Monday, July 27, 2015

Not quite across the river

Pery and I had dinner Saturday night with Sligo and his frau. They happened to be doing their Summer vacation thing around the Great Lakes and the final day happened to be in the C-L-E. I talked them, via text message, into going to Das Schnitzel House (es heist Das Schnitzel Haus). It was kind of busy, but, boy,  I loved seeing pounded pork being popular. I discovered that the folks running the place actually have items like "Jaeger Schnitzel" on the weekends-- You can ask Peryton, I've been fighting with them forever to include a bit of gravy of their veal (or breaded pork chops) since 'o6. I mean, man, I love rot kraut and and spetzel already, but gibts mir ein bischen Sosse. So while I know that real schnitzel is available on the weekends, I am not sure if I am up to the fist fight for getting a table. The joint was really hopping. I suppose that is why the Chef bothers with trivialities like gravy on the weekends.

So Sligo and I sent the the women-folk away. One claiming stomach cramps, while the other was just wholly unimpressed. Okay Sligo and I are uninteresting, I get that, thank you WOMEN. Then he and I got down to business. Final Exam, the only T&T "solo dungeon" (scenario) for Wizards, is going to be revised from its Shippy-beholden take using the latest 8th Edition rules at Peryton Publishing. Folks, I tried to warn him off, but he was insistent.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Icons: The Atalntis Saga... so far

I should say "Part One." This campaign is going to take a little longer than I expected. This isn't that surprising or unwelcome to me, since I've been doing chatroom games for sometime (mid 90s). What is surprising is exactly how long things are taking and how good things are. I should be three quarters done, I am just about to the halfway point.

Part 1: Watershed

Cast of Characters (Players):
Nyx (Peryton)
Riptide (Hepcat)
Dojo Loach (Curtis, now Loach forever)
Theta (Wilde)
Summary: These four characters are brought into Lightfoot Bay, and its Hoody Islands, one-time Ohio devastated the Carmageddon of 2019, that devastated the shoreways along Lake Erie and Lake Ontario forming one larger lake Lake Mohawk. Theta is sent from Mu-Mu Island to investigate an evil magic known as Muckra. Nyx is hired by a Dr. Wrong to get a sample of muckra's mutative alga-like mass, escorted by two of his agents, Kilo and Nitro. Rip Tide is en route to Cuyahoga State University and its Department of Unusual Threats (the D-U-T) when distracted by Muckra's minions, the Muckrakers. Dojo Loach follows a lead to the island when clearing out Crawdaddies out of his criminal gang's, the Asian Carp, out of their Harbor District real estate.
They encounter the Muckrakers, while Muckra coyly taunts Theta. Kilo and
 Nitro seeing problems hightail it out of "the Hood." The heroes and anti-hero (Loach)defeat the slimy algae-heads. Muckra then goes silent.
GM Notes:
Dojo Loach really brought my criminal gang scene of Lightfoot Isle's Harbor District to life. His Dr. Fishmind NPC is proving to be very useful.
Theta, I keep picturing as a blue-skinned Starfire of George Perez fame. I can work with that, though Michael Golden is illustrating the work in my mind. Wilde is an awesome player that helps me out when I get a little distracted.

Part 2: Rogue Wave

Cast of Characters (Players):
Nyx (Peryton)
Dojo Loach (Loach)
Theta (Wilde)
Summary:  Rip Tide (played by the GM) having re-started his journey Beta City and CSU, the D.U.T., jumped in his aqua-armor into the water and was not present for this session.
Nyx, Dojo Loach, and Theta investigated the larger island that they had encountered the Muckrakers. Theta explained to the other two about Muckra. The algae-shaping intelligence made an appearance, and Nyx got her sample for Dr. Wrong. The three than separated to take care of their personal business, or just get a shower (Theta). Nyx was betrayed by Dr. Wrong after giving him his sample-- she was jumped by Nitro and Kilo and knocked out.
GM Notes: Peryton stated in her character creation that she was trying to live the life of a land-lubber away from her "mer" (a slang term for sea-dwellers) heritage. She is doing well avoiding getting into the water-- reminds me of my life-guard days. Nyx talked everyone into avoiding getting wet as well though. Had to keep things rather land-based.

