Monday, January 30, 2017

Switching Browsers Because Chrome is Making Me Want to Hurt Myself

This afternoon I went looking for a new browser to use for my searching because Chrome is shit. Don't get me wrong; it used to be good. But lately it's been the one that blows up my RAM. Firefox sucks too. So after reading a shit ton of reviews I decided to go with Vivaldi. Pretty happy with it so far. The performance is solid and I'm not stuck with some DRM fucking with my shit.

I totally just used to abbreviations in my post without telling you what they were first. Aren't you proud?

No.

Fine.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Cancellation, Stagnation, Hell

Today I was going to play Dungeons & Dragons with some friends I haven't been able to see in too long. I say was because this morning I woke up at about 2:30 with acid reflux. Now normally I don't have this shit because I'm on a medicine that takes care of that shit. Like, my acid is normally locked the fuck down.

Last night, not so much.

So I wake up choking on fucking acid. I thought I could stop it with a bit of milk but instead I just started throwing up like crazy. Tore up my throat to the point where I could barely talk all day and had to cancel D&D. Fuck. this. day.

Somebody tell me something cool.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Campaign Titles My Wife Says I'm Not Allowed to Use

I tend to make up titles for my Dungeons & Dragons campaigns and like my blog they tend to be things that amuse me even if no one else gets the joke. Most of the time my wife doesn't look at the title and just plays. Then there are times when I run the titles I'm thinking about using across her. These are some of the ones she told me I'm not allowed to use (HA! Jokes on her. I've already used all of them!)

1.  Dickbags of the Underdark
2.  Murder Nights in Bangkok
3.  Grumbling Dwarves, Bloody Orks
4.  Mordenkainen and Two Hot Mummies
5.  You Should Have Stayed at the Inn
6.  Saving Dragons, One Kiss at a Time
7.  The Forgotten God Farts in the Dark
8.  Waiting for Bigby's Gently Caressing Hand
9.  The No Killing Club (Which None of You are Invited to Join)
10. Gnomes Gone Wild!!!!
11. Three Moons over Solace
12. Dragons and Kinder
13. I Make the Best Caverns. Everyone Knows.
14. The Damned Game
15. Three Brothers, a Gnome, and a Goat
16. One Hundred Years Chasing a God Damned Pixie and Not Doing a Fucking Thing
17. The Adventures of Three Chodes
18. You're All Criminals to Me
19. Wonderland is Kind of a Dump
20. The Barbarian's Fury
21. I Paid $49.95 for this Fucking Book the Least You Can Do is Follow the God-Damned Hook
22. Monte Cook Wrote This Shit
23. I'm Not Sure this is How Hentai Works!
24. To the Burnt Out Hovel!
25. Voodoo is Real

Monday, January 23, 2017

You Want Me to Think About How the Orc Feels Before I Kill Him? What Are You? A Pervert?

title unknown by Richard M. Powers

The other day I was reading reddit, as you do, when I ran across a thread that got my attention: Killing people is hard, but not in RPGs. The basic premise of the opening poster is that in life it's incredibly hard to kill people because reality is a complex bastard and that we should transpose this moral complexity over to our role-playing games and find a way to reflect that difficulty in how we play. 

This insistence on playing in a world of complex morality, where every decision should matter morally to me as a player has never appealed to me. Our real world is filled with that complexity and I deal with it every day so why should I deal with it in my game world too?

I don't and I won't. 

The real world that I live in is filled with moral complexity and I don't need to imagine what it feels like to deal with the fallout from terrible people doing terrible things and trying to keep my family safe with murderers, thieves, drug addicts, and criminals of all sorts living around me. I don't need to wonder how I would feel if I have to deal with rape survivors, the families of murder victims, or what it feels like to be robbed. I know all of those things too well and have no interest in replaying them in my games.
 
No, I would rather play in game worlds where things are morally simple. There are firm lines in what is good, and what is evil. We kill orcs because they would kill us, our families, and everyone we know or could ever hope to know. Why? Because they're evil. We don't worry about the moral repercussions of our actions because they're evil and fuck them. Role-playing games can be that simple, and for me they will be because I live with the complexity that some try to emulate every day. 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Using Morale in Dungeons & Dragons Without Bringing Dice Into It.

Since I first began running Dungeons & Dragons back in '04 I've had this notion that I like Morale rules in my games. I say notion because I've never actually read what the real Morale rules were in AD&D 2e but my beloved Monster Compendium showed what the morale for monsters were and so I wanted to use the damned thing. Only thing was I didn't have access to an AD&D 2e Dungeon Master Guide so I never actually read a solid explanation for the rule so playing with it was a bit of a hit or miss affair. After a while it simply went missing from my games altogether.

Last night, though, I was reading through a copy of the Sword Lords of the Eastern Regions that was given to me when I read this passage:

". . . USING THE UNIT MORALE CHART: Use this chart when a unit's morale is called for, such as facing up to a Demon. If the roll is missed on one die, the unit must withdraw from the action for one turn at half movement, and then check again. The facing of the unit is up to the player whose unit is affected. If the morale save is made, the unit will obey battle orders . . ." (Becker, 27)

It struck a cord and got me to thinking again about using a Morale Rule in my Dungeons & Dragons game - only this time I'm going to actually look up what the rule meant in AD&D 2e instead of just making it all up on the fly. So let's look at the explanation that David "Zeb" Cook wrote in 1993 edition.

". . . Monsters and NPCs are an entirely different matter . . . The DM makes their decisions, trying to think like each creature or non-player character, in turn. 
In combat, thinking like a creature mainly means deciding what actions it takes and how badly it wants to fight - the morale of the creature. 
As a general rule, monsters and NPCs are no more eager to die than player characters. Most withdraw when a fight starts to go badly. Some panic and flee, even casting their weapons aside. If they think they can get mercy, brighter foes might fall to their knees and surrender. A few bloodthirsty or brainless types might fight to the death - but this doesn't happen too often. These are the things that make up morale, things the DM must decide, either through role-playing or dice rolling . . ." (Cook, 69)

I really wish that I had read this passage from the AD&D 2e Dungeon Master Guide years ago because the line ". . . most withdraw when a fight starts to go badly . . ." is something that I could have used earlier to dramatically improve my games. Even with my bastardized morale rule too often I found myself pushing the monsters to stay in the fight until every last one of them had fought to the death. While that can be interesting on occasion having monsters run from the players can create its own sort of drama as the players can gain a real reputation in the world that feels more authentic.

