Thursday, March 1, 2012

Beware the Sales of March

Today is the first day of March.  The beginning of March is always a good time in the gaming world for me.

It means spring and spring mean that Cons are coming up.  It also means the Games Plus spring game auction.  If you have never been please make the effort to go.

It also means the GM's Day sale at DriveThruRPG.

There are a lot of deals this time around.  I noticed more that a few that were at 40% or more off.

Great time to grab that game you always wanted.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Old Maps

I love old maps.  Especially ones from the dawn of discovery when map makers had equal parts of skill, imagination and daring.  Sure I would not want one in my GPS car system, but for my game table?  Yes Please!

Here is one I was reading today while waiting for something else.

That's Taprobana.  An island in the Indian Ocean.
Sure we have an island there now anyway, Sri Lanka, but Taprobana is cool.  It is an island of wizards, fakirs and shamans.  A place to go to learn the highest magics, the most ancient of all arcane secrets.

They also have tea.  Which is a plus.
I just need to find a place for it in my own world.

White Dwarf Wednesday Issue 7

Sorry for the interruption.  Here we are back to Issue 7 with the start of the new full color covers.

White  Dwarf covers always had a "Heavy Metal" feel to them for me.  The magazine not the musical style, though both are accurate.  This cover was no exception.
Plus this cover, half naked girl with sword and space helmet riding a dinosaur just screams OD&D to me.  I love the little lizard dude pointing the way.

This issue is larger than the past ones by 4 pages.  Growth it good, even if it looks like most of those new pages are ads.  But ads are good too, since to me the ads of WD and Dragon were just as good of an indication as to what was popular or at least had the money to buy the space.  There were many games I looked at the ads and later HAD to have.

We have bit on feudal economics in Chivalry and Sorcery (by one of the authors of the game), but certainly fine for any FRPG.

Next up is a huge update to the Fiend Factory.  This feature is about to hit it's apex and there a plenty of new but familiar creatures to be found here.  We have the Necrophidius, the Rover (a large round creature that, um, rolls), a Living Wall (which later became the Stun Jelly) , Volt, the Gluey (which thankfully later became the Adherer), Squonk, Eye Killer, Witherweed, and the Withra.  All are complete with Monstermark ratings too.  What I find interesting here are not the ones that made it in to the Fiend Folio, but the ones that didn't. They don't seem any worse or better than the others.

Ripped from the blog posts of last week are carrying capacities in Treasure Chest.  They are split out by male and female.  Oddly enough they are listed in terms of kg (kilograms) instead of pounds or even "coins".  Though they do state at 1kg = 100 gp.

Yet more on the Asbury system of experience rewards.

Open Box reveiws "The Warlord Game", "The Thieves of Fortress Badabaskor", "Bifrost, Vol. 1", "Lords and Wizards" (Overall 6), "The Sorcerer's Cave", and "Cosmic Encounter" (Overall 8).

WD gives us a section of the Greenlands Dungeon called Lair of the Demon Queen.  Which is a just a quick encounter really with a couple rooms.  Perfect to add into a game or "collect them all!"  Though I can't recall if there ever were more articles on this.

A special guest in the form of Gary Gygax writes about the Proliferation of Magic Items in D&D.  If you didn't know already, old school games are typically low-magic affairs.  None was more low magic than Gary himself it seems.  While his advice is good, and certainly germane to any old school blog, it's not my tastes since I tend to run a magic rich game.

The issue ends with some ads.

All in all the future is looking good for WD.  It has found a nice stride here in's toddlerhood.

Blogroll broken

Like many of you, my blogroll seems to be broken.

I can't add or remove blogs from it.  Shame really, I had found some new blogs I hoped would be nice additions.   Anyone figure out how to fix it yet?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Conspiracy Y?

Reading a book about conspiracy theories and how they can be easily debunked.
But it has me in the mood for a serious Conspiracy X game with heave doses of paranoia, subjective reality and black ops every where.

Might have to try that sometime.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Marvel Heroic Roleplaying

Well unless you have been living under a rock this last week the newest, hottest game on the market right now is Marvel Heroic Roleplaying from Margaret Weis Productions.

It is kinda-sorta billing itself as the spiritual heir to TSR's old Marvel Superheroes Game  (aka FASERIP).
The new book out is called "The Basic Game" , obviously meant to recall the "Basic Game" of MSH and there is even a forward from Jeff Grubb.  So MHR has a pedigree, of sorts, but how does it stack up to it's forefather?