Part 3: Getting Deeper

Cast of Characters (Players):
Diogenes-Man (Beckett)
The Terrific Trio (Nyx (Peryton), Dojo Loach (Loach), and Theta (Wilde)
Rip Tide (Hepcat) 
Summary: The tale started out with a flashback to the 3rd Century BCE, where a mariner assumed the name Diogenes to keep his real name from others and to piss of the more famous cynic from Sincope. In a misadventure gone wrong he was swallowed by a whale. In the whale, an unnamed man, couldn't be Jonah, marked his forehead and released strong inherent inside of him into a magus. Before the character could act with his new found powers, he was frozen and regurgitated from the leviathan. This chunk of ice has been floating the sees ever since.
Rip Tide, just minutes after bidding his new aquatic friends adieu back in the Hoody Islands, noticed on his invincible Hydro-Suit sensors that there was a temperature anomaly in the waters to the NE of Lightfoot Bay. Following the tracings, he discovered large-fish like bits of algae moving a large block of ice into one of the deeper parts of lake Mohawk.  It is here, where the "pirate of the seas's" armor noted an array of equipment of non-terrestrial origin, and kilotons of the Muckra algae. He watched as Diogenes-Man was thawed out of his icy nap, almost drowned, then turned into a Muckraker, but much different. Rip Tide tried to move in for a closer look, if nothing else, but was attacked by the machinery and the algae. His suit was severely damaged. After a dramatic escape he had to make his way towards shore.
Once ashore, the rogue hero of the waterways was able to catch a bus to an all-night department store and went straight to the electronics and hardware depart. Getting back on the bus he started to fix his suit. Most of the people riding the vehicle at 5:45am were more upset at the guy urinating in his seat instead of Rip Tide in his lake water-dripping suit.
At the University, around 8am, the early morning interns, let Rip Tide in, and quickly called Dr. Sweet, who would show up much earlier than his usual expected arrival. Just before the DUT director showed up, Professor Strack showed up. The Lisa Bonet, look alike, almost won his trust just not quite. When Sweet finally showed up, the three scholars (Rippington Tyde, Malcolm Sweet, and Olivia Strack) were able to piece together the alien energies of the non-terrestrial equipment that the aquatic man in synthetics faced earlier.  
Meanwhile Dojo Loach and Theta noticed that Nyx had not come to their planned brunch as per when they last spoke. Nyx, herself, was a little busy trying to escape out of an energy-dampening cage. The heroine and anti-hero went undercover to find their missing member. As Dr Wrong's street thugs were gone, there wasn't much in the warehouse where they were looking, except for a hum. Tearing down a door, the two supers encountered Kilo and Nitro watching daytime TV. A fight ensued, they had interrupted finding out if the baby was "his" or not. The two gave as good as they got, and Loach remained standing in the end. They then freed Nyx and all three decided to have lunch and stay undercover.
About 45 miles away and 130 meters underwater, Muckra had plans for Diogenes-Man. In a battle of psychic powers, the disembodied sentience never overcame the magus. It was wholly voluntary when the human allowed himself to be turned in The Dread Squid. And he was given a mission... .
Dr Rippington Tyde ran into Nyx, Theta, and Dojo Loach in their civilian mode just as he noticed the county sheriff vehicles and a SWAT team showing up. The pirate of the seas asked for diversion, Theta obliged easily with a quick summer squall. Rip Tide, fully armored up, was seen seen blasting into the sky from the courtyard of CSU, headed towards the beaches of Lake Mohawk...
GM Notes:
Dojo Loach, once again doing some decent street level action. I am going to play with that.
I think have a plan for Diogenes-Man. I get the allusions and know the classical meaning of cynicism, and I am a story-teller, Beckett. We can do this.
Nyx still doesn't want anyone getting close to water.
Rip Tide, is proving to be quite the Kirby-esque scientist.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

When am I not running at GenCon?

