Archive for October, 2012

The War Planet

October 29, 2012

One of many hundreds of quarantined worlds, the War Planet (as it has come to be known), was once home to an advanced alien species.  This species fought a devastating civil war, culminating in the ultimate destruction of the planet’s eco-system.  As population levels declined, the two factions increasingly turned to robotic war machines to carry on in their stead.  As populations continued to decline, automated factories and mines took over the production and maintenance of the war machines.

And now, centuries after the last aliens died in the last remaining command bunkers, the machines carry on their war by proxy, locked in eternal stalemated combat.  Robotic war machines tread through the detrius of war, searching out enemies, their outposts and, most importantly, their factories.  The machines on the surface are guided by uncompromising and implacable A.I. ‘generals,’ buried in deep, heavily fortified bunker complexes, while  ‘research’ A.I.s continue to develop new weapons and robot variants in an unending effort to gain some temporary advantage over the enemy.

The surface is littered with the weapons and tools from centuries of warfare, a rich haul for any scavenger willing to dare the planet’s many hazards.  Like the insane warbots that are simply incapable of recognizing off-worlders as anything but enemies, subject to immediate termination.  Or the environmental hazards, such as clouds of poison gas, radiation storms, lakes of acid and horrific mutant beasts.  Still, many are willing to take the risk, for one good find on the War Planet can set a crew up in luxury for the rest of their lives.

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Androids, Cyborgs and Robots, Oh My!

October 26, 2012

I downloaded the new Delving Deeper Reference Rules  from RPGNow (available here for free, if you’re interested).  After perusing it a bit I got to the monster section and noticed it had listings for Androids, Cyborgs and Robots.  I’ve never seen a retro-clone make such a direct reference to the science-fantasy side of The Game before (well, other than Carcosa, I suppose), which I found to be pleasantly surprising.

Unfortunately, there don’t seem to be any corresponding listings in the magic and treasure section for ray guns, disintegrators and such, though I suppose they could be added easily enough if you wanted them in your game.  Cheers.

He said he’d be back…

October 25, 2012

So, Arnold Schwarzenegger will be reprising his role as Conan the Barbarian.  Holy crap, I may need to change my underwear now.  I hope this isn’t some kind of stupid internet hoax.

According to the article, the story will account for Arnold’s real-world age, so I’m guessing/hoping we’ll be seeing something about King Conan of Aquilonia.

“Conan, what is best in life?!”

Finally Got a Chance to Run Basic D&D

October 25, 2012

My regular gaming group decided to give basic D&D a try, despite reservations held by a couple of them.  And they had a blast!  It’s the first time I’ve DM’ed in years and one of the best times I’ve had gaming in recent history.

Specifically I ran the B/X version (the red book) with a few house rules:

  1. Ascending AC
  2. Max hit points at level 1
  3. Bonus spells for casters with high scores in the relevant attributes
  4. Dual wielding grants a +1 to-hit on attack rolls
  5. Binding wounds for 1d3 hp after each battle (but only if the PC took damage in that battle)

We also used variable damage dice instead of d6 damage for all weapons.  I was going to let them roll 3d6 six times and distribute the attributes as desired, but by popular acclaim they wanted to roll straight down the line (hard-core style), so that’s what we did.  And it turned out pretty well; they’re weren’t any ‘hopeless’ characters.  The party consisted of an equal mix: 1 fighter, 1 cleric, 1 MU and 1 thief.

I ran them through the Caves of Chaos and, to save time, I started them just outside the ravine.  They made a beeline for the first cave on the left (the Goblins) and started out well.  They slaughtered about a dozen goblins taking only minor damage.  Not bad for just a party of 4.

But then they ran into the combined ogre and goblin force.  The fighter goes down to a goblin spear, followed the next round by the thief.  Things are looking dire, but then the MU pops off a charm person on the ogre and it fails its save.  Seeing the tide turn, the remaining goblins flee.  The party got a nice haul out of the ogre’s lair, too.

I decided that the replacement characters were being held captive by the ogre (a cleric and another thief), so their players could jump right back into the game.  Unfortunately, they took being held captive quite personally.  While the ogre was sitting around munching on dead adventurer leg, the new cleric decided to try to smite the beast from behind.  He had surprise so I just let him roll damage for the hit, inflicting a measly 4 points of damage.  Distracted, the ogre turned to deal with the cleric, giving the thief an opportunity for a backstab (with a crossbow…yeah, D&D is awesome).  Unfortunately the thief missed with a roll bad enough I ruled that the bolt stuck, unnoticed, in the ogre’s thick, bearskin armor.

Next round, the recently freed cleric whiffs and the ogre scores a home run ripping an arm from a socket (I’m rolling on a random chart of death whenever a PC dies to determine the grisly nature of their demise).  The thief wisely decides that discretion is the better part of revenge and quickly puts away his crossbow.  The other two PCs just kind of sat this one out, since the ogre was focused on his ambusher.