Jeff Easley title unkown
It's also interesting that with the morale rule it seems that there are degrees of failure for the monsters and non-player characters that your players encounter in the world. Are there degrees of success as well?

Zeb continues:
". . . The first (and best) way to handle morale is to determine it without rolling any dice or consulting any tables. This gives the biggest range of choices an prevents illogical things from happening . . . To decide what a creature does, think about its goals and reasons for fighting . . ." (Cook, 69)

As I've been reading more of AD&D 2e in recent weeks I've noticed that there is a decided trend among the writers that as a Dungeon Master you should think about your monsters' and non-player characters' motivations behind what they're doing. This aspect of the game wasn't missing from my beloved D&D 3.5e but it wasn't as pronounced and as a result for a long time I didn't consider such things. Instead I tended to look at the Challenge Rating chart and pick monsters to throw at my players based on what lined up with their level. That was a mistake and it made my game less interesting as a result.

With that in mind let's talk about unintelligent creatures for a minute. Zeb writes:
". . . Unintelligent and animal intelligence creatures attack, most often for food or to protect their lairs. Few ever attack for the sheer joy of killing . . . A mountain lion, for example, doesn't hunt humans (as a rule) and doesn't stalk and attack humans as it would a deer . . . Such creatures normally allow a party of adventurers to pass by unhindered, without even revealing themselves. Only when the creature is close to the lair does the chance of attack increase . . . When they do become involved in combat, animals and other creatures rarely fight to the death . . . Their interest is in food . . ." (Cook, 69)
I find it interesting that while I have often had trouble remembering to get monsters to flee I almost never experience the same issue with wild animals. The difference tends to be that I am around animals both wild and domestic regularly so I've internalized their habits; while monsters, to my mind, tend to be nothing more than imaginary creatures bent on destroying the civilized world of man and demi-human alike. Even though I know what the monsters are doing in my game world and why they're doing it, it's rare that I've treated my monstrous encounters with the sort of complicated motivations that they deserve. Reading Cook's discussion of morale I can't help but feel he would be slightly disappointed in my handling of the monsters.
". . . Intelligent Creatures have more complicated motivations than the need for food and shelter . . . Greed, hatred, fear, self-defense, and hunger are all motivations, but they are not all worth dying for . . . As a guideline for intelligent creature and NPC motivation, consider the actions of the player characters. How often do they fight to the death? Why would they? At what point do they usually retreat . . ." (Cook, 69)
And here comes a point where I begin to understand why I might have simplified monsters' motivations. My players almost never retreat. Not once in the 13 years that I've been running have I had a group that fell back (though I have been a part of two groups who fell back as a player). Typically my players fight to the death every time the enter into an encounter. This begs the question, though: do they determine their notion on how to handle a fight from the way that my monsters interact with them, or do I take my lead from them?

I think that I will have to put Zeb's ideas into action to tell.

More later.


Works Cited
Becker, Michael, Keith Elliott an Wilfredo Aguilar. Sword Lords of the Eastern Regions. Archive Miniatures & Game Systems. 1981. Print. pg 27

Cook, David "Zeb." Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition Dungeon Master Guide. Random House. USA, 1993. pg 69 - 72,


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Black Mountain Burns, Part 2

Tuesday

I drove up to the Weekday Hotel where Tut was working nights and parked under the only light that worked in the parking lot ten minutes shy of eight o'clock only to find that the rest of the crew had already taken a lurking position in a darkened corner next to the pool. As I walked over to them I counted shadows and the flashes of light from cigarettes. Am I the last one to show, I asked, or are there more coming?

Step took my hand and shook it as he said, "Fucking World's Greatest Liar checked out on us, man."

That's no loss, I said as I looked towards the golden lights coming from the lobby door. We really playing in the Weekday Hotel? I thought Tut liked his job.

"He did," Icarus said, "but word just came down from the Home Office: they're closing at the end of the month."

Shit, that's a bad break. Is he going to be okay?

"Yeah," Biggboy's gravelly voice answered, "we already got him a job with my Uncle over in the Orchard."

"What's he going to be doing," Poot asked.

"I reckon my Uncle's going to be having him run the relay desk, sending the drivers out," Biggboy said.

Could be worse, I said as I watched Neverwas walking into the lobby. Now what's that fucker doing here?

"Ringer?" Step said as he lit another menthol.

"I invited him," Icarus said as we all turned to stare at him. "What? The World's Greatest Liar ducked out when he heard who was joining the table and we needed someone to cover his slot."

Has he stopped being a fucking martyr or are we going to have to watch his characters throughout this whole thing?

"No," the Master Planner said, "he's still God's only martyr and we'll have to watch him try to kill his character all night."

Fuck. Anyone want to end that early or should we let it play out?

"Let it play out," Poot said, "we'll just have to make it work for us."

Your call, I said as I raised my hands in the air. Anything else we need to worry about in this thing tonight. Any unwritten rules we need to be aware of? 

"Yeah, Ganymede's Prison is his baby so watch for him to be super protective of it," Poot said.

"That's if he actually let's us play in the damned thing," Icarus added. "He's been telling us about it for six months."

Cool. So we got a plan for tonight or are we just winging it?

"Yeah," Icarus said, "Step is raising us from the dead and She'rah is going to be recruiting you guys to help us stop Count Gambino from destroying Erfurt."

Gambino?

She'rah shrugged, "He likes Childish Gambino."

Fair enough.

"So what does the party need," the Master Planner asked as he ground his cigarette into the ashtray.

"Fighters and clerics," She'rah said. "We got our asses handed to us because we were heavy on magic but only had Poot for muscle."