Let's see,

"Hunting Big Foot," a Stay Alive adventure, 10am-2pm.
"The Keys to Christmas Place" A Red Bat: CTHULHU scenario, 3-7 pm.
"The Horrible Fate of the Haunted House Hunters" A Red Bat Cthulhu scenario, 8pm- Midnight.

"The Goldfish Incident" a Spacers scenario, 3-7pm.
"The Wrong Moon" a Crawlspace shoot, 7-11pm.
"Full Moon in Grimhaver" a Crawlspace shoot,  11pm- 3am.

"Yetis, Yet Again" a T&T adventure, 1-4pm.
"Close the Door" a Crawlspace shoot, 11pm-3am.

"Easter Bunny, the Holy Day Horror" a Crawlspace shoot, 10am-2pm.

For a complete listing of PeryPubber games go here.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Bat Crazy on Cthulhu

I've actually only ever had a handful of people that had ever played the game Call of Cthulhu show up at a table over the last twelve years of doing conventions. On top of all this, the only CoC aficionado to ever show up at one of my games, was so rote superficial and smug about what he expected to happen, I turned the scenario, "In the Midnight Hour", into a quick kill fest and he died first. Monk would hear the guy complaining about me on his cell phone to his friends the next morning while having a cigarette. Mind you, plenty of folks show up, usually with generic tickets begging to be allowed into a Cthulhu event once in their real lives before dieing, and we have really have had some great times-- Will they remember me in their wills, only time will tell.

I have never liked how quickly my CoC games at conventions sell out. Then at the table, I am not so happy about how the signed up do not bother to show up. These days, I've stopped actually running CoC games, instead throwing the word "Cthulhu" somewhere in the event's description, just avoid to fan-driven ticket buying and manic tepid showing up. I also want the "purist" to head elsewhere as well.
Things in the "Cthulhu" world have also gone very soft. I've noticed that from games like Cthulhu Tech to Age of Cthulhu, that many game makers feel free to use the name. Well, I don't know know whether to believe the tales that August Dereleth actually never had rights to the works of H.P. Lovecraft or not, but I do know Ballantine Books laughed at his letters in the 80s. I also know, that if I mention a Lovecraftian element in a tale about a cursed gem in a pulp tale about a jewel thief, it doesn't have to be approved by anybody.

Check out Red Bat: Cthulhu and if you show up at my "Cthulhu" games with a printed copy from your laser/bubble jet printer, you get a free ticket into the adventure.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls: a review

Here is my take on Deluxe T&T. I've read it. I've made notes. Here's my answers to questions I feel that need to be answered follow below.

Is it T&T?
This one is the most important to me.
Yes it is. How else could it be anything else? It is written by Ken St Andre, Liz Danforth, and Bear Peters; it's included Brian Penn. The first three are the Brahmin of the game and Penn has worked hard for over two decade to work with them. I may have disagreements with how each of them does the math work for this or that, but understanding how two six-sided dice work will not be one of them. 

How does it read?
Not well.
While there is a lot of look at and absorb, it is not well organized. The effects of the added rules were done in other games a couple of decades before at least.

Was it worth the wait?
No, sadly.
Two years ago I would've been totally wowed by the work here. As an oft-cited fan of the game, I've had to spend over two years defending why I bother to run any version of this game at events when the ultimate edition was coming out possibly at any given time. I've spent another eighteen months defending the producers' lack of creative impulse as not being unprofessional and indulgent. For about a year, I started flipping off the producers for speaking us like children and while they came up with more and more excuses for us to wait for this project. It just got old, then older, and then rather boring.
What I've read since last weekend does not justify this long waiting period.

