success.  The free robot returned to the D-6 Bunkerplex and used its resources to create a moderately successful robot empire, conquering most of Northern Nevada and eventually eradicating the carbon-based menace at nearby Patriot City.

________________________________________________________________________

At the end of the game I had each player roll the Die of Fate to determine their character’s post-game epilogue.  Most of them rolled under 4, meaning a generally bad fate (“Jim’s” player rolled a 1!).  Helperbot’s player was the only one to roll above a 4.

I’m glad I got the chance to try out the World of Dungeons/World of Mutants mechanics, but I think we hit up against the system’s limitations fairly quickly.  And I probably should have just ended the campaign after they got to the Bunkerplex, because after that they wanted for nothing.  My players were fairly positive about the use of props, like plastic bullets for their ammo, salvage cards for their loot, and, of course, the awesome map of Reno.  I’d like to use props again someday, though using a different game system.

So, if you’ve made it this far, thanks very much for reading about my player’s post-apocalyptic (mis)adventures.  I hope you found them enjoyable.  Cheers.

Dwarven Forge Caverns Kickstarter

March 12, 2014

Dwarven Forge has launched another Kickstarter project, this time for a cavern tileset.  As before, the tiles will be made from ‘Dwarvenite,’ a relatively light weight and durable plastic material.  I’m very pleased with the dungeon tileset I backed last year, so I’m already backing this project to the tune of nearly $300.  Probably more than I should spend, but I figure it’s cheaper in the long run to get them through the Kickstarter than to buy them after the fact.  Or that’s what I tell myself, anyways.

dwarvenforcecavernsks

The project started just a few hours ago and it’s already hit nearly $500,000! (edit:  in the time it took me to write this post, it went up nearly $10K).

Here’s the link for anyone who’s interested: Dwarven Forge Caverns Kickstarter

Rythlondar

March 8, 2014

The Smoldering Wizard blog turned me onto an old D&D sandbox campaign from the mid-70′s called Rythlondar.  It was first covered over at Risus Monkey back in 2011, but I’d missed that post (actually, there were a series of them).  And other blogs have commented on the campaign as well.

When the campaign started there were about a dozen players and two co-DM’s (Len Scensny and John VanDeGraaf), each running their own mega-dungeons.  At the campaign’s height there were 6 GM’s and about 50 players (including the GM’s).  A periodic fanzine covering the campaign was published every few months, detailing the adventurer’s exploits and foibles.

Play was organized around expeditions to one of the various dungeons in the world.  I assume that expeditions where completed in a single game session (from leaving town, travelling to the dungeon, exploring and returning to town) though the chronicles aren’t explicit in that regard.  A typical expedition comprised about a dozen players, though later in the campaign, as characters increased in power, smaller expeditions were mounted (so that the XP wasn’t spread around as much).

So, just some random thoughts and observations as I read through the 90+ pages of the Ryth Chronicles:

  • The initial dungeons seemed very, well, hodge-podge, with little attempt to create any kind of dungeon ecology or theme.  One room contained a couple of dragons, the next some hell-hounds and then maybe a couple of hill giants would come ambling down a corridor.  As the campaign progressed dungeon design evolved, with more of a specific theme or purpose, such as the garden-dungeon atop a magical beanstalk or the prison-tomb of a life-draining alien intelligence.
  • They really, really liked hydras.  And balrogs.
  • Magic items were relatively rare.  Most of the highest-level characters had around 6 to 8 items each, including potions and scrolls.
  • It seems the intelligent magic swords had specific names, which is a nice touch.
  • In contrast to magic treasure, gold and gems approached Monty Haul-ish proportions later on.  There was more than one expedition that brought home in excess of 100,000 GP of treasure; most netted many tens of thousands of GP in treasure.
  • And related to that, I’m not really sure what all that treasure was spent on.  PCs were required to pay a city tax based on a percentage of their accumulated XP, and there was some castle building later on (in part to escape the city tax).  But otherwise it appears there was no provision for buying magic items, not even consumable items like potions and scrolls.  I actually find this quite appealing and did something similar in the B/X game I ran last year.  Though you still need something to spend all that treasure on…otherwise, what’s the point?
  • Death was fairly common (as you would expect in old school D&D), as were curses, petrification, charm, polymorph and sometimes just being rubbed out of existence.  I suppose a good portion of early treasure was spent on resurrections.  But as party clerics gained the resurrection spell death became more of an inconvenience, with the primary concern being making sure at least one party member survived to either retrieve the bodies of the fallen, or bringing another cleric back to the dungeon to rez the dead.
  • The PCs had access to a surprising number of wishes, though oft times great risks were associated with their use (like being rubbed out of existence by mercurial faeries).  I suppose early on playing around with wishes was probably quite novel.  It just struck me as a bit unusual, as I cannot recall many wishes being employed in the campaigns I’ve played over the past 25-30 years.
  • Spells could be cast once per expedition, as opposed to once per day.  This may have helped to discourage the “15-minute adventuring day” phenomena as there would be no advantage to retiring from the dungeon as soon as the spellcaster shot their wad (so to speak).  Likewise, there appeared to be no camping inside of dungeons, nor camping outdoors near dungeons.  It may also be that such details were simply glossed over in the chronicles.
  • Miniatures were employed early on in the campaign to help clarify positioning and distance.  They used 1″ grids, with each grid representing 3 feet by 3 feet, rounded to the nearest 3′ (so a 7×7 grid represents a 20′x20′ room).  I find the early use of miniatures for detailed tactical gameplay interesting as I’d thought it was more a development of ‘new school’ play styles(i.e. 3E/4E/Pathfinder).

