Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Mighty Protectors: We Can Be Heroes

There are two central features of Villains & Vigilantes and Mighty Protectors that I have always enjoyed.  First, the conceit that you play yourself with superpowers in the game. And secondly, that characters of all sorts of power level can play next to each other in the same adventure.


Back in the day though that is not exactly what we did.

In the early 80s I went over to my buddy Jon Cook's house to play some Basic-era D&D.  We stopped by one of other friends, Dave, who was younger but had been playing longer than I had.  He had, at the advanced age of 10-11, already moved on from D&D and was playing V&V.  It had only been out for a while but he loved it.  I really wanted to play some D&D though, so we compromised.  I used my D&D character.  Dave did all the behind the scenes rolls and math, or he just made stuff up I don't really know or cared at the time.  But back then this was something you could do with D&D and V&V pretty easy.  I took a healing power and the ability to turn undead; one of the reasons I was playing a cleric in the first place. And we had a great time.  I know while I was doing it I was struggling with the rules, but I had fun.

So when I got my nice new copy of Mighty Protectors one of the first things I did was try to convert some "D&D" style characters.   I wanted to do this for nostalgia reasons but also to try out some different levels of play that correspond to Standard (150 CP), High (200 CP), and Low (100 CP).

For my choices, I went with my iconic witch Larina ("Witch Queen"), an amalgam of many of the clerics, paladins and cavaliers I have played ("Paladin"), and a new character that has seen play in Pathfinder, D&D 5, M&M, Superbabes and Marvel Super Heroes ("Teen Witch").

For these, and most of the characters I'll be posting, I did all the character generation by hand and checked that against the Excel Character sheet pack.  Click on images for full res PDFs.

Paladin
Standard 150 CP Build

Paladin is based on a number of paladins, clerics, and cavaliers I have played over the years. He is also based on the first character I played in D&D and then took over to V&V.  I used the standard array of BCs and picked powers as they worked with an eye to keep my number right around 150 CPs.


I like it. I gave him the ability to turn undead with the repulsion blast.  My thought is that he goes out to hunt undead and demons with the magical sword Demonbane.  Given the tenor of most of my supers games he will have a lot of work to do!

Teen Witch
Low 100 CP Build

Teen Witch, aka Taryn Nichols is the daughter of my iconic witch Larina.  In D&D she is half-elf but I say she is more half faerie since her birth was during a time my witch was in the D&D 3.5 Feywild.  She was a Pathfinder witch and a D&D 4 Warlock.  I played a game of Marvel Super Heroes with her powers were manifested while she was in school. Here first power was flight.


The goal here was to keep her under 100 CPs and I did...with some weaknesses.  But that is fine really, they are also part of her backstory.  Basically, Larina was pregnant and trapped in the world of the Faerie.  In order to leave she had to give up her daughter.  Long story short, she found a way to keep Taryn and leave, but Taryn is indebted to her Elven father.  I did not put that on yet since this is starting Taryn. That drama comes up later! ;)


Witch Queen
High 200 CP

Witch Queen is, of course, my iconic witch Larina. I have played this character in nearly every game I have ever played. So I know her well.  Which was the point of all of this really, to take characters I know well and convert them easily.  Larina is also always my experimental character.  Here I am experimenting with the Arsenal Ability (think Batman's utility belt or Green Arrow's arrows) to build a spell book.  I REALLY like it worked out.   I also used the Inventing Ability to simulate Ritual Spells. Ones that take longer but have a bigger effect.  I will explore this concept some more in other builds.


There she is. My girl.  Now there are hundreds of ways I could do magic powers and spells, but this is an experiment.  So I can move numbers around later.

I like how all of these worked out to be honest.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Review: Mighty Protectors

"We believe in heroes because, ultimately, we believe in ourselves." - Jack "King" Kirby

I am spending some quality time with +Jeff Dee and Jack Herman's Supers RPG Mighty Protectors, aka Villains & Vigilantes 3.0.

Mighty Protectors (MP) is the update to the venerable supers RPG Villains & Vigilantes (V&V). In fact it is billed as the version 3.0 of the game.