So, one player→two PCs→1o minutes…things actually are going well, all things considered.

An adventuring elf passing nearby hears the commotion and decides to investigate.  Seeing a party of adventurers, apparently cooperating with an ogre, the elf inexplicably decides to join them on their adventures and the party inexplicably decides to let this total stranger join them.  D&D is awesome.  The party moves on.

Heading back into the goblin lair, they explore the other direction, going to a heavy barred door leading up to the hobgoblin area, an obstacle that had discouraged them earlier.  But their ogre BFF (Bruce) manages to batter it down in just a few hits.  Fortunately the group’s new elf buddette speaks hob-gob and orders the assorted male and female hobgoblins to surrender.  A really good reaction roll later (combined with the presence of an ogre) convinces the lot of them to surrender.  Then the elf charms one of the female hobgoblins to be a personal servant…or something?  Not really sure why the player did that but….D&D is awesome, so there you go.

A little more exploring and they find the hobgoblin’s torture chamber.  Using their new hobgoblin BFF they attempt some kind of ruse to sneak up on the two hobgob torturers, which ultimately fails.  The elf pops off a sleep spell, knocking out the two torturers and all the captives chained to the wall.  The torturers (along with a captive orc and gnoll) are quickly dispatched in true adventuring/sociopathic fashion (have I mention that D&D is awesome?), and a fat merchant, his wife and a couple of guards are quickly liberated…after negotiating compensation favorable to the party, of course.

We were getting close to quitting time, so the party headed back to the Keep to cash in their loot, depositing the charmed ogre and hobgoblin in the woods some distance from the Keep.

All-in-all the players did pretty well, considering there were only 4 of them.  Only 3 PC deaths, several hundred GP worth of treasure recovered (along with a cleric scroll, unknown potion and 6 potentially magical arrows) and, most importantly, a charmed ogre.  Everyone said they had a great time and it looks like I’ll be running this again next week.  Needless to say, I’m estatic; next week can’t come fast enough.  It feels good to be in the saddle again. 🙂

Cheers!

Tartarus

October 16, 2012

A desolate, lifeless world orbiting a dying sun, far removed from well-travelled space lanes and civilized space.  Tartarus was originally established, many centuries ago, as a cryogenic prison for Great Father, the progenitor-emperor of the long-dead Vampiric Empire.  Tartarus is maintained by the Warden.  No one is quite sure who or what the Warden is, but the Warden is single-minded in his/her/its obligation to watch over the slumbering Great Father.

After some time, many of the empires and star nations supporting Tartarus neglected their duties, or simply ceased to exist, so the Warden found it necessary to diversify the prison planet’s revenue sources, so to speak.  Tartarus has plenty of space, so some two centuries ago the Warden began accepting new prisoners, without question.

Now all manner of people are warehoused there: too dangerous to set free, and too valuable to kill.  Criminal syndicates, corrupt governments, jealous spouses…the Warden doesn’t care, so long as payment is made, usually in precious minerals or services rendered.  Some prisoners are kept in posh accommodations, others left to rot in spartan cells, and still others stored in permanent cryo-stasis.

Rumors abound that the Warden has also taken to safe-keeping client’s valuable objects, secured in impenetrable vaults deep below the planet’s surface.  It is known that from time-to-time foolhardy adventurers attempt to liberate prisoners or loot.  Whether many have been successful is not as well know, but a few must have managed it, or else why do the rumors persist?

What is also known is that the Warden doesn’t take well to such forays.  Bounty hunters, assassin androids, killbots…even other adventurers, have been dispatched by the Warden to retrieve stolen property and punish thieves and prison-breakers.  Crossing the Warden is dangerous business.

How Important are Character Levels and Attributes to You?

October 9, 2012

My first poll!

I’m wondering how important either (or both) of these aspects of a player-character in an RPG are important.  Games like Searchers of the Unknown  do away with primary PC attributes, defining a PC’s abilities using the same stat block as monsters.  And the original Gamma World, while it had levels and experience, they pretty much didn’t matter.  In fact, many people didn’t use the experience rules in Gamma World…they just played to find cool death rays and neutron bombs and stuff like that.  Traveller had skill-based advancement, but it was so slow that it hardly mattered.  In Traveller your character started out pretty much as good as he or she was ever going to be, skill wise.

To clarify, by attributes I mean the primary attributes (Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, etc.), not secondary combat related attributes.  And by levels I mean character advancement in general, whether using a level based system, skill-based advancement or some combination of the two.  Basically, character ‘advancement’ would come by accumulating wealth and advancing in-game goals (such as establishing a thieves guild in town or taking out a major enemy, for example).