I will be100% honest here.  The rules took me a bit of reading, re-reading, asking other players and spending some time on RPG Net to understand.  AND I Am still not 100% sure I got it right.

I have played around with Cortex+ before.  I like ti for what it is and I'll admit I was a little concerned when I heard that the Marvel Game was going to use Cortex+.  I like it for Smallville and Leverage where drama is important. I even suggested using it for a Modern Supernatural game, but I was not sold on it as a Supers game.

At this point I should point out that "Supers" might not be a good genre for this game.  After all, "Supers" is not even in the title at all and the assumption here that everyone has powers of some sort.

In many ways this game is exactly as my friend Greg describes as the "Antithesis of the OSR".
This game is about building characters, the relationships between them and the drama.  Which, if you think about it, is kinda what Marvel Comics is about.   Does it matter really what the Hulk's strength is?  No.  Just that he is really damn strong.  Can he pick up a tank and throw it?  Sure if the Watcher (the GM, I kinda like that) says he does then he does.  That simple.  If it is a challenge, say can he out punch The Thing or Thor, then that is a different matter.

I think back to a scene I remember reading years ago.  Spider-man teamed up with the Ghost Rider to catch a common foe.  They are obviously very different kinds of heroes and they have their own way of doing things.  The bad guy was actually not essential to the story, so much so that I can't even recall him.  But the issue was more about their contrasting styles and more about how Spidey was horrified when Ghost Rider used Hell Fire on a bad guy.    This sort of thing is perfect for these rules.

So I am going spend some time this week with this game and looking at the support information out there and how one can use this game.

My opinion of the game has gone up since I first picked it up.  So who knows where I'll be by this Friday.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Undead: I Don't Like Level Drain

I don't like level draining attacks from Undead.

I have never liked them.  I also don't like 3.x "Negative" levels solution either, although it is getting closer.

See "Level" to me has always been an abstraction, a short hand way of saying you are of a certain skill and power.  But the level itself doesn't mean anything.  Loosing them is not even properly scary. Really it isn't.
Play some Call of Cthulhu or Kult where there is no such thing and I can tell you, things are scary enough.

I also don't like them since it has nothing to do with why an undead needs them or even would be able to do this.  If you say the undead "feed" on levels I counter with "ok, why do they even bother with 0-level humans?" OR more to the point, how do 0-level humans survive as long as they can/could/need-to-for-plot-reasons?

Take the example of Dracula.  Are you saying Lucy, who we can assume was attacked by Dracula multiple times, but let's just say three, was at least 6-level?  6th level in what? Mina and Harker too?

Lets look at this from the perspective of a low-level character.  Loosing a level is bad news.  How about from a higher level one, well...bad yes, but not as bad.
Look at the example of the Magic-User.  At 8th level they can cast 2 4th level spells, but after a vampire attack they...forgot them?  Ok so memory loss is not an uncommon thing after an attack, but something that specific?  Ok, so maybe you can stretch and justify it there, what about a Cleric.  He doesn't memorize spells, he prays for them. Now after an attack from a vampire he is no longer worthy for these magics?  Lost me there.

For me, level drain never made much sense at all.  If it is an abstraction of "Life Force" then we already have that in something much more precious than a level and it fits better.  Ability Scores.

Constitution is listed in the AD&D 1 Player's Handbook as:
"Constitution is a term which encompasses the character’s physique, fitness, health, and resistance. Since constitution affects the character‘s hit dice and chances of surviving such great system shocks as being changed by magic spell or resurrected from the dead, it is of considerable importance to all classes."
Instead of levels I say Vampires (and I'll get to other undead) should drain 2 points of Constitution.  It fits better.  The more blood loss you have the weaker you become.  The less likely you will survive a system shock.

Let's say the average Constitution Score for everyone is 10.  Some one like Lucy, described as frail and weak might only be an 8 or even a 6.  Certainly enough to survive multiple attacks, not more than say oh... three.  Mina, who is described as robust and full of life survives more attacks.

The draining attack needs to be tied into the type of undead, how it was made and what it needs.  We already have a precedent for it; the AD&D Shadow drains Strength.  Vampires, who feed on blood (or was that forgotten in AD&D?) should feed on Constitution.  Other undead then fall in line.

The Monsters

Skeletons, Zombies, Ghouls and Ghasts
The various members of the "Walking Dead" typically do not have drain attacks, though some could have fear based ones.  Zombies, Ghouls and Ghasts can also number among the "Hungry Dead" where they eat the flesh, living or dead, of others.

