Monday, June 18, 2012

Tabletop Recipes: The Secret Ingredient

This is want it takes to complete an extensive, years-long campaign for T&T. As opposed to boxed sets and a handful of books.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tabletop Recipes: The Bloody Beef of Battle

Or the Beet Broth of Battle if you're a vegetarian.

For a game that has a lot of readers who complain about its over-simplistic combat system,  it's amazing how self-limiting approaches the approaches to fixing the problem can be. Once in a while, I do get to watch other people run T&T, which I do with unrestrained delight, because the game attracts the best storytellers ever. Combat does seem a touchy area, especially when the GM is fairly new and the players at the table are straight up D&D players and rather uncompromising towards the game that makes That Game look rather silly. So here's some tips to serve up melee. Note that I've discussed a couple of the points before, at this very blog, so be patient long term readers (except Bennet, you don't have to).

Break the phases of combat up. One of the best things about Our Game is that strike rank, initiative are mostly irrelevant. There are three parts to every combat turn; Magic, Missile and then Hand-to-Hand. One reading of the rules is that this is only an administrative separation. I decided years ago, that I'd do it different than that. Each phase of the turn gets its own spotlight. Someone cast a spell and a target gets zapped, the effect or damage is calculated immediately. Someone let's fly an arrow, another gets an arrow in the leg, damage is incurred. Don't forget GM that a little dramatic narrative on your part really pulls the players into the scene, and makes the up-close melee more anticipated. Now the Hand-to-Hand portion can be given as much detail the GM wants, but I find doing the math quickly and coming up with a colorful description for the players works better than anything. Which brings me to the next point, portion size.

Illustration by John Armbruster. Not to be reused without his permission.

For the most part, keep combats quick. In less than four turns, the delvers need to know if they're winning, losing or at a draw. This keeps the session lively. People should not be going for soda and chips during combat. This is the major difference between Our Game and That Game. When violence is going on this should be the most important thing in the players' mind, if for nothing else than their PC can be killed with just a bunch of Spite damage if the opponent has enough dice. If you see one of your players getting bored in combat, you're doing something wrong. And it probably has to do with pacing, not the mechanic of the game system.

Now in some cases, like as a series wrap up, long running battles should go on. I am just saying that if you as the GM are calling for "Magic" phase of attack four times in a row, and no one is coming up with clever strategies to optimize their survival, someone is getting bored. If nothing else, have your monsters (err combatants) start taking cover and developing kill zones. This will get the audiences attention. And it makes a better scene for the playing of it.

There are ways to get sessions of purely combat game mechanic driven, but this a gimmick, and shouldn't be the point of every session. At least not if you're playing T&T. I'll get more into this onion later.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Tabletop Recipes: Gravity Salad

I don't know how well Avalon Hill's version of Runequest ever sold, but their covers of Adventurers doing the traveling bit of the quest sold me hook, line and sinker. Forget the monsters on the shields. The dragon snarling from its pile of gold and booty? Been there, done that; got the +2 bastard sword and mithril-scaled tee-shirt. Forget the Otis scenes of combats full of devastating magic and horrific monster body parts, like tongues and talons. Nope I like the well groomed Saxon-armored female atop a horse, with a donkey tied to it, looking out onto some salt plains with mountains looming in the distance. At that point, my own personal brand of T&T would become about the tasks involved in getting from point A to point B, maybe some would say the torture of it, as well the trials and treasure at the heart of it.

I think about my travels in life, from misadventures to deployments in the Army to now regular vacation trips, and this bears out the truth of my philosophy above. What mostly comes to mind is the little mishaps and obstacles getting there, not so the being there. Traveling one time from eastern Romania to Atlanta, Georgia to meet a friend flying in from Fairbanks, Alaska, the most memorable part of the trip was a ten-seat airport bar counter in Aviano Italy where I ended up staying the night because I got pick-pocketed by a chickpea that I had spurned earlier. Luckily I still had my American Armed Forces ID card and an expired US Passport in my coat pocket, just no money until my grandparents could overnight mail a bank card from my credit union in Texas to the hotel in Atlanta. Luckily I had enough cash in my front pocket, a traveler's trick against pick-pockets, to cover my tab and just had to wait for the flight out at 6:15am. My credit card company would get me a new card by the end of the month at my address in Germany. How exactly was I going to get from the airport in Atlanta to the hotel? Well, it wouldn't be the first time I had to panhandle for subway change. It would actually be the second. Boy, bar stools were not designed for sleeping on but they're better than boarding area benches.

The environment should define the scenario, or sets of scenarios, to help the Delvers get the feel of the place. What's being a desert without sunburn and avoiding scorpions? Ever tramped through a swamp without heat exhaustion and avoiding water moccasins? How about been in a snow storm and  stepped into a puddle of freezing water hidden by the thinnest layer of snow and very thin ice? Never? Okay, how about that time you were headed to the mall and that red minivan cut you off and stole your parking space? You had to park all the over by J.C. Pennys when you were trying to get to the cinema almost a football field away. These are pretty dramatic moments in the advent of our days. They should be for your characters as well.  The resulting ailments, from frostbite for Lumbering Jack in the Birch Lands to Shivering Fever for Confucius Rogue in the jungles of Djung, have made my player groups feel they have really gotten there when they arrived at the entrance of tunnel finally.

The starting point itself can be quite fun. It's not just showing up that makes getting into that remote and unfriendly spot you want to visit. One of the places where a Kopfy tunnel, that's a dungeon to you D&Dheads, differ from the Ken St Andre tunnel is the entrance. Mind you Ken's are great, his dungeons are challenges set by God-Wizards to mere punkass adventurers, so they are floating in the sky, or massive doors carved into the side of mountains with toll collectors waiting in front for entrance. But for there's this little adventure series with a protagonist named "Indiana Jones" a couple of you dear readers might have heard of. One of the hallmarks of this collection of little-known films is the difficulty in finding the treasure, and perils of the tunnels around it, is usually very hard to get to. Mind you all, I was into pulp adventure a decade before Raiders of the Lost Arc was written. So I like this part of any tunnelcrawl to be a task in and of itself. From puzzles as to how to find the entrance, the ever popular sunset or sunrise shooting through a gem onto a map; to my favorite gravity salad.

Gravity Salad is a specialty of mine, so I'd like to go a bit more into it. This concoction is known by anyone who has ever climbed a tree to look for landmarks in a heavily forested area or has ever been spelunking. I not only place entrances to my tunnels on the sides of the walls to a geologic sinkhole, I'll design the whole complex to be a series of gravity challenges that rock-climbers and acrobats won't shrug off. Ever been inside a pyramid? Not many stairs built into the original construction. And my own pyramids are even more fun, and not just hiding gold. They've been turned upside down because of a feud by their builder and the God of Madness. And you guys really should see my Gravity Salad masterpiece, The Loop, it is the actual temple to the God of Madness (Yes his name is Loopo, Ken). Ask Jherri the Great, Alanthea, the Clever, and Garnash, the Singer, about my lovely little side dish. Throw in the weight of gold and your players could very well miss the giant ant coming from the other direction.

As to the subway station in Atlanta? The hotel had free shuttle service from the airport. The subway from the airport though, did help us get to the downtown historic areas.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Tabletop Recipes: Holding Off On the Pickles and Ketchup

While some GMs are the master of the improvisational game, I've never been one. I've done it before and even sold two copies of the 5th edition T&T after doing so, and started a regular gaming group from it. But that was back in 1986. I was damn-near homeless and was all-but wearing a sign saying "Will GM for food." Really, I had a job and an apartment. But I had some transportation issues and the city bus system where I lived could only get me to six miles of my gaming store, so by the time that I got there I looked ruffled to say the least.