Will I play this game? 
Sure I'll play it. When I am not running other games and somebody can convince me to come and be a player-character in his game, I'll do so. I hope these current rules as written will help me achieve the joy that older role-players, they were like 16 when I was 12, had when recounting "doing T&T" to me a novice gamer. I hope other people see the game as I saw it when I was twelve years-old as well.

Notes 1
Notes 2
Notes 3
Notes 4
Notes 5

Wading Through _D_T&T, part 5

The last part of the work, from page 226 until its end at 385, is promised to be about Trollworld. Starting off with the authors' views on how to build worlds, using any system I think, to how this or that T&T locale developed among themselves as they played the game. There is the well established "Trollworld Timeline." The continent of Ralph, err  Rr'lff, is highlighted. A chunk of color-plates thrown in with the artwork of Liz Danforth for various works. The rest of the known planet, like the Eagle and Unicorn continents, are outlined.  A couple of full-color NPC biographies follow. More color artwork by Danforth. Some sharp maps with strong 90 degree angles of well known T&T cities show up as well. A couple more full-color NPC biographies follow.  And then reader gets to get into the other parts of Trollworld that she might be wanting to take a look at.

Michael Stackpole jumps in to do a narrative of his city, Gul. As I always have a copy of City of Terrors nearby at my writing desk, I really enjoyed this. I am as much a fan of the Blue Beetle God as I am of Liz Danforth's pen and ink illustrations of most everything. After the 90-degree angles of the previous maps, I really, appreciated not getting a full view of the city that I have worked out in my mind already.

One thing really bugs me about this section though. It's called clip-art from public domain.

There is a section where adventures are posted. There is a solo of The Abyss by Paul Creelman. There is a trilogy of GM scenarios by Ken St Andre, Bear Peters, and Liz Danforth. I'll probably never read the solo in depth, but the GM adventure is going to get a serious reading for sure. It already reads nicely in the parts that I skimmed so far.

I think there are about 22,000 pages of acknowledgements. While I hope all the Kickstarter contributors are mollified, I think "Great and Mighty Thom" and "Tom Kopfy Loney" need to face off in a sword fight to the death by decapitation. There can be only one "Thom Kopf Laaki."

Wading Through _D_T&T, part 4

Up to page 226, through appendices into "Elaborations" per the phrasing of the book. The charts and further essays on things mentioned in the already padded essential(?) rules from earlier are listed, around a few campaign organizing factors. There is discussions on role-playing tips for  GMs and players. More on talents, the removed Types of warrior-wizrd and citizen, delving into the Specialist, languages, armor for horses, et al. Slightlly of interest is a debate on whether large amounts of dice should be used or not and how the concept of "the Wizards Guild" might be used. Most of this section functions as well as the appendix of a person's digestion; it can help with flow of things or it be the spot where a lot of stuff that should be moving on causes a lot of dire problems.

It is here the concept of "illkin" gets its due discussion. Once again, sounding like card game and it boiled down to charts. There is a treatise on Monsters! Monsters! tradition in T&T play. There is something of an alternate species listing for players that insist on being abnormal and playing a "monstrous kin." These being my favorite subjects of any RPG, I was happy to get to these topics. I still think, my take on T&T monster-kin is better. I also think my names of "Gar" for gargoyles and "Hufugger" for ogre/half-ogres might've influenced some Kharghish (Troll-Speak), which makes me dance a little. Still the framing is how real fantasy role-playing is about humans being the center of everything, and how balance should be a goal of the GM-- I have to wonder if Gary Gygax would be proud of this rather "humanocentric" view point is deeply instilled in the game that was not supposed to be based on his claimed creation.