"Fuck fighters," Biggboy said as he started walking towards the door, "they're just a bunch of whiny bitches hiding behind armor. Barbarians or get the fuck out."

Time to go in kids, I said following Biggboy's lead.

"Wait," She'rah said as she raced up beside me, "what are you and the Master Planner going to be playing?"

Master Planner?

"Ranger," he said with a wink. "I'm thinking it's time to renew an old rivalry."

Fighter it is then.

"So none of you are going to play a cleric," she said exasperated with us. "You just asked what we needed."

We've already got a cleric, I said as I opened the door for her.

"Oh," She'rah said as she gave me a look, "and just who the fuck is playing a cleric?"

"I am," Neverwas said behind her.

Called it.

Tut stood up from behind his counter as we entered and I was taken back again by the sheer size of the man. He stood nearly a head taller than me and yet he stooped his shoulders so far forward that we practically looked each other in the eye. "What did you call," he asked.

That Neverwas would be the cleric, I said as I took my seat. So how are we doing things tonight?

"Your call," Tut said as he took his seat. "I was going to run my Ganymede Prison adventure but since I've never played with you guys I thought it might be unfair to just jump into it."

"Unfair," Biggboy grumbled as he searched for a rogue d20 that had escaped under the table, "unfair for who? You? Or us?"

"Both," Tut said, "I haven't played with you guys before and I want to keep things right."

The Master Planner hit my leg, "That settles things as far as I'm concerned."

Oh? How we playing this?

"I'm Jim-Jim Wallace," he said as he pulled out his vape pipe, "My friends call me Jim-Jim. Anyway, I'm here with my family looking for a bit mischief in the form of treasure hunting."

Step smiled as he said, "Funny, I just remember that my rogue Alice's last name was Wallace. Seems I've just gotten back from a bad dungeon raid and am looking for some serious, family, backup."

"Well you've found it, little sister," Biggboy said with a little fake laugh he liked to use. "Cause your brothers Jim-Jim and Tiny Jim have just come into town looking for their favorite sister."

"I fucking hate when you guys pull this 'Jim' shit," Neverwas said as he snapped his Player's Handbook closed. 

"What's wrong with the 'Jim' stuff," Tut asked.

"It's there way of signalling that they're going to be fucking murder-hobos," Neverwas said in disgust.

"Oh," Tut said as he looked at Biggboy, Master Planner, and Step. "So what's your character's name, Neverwas."

"I'm glad you asked," He said with a huge grin, "I'm playing Timothy the Pious, devout cleric of Pelor and opponent of evil in all it's shapes and forms."

Tut's mouth hung open for a moment as everyone started first at Neverwas and then at him. If they hadn't looked away from Neverwas they would have seen him wink at Tut as he sat back in his seat. I saw it. I never look away.

"So what's your character's name," Tut said as he looked at me.

Jim Wallace. And I'm here to check on my kin folk. I certainly hope they're all alright or there will be Hell to pay for those responsible.

"I feel like this is going to go well," Tut said as he looked at Poot.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Well, I'm Just Left Clutching My Monstrous Boobies in Outrage!

A couple of weeks ago Kotaku published an article, Dungeons & Dragons’ Gradual Shift Away From Monster Boobs, that heralded the end of the naked, monstrous bosom. The article was re-tweeted by several members of the Wizards of the Coast design team and I noticed that a few of the people in my twitter feed were excited that there would be no naked breasts shown in the new edition. And it honestly read like these were the same sort of people who checked out art books from local libraries so they could take black magic markers and draw censor lines over all the naked breasts, crotches, and dongs.


I've never understood the people in this life who think that nudity is such a terrible thing that it must be censored from our lives at all times. No tits; no dicks. Then they want to tell you all about how open minded they are and how they're fighting for the rest of us when they restrict what we can view, create, and enjoy. 

Now I've got to get back to my paperwork so her's an awesome gif that makes me happy.



Update 1/17/2017 5:36 AM EST

Over on the Google Plus side of things +Gus L made a good point that I'd like to add over here so that it doesn't get lost.

"I think all they're suggesting is A) Sexy monsters will try to be sexy to people besides straight teen boys. B) Not all female monsters will be sexy or sexy in the same sort of Franzetta way that they were in the 1e Monster manual. C) D&D doesn't show nekkid boobs (or boob-like nipple free domes) anymore - presumably for the children and to head off the next satanic panic.  
I mean that's nothing to freak out about. Sounds a lot like the inclusivity bit in the 5e starter set - which to me seems pretty reasonable. Table top has always been a haven for folks that feel a bit outcast from the everyday world - and these days folks are starting to recognize that's a lot of people besides white teenage straight boys whose souls are melting form the conformity of the Mid-Western suburb." 
https://plus.google.com/115126071910531256568/posts/i5PyHhvdi85

Sunday, January 15, 2017

I've Noticed an Odd Bug with Google+ and the Blog

This morning I was looking at a few of the posts I've shared since the new year and I noticed that the +1s don't match what I'm seeing on Google+. I'm sure that this is probably an old problem but has anyone else noticed this issue? 

Does anyone else care?

Saturday, January 14, 2017

An Apology to All the People Who Have Tried to Contact Me in the Last Year (or so)

During the last year I've really fucked up in the whole keeping lines of communication open on the blog. I mean not only did I not update often but I also kind of stopped reading my e-mails and then when the link on the contact form stopped working I didn't notice until Friday night, of this year. So if you've contacted me during this last year and I didn't respond, I'm sorry. I checked out hardcore this last year and I shouldn't have but I did. Please forgive me for not responding when you asked me to review your stuff, add you to things, or just to do you the solid and let you know I was okay. 

I'll do better this year.

All I Wanted Was to Hit the Road with Some Friends and Murder the Hell Out of Monsters!

Last night I got an email from a reader who wanted me to discuss an older Tor article, A Modest Proposal For Increased Diversity in D&D, about diversity in the art of Dungeons & Dragons. For those of you that haven't clicked the link yet allow me to save you the tedium and aggravation of reading a guy excusing himself for being white, male, and calling for diversity to cut to the chase. The author of the article, Mordicai Knode, wants to have people who aren't white in the core books and not just in the oriental supplements. 