But as I said, I've rather gone out of my way not to do improvisation. Most the time I work from notebooks that can fit in my shirt pocket, which looks casual enough. Woe to anybody who ever reads through one of these books, for every casual line of an outline for that days adventure is about 10 pages of background, including calendars for said setting of events going on around them. So back to the derelict metaphor, I am that crazy guy who keeps scribbled notes on the voices in my head.

Often these days, when some of the gamer audience see a GM walk up with only a pad of paper, a dice bag and maybe the small T&T 7plus rules book, many assume that I am just making it up as I go along, so suddenly I start getting "request" like I am working at a Mongolian BBQ. Maybe it's the absence of a minivan full of miniatures and a GM shield.
"Ooo, are we pirates?" Says the mom feeding her kids at the table.
"How about some dinosaurs?" Says the guy who needs to get out more, looking down the mom's pirate wench shirt. "Zombies are cool."
"I like Star Wars!" Chimes in the dude wearing an Iron Man tee-shirt.

And then the poor gang is stuck with the milieu that I already had worked up for them. And in my opinion, the better for it.

I seem to be open to suggestion even when I take the time to type up and publish my material. There is often the "special requester" that occurs during working relationships with artists or potential writers even through casual correspondence about our shared hobby.

I was buying artwork from one guy who saw a copy of the fanzine of where my Rjinn the Swords Woman was featured. He asked to read it. After 30 seconds of him flipping through a couple pages, decided I should write up his version of Alice in Wonderland. I spent 40 minutes politely nodding and not buying the man a beer, while I had two, while he outlined his trilogy. When he noticed that I wasn't taking notes, he took his check for $300 for his artwork and slipped off.

Then there are the emailers, a couple of guys appearing every month from an unknown, and unlimited, pool who are just bursting with ideas. Apparently though they do not have enough time to write up their own ideas-- probably something to do with the time spent those thoughts emailing hordes of people instead. Many are the "Short and Sweet" sorts. One or two sentenced blurbs appear from the ether into my mailbox. Usually bits like "Flying Zombies With Sonar(sic). Think about it for WHAP." And then there is the "Voluminous Texts" gaggle, this number is growing. Pages and pages of effort thrown out there with the line "If you can use this." While these ideas, whether expressed long or short, are often brilliant and great, they aren't mine. And especially in the case of the folks throwing pages and pages at me, it would not take too much to complete that work in a form that wouldn't scare away most casual readers and publish something themselves.

Mind you, I don't mind people sharing their ideas with me. I work with many by providing feedback on their work. I even co-author with a few. I just don't compose for others.

So when you sit down at my counter don't ask me for catch-up for that meaty idea at my falafal stand.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Tabletop Recipes: The Mis En Place GM

"The first reference of Cylon I can find is the that he is the Son-in-Law of Theagenes of Megara. The dictator, I use the Latin word as opposed to "tyrant" which the Greeks used because of the slight difference in connotations in the English language, tried to have Cylon installed as the dictator of Athens. When the man seized control of the city there was no general uprising by the city-state's population. Instead a prominent leader of town, Megacles, organized a counter-push and Cylon and his supporters ended up being dragged from holy sites to be slaughtered in the streets and left in the gutter.
Still, the bad feelings around the sacrilegious conduct of the city's "protectors" rubbed many of the Athenians the wrong way. This would lead to the up and coming Athenian Draco to instill a set of laws that many would find harsh as well as intrusive..."

The little blurb opening up this post is the start to a paper that I was writing in '94 working towards a History degree from the University of Maryland. And on a warm spring evening in '98, it was laying open on my "working desk." I probably was reading it out of nostalgia for the Glory Days of the Service and sorting through the collection of paper-provable accomplishments I had achieved.

One particular Friday night, I was sitting around with my new neighbors in Cleveland, Ohio and complaining about the disappointment I was having as a substitute teacher to them. They were stoned, I was half drunk and we all role-played. To cheer me up, Lumbering Jack suggested that I "do this T&T thing" for him, after he got the burgers and cobs of corn ready for the picnic table. So I had twenty minutes to build a world back in my efficiency, and only a 23 year-old book at that time, that I had bought at a very high price, compared to his library of AD&D books scattered throughout his house.

Jonathon liked me, and continues to do so, for reasons that I don't know. More so than today,  I was angry and bitter back then.  I think that he wanted me to feel good about something going on in my life. He and others would pull me out of chatrooms to come BBQ and party those weekends when someone nicknamed "Shippy" would be imploring me to stay on-line and discuss this or that detail of the politics of the community surrounding Our Game. He hid it behind a challenge to show him how T&T wasn't D&D, or more politely put, That Game.

When the GM presents his campaign world to his players, anybody who isn't a straight-up mindless 4th Edition Zombie (DnDHead) knows that it takes a little bit of work. But the GM doesn't really have to work hard finding his voice or his material. It's probably already lying around all over the place. I grabbed a notebook and wrote down the names "Cylon" and "Draco" and quick notes like "minotaur MR100" "Healing Feeling necklace" "Buzzsaw trap" and "undead Wizard 1-5 spells STR 100."

For the next 3 and a half hours, 30 minutes mostly wolfing down a burger and potato salad and walking through the character generation process, LumberingJack, SeaShelly (his wife) and a guy named Sal, played T&T. Adventurers newly arrived to Athens when Sal's best friend Cylon wrote a note asking for their help in establishing order in his new regime. And when Sal's PC, Horakles, said "We're here to help out your king, Cylon." to a gate-guard the hook was set. They were arrested and taken to the city's strong man Draco, who was running things. And to be allowed to leave the city the delvers had to arrest or kill a Wizard who had taken refuge in the Temple of Hades. Anybody else sent in had not come out.

LumberingJack and SeaShelly still play T&T. They'd later be some of the main players of my 7th edition playtest campaign along with Peryton and Em. 

The reason I mention all this is lead into the topic of GMing a good game in my view. This first ingredient is "Willingness to play on short notice." And though I'd like to claim that T&T enables impromptu sessions, but in reality any good GM of any system that is willing can pull together an adventure even when a little surprised with a request to. So the first ingredient is the GM is things on his mind.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Strange Kin #9.2

The Toadie
Stats are the same as the Urook in the T&T rules book.

Like the froglin, they have "Snap Tongues" which can strike out three times there body lengths and grapple up to 1/4 of their own ST. Toadies tend to not be very social outside of their own siblings and off-spring. They fare a little better away from water than the frog-kin. They do trade with other amphibious Kindred, and sometimes selected land-dwellers, after a very long period to get acquainted with them.

Most of the toad-kin tend to be Warriors, but there are indeed Wizards, Rogues, Paragons and whatnot.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Strange Kin #9.1

The Froglin
ST x1/2, CN x1/2, DX x1, SP x3, IN x1, LK x1, CH x1, WZ x1, Hgt x1/3, Wgt x1/2

Found along the wilder and wetter areas of the Known World as well as in parts unknown, the humanoids can be as civilized as any Kin if a little alien to most land dwellers. They are amphibious and do not fare well being in drier areas for too long. They have "Snap Tongues" which can strike out three times there body lengths and grapple up to 1/4 of their own ST.