 I am struck by the subtext of a debate between the 5th edition of the game and its 7th edition. I like the tone and familiar format, but for added value to my personal campaigns, I am not seeing it.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Wading Through _D_T&T, part 3

Working into the magic section of the game, I knew what to expect about three years ago. Some of it was good, some was not so good. On the good side, Kremm-resistance is worked into the spells themselves and not a general rule of thumb, as it was in the 7th edition. One the bad side, I'll let this sidebar quotation illustrate,

"Spells don’t backfire any more. In the 7th edition of T&T, spellcasters needed to make an IQ saving roll on the level of the spell being cast in order to cast it successfully. Failing to do so, especially on a total fumble roll of 3, could have tragic results. That rule has been revoked. Warriors don’t drop their weapons under pressure; archers don’t bobble their arrows trying to nock them. And we wouldn’t drive cars, ever, if a fumble might blow up the engine and kill the passengers any time we turned the key or put our foot on the gas."

As with most poor justifications, the statement is grossly incorrect and it doesn't make sense. The car starting, showing the reader how practical(?) the quoted is, at the end doesn't clear things up for sure. The act of starting a car isn't a skill, but just by following this logic, spells run out of battery power on very cold days, the caster might drop the keys while in a hurry. Okay somebody didn't like using saving rolls for casting spells. Do we have to get this explanation? Forget that failure does occur in reality, and better written fiction, and just say "it's magic."

The rest of the magic section reads like a card game and shows how to really get some munchkin action going, along with a warning that doing these tricks ruin role-playing. It starts to read like stereo assembly instructions after a while, until it finally gets to the spell section. The magic section isn't as clarified as combat is, the edition that does settle all qualms for everybody concerning the usage of magic is going to be 1,600 pages long. Right now, the magic is akin to a Roger Zelazny's Dilvish, the Damned, series and not whatever Jack Vance wrote that inspired Gary Gygax when he was on the mountain while living in the sewers. The fact that it isn't, you've heard it before, is a good thing.

Wading through _D_T&T, part 2

Reading up to page 89, how the game is played and works is delved into. Delve isn't the right word, many things are clarified. Ironically many of the simpler points of the rules system strike me as overly wordy. A couple of the subjects, namely a couple dozen charts on armor wear and tear and Talents just strike me as wholly unnecessary to be included in the rules. Stuff that could handled by the GM and her players is dictated here so now flexibility in these situations is practically no longer a factor-- I don't want to hear "The GM is allowed to change any rules he wants." I am talking about the tone of the game itself.

The Saving Roll page 62, after the two six-diced dice mechanic and SR levels on page 10 or 11, there is mostly verbiage. This includes a sidebar that explains why the 7th edition rule of where a player can add his character's level to a failed SR has been removed. As the side bar doesn't actually explain why the rule was dropped and explicitly states that the rule can be added as a house rule, I'll stick to my statement that there is a lot of verbiage here. The result of "3," a "2 and "1" on 2d6, is still an automatic failure. The authors have decided that the term DARO (Doubles Always Roll On) is avoided so that the a new reader can bother to fully read the text, #6 of the seven points of how to make a save using two dice in T&T.  The Savings Roll chart, is repeated the following page, to help more fully explain experience value of the convention.

Talents (oh why). Even the authors knew that this is really not playing T&T. "...While many of T&T’s rules can be loose and situational, talents in particular can be very subjective..." After this statement, which is beyond me in relaying any information, there are plenty of rule mechanics to more fully explain the convention. How the players need to work closely with the GM. How experience rewards and difficulty levels ought to handled, to name a couple. To top things off there is a listing of talents that are suggested for use. Great, I can go write my BRP "Tunnels and Trolls" campaign now.

The combat gets into specifics that has bothered a lot of table-toppers for decades. This highly detailed section gets to the problem of a lot of issues and handles them with authoritative answers. To most of the folks with problems with the combat system, the sad truth is that the system is still T&T. I also a saw lot of norms worked in that we tabletop GMs of T&T have been using to handle combat since about 2004. Missile combat is back to being explained in depth, as in pre-7th edition volumes. While, I might find the "Hand-to-Hand" section wrong, it is still handled like the game should be handled without mimicking other game systems. That is a plus.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Wading through _D_T&T, part 1