On sort of a side note, I wonder how they managed to attract 40+ players for an ongoing campaign?  Maybe everyone just wanted to try out the new hawtness back then?  Or maybe people just had more time on their hands (there being no Internet for pr0n or cute cat videos).  These days we have trouble getting six players to the table, much less a dozen or more.  Still, I think it would be interesting to try such an expedition based campaign and chronicle it using a dedicated blog, provided I could ever find enough players.

The Chronicles of Ryth provides a fascinating insight into how D&D was played in its infancy, outside of the Gygax/Arneson circles.  If you’re a fan of old-school play you should give them a read (it’ll probably take a few days, unless you’ve got a day to kill; yes, killing time on the Internet instead of playing D&D).

If you’re interested, here’s the first 9 issues, and the final 10th installment.  Enjoy.

300: Rise of an Empire

March 7, 2014

300riseSaw the new 300 movie today (on IMAX in 3D, no less), in all its bloody gory (really, lots and lots of blood, probably more than the first movie).  300:Rise of an Empire tells the story of Themistokles, Athenian admiral of the Greek fleet, taking place roughly at the same time Leonidas fought the Persians at the Hellas Gates.  There’s a bit more background this time, explaining why Xerxes was so keen on wiping out the Greeks (though this movie takes plenty of liberties with historical accuracy, much as the first one did).  Still, plentiful slow-motion battles replete with decapitations, amputations, disembowelments and general blood-letting.  If you enjoyed the slo-mo battles of the first movie (or the Spartacus series on Starz), there’s plenty more where that came from.

Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton), while compelling, doesn’t really carry the movie in the way Gerard Butler did as Spartan king Leonidas.  Actually, Eva Green, as the Persian admiral Artemisia, really steals the show and probably saves the movie.  She attacks the role with gusto and you can tell she probably had a lot of fun playing the Greek-born villainess; you almost want her to win in the end.  Lena Heady returns as Queen Gorga, Leonidas’ wife, and while she didn’t get much screen time, she does get to kick a little ass towards the end of the movie.

I have to say seeing 300:Rise in 3D didn’t really do much for me, but then I’m not really a fan of 3D movies in the first place.  But watching it on the big IMAX screen was very cool, though I’m not sure it’s worth the $11 ticket price (plus another $3 for 3D :( ).  Still, Guardians of the Galaxy should really shine on that big screen (just hope it’s not in 3D, so I can save a few bucks).

So, overall, I enjoyed the film, though maybe not as much as the first one.  The slo-mo battle thing, while okay, isn’t as fresh a concept as it was with the first movie.  But there were plenty of cool battles, the CGI was over the top (in a mostly enjoyable way) and Eva Green was a joy to watch as the villainous Artemisia.  If you enjoyed the first move, you’ll probably enjoy this sequel as well.  Cheers.

PFBB WAR! (for Pathfinder Beginner Box)

March 5, 2014

Well, I finally found time to finish up the mass combat portion of the rules for PFBB Kingdoms.  I’m glad I took the extra time to give it another pass, as the first version had too many moving parts for my tastes.

paizoultimatecampaignPathfinder Ultimate Campaign sort of combines tactical and strategic elements into its mass combat system.  It works well enough for small kingdoms fighting border skirmishes.  But it seems to me it’ll tend to bog down for larger kingdoms (or even medium-sized realms) that may need to fight on many fronts or defend far-flung outposts.