Many Froglin communities maintain ties with the Wizards Guild in city-states like Fel Sharas or Appo. More decadent cultures, like around the Wyrd of Peakvale, have their covens of witches and warlocks (Wizards) who worship dark and exotic gods-- at least to King Hobbletoe's standard.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Strange Kin #9

 The Amazingly Everywhere Froglins

From trees to deserts, and especially in swamps as well as around gardens the frog and the toads of our world are everywhere. So for the Nearing-The-End-Of-The-Blog-Event selections I am going to highlight my amphibian Kindred. I've had an amorphous link in my mind between these creatures and goblins which I might delve more into as I type, I'm not sure. And certain things will be coming out in future issues of Trollzine, so I won't go into them here.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Strange Kin #8

The Vegg
ST x2, CN xd, DX x2/3, SP x2/3, IN x1, LK x1, CH x1/2, WZ x1/2, Hgt x3, Wgt x2

Humanoids made up entirely of plant matter. Like a Living Statue, they too can function as any other player-Kindred. These walking and talking vegetables like to spend most of their time away from places where the dwellers like to build a lot of fires, so that rules out most cities or even most Speaking Peoples' settlements. Because of this their interaction tends to with the most primitive of Kindred.

Their settlements tend to look like irregular orchards, as they tend to like to maintain plots for themselves and their family members.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Strange Kin #7

This one goes out to CCrabb, err Chrissi. It just happens to be lucky number seven, which is appropriate.

The Crab-Kin
ST x(2d), CN x(2d), DX x(2d3), SP x(2d3), IN x1, LK x1, CH x1/2, WZ x1, Hgt x(d3), Wgt x(2d3)

No one is not quite sure if this group of humanoids is one Kindred or not. But they're everywhere in the Tidal lands, all sharing exoskeletons and crab-claws for at least two of their appendages (many, the luckier ones, have four arms). Their attitudes and dispositions depend on them and their social environment.  Some have adapted ways of surviving in the Crud, others haven't. Some are technologically advanced, others are quite primitive.

But what they all share is a natural armor of 8 points. Type restrictions, if any, is dependent on the GM's whims.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Strange Kin #5 follow up, err 5.1... err ...?

I have Brian Penn, to thank for this one. In a reply to my Clam-head post he said,  "...For my style of T&T gaming, I would further mutate clam-heads and take away "humanoid" from their description. The shells would have fluted opening from which pseudopods extend to manipulate their surroundings. Imagine when a clam-head opens up its shell to more closely examine a rare find or "open-up" among trusted friends."

Well I certainly cannot get over my cute little humanoid Clam-heads, they were too integral part of "bi-pedal-centric," to use a angle on Gygax-speak, Glow* campaign. But now they have cousins.

The Deep One (Clammoid)
ST x2, CN x4, DX x1/2, SP x1/4, IN x1, LK x1, CH x1, WZ x1, Hgt x1/3, Wgt x3

Resembling regular giant clams, which are a part of the fauna of the Tidal Lands, Deep Ones hide their pseudopods to mask their mobility. They are sentient and form communities for mutual-protection. They have the same ability to shed the Crud as their cousins.

They trade with and have an affinity towards the Clam-heads, whom they view like the favorite sons in their mollusk family. The Clam-heads for their part refer to them as "Deep Ones" or "the Wise," because of their knowledge of the deeper waters of the post-apocalyptic seas of the world.

This Kin can be any Type they choose. Most prefer to be Warriors because it augments their natural 3d armor (remember TARO).

*"Glow World" isn't exactly my Glow campaign, but both are derived from my same set of notes. Besides I needed a bell or whistle to liven up the article.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Strange Kin #6

Still hanging out in the post-apocalyptic world. 

The Dog-face
ST x11/2, CN x2, DX x1, IN x3/4, LK x1 1/2*, CH x1, WZ x1/2, SP x2, Hgt x3/4, Wgt x1

The canine humanoid is common as humans in the wasted cityscapes of the world. Many are wild bands of hunters, others still work for, if not along side, their former masters. Their keen smell and ultra-sonic hearing grants them bonuses from ambushes.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Strange Kin #5

Every now and then I get to run a post-apocalyptic setting of mine using TAG rules, which are basically my heavily house-ruled T&T. Now while most After-the-Nuclear-Holocaust gamers are all about mixing and matching various parts from different species onto a single character, I liked coming up with distinctive Kin. I figured I'd delve into some of the more memorable Kindred. I have to admit, I always was a Kamandi fan.

The Clam-head
ST x1/2, CN x3, DX x1, SP x2*, IN x1, LK x1, CH x1, WZ x1, Hgt x1/3, Wgt x1/3

These knee-high humanoids live along the riverbanks of both the sludge-streams as well as any remaining fresh water sloughs. Like the Froglins, they are amphibious. Unlike the other they can tolerate high levels of the Crud. For every three days Clam-heads spend heavily contaminated areas, they spend one days to shed their outermost shell layers, and calcified outer skin. Their movement advantage is in muddy areas, when on ground or fully underwater, their SP is only x1.

Clam-head society has kept the Tidal Lands somewhat settled with outposts of civilization. And because they are rather hard to eat, even the Maku-Maku will often trade with them before trying to eat them.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Strange Kin #4.3

The Monkey
ST x3/4, CN x1, DX x1, SP x3, IN x1, LK x2, CH x1, WZ x1, Hgt x1/3, Wgt x1/3
The Ape Kindred may resemble any ape or monkey species but endowed with speaking ability. They generally take the role that the hobb does in human cultures, or the piltdowner in ogrish society.

In Appo and surrounding areas the monkeys have their own special deity known as Monkey,  also called "the Monkey God" and "the First of Monkeys," and get more than a little amusement at The Great Ape cult and its followers.

They can be any Type that is allowed in a campaign setting. They are particularly adept at being cat burglars whatever their Type is. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Strange Kin #4.2

The Rilla 
ST x(2d2), CN x(2d3), DX x1, SP x(2d2), IN x3/4, LK* x11/2, CH x1, WZ x1, Hgt x2, Wgt x3

Note that what one considers a rilla often calls itself an ape, while calling bigger ape individuals "Rilla" and any smaller apes "Chimps" or "Monkeys." They are definitely taller than an adult human and tend to be amazingly diverse in their physical abilities within their own Kindred. It is commonly saif that this is because the Great Ape, the supreme, and sometimes the only, Ape God blesses certain individuals for staying true to the ways of "Apality" (being a true ape). Whatever in the world that means is up to whoever is peddling it.

Many human-like Kin view the rilla as something akin to a wood giant: in truth things aren't so simple. Rillas are believed to be a bit more feral than chimps, but the same percentage of them live in civilized settlements as chimps, even more than monkeys. They are definitely a bit more in touch with the baser side of themselves than most apes. Emotions and violence are a part of their daily life, and most have few ambitions beyond being a strong arm for a leader that they respect. But not all; intellectuals come from established rilla families, usually becoming generals or warlords in the societies around them.

Rillas can be any Type that suits them, but mostly like to be Warri

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Strange Kin #4.1

First things first, and thanks Paul Ingrassia for the reminder. My apes are as evolved as humans or elves, maybe in a slightly different direction, let's see where the write-ups take us, but they are not cavemen (neanderthals). Not sure why I feel this is important except that I spent hours in 2004-2006 developing the Ape nations in or around the jungles of Djung. I spent hours turning the Planet of the Apes' Ape City into Appo-Along-the-Mirky, to say the least.

The Chimp
ST x1, CN x1, DX x1, SP x2, IN x1, LK* x11/2, CH x1, WZ x1

Often called simply "Ape," the kindred's more common nickname is used here to provide clarity between them and other Ape kin. About as tall as an adult human or elf, not very physically different statistic wise, except for Speed and Luck.
The chimp is not a chimpanzee; the chimp, like the human is a cousin of them. Having developed speaking, missile weapons and mineral alteration, the greater strength of the primates is not a factor for them.

SP applies to their innate love of climbing. As humans and human-like kindred like to build their domiciles to resemble the cave where they came from, chimps like heights. And because of slightly longer arms, when they need to sprint they can break into a lope with all four extremities, combining shoulder and both leg strength.

The LK is to express their slightly better than normal sense of smell, unless they often smelt metals and other more odoriferous works, as happens a lot in cities, where a lot of apes live.