My thoughts on this are two fold:

1) Eliminating attributes makes character creation that much easier, and removes the preoccupation, for lack of a better word, with attribute scores.  The primary concern becomes not “what class do my ability scores allow me to play,” or “my stats suck, I want to re-roll” or “we need a complicated point-buy system so my character won’t suck.”  It becomes “what do I want my character to be?” (probaby still within the framework of a character class or archetype, though).

2) Eliminating levels lets players focus on their goals, whether immediate or long term.  Instead of having to kill every monster in the dungeon just to get the XP, they have more of an incentive to pick and choose their battles (old school D&D XP for GP rules kind of do this, too).  Also, when a PC dies, do you make them start over at level 1 even if everyone else is level 6 or 10?  Or do you let them start over at the same level, in large part removing (in my view, at least) consequential PC death?  If you don’t use levels the issue becomes moot.

So if you combined the two concepts, would your gaming experience crash and burn?  I’d like to know your thoughts on the matter.

Looper

October 8, 2012

I really want to like this movie.  The main story isn’t bad, acting is great, I like all the actors in it, and it has a decent amount of action.  But the time travel thing just blows it for me.

Mind you, the movie doesn’t waste a second trying to explain how time travel works.  In fact, there’s a scene where the writer(s) basically tell the audience “Hey, don’t think about time travel and paradoxes and all that crap…just concentrate on the story.”  And for most people that’s probably enough and it works.

BEGIN RANT (and some spoilers, too):

But for a geek like me, it didn’t take much pondering to realize that the organized criminals of 2070 have got to be the biggest idiots of the entire space-time continuum.  They control the most powerful technology ever developed and the best use they can come up with is to dispose of people they don’t like by sending them back in time to be shot by a ‘Looper’ and incinerated.  That’s it.

How about playing the stock market, or sports betting or playing the lottery?  Forget ordinary, every-day organized crime; you could make ridiculous amounts of untraceable money with a time machine.

Maybe there’s some kind of paradox thing that won’t let them do that.  Okay, fine.  But if you’re going to use time travel to kill people, why use other people to do the killing?  People are a failure point in any scheme.  But in the 2040’s they’ve got an entire sub-culture of Loopers, and it seems like everyone with even minor underworld connections knows what a Looper is, so it’s not exactly a state secret what’s going on (for that matter, where’s the FBI cracking down on all this organized crime, rampant police corruption and weird underworld rumors of time travel assassination?  – Hell, it sounds like an RPG campaign).  It appears the technology allows them to not only send people to different times, but to different places as well.  So why not cut out the Loopers and just send your hits into an active volcano, or the bottom of the Laurentian Abyss, or into orbit around the Earth, or back to the Jurrasic period?

But maybe these are traditional mafia guys who like to do things with a personal touch, the old fashioned way (even when they’re using time travel machines).  But then why make a Looper kill his own future self?  The first rule of assassination is kill the assassin, so it doesn’t surprise me that the future mafia eventually kill off their Loopers.  But making a Looper kill himself is just asking for trouble, especially when there are plenty of other Loopers who would be more than happy to do the job in their place.

When a Looper ‘closes’ his loop by killing his future self, he gets a big payoff and then spends the next 30 years living large.  But why wait 30 years to close the loop?  Isn’t this a 30 year security breach just waiting to happen (as the movie amply proves)?  Eventually a Looper is going to snitch, or snap or doing something really desperate and the whole scheme will fall apart.  So why not just kill the Looper in 2040 and be done with it (and avoid the few paradox repurcussions presented in the movie)?  It’s not as though the mafia is filled with an abudnance of sympathy and warm feelings.

This doesn’t even cover all the movie’s internal inconsistencies.  For example, the reason people are sent into the pass to be killed is because it’s almost impossible to dispose of a body in 2070 (due to the advanced state of forensic science, I guess).  Yet there’s a scene in the 2070’s where a person is shot and killed, and the body is disposed of in a house fire, not by sending the corpse back to 2040-whatever.

There’s plenty more to say on the movie’s (mis)use of time travel but I’m sure you get the point by now.

END RANT

So, if you go see Looper, when it comes to the time travel aspects of the story just turn off your brain and accept it as presented.  And I hope I didn’t ruin it for you.

Trailer for new Die Hard movie

October 4, 2012

Here’s the trailer for the next Die Hard movie.  I’ve been a fan of the whole series, and I really liked the last one; I hope “A Good Day to Die Hard” (no Klingons, from what I can tell) can live up to it, though the trailer does look promising.  Cheers.

Best Campaign Idea Ever

October 1, 2012

Jay at Exonauts posted an idea for the best sci-fi RPG campaign ever.  Rad Astra, a mash-up of various cheesy sci-fi movies and TV shows from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s…the “pastiche-verse.”  I’d almost pay money to play in a game like that.  It’s a quick, fun read if you like cheesy, gonzo sci-fi.


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