Well, so far, up to page 61 in my reading, while the term "rules lite" can't be totally discarded, the writers still are trying to present a fantasy role-playing game where a person can get the concepts behind the game in a quick fashion.  Warriors, Wizards, and Rogues not only get defined to death, but crunchy bits of detail are thrown in for more realism, I suppose. Wizards can use big weapons, (Gandalf fans everywhere are cheering) but at a disadvantage. Armor ablation rules are promised to readers when they are frightened by armor numbers greater than the something that can be rolled on a d20 when playing Warriors. Gone is the Roguery Talent, instead more player-created talents need to be listed to more fully define what type of Rogue it is, and at seventh level the Type can become a Wizard or Warrior with perks. The Rogue actually strikes as me the best defined "rogue" of FRPGs ever, despite the additional paperwork required for this edition.

The word "concise" can be forgotten though. The concept of TARO (triples always roll on) used in Character creation, a convention used at least since 7th edition. I think we used it with 5th edition back in the 80s, but it might've been a house rule. On page 7 the rules tell the player that if she rolls three of the same number to place an asterisk by that result and wait until she reads through the text until page 18 before explaining that beginning attributes can be outside of  the "3-18" range that most d20-based games use. TARO is noted as primary reason for the "Specialist" character Type, but the player may still opt to play the other Types Warrior, Wizard, and Rogue. She is free to now use roll again and add the result to the earlier result. There is a side note of discussion explaining the statistics of how often triples will occur when rolling three six-sided dice. It's kind of like the authors were afraid player-characters with attributes outside of "3-18"-- Then Kindred stat modifiers blows the range well beyond the 18-max norm about two pages later.

 Highlighted are the "Good Kindreds" in the section, sticking to the humans, elves, dwarves, and hobbs (hobbits), then (clearing throat) leprechauns, and then fairies. There is the promise of more exotic creatures, err "illkin" to come later, just somewhere in the warehouse section of the shop. Gone are the dangerous and unorthodox days where T&T and Monsters! Monsters! could be thought of as part of the same game system openly. Part of the text ask why would anybody want to play a human in a world where other Kindreds' modified stats can be much greater than his own.  I would've thought that the TARO rule helped partly with that, but the current answer is that humans can get a mulligan on a failed Saving Roll the first time around. Teela Brown eat your heart out! Most of the other kindred have their modified attributes and Trollworld-specific information to totally distinguish them from anything, except hobbs, Tolkien wrote... kind of.  Leprechauns do have their Wink-Wing back, they lost it in 7th edition, and this time it costs them spell power use it, unlike earlier editions. As a GM that last bit has me breathing easier, no longer can the lawyer player argue with me about my personal house rule about the special ability, it's in an official book dammit (and it costs more than my rating). Oh yeah fairies can fly, as always. With the humans, fairies, and leprechauns, the Kindred section, is still more unconventional than most FRPGs, that's a plus. I also like the word "illkin" but wish the authors finally admitted that playing orks, ogres, trolls, and other fantasy creatures happens more often in this game than other "traditional" tabletop sessions. It's what flavors T&T.

Experience and PC levels retained the innovations of 7th edition. That means attribute based, and players spend their "AP" to raise their attributes. I am happy to see that.

 The equipping of the Character still has a surplus of pages and charts, and extensive lists. I'll admit my eyes have been glazing over since about 2004 seeing the same or similar material presented in a tried and true format since 1980. I suppose there is a bit a comfort zone thing going on here.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Towering Tom's take on Deluxe Tunnels and Trolls pre-release to the Gen Con Handout for backers of its Kickstarter from about 2 years ago.. to be released soon!

(author's note: I was drunk when writing this. I was poking Brian Penn, in a weird "Tom" way. I am happy that the new edition of T&T is finally out)

The latest version of my favorite rules lite game is out. Here's my "early" review...

I happen to be "Towering Tom" in my friend's, Brian Penn's take, on things

An edition that flips off contributors to the franchise in-between their parties is not news. The chosen few's panhandling gets mainstream press in the gaming world. I am not a bit upset. Not unless, the rules suck overall.

More on my thoughts later.