They can be Wizards. Warriors, Rogues and whatever else any other Kin can be during a campaign.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Strange Kin #4

The Incredibly Overlooked Ape

Is there not anyone else in the world of adventure gam
ing that thought apes should be in more fantasy role-playing settings as Player-Characters? I've read authors striving for non-Tolkien derived campaigns all but stop short. In Glorantha elves are turned into walking vegetables and dwarves into walking stones, and every beasty from a National Geographic documentary on life on the savannah to only baboons to represent the simians, and mostly as an after thought at that. Another came up with space alien-looking things with no mouths and feeding off of sunlight and bragged about having 'No Elves!' And then the scores of D&D renaming of the hobbit, where thieving and craftiness were only rivaled by exceptional irritating portrayals by their players, standing next to no-neck humans with tails or wind-up robot war machines. But had anybody just plopped in Curious George next to Crusty McDwarfy Dwarf, I would've been more impressed.

Maybe we all haven't read The Jungle Book, but everyone had to watch the movie. I know I had to about eight times before i was ten. Didn't Edgar Rice Burroughs have interludes of Tarzan's early family life with his ape family? Haven't we all owed a sock monkey at one point in our life? Didn't even Ronald Reagan make m
ovies with a chimpanzee?

The next couple of days, I go into a couple of the Ape Kindred
races. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised by how the ape as a Kin is not obvious. I sent the drawing above that I made during an early 7th edition campaign to an artist who was contributing to my Athebes project but having problems with thinking how to draw an ape. Apparently she'd never seen the movie Planet of the Apes because her snippy reply was not "Which one of these could be an ape? Does it have two arms and two legs and is a bit more hairy than the other humanoids around it, and it didn't have eight limbs?"
No her reply, "There is no ape in this picture."
As opposed to being able to grasp a simian in a FRPG context, I must've been lying.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Strange Kin #3

Day 3


ST x2, CN x3, DX x1/2, IN x3/4, LK x2, CH x1/4, WZ x1/4, SP x1 1/4, Hgt x3/2, Wgt x3/2

These aren't your red-skinned pig-faced orks from The Keep on the Borderlands. Nor are they any relatives of Miss Piggy or Porky Pig... hold on, I can't rule that out just yet. The boar-faced humanoids while sentient and capable of being a Speaking People when they want, have a wild, sometimes feral nature to them that makes them more comfortable in the wildernesses of the world.

Like their boar cousins, they have a keen sense of smell and when they're paying attention to things very good hearing, hence the higher than usual Luck. Like the tribes of Mann*, elves, ratlings and dwarves they are everywhere all over the face of the planet; not in the more developed ares, but still everywhere. They character from peaceful to brutish depends on the region that they are in.

The tend towards Warrior and Rogues Types, and refer to anyone who can cast spells as "Shamans."

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Strange Kin #2, follow up

Eyrexes (Ear- ex- Eez) is known as the Kobald God.

First I should explain my kobald as opposed to some of the more familiar ones these days. These aren't the reptilian sword-fodder with snouts and half-drooped ears (wait, reptiles have ears?)
of That Game. A kobald is generally any small humanoid that is endowed with some sort of amazing, even magical, characteristics. This comes from northern European folklore and can be traced back through earlier times, such as the days of Rome and even earlier into the Hellenic period where the word "kolabos/kolaboi" appears. Some have been said to be able to take a form of silver-tinted magical fire-making lizards, but that has only been one of thousand of special traits. Piltdowners fall into this metaphysical category. Besides being mini-ogres, actually because they are mini-ogres, these guys are born with twice the strength and endurance of a normal human being.

Eyrexes, more often just referred to as "the Kobald God," as a god on the God Plane, is not much more powerful than a 17th level Warrior-Wizard in game terms. But he is immortal and like any god immoveable when in the right place at the right time. He is mostly known for causing trouble and playing pranks on the ill-tempered and vastly more powerful gods. He often is forced into being the slave of the Great Cyclops, an ogre of a god if ever there was one. At the same time he likes to do well for the wee folk, from the fortunate leprechaun and ratling to the rather developmentally retarded piltdowner. Mind you, he'll have nothing to do with do with hobbs, which are inbred humans who really should stay at home and tend their farms-- hence the little deity's "Monster God" reputation in places like Peakvale.

With that said, we head into my campaign world of Elder. Deep into the heat of the jungles of Djung to the north of Fel Sharas, both are in Athebes. From there we move up the Mirky River and further up one of its tributaries where the jungle collided with the mountains, where the Dwarven fortress-mine of Hard Water was located. It was overran by a horde of ogre-king, mostly Og and even more piltdowners being flogged forward by various ogre bosses. You see, one of the unwritten traits, at least until now, in my game world is that giant-kin, including the Not-So-Giant ogres, have an instinctive pecking order. By that I mean, they are their own masters until someone of their kin comes along who is taller than they are. The taller can then most often compel the shorter into pretty much being his slave and lackey. So things weren't looking good for the Speaking Peoples of Athebes, something was lording over the ogres who were gathering hordes of ogre-kin together, and overrunning the civilized settlements of the land.

In the depths of the Hard Water mines, my adventurers, Pilotia, Rjenn, Confucius Rogue, a Wizard named Ra and their Ape guide, were on their fifteenth batch of piltdowners since entering the complex. Despite the routine of the random encounter, tedium was not my player's usual reaction, instead steeled determination because bands of the ugly guys were tough, determined and 99.99% of the time would fight to the death of the last man. When down to last three, I decided to do a morale check. Considering the score of their projected non-physical scores, I had decided a while before that a 7th level Luck roll on the creature's part would be necessary. This was a scenario designed for 4th level PCs. So if any piltdowner made it, I ruled that it would be a truly stupendous event.

Well something stupendous happened for the second out of three surviving runts.
From a base of 6 points, using two six-sided dice, I rolled a Saving Roll of 96. A bit surprised, I broke out my red d6 and a d100, my "Whimsy Dice," used like a fortune-teller rolls bones, I suppose, to help me "rank" any spontaneous plot twists that occur in my campaigns. I rolled a 6 on the red die and the d100 gave me a 97. Something miraculous happened indeed.

So the Kobald God was born in my head. And he was getting a little tired of both the delvers and the ogres getting so many of his piltdowners killed. The adrenaline coursing through the piltdowner who thought his name was "Get Over Here" turned into something like an electrical spark and he became Eyrexes, the Kobald God In Mortal Form. His massive boost of Charisma, Luck, Intelligence and Wizardry literally lit up the whole room and stopped the combat. The godling barked at his remaining two pack members and they fled off into the tunnels previously explored by the heroes. I ruled that the PCs were so stunned that they could not get off any parting shots.

Now that is all that my players saw of the Kobald God. They were busy trying to root out the Over-Ogre who was lording over the mine-filled fortress, who ended up being an ettin. And the boss fight that would ensue had a cast of hundreds, plenty of daring and copious amounts of blood-letting. Ra, the Wizard, died under-estimating the magical abilities of my She-Og coven surrounding the Over-Ogre and the size of the its boot.