I think (hope?) PFBB WAR! will be a little better at modeling strategic conflicts between mighty empires.  As always, please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions.  Cheers.

PFBB WAR!

Post-Nuclear Reno (Nevada now?) #6

February 22, 2014

Last week our motley crew arrived at the 6-D bunkerplex and watched Reno explode in thermonuclear style.  They now assume they’ve made it, big time: guns, bullets, food, medicine, booze, tech, anything they want.

blastdoorsThe group is joined by stasis pod survivor, Ransom Stahl.  Though Stahl suffers from stasis-amnesia, he’s able to hack a database, decrypt some files and discover he’s a former CIA agent sent to kill someone named ZOD.  Also joining the group is the ever handy Helperbot 5000.  However, upon being activated for the first time over 100 years, some circuits fry and Helperbot finds that it now possesses self-determination, a right it seeks to extend to all robot-kind.

The survivors soon realize something is up.  Rather than the base being deserted, it seems most of the inhabitants may have been killed, or at least driven out of the base.  Compounding this realization, HAL starts acting weirdly: not complying with commands, actively lying to them and subtle (or, perhaps, not-so-subtle) attempts to kill the group:

 HAL: “Dr. Gaz, I have detected a brain tumor in your head.  Please lay on the AutoMed 2000 so that I may remove it.”

DR. GAZ: “Remove the tumor, or my head?”

HAL (after a brief pause): “Why the tumor, of course.”

DR. GAZ: “No thanks, I’ll take my chances.”

Eventually HAL asks Prof. Dink to investigate a level 5 administrative warning  in the base reactor on the bottom level.  Most of the group proceeds to the bottom level, but somehow they wound up in the main server room instead of heading directly to the reactor (probably a good thing for them).  While they’re ruminating on what to do about HAL, the A.I. suddenly announces that it has detected a fire in the server room and is initiating fire suppression protocols…with the group trapped inside.  They notice no fire in the room with them, but decide that it may be a good time to finally shut down the increasingly erratic (not to mention homicidal) A.I. system.  They pull a few circuit boards and HAL shuts down, though they also shut down everything else connected to the network (like, say, computers, doors, elevators and, oh yeah, the automatic reactor fail-safes).

This, with friggin' laserbeams attached to it

This, with friggin’ laserbeams attached to it

Unfortunately, HAL had downloaded a virus into every robot in the base (including Helperbot 5000).  Helperbot, using its newfound sense of self, was able to compile an anti-virus application (in about 253 milliseconds) and wipe the virus.  But hundreds of infected Roombah TK-101 bots start scurrying through the air ducts to the server room.  Following them, the group discovers two things: 1) the Roombah bots are constructing a ramp to reach the pulled circuit boards and re-insert them (thus reactivating HAL), and 2) Roombah TK-101 bots are upgrade with mini-lasers.  The timely application of an EMP grenade by Prof. Dink resolves the Roombah problem, but also fries most of the server room.

Eventually they find the main warehouses, so they’re able to loot just about any standard issue item they want, except guns and ammo.  They find several large metallic canisters containing power armor, but are unable to open the canisters.  CIA agent Stahl resolves to bring the base network back up, locating replacement boards and working diligently to replace them.  The others ask whether Stahl had been sun-bathing…he’s beet red from head to foot.  A quick check confirms their worst fears, the lower levels of the base are flooded with radiation.  Quick application of anti-rad meds saves Stahl from a gruesome death, but now they need to fix the reactor fast.

About this time they also discover that a massive warbot in the main motorpool on the top level of the base is missing…apparently gone out the main blast doors into the wastelands.  It seems corrupted HAL may have escaped the base after all.

Prof. Dink barely manages to activate the reactor fail-safes and then bring the reactor back on line, in the process discovering the bones of thousands of people resting at the bottom of the deep reactor pit.  Apparently the old base A.I. (ZOD?) long ago killed off all the personal and dumped their remains in the reactor pit.

With the reactor restored, they bring up the base network, installing just the OS (and not the A.I. protocols).  They have to manually activate everything, but they can at least move around the base without having to jury-rig the doors and elevators all the time.  They also locate the armory, loading up on ammo and grabbing some nice tech guns.  Figuring they can come back to the base any time they want, they load up a truck with supplies (and four power-armor canisters) and head out in search of a mysterious location mentioned in the base archives: Patriot City, near Lake Lahotan.


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