Wednesday, August 21, 2019

#RPGaDAY2019: Vast

Today's topic is Vast.

Vast. Seriously it is like it is too large of a word to tackle all at once.


To any PC in any sort of RPG the setting should feel vast.  For D&D it is can be the world or the known planes.  In sci-fi games, this can be the galaxy or even the universe.

But I don't write vast.  I write local.

Yes, there is a whole world out there, but how much of it are the PCs going to see? What do they really know about it?  Sure, there were people in the 13th century that had a pretty good idea what the world looked like, but did the peasants?

Let's look at Star Trek and by extension my BlackStar game. Because really, what is more vast than space?


That is a map of the Known Space of the Star Trek universe roughly at the end of the 24th Century.  My BlackStar game is likely to be set 50 years prior to this.
This is a LOT of territory.  The Sol system is where the larger yellow line is.  Click to see larger.

This is roughly 1,500 Light Years wide, of the Milky Way that is 105,000 Light Years wide, about 1%.

That's a lot of untold stories. 

I wish I had more time to do more!

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

#RPGaDAY2019: Noble

Today's topic is Noble.

I have to admit. I don't really do a lot with nobles or nobility in my games. Unless of course, they are a plot device.  Either a backdrop ("The King has ordered...") or the big bad ("Count Dracula, I presume.").



Honestly, I really should do more.

Recently I received my PDF of Adventures Great and Glorious from Joseph Bloch's Kickstarter.  I have not read it all in detail but so far I like it.  Between it and some of the rules found in Adventurer Conqueror King, there is a lot to help me with a good system of kingdom creation and management.   Who knows, maybe it will give me some ideas for my upcoming "War of the Witch Queens" game.

The gold standard of this sort of game is naturally Pendragon.  A game I adore but never got to play much.  Another one that comes to mind is Birthright.

Birthright is an odd one for me.  Odd in the sense that I know nearly next to nothing about it.  It came out during TSR's dying days. In the Second Ed era I was firmly entrenched in Ravenloft,  but by 1997 I was giving up on D&D.  I had started to move on to other games already (this was the height of my Mage years) and I was generally very disappointed in D&D by then. I had even sold off large sections of my collection to where I was down to just a few dozen books.

At a Gen Con some years ago I got to play in a Birthright game.  It was fun, I played a Goblin archer (fighter), but in this game, goblins were a lot smarter. So more like an angry halfling.

I don't own any Birthright books, which is a crime really.  So I am thinking of picking up the core set.   From my understanding, it would convert well to 5e.

What are your favorite games or supplements for dealing with PCs becoming nobles and ruling the lands?

Monday, August 19, 2019

Monstrous Monday: Goblin Men

“We must not look at goblin men, 
We must not buy their fruits: 
Who knows upon what soil they fed 
Their hungry thirsty roots?”
- Christina Rossetti, 1862

There are two artistic movements that have fueled my imagination for my games more than anything else I can think of; Tolkien and the Pre-Raphaelite movement.
They converge at Goblin Men.

In Rossetti's poem, the Goblin Men are found in the Goblin Market. Honestly, if this poem doesn't fill you with ideas for your games I don't know what will.  In Tolkien's Lord of the Rings Goblin Men are essentially half-orcs. Both types are depicted as evil, or at the very least, desiring mischief to humankind.

The fact we don't have Goblin Men in D&D is a crime.

Since my theme this year is "Back to Basic", here are Goblin Men for my two current favorite Basic-era Games, Blueholme and Old-School Essentials.

In my worlds, goblins are closer to fey-creatures than they are to orcs.  Mostly evil, or at least mischievous creatures.  I might adopt some of what Pathfinder 2 is doing with them as well to make them more of playable race.    Goblin Men are born to human women that wander too close to lands where goblins dwell.  Not through sexual congress, but an intermixing of essences of the magics that surround goblins.  Often the goblin child is taken in the night by goblins and a stillborn changeling is left behind; opposite of what other faeries will do, taking a human child to leave behind a living changeling.

Goblin Men
(Blueholme Journeymanne Rules)
AC: 7 (leather armor)
HD: 1d8
Move: 25
Attacks: 1 weapon Damage: 1d6+2
Alignment: 3N : 1CE
Treasure: 12 (1)
XP: 10

Goblin Men
(Old-School Essentials)
Ugly humanoids with elongated lower tusks and glowing, orange, but intelligent eyes. Dwell in dark forsaken places.
AC 7 [12], HD 1 (5hp), Att 1 × weapon (1d6+2 or by weapon), THAC0 19 [0], MV 60’ (20’), SV D14 W14 P15 B16 S17 (NH), ML 8, AL Chaotic, XP 10, NA 1d4 (2d10), TT R (C)
Infravision: 60’.
Hoard: Only have treasure type C when encountered in the wilderness or in their lair.


Goblin-men appear as larger, fiercer versions of a goblin with an uncanny glint of human intelligence in their eyes,   Some Goblin-men are so akin to humans as to pass for an ugly human (15%).  Most are neutral in temperament with only a few being truly evil.  All though are mischievous creatures not above taking advantage of others when the opportunity presents itself.