In my notes, things are much different. Eyrexes has begun to dominate thousands of piltdowners into avoiding the role of sword-fodder for the ogres and the Og. He has sired six sons who are becoming warlords of the "rock fairies" and the piltdowners. And he just doesn't like the Hobb nation known as Pigmies from Akog who trade with the apes of the city of Appo in Djung, so "the Warlords" don't like them either. He himself, is not long for the mortal plane. He is in his 40s which almost three times as long lived as any piltdowner. It will not be too long before his sons will build his pyre with which he can return to the God Plane.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Strange Kin #2

The Piltdowner
ST x2, CN x2, DX x2, IN x1/4, LK x1/2, CH x1/2, WZ x1, SP x1 1/4, Hgt x1/4, Wgt x1/2

Continuing with the Ogrish folk funning around the place, I introduce one of the trouble makers from my Athebes campaign. These ogre-cousins resemble a hobb or a leprechaun in height, though their fang mouths and sloping brow are a dead give away. Very similar to the Og in appearance and manner, but only one has ever become a Wizard in known history. And that guy was an avatar of the Kabald God.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Strange Kin

While The Troll Hammer has it's Creature Feature and T& has its "exploration" articles on rules and settings, I thought that I'd come up with something that I like to post about and get some regular posts for a couple to three weeks. Well I like Kindred and Settings. My views have been increasing, which has made this blogging thing kind of like a game for so I thought I'd play with it for a bit. I will try to post something almost everyday and see how the numbers are effected and compare it sales of my PeryPub products released during this time.

Strange Kin #1

If you've been following along with me for a while you might've seen a note on how I handled ogres, here. Now if you haven't, here's the essence of it.

" (At) one time (these species were) regular individuals of any bipedal kindred that for some reason thought that the flesh of their own kindred was tasty, and gained some magical perks in the process. It's a win-win situation overall in their minds. Ogres aren't even always giant-sized at all. What one needs to look for is some sort of unnatural trait or deformity. The most common trait is height, and spiked teeth would probably be the second. But there is more..."

So what are going to be taking a look at here are the Ogrish Kindred, at least in my book, and how a couple of them should be classified.

The Og (Og-Men and She-Og)
ST x2, CN x2, DX x1, IN x3/4, LK x1/2, CH x1/2, WZ x1
About a head shorter than the average adult human, though as strong and as hardy as a dwarf. Because of an inability to speak, they use grunts and hand signals as a full blown language. Most are unskilled hunters and primitive herders, Citizens without Talents. The promising males are pretty much just Warriors; while the intelligent females often research magic and become Wiz
ards. Groups of She-Og will join together in 'Witchsongs" to cast spells at the same time, this ritual increases any spell's effect by 10% for each singer.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Monster in the Details: MR and the Attributed Encounter.

I happened to be re-reading the hill giants hanging out in the the wilderness between Thornguard and Willowmoss of Peakvale, and it just so happened that my T&T 7plus rulebook was open to the "Rare Kindred Attribute Modifiers" pages. You know, like I was writing a T&T scenario or something to that nature. But then something struck me about Scot Malthouse's assignment of 90-120 range for the MR for the creatures, his detailed example of a specific hill giant and the Attribute multipliers. The numbers translated nicely considering the calculus of T&T Stats.

Now this doesn't surprise me. Scott Malthouse tends to be from the under-reported school of the empirical T&T designers. While many authors run around worrying about the most dramatic event that they can think in a solo, usually meaning the instantaneous death of the single PC or a very lop-sided combat, leading to a not so quick death of said PC, "Malty" takes the time to think about making an obstacle possible, even likely, to be overcome by the PC or group of them. I noticed this when I read his "Depths of the Devilmancer" and "Forest of the Treelords" scenarios some months, maybe a year, ago. I happen to be one as well, which is why I like to work with the man. So while our works don't get half the press, mostly complaints about "dungeon" lethality, and long-lengthy articles trying to come up with game norms to increase survivability of the player's character, our audience generally doesn't perceive much imbalance in our scenarios.

Once again, this isn't what is interesting. What is odd, is that Scott and I never sat down and talked about our methods, outside of reading each others shorthand at our blogs for creating encounters. Over the years, I've spent more time trying to explain T&T's "Monster Dice" to people more familiar to D&D than Our Game and trying to explain why one does not really have to worry about size. Indeed, our infrequent correspondences have been about two handfuls over five years and mostly pertaining to projects that one or the other has going on, not rules discussion. But somehow his encounters for this or that "Level" of Delver in T&T game terms mathematically add up to me when I read them. So I've spent this morning figuring out how is this so.

You take the eight stats (Strength, Constitution, Dexterity, Speed, Intelligence, Wizardry, Luck and Charm) and apply 1/10th of the MR to each. Then you apply the Kindred Attribute Modifiers. Figure in a 3d weapon, really any weapon or just a single die for fists or kicks but there will be a bigger difference in results. And add the Combat Adds. To proof yo
urself, you do the damage potential ranges (excluding DARO and TARO), for both the detailed encounter and then the generalized "MRed" encounter. What will vary will be the Combat Adds between the two, but the damage potential ranges will be within 9-12 points of each other, with the Detailed encounter doing less than Rated one.

Godsheads, I am glad I've gotten this out of my head. Now I can get some real work done.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

From the Desk of Mad Roy Cram

This just came in my mailbox today from Roy Cram, who's Yorda personna is as developed as my own Kopfy, following up on an article that he wrote. He adds adventure seeds for my New Khazan T&T setting. I am dying to see more of this Professor Whenn character of his.
Dear Kopfy,
Yorda asked me to provide you with some info on the T'wall for gaming purposes. You have read the description and seen Grummlakh's nice picture (they are uglier than that). Based on my travels and talking with people who have met them T'wall come in the following sizes:

Hatchling - = Grizzly bear - shell = chail mail MR 100-200
- = Kodiak Bear - shell = plate mail MR 300-400
= Rhinoceros - shell 2 x plate mail MR 500-700
size = elephant to Mammoth size. Armor = 3 x plate mail MR 800 plus

They are fire proof (though lava and molten metal will hurt them); liquid air will freeze them, but not kill them. They can be shattered if frozen this way. Otherwise they are impervious to ordinary cold. Electricity, short of a full fledged lightning bolt will just annoy them. No known disease can hurt them (though a specially developed bioweapon might be developed if one had time and the resources.) Fortunately, most of the specimens encountered are small and usually injured or impaired in some way. This unfortunately makes them even grumpier than usual. They tend to be magic resistant. Hope that is helpful. If you have questions or comments trollmail Yorrdamma and he will get in touch with me.

Your humble servant and friend,

Professor Whenn

Thursday, March 15, 2012

T&T Gameplay: Showing Some Skills... (Talents)

Apologies Paul (G'noll) not the topic you inspired just yet.

A quick word on Talents. I am as fond of talents as one who is lactose-intolerant likes milk shakes, but I have allowed them since I started playing T&T 7plus. At first it was because I wanted to "play-test" them and see how well they worked. Later, after the play-test campaign, my rationale was more like, the burger joint that I like to go to keeps the customers coming in with them. Now that there has been some discussion of them over in the Halls, I've had to take a look at why I not only think they help Our Game appeal to other, less true T&T-heads, but why I have grown fond of them.

There is something to be said that Talents aren't just combat enhancers. As Talents are in the current 7plus of T&T, Ken's (Trollgod's) rule that Talents cannot enhance combat. I quote here, "What about a Talent for combat? Wouldn't that make the character fight better all the time? No!... ." I'm not going into the specific reasons that Ken St Andre ruled this way, I'll let others go into that wording and what is right or wrong about with the rule. I agree with it. I just agree that talents presented on the tabletop during a role-playing session should bring something more than a damage bonus or a foil to an attack, that's too much like wargaming to me.

Because of this, what Talents have done for almost a decade now for me in T&T has been to retain the convention of a role-playing game to have a rule that prompts something other than combat during a game session. At first, during the initial sessions, Robin (Peryton) would challenge herself to come up with a "Talent" versus a "Feat," a term from That Game. This meant that she would find something other than a tactical shortcut that could be used during game play, and often it had nothing to scenes where violence was occurring.