I'm in support that sort of thing. Having lots of people of different ethnicities beating the hell out of orcs and goblins; shitting down the throats of giants and slitting the scrots of ogres pleases me to no end. Of course I don't really give a shit whether the characters my players are playing are black, gay, or trans-gendered.  In my games we're not out to explore those themes; here we're all about killing some fucking monsters and looting the treasure so we can by better shit to kill more monsters with in the next dungeon.

I know that some of my readers would like for me to look at the game in a deeper way - one in which I force my players to confront their own feelings about race, sexuality, and gender - but that isn't what my players come to my table to explore. My players like combat, exploration of lost tombs, dungeons, and underground caverns. They like learning bits of lore and building a world together through our shared story where I set up the playground and they build marvelous stories through their choices. But hey, if your players would rather sit around a fire imagining what it's like to be hated because of their skin color have fun with that . . . I guess. 

Judge of Ages by John Harris
We'll be over here. Killing dragons on our floating island in the sky. And orcs, lots of orcs. And looting anything not nailed down. Strike that, the girls remembered their crowbars and sledgehammers! So we're looting everything!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Black Mountain Burns, Part 1

"God damn it all," She'rah said as she flopped back against her chair, "we're fucked."

"Not yet," Poot told her as he leaned forward to get a better look at the board, squinting as though it would help turn the odds into their favor. "There's got to be a way out of here."

"You've got thirty seconds to make a decision, Poot," Tut said as he shoved another marsh-mellow into his mouth, "if you haven't made one by then you forfeit your turn."

"Yeah, I heard you the first time," Poot said as he leaned back.

"This isn't good," Icarus said from behind his Player's Handbook. 

"I know," Poot said as he looked back at him.

"So what do we do, gang?" the World's Greatest Liar said as he threw his arms up.

"Fifteen seconds, Poot,"

"I got it!" Poot shouted as he snapped his fingers, "Step you're bugging. Everyone else give him time to get out."

Step rolled his shoulders as he shook his head, "I don't like this."

"You've still got the bag, right?" Poot asked him.

Step looked down at his sheet for a minute, lost in thought, before answering, "Yeah. I've got it."

"Poot's turn is forfeited," Tut said with a large, hungry grin. "Step, you're up."

"I'm falling back behind Poot's fighter and changing my shape."

"Are you now," Tut said with a hint of malicious amusement in his voice. "And why would you do that?"

"My turn?" Icarus asked.

Tut stared at Step as he answered, "Yeah, Icarus, it is. What are you going to do?"

"I'm going to run to the left with my barrel slung on my back screaming at the ogres to get their attention."

"Going for a feint, are you?" Tuts said as he brushed marsh-mellow powder from his chest. "Roll an opposed check."

"19," Icarus called.

"The ogres have all turned towards you and are preparing to charge."

"My turn," She'rah said.

"Sure, sure," Tut said with a dismissive wave of his hand.

"I'm lighting my arrow in our torch, and readying my shot for when Step tells me it's time," she said.

"Okay," Tut said as the ogres charged into the World's Greatest Liar and Icarus. Their clubs slammed against the earth and shook the ground with each massive blow. When they were done all that was left of The World's Greatest Liar was a messy paste clinging to their clubs and Icarus lay on the ground, his legs a useless ruin. 

When it was over Tut looked up from the board and said, "They all turn towards Poot with evil grins on their faces."

"Can I shout as free action," Icarus asked?

"Yeah," Tut said.

"Good," Icarus said as he looked back into his book and began to flip pages.

Poot leaned over to Step and asked, "How much longer do you need."

"I'm out on my turn," Step said as he pulled a cigarette out of its pack.

"Okay," Poot said. "Then I'm charging the closest one." 

"It's your death," Tut said as he looked away from the table with sly smirk. 

"Yeah," Poot said, "but not for long."

"What does that mean?" Tut said as he adjusted for Poot's damage.

"I'm up," Step called.

"Yeah," Tut said, "but what did you mean by that, Poot?"

"I'm a Chicken hawk and bugging out through the south bound window," Step said as he rolled. "And I just landed a natural 20."

"You make out the window," Tut said with a snarl.

"I'm shooting Icarus' barrel," She'rah declared. "Modified 22 to hit."

Tut looked behind his screen and began to work some numbers before he said, "You hit."

"Did the arrow pierce the barrel?" She'rah asked.

Tut worked behind his screen again for a few moments before looking at her over his glasses, "High or low?"

"High," She'rah said with a smile.

"Then yes," Tut said as the dice came to a rest in front of her.

"I'll use my free action here," Icarus interrupted.

Tut sounded surprised, "Oh?"

"Yeah," Icarus said, "I want to look at the ogres and say; I want to say, Hey you big dumb bastards. It's Booms-day."

"Booms-day," Tut said as he looked at him incredulously. "Why -"

"You remember a few sessions back when you told us that Alchemist's Fire is highly combustible and that a flame near it could cause it to explode," Icarus said as he laid down his Player's Handbook, "Well, that barrel I've been carrying around has 31 gallons of Alchemist's Fire in it that we bought back in Erfurt. We agreed that a flask of Alchemist's Fire is 8 oz back at the start of the campaign. So if I do a little bit of math," Icarus said as he began flicking his abacus back and forth, "that means that my barrel is holding 496 flasks of Alchemist's Fire or 496d6 points of damage concentrated on me and splashed onto every square around me for 1 point per flask."

"You just killed yourselves," Tut said with exasperation.

"No, we just chose how we won this fight," Poot said. "Besides She'rah and Step are out of the splash radius so that means the party won."

"I can't believe you guys would go this far just to keep from losing." Tut said as he began clearing the board.

"We're not done yet," Step said, "I've got a toe from every member of our party and I'm heading to Erfurt to raise them."

"Not bad," Tut said, "So are we on for next week."

"Yeah," Poot said as he started packing up, "By the way, are we starting that dungeon of yours?"