Ghosts, Banshees, Poltergeists
These creatures feed on fear for the most part, so causing fear is their primary goal.  The Banshee can kill with her scream and the Ghost can prematurely age a victim.
Drain: None.
Restore: Damaging, HP restored as normal, aging can be reversed

The mere touch of a Lich is a paralyzing cold attack that has less to do with actual temperature and more to do with the chill beyond the grave.
Drain: None. Paralyzing
Restore: Damaging, HP restored as normal

The rotting disease of the mummy is well known, but mummies can also attack via a draining attack.  This attack, sometimes known as the Mummy's Curse, will drain the victim of Dexerity and Charisma.  Worse yet, the curse is applied after only 1 successful attack and the the abilities are drained at the rate of 1 point each per day till one of them reached 0.  At this point the victim dies and can not be raised.  They will then on the next full moon become a zombie.
Drain: 1 point of Dexterity and Charisma.
Restore: Remove Curse, Heal or Wish only.

Shadow already drain Strength.  As intangible, incorporeal creatures they lack the physicality needed to interact with the world.  Draining Strength then makes them feel more alive, but it is temporary.
Drain: 1 point of Strength.
Restore: Natural healing, 1 point per hour of rest.


These frightful ghostly shades are the result of a curse. They are removed from the physical world, but loathe it.  Like the Shadow, the Spectre drains away Strength, but it can also drain Wisdom.  Strength is lost much the same way and for the same reasons as a Shadow.  Wisdom, the center of reason, is drained because it was something the Spectre lacked to get itself cursed in such a way.
Drain: 1 point of Strength or Wisdom
Restore: Magical healing via Restoration or Heal spell.

These apex undead predators feed on the life force of their victims.  They drain the blood (and thus the Constitution) from their victims.  A vampire can choose to drain 2 points of Constitution per attack, but many will toy with their victims, draining only once per night.
Drain: 2 points of Constituion
Restore: Natural healing, 1 point per week of complete bed-rest.

Most wights were soldiers or fighters in their lives.  Some of that keen intelligence lives on in undead flesh.  Since their lives were cut short due to their physical prowess, or lack thereof, the wight jealously steals Strength from it's victims.  It does this with a cold touch from beyond the grave.
Drain: 1 point of Strength
Restore: Magical healing via Restoration or Heal spell.

The Wraith is a more power incorporeal undead than the shadow, but not quite the twisted evil of the Spectre.  The wraith attempts to drain any ability score it can, targeting the lowest score and draining it till the victim reaches 0.  They do this not so much out of malice, though that is certainly true, but because they need the life force the ability provides.
Drain: 1 point of lowest Ability Score.
Restore: Magical healing via Restoration or Heal spell.

The kiss of the succubus is as deadly as it is desirable.  Men (and women) who have survived it can barely describe it, but all agree that no mortal embrace can ever compare again.  While the succubus can withhold the draining feature of her amorous attack at will, she won't often do so.  This is because the attack of the succubus will drain Wisdom as well as Constitution.  Any victim that has lost more than 1/3 of their total Wisdom score becomes hopelessly in the thrall of the succubus. Only a Wish or similar magic can save them.  Once the succubus has used up her pawn she may opt to drain Constitution as well or only to finish of the hapless mortal and return to her master with their soul.

Drain: 1 point of Wisdom and Constitution, or 2 points of Wisdom or 2 points of Constitution
Restore: Magical healing, till 1/3 is lost then only via a Wish

Guidelines for Abilities Drained
Other undead or other demons may also have a level draining attack, here is how to convert those attacks to  Ability Draining and how to choose which ability is the most appropriate.

Strength or Dexterity: Any attack where the creature is incorporeal, lacking a true body or is otherwise reminded of their own past physical life. Ex. Shadows and Wraiths lack true physical forms and Wights were mostly fighters.

Constitution: The basis of life-force.  It is used in system survival roles and adds to hitpoints.  Any creature that drains life will drain Con.

Wisdom: The basis of willpower and the desire to continue on.  Also the "mature" side of our minds. People with less wisdom give in to temptation easier.

Intelligence: The domain of the mind. Anything to do with mental prowess, psychic awareness or magical talent lies here.  Ex. Mind Flayers feed on the minds of others, they "eat" Intelligence.

Charisma: The personality of the character.  Also tied to willpower.  Some faerie creatures will drain the life and personality out of a person by draining their Charisma.  Ex. The Leanan Sidhe or Psychic vampires.

There are certainly other ways to do this and we can even argue which ability various undead can drain.  But I think ability drain is far superior to level drain.