Unlike goblins, goblin-men can withstand daylight and take no penalty for fighting in conditions of bright light.

Goblin-Men make a good substitute for the half-orc and provide an air of mystery to the creature.  Who was its mother? Did she stray too close to the Goblin Markets? Eat their fruits?



#RPGaDAY2019: Scary

Today's topic is Scary.

It is said that everyone loves a good scare.  But I LOVE them.


Spend any amount of time here and you will learn that I love horror movies, horror RPGs and adding elements of horror to my otherwise non-horror games.

Horror was always my thing, even when I was really little.  My mom loved horror and used to tell us the way scary and certainly not appropriate for children stories when we were little and we loved them.   A lot of the horror-themed material you see here has there roots in some of those stories.

My current purely horror game is "Star Trek meets Cthulhu" game in Black Star.
Stephen King once said that horror needs to start with what you know.  To truly feel horror you have to begin in a place of safety and comfort.  For me that is Trek.  Then you add in the horrors.

Doing a proper horror game is not always easy.  Think about Gothic Horror for a moment.  The reason it is as effective as it is it that the hero, or most often, a heroine, is powerless against the forces that she is dealing with.  The same is true for Cosmic Horror, the forces against humanity are so vast and so powerful that we become insignificant in the scope of it all.

Trek represents humanity at their best, their most powerful, their peak. To turn that setting into horror I am going to need something very powerful.  So in a way, it is an experiment for me to see if I can merge two of my favorite things.

Hope to do some more here soon.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

#RPGaDAY2019: Plenty

Today's topic is Plenty.

We live in a new Golden Age of Plenty in RPGS.


I was thinking about what is commonly thought of as the Golden Age; the Early 80s.  Sure there was a lot going on and everything was bright and new and the vistas seemed endless.

But I also remember a time when finding some books was difficult and unless you were in the know then you not only didn't have access to the books, you didn't even know they existed.   Plus lots of news of new games, books or whatever was regional.

I lived near the pipeline between Chicago and Carbondale (two places I would later live in) that had a steady stream of material partially thanks due to Tim Kask and his connections at Southern Illinois University (SIU, go Salukis!).  So I came to later learn that even though I lived in a highly religious small town, we had some good access to D&D products.  With Mayfair in the Chicago burbs and the University of Illinois all the North, things were not too bad.

BUT there was still a lot of stuff I never saw.  I understand there was a vibrant scene in California and other places that produced completely different material.  Material that the local took for granted.

Today.  Today things are different. We have the Internet and easy access to several thousands of books of gaming material.

Blogs and boards produce a Dragon's magazine worth of material every week, if not every day.
Sure some of you might claim there is a lot of noise and useless information.  Well, guess what? That has always been true.

There are so many good games out now.  Yesterday I talked about One game, but today I am talking about all of them.  We don't have to choose one game for forever and forever.

It's a Golden Age and we should enjoy it.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

#RPGaDAY2019: One

Today's topic is One.

Every so often the topic comes up of what RPG would you choose if you could only choose one.

If I over-think it, it becomes hard. There are so many great RPGs out there.  So many that I love and have loved playing.  But if I could only choose one, forever, then the choice becomes clear and easy.

CJ Carella's WitchCraft RPG.


WitchCraft is, hands down, my favorite game.  Period.  Picking up a copy of this book back in 1999 was just like picking up a copy of the Monster Manual in 1979.  Everything I ever wanted in a game was right there.
Everything.

WitchCraft had such a profound effect on my gaming that I can draw a rather clean line between what came before and what came after it.  Granted a lot was going on in 1999/2000 both gaming-wise and personal that may have added to this effect, it was an effect all the same.

Back in 1999, I was really burned out on D&D.   I was working on my own Witch netbook and reading a bunch of different games when someone, I forget where, must have been the old RAVENLOFT-L that TSR/WotC used to run, told me I really need to check out WitchCraft.  At first, I balked.  I had tried Vampire a couple years ago and found I didn't like it (and I was very much out of my vampire phase then), but I was coming home from work and my FLGS was on the way, so I popped in and picked up a copy.  This must have been the early spring of 2000.

I can recall sitting in my office reading this book over and over. Everything was so new again, so different.  This was the world I had been trying, in vain, to create for D&D but never could.  The characters in this book were also all witches, something that pleased me to no end, it was more than just that.  Plus look at that fantastic cover art by George Vasilakos. That is one of my most favorite, is not my favorite, cover for a gamebook. I have it hanging in my game room now.

WitchCraft uses what is now called the "Classic" Unisystem system.  So there are 6 basic attributes, some secondary attributes (derived), skills and qualities and drawbacks.  Skills and attributes can be mixed and matched to suit a particular need.

WitchCraft uses a Point-Buy Metaphysics magic system, unlike Ghosts of Albion's levels of magic and spells system.  Think of each magical effect as a skill that must be learned and you have to learn easier skills before the harder ones first.    In D&D, for example, it is possible to learn Fireball and never have learned Produce Flame.  In WitchCraft you could not do that.  WitchCraft though is not about throwing around "vulgar magics".  WitchCraft is a survival game where the Gifted protect humanity from all sorts of nasty things, from forgotten Pagan gods, to demons, fallen angels and the Mad Gods; Cthulhoid like horrors from beyond.  WitchCraft takes nearly everything from horror and puts all together and makes it work.