"Ganymede's Prison?" Tut said.

"Yeah, that one."

"Sure, if you guys want."

Step coughed and nudged Poot's leg. "Yeah, we want to do that, but we'd like to bring in three more players since it's supposed to be such a challenge."

"Who?"

"I'd like to bring in Biggboy."

"Sure," Tut said. "He's good people."

"And the Master Planner."

"Alright," Tut said as a look of concern grew on his face. "What are you leading up to here, Poot?"

"And I'd like to invite my brother, Charlie."

Tut leaned back in his chair, "So Biggboy, Master Planner, and Charlie. You guys are really taking this seriously, aren't you."

"We figured it's time you graduated," Step said as he lit his cigarette, "and had us at full strength."

"You're talking like you guys weren't trying before."

"We were taking it easy on you," She'rah said as she threw her backpack over her shoulder, "this was only your second campaign."

"But you guys have beat everything I've thrown at you."

"Oh we won," Icarus said, "we just didn't beat everything."

"What's the difference?"

"You'll see next week," The World's Greatest Liar said as he slapped Tut on his shoulder.

Poot stepped outside into the chill breeze of an early January morning and sent the text message he'd saved for three months.
Boys, get ready. We're burning down the mountain next Tuesday. Bring your dice and get ready 'cause Tut said you ain't got a hair on your asses and you ain't shit.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

I Like Series

One of the things that I love doing on the blog is running a series of posts together to explore an idea, but 2016 was kind of a shit year for me doing that. It seems like every time that I would start a series I kept telling myself that I wasn't going to post anything until I had something finished. And wouldn't you know it? Not a damned thing ended up getting published.  

So this is just a little reminder for me. 

I like writing series. They're fun and the only timeline for their completion is the one I put on them. So stop being a dumb-ass and write a fucking series. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

A Semi-Complete List of All d100 Tables from Elfmaids & Octopi

A couple of days ago, in the post So You Like Looking in Sacks, I was talking about +Chris Tamm of Elfmaids & Octopi's fantastic d100 tables. Without question Tamm has a gift for producing these wild, weird tables that always inspire my imagination and push my games into directions that I didn't realize I wanted to go until he got me to try them. The thing is that when exploring his blog it's easy to get overwhelmed - and that's with him producing a pretty solid archive index that will help you get to where you want to go by topic. 

Anyway I got it into my head to index all of his d100 tables so that I can explore them and find them quickly when I need them. The thing is that even after spending a few days working on this project I can promise you that it isn't complete. Tamm is always putting tables into post where you didn't expect them and they're just fantastic. So don't stop exploring him here; instead,  go into his archives and read one of the great role-playing game bloggers out there today.

Enjoy!



2013
d100 Adventure and Dungeon Name Generator
d100 Skyfalls and Everyday Eschatology, Planet Psychon
d100 Strange Lonely Old Houses
d100 Crossroads
d100 Islands
d100 Towers, Part One
d100 Towers, Part Two
d100 Forbidden Mountain Monster Kingdoms
d100 Hauntings? and Recap of the last year
d100 Magic Skulls
Curses! d1000 curses
d100 Border Barriers for Hexes in Psychon
d100 Necromancers
d100 Monster Babies
d100 Forbidden Castles
d100 Strange Encounters in the Graveyard
d100 Strange Graves of Planet Psychon
d100 Spooky and Possibly Deadly Artworks
d100 Strange Trees
d100 Rich Corpse Table
d100 Forgotten Temples and Bleak Ruins
d100 Saucy Pamphlets of Shadel Port
d100 Saucy Posters and Flyers of Shadel Port
d100 Things on a Lonely Moors at Night
d100 What kind of Farm on Planet Psychon
d100 A Funny Thing Happened While the Party Away....
d100 Rival Dungeon Parties
d100 Books of Shadel Port
d100 Dungeon Decor Table - Dress Up Dull Dungeons
d100 Post Crash Space Hab Modules 1
d100 Dungeon Decor Table: Rooms
d100 Magic Dungeon Pies
d200 Random Crap Found Outdoors on Psychon
d100 Wierd Science Fantasy Sidekicks of Psychon

2014
d100 Doomed Immortals
1d100 Evil Kids
d100 Witches
d100 Gangs for Cyberpunk or Superheroes
d100 Kaiju Monster Apocalypses
d100 Necromancer Relics
d100 Strange Things in the Graveyard
d100 Monster death scenes
d100 Mighty Thresholds & Doors of Destiny
d100 Stair, Up and Down in the Redbrick Dungeon
d100 Shonky Deals in Shadelport, Part 1
d100 Big Shonky Deals in Shadelport, Part 2
d100 Post Crash Space Infrastructure Modules, Part 2
d100 Monasteries & Nunneries
d100 Dread Family Secrets
d100 Vehicles, Transport, and Steeds
d100 Doom of the Kingdom
d100 Flesh Pits of the Space Gods, Part 1: Scenery
d100 Flesh Pits of the Space Gods, Part 2: Lifeforms
12d12 Factions For Your Post Crash Mega Space Wreck
d100 Random Strange Crypts and Extra Guardians Tables
d100 Post Crash Space Eco-Hab Modules
d100 Megalith Sites - Remains of the Old Ways
d100 Stone Age Relics
d100 Holy Items
d100 Encounters in Wizard School
d100 Burried Things
d100 Tribes of the Goblin Mine
d100 Rival Parties
d100 Pubs on Planet Psychon
d100 Dungeon Stuff
d100 Crap Found in Goblin Mine
d100 Things to Happen in the Pub
d100 Strange Gateways
d100 Secret Rooms
d100 Anachronistic Encounters for Near that Gateway
d100 Stuff Found on Apocalyptic Roadways
d100 Wasteland Gangs
d100 Wasteland Road Hazards
d100 Carousing Series, Part 1: Down and Dirty Good and Bad Times in the Red Light District
d100 Carousing Series, Part 2: Upper Class Capering and Social Climbing in the Nob Hill District
d100 Carousing Series, Part 3: Study, Research, and Experimentation in the University District
d100 Carousing Series, Part 4: Charity, Prayer, and Contemplation of the Divine in the Holy District
d100 Carousing Series, Part 5: Getting Close to Nature in the Great Outdoors - for Druids, Barbarians and Rangers
d100 Carousing Series, Part 6: Shore Leave (Originally published in 2013)
d100 Carousing Series, Part 7: Dungeon Dwelling Life Style - for Monsters, Prisoners, or the Curious
d100 Carousing Series, Part 8: Underland Explorations - for Non-humans, Lost Fools or the Truly Brave
d100 Underland Series, Part 1: Underland Terrain
Various Tables Underland Series, Part 2: Your Underdark is Soft
Various Tables Underland Series, Part 3: Ogres
Various Tables Underland Series, Part 5: Orc Tribes of the Underland Wastes
Various Tables Underland Series, Part 6: New Hazards in the Underland
Various Tables Underland Series, Part 7: Outer Chasms Encounters
Various tables Underland Series, Part 8: Citadels (MUST READ THIS MASSIVE TABLE FILLED POST)
d100 Off Duty Monsters Antics, Part 1
d100 Off Duty Monsters Antics, Part 2
d100 What is Dungeon Boss Doing Now?
d100 What is that Master of Magic Up To?
d100 From the Waters Deep
d100 Dungeon Prep School Encounters