Now as any good TV watcher faked violence is not a problem, and it is a lot of fun for the audience; but there is a difference between a wrestling match and a good prime-time soap opera. And the wrestling only airs when the network doesn't have any money to show anything else. The T&T Talent gave me something else besides sexual titillation to help craft a fantasy melodrama along with my players. And as Robin and I are married, we don't do a lot of sexual titillation for the other guests at the role-playing session. We did have a nice sun set in Athebes where my main NPC and her Wizard character made it to the top of my version of Mount Kilimanjaro, but we just flirted as I revealed background information on the setting for everyone. Still Jonathan, Ziggy and Shelly stopped rolling dice to watch the scene unfold. Anyway... !

Later games, new players to the game were just flat-out intrigued by the Talents. Most I feel were just trying to recreate combat feats, unsuccessfully, from D&D 2e. Quite a few complaints arose with words like "subjectivity" and "idiosyncratic" came into play. But some did try to experiment. A few of these flexible few were able to move beyond describing acts that everyone else in their imaginary world should be able to perform, on a daily basis, at that. Almost half of these Talents didn't even come from Star Wars or Star Trek. It was fun to see a Rogue able to basically psychoanalyze the minotaur in the maze by the way he was munching on pistachios (Thanks Lumberjack!).

Most recently, a fellow by the name of Andrew at the BASHCon convention last February, was insistent on playing a Citizen. To define his character, he and Robin, as I was not paying that much attention to him as he was dead meat in book, came up with a couple Talents that a cook would have. Me being the every dutiful GM, came up with a reason as to why he would come hang out with a group of grave-robbing and Prone-to-Violence sociopaths that call themselves "Delvers." You guys want to know what, the Cook made the whole of the "Leprechaun Island" scenario work. Don't believe me? Ask Robin, Paul and Jerry (Jherri).

So these days, I give people insistent on having Talents some respect. They have some skills that can be shown. And they keep it about the story, not the "disarming" and "power surge" of combat.


Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Case For Warrior-Wizards, err Paragons

According to Paul Haynie, G'noll at the Halls, Uncle Gnoll elsewhere, "...I REALLY dislike Paragons in 7.x. In 5.x, they turned up about one time in 360, which was already too rare to waste rules space on for my money. In 7.x, the two additional attributes make it one Paragon in more than 2500 characters, which is pretty much an absurdity..."

Statistically speaking, he's right. I've even argued this point with Ken St Andre about Warrior-Wizards from 5th edition back in the 80s over a dispute with my players. My rule was "Warrior-Wizards had to be rolled up in front of me, the GM. Or another GM that knew and trusted."

I suppose knowing that I trusted no other GMs besides myself, my players went to extreme measures. And after being very publicly embarrassed by two players with letters proclaiming me a bad guy, I had to write my letter to the Game Designer, THE CREATOR. And I eloquently, for a 16 year-old who didn't speak English that well and didn't like to proofread anything, argued the strict math and pointed to the number of the Types that were coming across my perusal. So a week, or maybe ten days, later I was able to show a letter from the man that I now know as the Trollgod, reversing himself and stating that I could, and should, run my tabletop any way that I want I want to.

It's a good thing too, that I stuck with the rule. If only to see the magic of tabletop role-playing versus statistical analysis. Player-Characters with all initial attributes over 12 do happen, even in 5th edition without the TARO rule, more often than one would think. In practice at my 32 T&T campaigns to date, that lasted over three weeks, the Warrior-Wizards seem to come in runs. At one time, I had three out of six delvers playing Warrior-Wizards. And the guys weren't cheating. In 7plus edition, the occur about once in ten character roll ups. I even had to bar the Type from my first playtest campaign, see Athebes, because I wanted to teach the players "true T&T."

That said, I am not the world's biggest fan of the uber-class of character Type either. But once again, seeing the players in front of me light up as their dice rolls are "on a roll" just melts my heart. Such success in "roll-playing" merits reward. It's like winning a poker game AND collecting on bets on the Superbowl in the same night. How can I be such a minimalistic nihilist (BUZZKILL) and deny the players a "prestige class."

And lastly, it's a popular Type. Doing without it would probably hurt the appeal of the game.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Tom's T&T X Edition: More on Types

There's been a discussion on "Classes and a possible Classless" T&T over at the Halls. Of course, I am chagrined at the use of the term class outside of a socioeconomic treatise, but at the same time the rules tweekers got me thinking on Types. I have to admit it rather expanded my horizons. While I don't like the idea of a classless mode for Our Game, there already is RuneQuest and various other games now in existence for decades now. But a "trans-Type" model came to me.

Citizen= no minimum Stats
Rogue= Lk or Ch or Dx "12"
Warrior= St or Sp "15"
Wizard= Dx "12;" In "15;" Wiz "20"

A player character could advance his Delver from a Citizen into a Wizard as his statistics increase using the Attribute increasing experience system. Given no restrictions as to the "perks" that he could retain, by the time he was a Wizard he'd be a Paragon and go even farther than that. A Paragon with the Roguery Talent, key music,...the Uber-Paragon.

That isn't quiet how I'd use the convention. I am not a big fan of Paragons, uber or unter, except as very occasional delver Types, and it kind of flies in the face of Ken St Andre's mentions of Wizards and Warriors as being occupations of years of training and preparation. The player rising up on the slow road from either a Citizen or Rogue, would be bound to his choice of being a Wizard or a Warrior.

Some disagree with the meta-Type model all-together. One of the grounds being "Ken says, it should take years
." This begs the question, how old are delvers when they start adventuring down tunnels? Are the Warriors in their 50s and Wizards in their 60s when they first raid a goblin warren? Considering that this is a make believe endeavor that we're on about, I suppose that can be one interpretation. But I tend to be a media child. If not paperbacks, then film, or even a TV series. So what are the ages of the actors that portray Conan, Perseus and King Arthur? Not a one over 30. So exactly how many years does it take to make a true Wizard or a Warrior? So in mixing up reality and fantasy, I'd equate being a Wizard or Warrior with advanced education. Now while some might think that superior education is unattainable for most, maybe even a matter of genetics. Functionally though, peoples from various backgrounds can attain such at varying speeds, if not social acceptance by those that got theirs first.

To reflect the passage of time, the convention of Experience in the game would suffice. Getting a Citizen's Wizardry score up to 20, to say the least, would be quite a bit of adventuring. In my book that would be an adequate amount of time.

Would the delver have to give up old perks from their previous Type? In my book, no.

Even while working out this more of Type experimentation, my model strikes me as very regulated and over codified. Still It'd be interesting, and maybe not just for a campaign or two.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Tale of Wakim, part 1.

A little something for Anem Kram. A little yarn whipped up back in the days of whimsy back in the late 80s.

In the last days of the Schism Wars, it became apparent that the Fey could not defeat the Elves and their growing number of allies. One fey known for his masterful sorcery as well as his unconventional ways, even for a fey, decided that he must do something. Jokala his wife, also known for her sorcery but also for more dark than unconventional ways, did not like his worrying.

"We've lost." She counseled. "Let us sue for peace. Or let us be defeated. Doing something drastic would do no good for anyone."

Wakim, knew his wife was wise, but she tended to be a bit bleak as well. She had a taste for darkness and death, complete with blood-drinking. He, himself, understood force, but was not darkly-driven and no fan of fate. He had crafted victories in his own battles with the elves' troll allies under the marshaling of Marduk early in the war. He had foiled every incursion by the elves into his own lands. In short, we was not used to defeat.

He traveled to the closest edge of the universe around him, a trip that took weeks. Along the way, he burdened himself with dry branches and small logs to the point of teetering. In the cold place where the ice of a giant's breath met the stone and kremm of the in-between, Wakim started a fire. And he kept the fire going for many days. During this this he drank only water and hummed.

It was when he was on his last log, that something in the icy darkness stirred, and a great eye peeked at him from the darkness.