The Eden Studios version was the Second Edition, I was later to find out.  The first one was from Myrmidon Press. I managed to find a copy of that one too and it was like reading the same book, from an alternate universe.  I prefer the Eden Edition far more for a number of reasons, but I am still happy to have both editions.

The central idea behind WitchCraft is the same as most other Modern Supernatural Horror games.  The world is like ours, but there are dark secrets, magic is real, monsters are real. You know the drill.  But WitchCraft is different.  There is a Reckoning coming, everyone feels it, but no one knows what it is.  Characters then take on the roles of various magic-using humans, supernaturals or even mundane humans and they fight the threats.  Another conceit of the game (and one I use a lot) is that supernatural occurrences are greater now than ever before.  Something's coming.  (dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria).

It is most often compared to World of Darkness, but there are things WitchCraft does that I just like better.  Unlike (old) Mage there is no war between the (good) Mages and the (evil) Technocracy.  There is a war certainly, but nothing so cut and dry.  Unlike new Mage, there are rarely clean divisions between the factions.  Yes, yes Mage players, I am being overly simple, but that is the point, on the simple levels new Mage dives everything into 5 because that is how the designers want it.  There are factions (Associations) and there are different metaphysics for each, but also overlap, and sometimes no clear and defined lines are to be found or given.  It feels very organic.

In my opinion, C. J. Carella may be one of the best game designers out there.  WitchCraft is a magnum opus that few achieve.  I took that game and I ran with it.  For 2000 - 2003 it was my game of choice above and beyond anything.  The Buffy RPG, built on the Cinematic Unisystem took over until I wrote Ghosts of Albion, which also use the Cinematic Unisystem.  I mix and match the systems as I need, but WitchCraft is still my favorite.

WitchCraft, in fact, is what got me into professional game design.

Back in the Spring/Summer of 2001, I started up a new game.  I had just purchased the WitchCraft RPG book about 16 months prior and I was looking for something new.  That something came to me in the guise of Willow and Tara.  I had been watching Buffy for a bit and I really enjoyed the character of Willow.  When she got together with fellow witch Tara I thought they were perfect.  I had become very involved in the online Willow/Tara fandom so I created a game, focusing on just them.

The game would focus on just these two, no one else from the show (which I would soon become an ex-fan of, but that is a different story).  Plus it gave me something to try out in a modern setting, something I have not done since my days with the Chill RPG.

The trickiest part of developing game stats of any fictional character that belongs to someone else is knowing how to strike a balance between the game's rules and the fictional portrayal. A lot of "artistic" license needs to be used in order to get a good fit. For example, how do you determine what some one's strength is when there is little to no on-screen evidence? What spells would the girls have?

In the end, I decided to play it a little loose, but I love where their stats ended up.  In many ways, this is who Willow and Tara are to me, not the characters on TV or comics, but the ones that were my characters since that day back in May 2001 that I decided they needed their own chance to shine.

After this, I went on to work on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG.  It should be no surprise then that the Willow and Tara stats that appear there are not that much different than my own.  I can be quite vocal in playtests.  That got me the chance to write the Ghosts of Albion RPG. This also allowed me to meet, work with and remain friends with Christopher Golden and Amber Benson.

WitchCraft paved the way for so many other games for me, not just in terms of playing but in writing.  If it were not for WitchCraft then we would not have had Buffy, Angel or Army of Darkness.  Conspiracy X would have remained in its original system. There would be no Terra Primate or All Flesh Must Be Eaten and certainly, there would be no Ghosts of Albion.  The game means that much to me.

But you don't have to take my word for it, Eden Studios will let you have it, sans some art, for free.
http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product_info.php?products_id=692&it=1&affiliate_id=10748

Download it.  If you have never played anything else other than D&D then you OWE it yourself to try this game out.

My thing is I wish it was more popular than it is.  I love the game. If I was told I could only play one game for the rest of my life then WitchCraft would be it.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Kickstart Your Weekend: The Lost City of Gaxmoor 5E

This one is easy to back.

The Lost City of Gaxmoor 5E


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/676918054/the-lost-city-of-gaxmoor-5e?ref=theotherside

From the Kickstarter Page:

The Lost City of Gaxmoor 5E is a sandbox adventure we are converting to the 5th Edition of the world's most popular role playing game. Designed for characters that range from 1st to 10th level. It is the brain child of and written by Ernie and Luke Gygax, the sons of the legendary co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons Gary Gygax. If this campaign is successful, The Lost City of Gaxmoor 5E will be released in a Full Color, 128+ page book that includes a fold out map of the city that retails for $39.99.
I will admit I don't know the history behind Gaxmoor save that Ernie and Luke created it and it was one of the few times Gary was a player.  This, added to the long friendship between Gary and the Chenault brothers, gives this much more than a whiff of credibility.  This is the closest to something from the Old Master himself.

There is a lot going on in this Kickstarter.  Not sure what level I will pledge yet, but I know I will!
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