2015
d100 Loves Gone Wrong
d100 Childhood Tragedies Series, Part 1: Villager Folk
d100 Childhood Tragedies Series, Part 2: Noble Folk
d100 Childhood Tragedies Series, Part 3: Urban Folk
d100 Childhood Tragedies Series, Part 4: Mercantile Class
d100 Childhood Tragedies Series, Part 5: Savages
d100 Childhood Tragedies Series, Part 6: High Barbarians
d100 Real Estate in Shadelport
d100 Lone Roadwar Drivers
d100 Dungeon Vice
d100 Tragic Old Murder Hobos
d100 New Road Hazards
d100 Unearthly Powers (Two d100 Tables Here)
Murder Highway Series, Part 1: Complete Pit Stops 
Murder Highway Series, Part 2: Lost Cargoes
Murder Highway Series, Part 3: Menaces & Moon Mission Madness
Murder Highway Series, Part 4: Common Folk
d100 Hitch Hikers of the Badlands
d100 Pit Stop Weirdos
d100 Druid Eggs and Things
d100 No Man's Land Series, Part 1: Whats in that Hole?
d100 No-Man's Land Series, Part 2: Encounters
d100 No Man's Land Series, Part 3: Strange Encounters In or Under No Man’s Land
d100 Things Found on Monsters Tabletops or in Lairs
d100 Angry Mobs
d100 Village Idiots
d100 Cops and Law Officers for Roadwar
d100 Rustic Rural Folk
d100 Stuff Hidden in a Humanoids Bed
d100 Stuff Hidden in a Monsters Nest
d100 What's in that Goblin's Sack?
d100 Petty Ghosts and Hauntings
d100 What's in the Dungeon Guard's Footlocker?
d100 Wonder What's in the Well?
d100 Roads and Travel Conditions
Various Tables: Dungeon Rush Shanty Towns
d100 Dungeon Seals to Trap Heroes
d100 Familiar Problems and Subplots 
d100 Wasteland Heroes
d100 Rent-A-Murder-Hobo
d100 Slumburban Bogans
d100 Crystal Zone Cornucopia at Last
d100 Magic Umbrellas
d100 Shanty Town Street Encounters
d100 Unwanted Things from the Back of Magic Shop
d100 Shanty Town Problems Revisited

2016
d100 Strange Wells
d100 What's in a Bugbear's Backpack
d100 What's in an Orc's Satchel
d100 What's in a Hobgoblin's War Trunk
d100 Gruesome Deaths and Punishments
d100 Humanoid Gang Loot
d100 How I Was Wronged by that Villain
d100 Magical Under Garments
d100 Random Strange Crypt Table
d100 Everyday Deaths
d100 Gothic Dungeon Dressings
d100 Colossal Dungeon Dressings
d100 Catacomb Dungeon Dressings
d100 Petty Undead
d100 Strange Memorials
d100 Strange Sarcophagi
d100 Strange Hermits
d100 Dungeon Vermin (revised little guys)
d100 Petty Bunker Problems and Gossip
d100 Magical Farm Animals
d100 Janitor Store Room & Locker Content Table Guest Starring Chad
d100 What's in that Clown Sack?
d100 What's in that Wizard's Sack!
d100 What is in that Cultist Hiding Spot?
d100 Lonley Ruins
d100 Mildly Suspicious Village Happenings (+more hell stuff)
d100 Weird Village Encounters
d100 Urban Rental Nightmares in Shadelport
d100 The Village is Rampant with Chaos
d100 Petty Lairs
d100 Super Hero Love Life Gone Wrong
d100 Sidekick Woes
d100 More Marvel love gone wrong
d100 Homes for the Wee Folk
d100 Quests to Xor
d100 Holes in Xor + New type of corridor
d100 Missions on Xor
d100 Nice Village Encounters
d100 Prison Carousing
d100 Rations
d100 Mobile Citadels
d100 Wonders of Xor
d100 Flotsam and Jetsam
d100 Villagers Mistake Adventurers For....
d100 Madmen and Their Monsters
d100 Fun Time for Evil Lords
d100 To The Court of the Overlord!
d100 Necro Mutations
d100 Poems and Why Your Bards are Lame
d100 Fairground Attractions
d100 Evil Commoner Secrets
d100 Strange Dreams in the Witch House
d100 Boulders
d100 Strange Little Shops I had Never Seen Before....
d100 Empty Houses In Shadelport
d100 Things Off Duty Devils Do
d100 Street Urchins of Shadelport
d100 Roadkill
d100 Petty Wands or Cantrips
d100 Blasphemous Books of the Black Library
d100 Kids of Nanny Binx for GoatQuest
d100 Evil Frontier Farms
d100 Urban Structures in Ruins
d100 Wasteland Compound Structures
d100 Space Wreck Loot
d100 Kobolds for Sale
d100 High Tech Bugs
d100 Greater Hauntings for Weird War One
d100 Reptilian Mutation
d100 Diabolic Mutations
d100 Village Carousing
d100 Whats in a Giant's Sack?
d100 Inhabitants of Strange Old Wilderness Shacks
d100 Chaos Goats
d100 Dungeon Boss True Love
d100 Ancient Dungeon Machine Rooms
d100 Wasteland Death Cults
d100 Krampus Pranks
d100 Philosophers, Part 1
d100 Goblin Gifts
d100 Elf Gifts
d100 Tainted Elfborn

2017
d100 Mystery Virgins

Monday, January 9, 2017

Cowardly Dungeon Master!