"I thought that was you." The wind howled. "My little brother."

"You were never born." Wakim replied. "I am probably your grandson, you crazy behemoth. But you know me. "

"Stinging sting-haver!" The icy wind ripped everything under a couple of stones weight away from the fey's campsite.

"Yes. I drove you here." Wakim answered.

"You were not alone sprite!" The voice went from wind to grinding stone.

"You are correct." Wakim showed no fear. "But the others would've failed to drive you here without me."

"You are alone." The stone voice ground out.

"You know me." The sorcerer stayed his ground. "And I know you. Your name specifically. Grumjellug, I know you."

The giant, a wildermagick reeled back at hearing its First Name spoken by another.

"And what do you want from me, despoiler?" The wildermagick asked. "The places I dwell now would have no interests you. Too cold for your thin blood. Nothing to steal but frost."

"I have a battle for you." Wakim said plainly.

"A battle which you must be losing." Grumjellug responded.

"Yes." Was the others answer.

"You have stolen all the Fair Lands from me!" The giant's voiced shifted to the wind again. "I can smell me in your veins, and you have driven me here! You want me to fight for you?"

Wakim did not reply at first. Instead he made a point to warm his hands by his struggling campfire, before turning around rather abruptly.

"You and your ilk were doing nothing but freezing these 'fair lands' that you now yearn for." The fey spoke firmly. "You, great primordial force and magic that you are, have no use for these stolen trinkets, Otherwise you would not have allowed me to gain lordship over them. "

The appeal to the giant's vanity worked, the wind died down. A ice-encrusted giant with a red beard and as tall as three elves stepped forward.

Wakim breathed a silent sigh of relief. He continued speaking, almost singing, "You smell us in your nostrils. We are you. We were your thoughts when you battled the dragons. We are your thoughts now when you count the stars beyond your fingertips."

"And who is our enemy, little brother?" Grumjellug asked rather coyly, but still his eyes sparkled with interest.

"Oh Grandfather, it is the elves and their lackeys the trolls." The shorter figure explained. "Along with a horde of muddled kindred that join them out of convenience rather than any sort of conviction."

"Then let us make myself horrible unto them." The wildermagick agreed.

Wakim provided the giant with many a totem and magical artifact during their journey towards the encroaching enemies of the fey in the Schism War. Once there, upon a bluff overlooking a very wide vale spreading towards the east and wet horizons for a day's travel, the giant and the fey sorcerer stood looking at the conquering armies before them.

"This isn't going to be easy or pretty, little brother." Grumjellug commented.

"Do it for your prosperity, brother. Your off-spring." Wakim coaxed.

"I have no mother, you silly dwarf." The giant became much larger than he was a moment before. "What do I really care about ties? You're an idle fancy at best. And the usurpers of my place in the cosmos when I am in bad mood."

Wakim did not reply.

"So what can you provide me to do this task?" The wildermagick asked.

"Nothing but being a part in this struggle." The fey answered finally. " You need more than a fight? A place remembered by us fey. A place as our progenitor and ultimate protector."

Grumjellug laughed heartily, and Wakim cringed.

"Worry not little fey-elf." The giant said. "I like the offer. But think on this; I can only give to this battle what I have to give. And it will hardly be enough for a real victory for you, grandson. My Other name is Ooblun. "

Before the sorcerer could consider what the elder magic giant had said, Grumjellug lept from the bluff into the valley and strode to the approaching armies. Yammar, the Eldest Elf and leader of the advancing forces, held up a hand. With great noise and confusion the cumbersome horde stalled its momentum, and not in equal paces.

The mere giant, hiding his full size, stood a few strides away before the mass of armed assailants. The elven overlord called out to him.

"Dear cousin fey." Yammar sang. "Why do you encroach upon our path? We mean no one individual harm."

Grumjellug laughed. "I am not one of those that you'd bother sparing. Nor an individual that needs to explain himself to an elf."

Yammar, being wiser than most elves of the time, was not insulted at the jibe. And he heard the other words that the antagonist before him had said.

"Oh. You are a giant." The great elf said, sniffing the air. "You should leave this skirmish to those with more involved. I am sure the fey here did not grant you the return of this in-between to you."

"You are someone to speak for the folks that you conquer?" was the giant's retort.

And with that, Yammar knew that a battle was about to occur. He just did not know what scale it was going to take place upon.

As the elf raised his arms in a different signal to his generals at his flanks and elsewhere, Grumjellug raised his own arms. The giant raised his arms, and his eyes flashed, and thunder rolled over his head in the sky over the valley where he and the invaders were assembled.

(to be continued)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

There is a Schism Between the Wizard's Guild and the Leprechauns

Ever since I read that phrase in the 5th Edition of Tunnels and Trolls, I have been addicted. It has worked better for me than the Babylon 5 catch-line from the pilot, "There is a hole in your mind."

It was like heroin to this fantasist stumbling upon it unknowingly. It made me create worlds in words, paragraphs and hand-drawn maps to fulfill the cosmos around that sentence. And since this was the early 80s, I had the great example of Glorantha. Then to a lesser extent the World of Greyhawk and JRR Tolkien's Middle Earth also came into play. So I crafted an epic.

Having been fond of the Norse myth cycle, especially the D'Aulaires' Book of Norse Myths, the universe had to start out with a lot of ice and giants. And since I was designing something a fantasy role-playing game, having dragons also being a primal force made sense. So I had Fire and Ice covering all of the universe, and what a harsh place it was. But then in the in-betweens of the giants and dragons where the places where the First Peoples arose. These were the Trolls, Elves and Fey.

Seeing how harsh the universe was around them the First Peoples warred upon the individual dragons and giants that were closest to them, to expand the in-betweens making room for more peoples. And it is at this time that we see the Tribes of Mann (human, hobbs, apes and hominids), the golbins, the dwarves and many, many others start to pop up as well.

The First Peoples walked around pretty much as gods in these earliest of times. The elves became associated with light and order. The trolls, something of gia
nts themselves, preferred the dark and powerful. The Fey liked both light and dark, but reveled in chaos. While all three had problems with other, the elves and the fey went at it directly. If the trolls weighed in they helped out one side or another.

Well this war was rather far-reaching and earthshaking for everyone around whether they were involved or not. And towards the end, the fey were losing big tim
e. Up until this certain guy named Wakim came up with a plan. He called upon a giant, Grumjellug, who was related to him. You see the dragons and giants are related to the first Peoples in varying degrees. And this giant was something known as a Willder-Magick, about as powerful as solar flare. Wakim called upon Grumjellug to help out his fey cousins.

So Grumjellug severed the magic from the form, and created nature. And no one was pleased by this. This cure was probably harsher than the illness to most of the First Peoples. The most powerful elves were separated from the natural world, leaving only the younge
st and magically diminished there. One elvish Power (god?) lost his arm trying to maintain his hold on his family and followers. The trolls suddenly had to live with sunlight bathing all parts of the world at one time or another, this really pissed them off because they viewed themselves as not participating in the fight-- a partially true claim. The fey were hit hardest of all, well they were losing the war anyway.

As it turned out the fey have a tendency to be allergic to nature and natural means. This mostly meant that those that remained in the world had to stick to a form, except for a few rarities. Some became fairies and some became leprechauns, others became other things.
Most of their strongholds in the universe went Never-Never. The only sizable part to remain on the world was the Island of Ooblun, which also happens to be the name of Elder's second moon.

So I put it somewhere in the southern Westerlees on my world of Elder, a sea where it could be said that the North Atlantic meets the Caribbean meets the South China. Now this island tends to rather hard to find. While it is said to remain at the Western Pole of the planet, that has a tendency to move. Sometimes it moves widder, other times it moves widdershanks in its course. And the areas available to access have a tendency to change as well.