Last night a friend of mine sent me a link to an article about Hearthstone, The RPG Scrollbars: Roles We Take, Roles We Choose, that he thought I would like and that might actually get me to play the damned game with him. While the article didn't get me onto the Hearthstone bandwagon it did get me to thinking about the way that I tend to run my role-playing games. In particular this section stood out:
". . . It doesn’t help that most RPGs, rightly or wrongly, don’t have much in the way of balls when it comes to restricting the player character in any way. Compare, say, Baldur’s Gate 2 with Dragon Age 2 – partly because it’s a good comparison, partly because it wouldn’t be a good week if I didn’t annoy someone on the Codex. I’m thinking in terms of magic specifically. Baldur’s Gate 2 largely takes place in the city of Amn, and one of the cardinal rules there is ‘no magic without a license’. Dragon Age 2 takes place in a city controlled by Templars, whose job it is to keep mages under control, and not without some reason. Magic isn’t just whizzy-whizzy-bang-bang, but linked to demonic possession and all kinds of other health hazards.  
Despite this, being a mage – an illegal, ‘apostate’ mage at that – doesn’t mean a damn thing. The guards will completely overlook fireballs in the street, you solving your problems with lightning bolts and all kinds of other stuff like that, even before you get to a point where you’re important enough to turn a blind eye. It’s a continuation of one of Dragon Age’s fundamental lore issues, that magic is meant to be rare and special and dangerous, but fuck that because players want to be/fight mages.  
The trouble is that in not giving magic users at least some sense of threat or actual sense of being under the thumb, who cares? Baldur’s Gate 2 meanwhile made being a spellcaster a problem. Break out the elements and some very tough wizards would show up to impolitely request you not do that, with your three options being a) apologise and stop, b) buy a damn license, or c) prove yourself too powerful for them to stop. The latter especially is one of the most satisfying things you can do in that game. Even before that though, that tiny mechanical demand to keep the metaphorical magic wand holstered made a big difference to both mages and the setting . . ." (Cobbett).
When I first started playing Dungeons & Dragons I had in mind that in my game world that magic was a relatively rare thing; that to see a wizard casting a spell or cleric performing some miracle was something the average person didn't experience. But once it came time for the game to actually start I couldn't bring myself to tell my players no. I didn't even consider pushing back against their wanton use of magic in the world and as a result my idea became just as meaningless as the illegal, apostate mage in Dragon Age 2. 

What I should have done instead of allowing them to find a powerful mage every time they went looking for one was to make it difficult. I should have made finding new magical spells something that required them to actually undergo deadly challenges to find and master. I should have made being a wizard something special that they would talk about for years afterwards instead of it just being yet another thing that was.

In the years since that first campaign I've attempted to make the narrative choices I make in my games more meaningful by sticking with them even when it constrains my players. Now that doesn't mean that I eliminate their opportunities to make choices, only that if I tell them magic is rare in the world that their use of magic will be treated as something unexpected and dangerous - like when a train derails or an explosion happens unexpectedly nearby.



Works Cited

Cobbett, Richard. "The RPG Scrollbars: Roles We Take, Roles We Choose." Rock, Paper, Shotgun. https://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2016/02/01/what-hearthstone-gets-right-about-roleplay/. Accessed January 8, 2017.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Don't Make People Roll for a DC 10 or Less Checks, You Dicks.

A check with a Difficulty Class (DC) of 10 or less is not something that you should be making your players roll. The DC 10 represents an activity that is done regularly that poses no real challenge to your average person conducted under normal circumstances. A DC that is set at less than 10 represents something that an average person could do with little to no trouble, like changing the channel on the remote or picking up a glass of coke.  

Now I know that to some of my regular readers that this probably shouldn't have needed addressing but you would be amazed at how many comments I've read today while I was researching wilderness survival where people kept championing the "Roll every DC, no matter how low," line of thought. And I get it, they've got no one who will play in their boring ass games so they want us to have the same experience. 

Don't make people roll for things they should automatically succeed at doing. It slows down the game. It makes you a boring, unimaginative Dungeon Master. Forget that noise and keep the game moving.



In the This Will Surprise No One Category

Funko Pop figures will not survive a four year old boy's "gentle" playing.

Last year I started buying some of the Funko Pop figures whenever something particularly interesting would come into the store. I've traded a couple of them for others and a friend of mine actually gave me the Vault-Tec Funko Bobble-head that came as a LootCrate exclusive a while back. Now I'm not what I would call a collector of the Funko stuff - more just someone who picks one up occasionally. Anyway, I got up this morning and came into the living room to find my wonderful little son playing with two of the Pop figures. Well, what was left of them at any rate.

Ah well, he's 4 and toys are made for playing with, not sitting up on a shelf.


Friday, January 6, 2017

Tales from the Yawning Portal

More like tales from your boring-ass uncle who can't get over the fact that he's not playing high school football anymore.


Seriously, I'm not saying that I could do better but it is ridiculous that Wizards of the Coast expects us to buy yet another rehash of previously released material.


Update 1/7/2017

I've thought more about this and I realized that the reason why I'm so dissatisfied with this latest product announcement is that Wizards of the Coast has proven itself capable of providing us with quality reinterpretations and imaginings of classic adventures throughout this edition. So it feels like they're taking a short cut here and not giving us everything that we deserve as consumers. 

Listen, I know that they have a plan and it has been working throughout this edition but I really am at a point where I just want something set in another world than the Forgotten Realms. I would love to see them begin exploring Eberron, Dragonlance, Dark Sun,  or ~places hand over heart~ Greyhawk again. They proved with D&D 4e that they were fully capable of putting out excellent setting books that would rival the D&D 2e stuff; and now that they've shown themselves so capable throughout this edition it's time to do that again. 

As of right now I don't see any reason to pick up the Yawning Portal as I have all of the original adventures it is based on. Of course if it hits a really good sale I might pick it up because I'm a fucking collector who's been steadily purchasing all of 5e since it's release and that's what collectors do. 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

So You Like Looking in Sacks?

Against the Giants cover by Bill Willingham

Last night I was reading the article What's in the Bag from the latest edition of Dragon+ and it occurred to me that the Giant's Bag is just filled with random, useless shit. It got me to wondering if this was something that began back in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons days or if it was a relatively new phenomenon so I took a look at module G-1-2-3, Against the Giants. Here's the entry:

. . . Giant's Bag Contents: There will be numerous occasions when bags and chests will be searched by the party. The contents of these containers may be determined randomly by using the table hereafter. The number of  items in the bag or other container is simply determined by rolling five four-sided dice (5d4) to obtain a random number of items between 5 and 20 . . .
                  Giant's Bag Contents Table:
Die Roll      ______ Item In Bag or Other Container ______
01 - 03       old axe blade for use as hand chopper
04 - 17       boulders, small (1-4)
18 - 19       bowl and spoon, tin or pewter, battered
20 - 21       brass item, various and sundry, bent
22 - 23       caltrops, iron, large (1-6)
24 - 25       cheese, hard, slightly moldy and stinky
26 - 30       cloak, shabby, wool or hide
31 -32        comb and hairpins, bone
33 - 40       cooking pot, iron
41 - 43       horn, drinking
44 - 47       knife, skinning
48 - 53       linens, various, soiled, patched
54 - 60       meat, haunch of
61 - 64       money, copper (100 - 400 pieces)
65 - 67       money, silver (20 - 80 pieces)
68 - 69       money, gold (10 - 40 pieces)
70 - 76       pelt, fur, worthless and mangy
77 - 83       rope, 10' - 120 ' coil, very strong
84 - 85       salt, small bag or box of
86 - 90       sandals, old
91 - 98       skin, water or wine, full
99 - 00       teeth or tusks, animal, no ivory value (1 -8)
It is suggested that no item be duplicated; roll again if a duplicate item is indicated by any given roll . . . (pg 2 - 3, Gygax)

So it seems that giant sacks have always been filled with crap but rarely have they been filled with anything that could remotely be considered interesting. This seems like something that +Chris Tamm could easily remedy with one of his d100 charts that he's always putting out on Elfmaids & Octopi.  Actually, now that I think about it you could make a pretty epic list just by going through his d100 lists and taking an item from each one until you've made up a giant's sack filled with such bizarre fair that it'll have your players talking about where that giant had been and what it had done for days afterwards. 

You know what? 

I kind of want to make a giant's sack table filled with useless shit now.




Update 1 - 8 -17

+Chris Tamm came by and left a link to his d100 Giant's Sack Table! Check it out:




Works Cited 
Gygax, Gary. Against the Giants. TSR Games, 1981. pgs 2 - 3. Print. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Book Shelf: City of the Chasch by Jack Vance


The City of the Chasch is the first novel in the Jack Vance's Planet of Adventure tetralogy and it's also the first novel I've ever read by the author. Having hear of Vance's reputation for years before picking up this story I had high hopes for what was to come, but the first 16 pages almost did me in. Vance begins writing the conversation his introductory characters are having in what I recognize as a Robert Heinlein style only he clearly doesn't have Heinlein's ability for delivering a quick paced and witty dialogue. Thankfully Vance quickly abandons the style for ground where he's clearly more comfortable. 


The lead character of the Planet of Adventure series is Adam Reith - a quasi-combination of scientist, engineer, and Green Beret - who crash lands on the newly discovered planet of Tschai and is promptly captured by a bunch of savage humans who mysteriously live on the planet. It's here that we meet one of his two long time companions in Traz Onmale. Traz is the leader of the tribe Reith has been captured by and the two slowly but surely develop a report. Soon, however, events transpire to make their report Traz's downfall and the two are forced to flee from the tribe and make their escape across the wilds of Tschai. It's in their escape across Tschai that the adventure really begins in earnest as Reith meets his third companion, Ankhe at afram Ancho (simply referred to as Ancho by Reith and Traz), and then encounters a wide variety of aliens deadly wildlife. 

Vance's writing really shines in the scenes where Reith, Traz, and Ancho are making their way through the wilds and encountering the early dangers of Taschai. Every new encounter feels familiar and yet alien enough to remind the reader that Reith isn't on just another version of earth but on a whole new world. It's a clear sign of a master working at his craft. Which leads me to the other thing that I really love about this book, and about the series as a whole, and that is how Vance skillfully blends the use of futuristic technology with medieval weaponry. In the same scene where you'll see aliens flying about in sky cars he'll also have sword wielding human beings and gun totting bandits. It's a juxtaposition that serves him well and that makes these wild moments where Reith is racing to save himself or one of his companions all the more exciting. His exploration of the Chasch city and his revenge on the bandits who control the city of Pera exemplify why this juxtaposition works so well. 

Overall the City of the Chasch was an excellent introduction to Vance and a very enjoyable book. I cannot recommend it highly enough. I do have some advice to offer if you plan on picking it up; though, instead of purchasing the four individual books in the series save some money and buy the omnibus like I did. 

Also, check out this bitching cover without the text on it. Not at all how I pictured the Blue Chasch but it's pretty fucking awesome all the same. 


Let's Make Something Challenging Together

The more that I've thought about creating a 30 Day Challenge list the more that I've become serious about actually doing it; and a...