And once there, things can be very strange to very dangerously odd. I populated it ettins, pookas, the more magical goblin (not the goblinoid of standard FRPGs), b
ogey men hobgoblins, Wink-Winging leprechauns and fairies gone wild. There are many more fey running around the place that I just don't have time to list here, heck many more than I myself can ever write down all by myself for that matter.

So why am I telling you all this? Well this last weekend at BASHCon in Toledo, I finally got a chance to start to share some of this with my players. And luckily th
e players I had about the best group of players possible at a convention. Jerry, Robin, and Paul Haynie are members of Trollhalla; Jherri, Perrryton and G'noll respectively. The fourth player Andrew has played in my T&T games in Toledo before. "Leprechaun Island" definitely needs a better title; but as for a start to one day making Ooblun a place for more delvers to explore. The notes and matrices came together with my earlier static narrative scenes. My NPCs flowed from my subconscious nicely as I could see the players in front of me start to wonder about the bits and pieces of information that they were hearing.

And I still didn't explain the schism between the Wizard's Guild and Leprechaun.

Monday, January 30, 2012


During a chat discussion with an "old school" (as in AD&D) friend, Geoffery, I started telling him about my "Tunnelhack" system of scenario organizing. When I told that it is where I step away from my usual narrative style of writing to use random tables to handle entire stretches of the story, he stated "Oh so you're 'sandboxing' but without the miniatures." A week later I was reading a review of Ken St Andre's "Dwarf World" for T&T where the critic states something to the extent that the work is a bunch of random tables and that is about it. That has got me thinking on it a bit on what exactly do I think makes my self-exclaimed exciting matrices different than what what I've seen self-described sandboxers do.

True enough, my Tunnelhacks come from about an hour
's worth of writing up randomized tables.But there does get to be a bit more going on, at least for me.

It's not about half-attempts at improvisation first off. I not only use the random charts to make the tabletop more exciting to me as the GM, but it also helps me explore vast areas of very large campaign areas without going into too much detail and printing expenses. As I write down a table and the sorts of terrain/ encounters come to mind in a quick list form, a bigger map starts to work itself out in my head. A lot of times, I am tempted not draw a map, just ask Christi Crab, and tr
y to make the potential GM have to go deeper into the narrative of the scenario. But with some thumb pulling, I usually come up with a map, so the audience can point to someplace, roll a die or two and then say, "When you get to here, you see... ." But that is as far as I go.

I generally do not do all chart scenarios. I feel the need t
o have some pretty complex narrative to help keep up a pretty atmospheric approach when I move to the random charts. I've heard from a couple people, four really, who have actually ran my scenarios, that they felt that is indeed a common effect as they got to those points in the adventure as well.

And my list themselves are pretty full of wordy descripti
ons of characteristics of the area or say abilities of the creature being encountered. This of course is the occupational hazard of T&T, in that the GM has does not have cookie cutter bestiaries, while at the same time it is the treasure of the system as well. This also helps me later if I decide just to go with a narrative, by having a lot of the wordage worked out, if I decide to go with a scene-driven (railroad car) approach to the session; maybe throw in a few openers and then transitions, wallah! I already have pages of text and color to work with.

Of course playtesting is important to make these things work. At the same time, playtesting with the cat when you should be writing can be more hindering than helpful.

I guess the difference is is that my Tunnelhacking matrices and sandboxed prearranged elements is that it isn't about the abbreviated list being the tale, but the tale being the framework for the abbreviation.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Math of Doom and a Spell a Day.

Wow. I have been getting sloppy with my T&T of late. While writing a new scenario almost every two months, I have really started to get rusty around the hinges with the math and magic of the game. Funny, you'd think this couldn't happen considering that I work out ranges for combat and refer to specific spells as both arise in the course of writing it. But where I've noticed is at the tabletop. And I've only noticed now, because I have only been there twice since November.

On the Math of Mass Deathality... At 2011 Carnage, the final encounter for my pseudo-historical/Biblical scenario duo "Raiders of the Temple of Marduk," was a pretty massive MRed demon, with some highly magical abilities. Still in my head, I figured there was a 70% chance of a party of four adventurers with Combat Adds/Intelligence scores around 55 to defeat it. Well, the encounter was exciting. I had to really pull back my punches at first because the delvers were separated. But then when I got them all into mass combat, ignoring the spell abilities of the demon, I total party killed them all in one round of combat. Of course, I did roll an awful lot of five and six pips. The players were groaning as they tallied their results. And the game was an hour over time, so maybe some Jungian metaphysical occurrence occurred overcoming the math.

The second time was at the premier InConTroll, during my "Journey Through a Strange Vale." I was incrementally increasing the number of opponents for a group of seven PCs, with an average Combat Add at somewhere around 45, though the median Wizards' IN score was only at '19.' These opponent's were orks at MR 30. For the first three combat turns, I couldn't get the group to start to lose, and then on the fourth I rolled a TPK. Huh? Well, as this was the first encounter, I then just fudged things, and the kill result was less than a total of a dozen points so NPCs and horses absorbed damage as well.

Now there is no big mystery here to me, just rustiness on the tabletop running. My Delver's damage potential to Monster's damage potential is close. So if either side rolls high and the other side doesn't roll at least half theirs, the average armor rating cannot adsorb enough Hits. This is exacerbated when I am mixing newer and more experienced PCs. Now, while I don't like fudging, I do like mixed experience levels in my player groups, so I'll have to work out more detailed math. I am thinking along some overly detailed minutia like my MR 30 orks should have been MR 26 and that sort of thing.

A Spell a Day Keeps the Rules Lawyer Away... I haven't been having any problems with spells at the tabletop, actually. But I have been having players read the spells that they are casting to the group. This familiarizes newer players to the rules and has the hidden benefit of reminding me of this or that little detail. This practice won't stop until I am running tables full of people with their own books and characters that they made without help from me, though me seeing their Combat Adds and whatnot will always be required. Alas though I think reading a page or two of spells each day before falling asleep will be a helpful ritual.

Saying this bit aloud makes me feel quaint and silly. Ah what the hell, it's not like I never did anything silly before.

In Conclusive Jelly-filled Conclusion...But what I really need to do is get more play-time. I wasn't falling into the lethality pitfall when I was running every two weeks to a month. I am thinking it's time to get over my psychological inhibitions about video-calls.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Mistress Race Trolls

It is said that the worlds' most famous troll Grimtooth came from this Kin and was only later transformed into what is called the Rock Troll species. These trolls resemble goblin or hobgoblins just a lot taller and rather more muscular, and their ears tend to be much larger as well. Why they are called Mistress Race, no one quite knows. Some say it is from the time of the Wizard Wars, or something called the God Wars.

While their skin gets harder with age (one point Armor gained per century of life) it is rather like the flesh of humans or orks to begin with. They have very poor eyesight but their sense of smell and haring make up for that. They have sonar based hearing similar to a bat that essentially acts as Cat-Eyes at night though the accurate distance is limited making them rather medium range-"sighted" in either night or day.

As Kin they are generally rather civilized, with their own garb, literature and Trade languages. But their tendency to live in the dark and eat the bodies of their vanquished as well as their own is seen as "evil" by most other cultures around them. They do not like to be copied and pasted from the web, where they are posted for free; and pasted into print publications for someone else's profit without the author's permission or compensation. Many of the are devoutly religious to the Cult of the Trollgod and work their way up as Warriors, Wizards, Rogues and whatnot through the ranks of this church.

Delvers encountering these creatures for the first time should be able to handle at least nine dice plus 40 points worth of damage potential.

(This is going to be the last troll for this year's High Season, because I am prepping for Elvismas. And special thanks to Chaosium's Runequest for the inspiration here on this particular entry).