V&V was the first supers game I ever encountered.   Jeff Dee got his start on D&D doing some of the classic module art and book art for the 1st edition game.   So the game has some obvious D&D roots.
V&V was unique at the time (and still somewhat in MP) in that in the game you play yourself.  You work out with the other players what your strength, endurance, intelligence and the rest are and then you roll randomly on a table of super powers.  It's a very interesting and fun concept that we completely ignored.  Back in the day we liked playing a "multi-verse" so our V&V characters were our D&D characters in a supers universe.  The stats were the mostly the same and both games had levels.  Plus it gave us excuses to have strengths of 50 or more (human max is 18).  I remember it being a very good time.

As typical of many old school games there are lots of random rolls, charts and a fair amount of math involved. I went back recently to make a character and was thrilled to see that Monkey House Games had an Excel character sheet pack.  The math isn't hard really, but Excel is still faster.

Even though we got a V&V 2.1 a couple of years back, V&V was itself in a state of limbo with a long, ugly legal battle between creators Dee and Herman vs. former publisher Fantasy Games Unlimited.  Last year everything got sorted out and Mighty Protectors was Kickstarted.

If you have played V&V in the past then there is a lot here that is familiar, but also a lot that is new, updated or revised.  Levels are gone, replaced with Power Levels that work like Power Levels in Mutants & Masterminds.  This is actually a big leap forward in my mind and gives you more flexibility. While you should start out with a "Standard" game (150 total CPs) you could do a "Low" powered game (100 total CPs) or even a "Normal" or "No Powers" game of 50 CPs. Or take it the other direction with "High" at 200 CPs.  There are mechanics in game, such as ability and power caps that make it so each character in each Power Level is roughly the same power.  Sure you can mix "Low" with "High" or even higher.  Also gone are the six attributes cribbed right from D&D.  Now you have four Basic Characteristics (BC) that you can randomly determine, point buy or assign.  These are Strength, Endurance, Agility, Intelligence, and Cool.  If you are translating these from V&V then the numbers have slight differences.  But more on that later.

Instead of talking about MP isn't in relation to V&V, I'd rather talk about what it is in relation to itself.

The book is 164 pages, softcover, with black & white art and color covers all from Jeff Dee himself.  I am reviewing both the softcover book and the PDF.  It is a nice mix of some classic V&V art, newer V&V art and even newer still MP art.  If you are a fan of V&V then it feels like V&V from the very start.


The book is set up to look like "legal code" rather than chapters.  So there is section "1.1 What is a Superhero" and section "2.1.16.1 Character Concept".  That makes it sound like it is very dry, but it isn't.  It reads more like a continuous document.

Section 1.0 starts us off with an introduction to the Mighty Protectors game and a brief overview of what is a Superhero.  I thin this bit is important because it sets the stage for what this game is about.  This is comicbook superhero emulation.  Not necessarily movies or TV Supers, but comic books in particular.  This goes back to the origin of V&V when Jeff Dee and Jack Herman were sitting around trying to decide who would win in a fight.  This late 70s/early 80s comic vibe is played out till today in this game.  My takeaway?  This is a game that predates the "Bronze Age" or even "Modern Age" of comics.  It was built with Pre-Bronze, late Silver Age tools.  Can it do Modern Age? Yes, easy. Can it do TV? Of course! I think back to the time when V&V was new and imagine what would it have been like to have these comicbook-based TV shows we have now.  But the game will work the best when the heroes are good, the villains are evil and superhero teams get along and fight for a common cause.  There can be (and are) shades of gray here. Heck even the original Bowhunter (from V&V and MP) a good guy had a villainess as a love interest.
We round out Section 1 with materials you (aka Dice) and support online.

Section 2.0 Character is huge. In fact, it covers the next 100 pages.
Here we cover Character Generation (2.1) which also covers randomly determining stats, point buys and the V&V classic, Playing as Yourself.
I am not going to lie to you. There are charts and there is math to do here. The math is not complicated, but it is part and parcel of the game.  For me this is part of the old-school charm of this game and I would not want it any other way.  If this is an issue for you there is the Excel Character Sheet pack. It does all the heavy lifting, but you do need Excel. Note: I got it and uploaded it to my Google Drive and it works just as fine with Google Sheets.

Section 2 is really the heart and soul of this game.
However you go about your character creation you are given (or implied to have on Random generation) a number of Character Points (CP).  I also have called these "Creation Points" since they are mostly used in Character Creation.  You can get them, later on, to improve abilities, powers and gain new ones.  But for now, we have a budget of points (described later 2.1.16.2 Ability CPs) to spend or use randomly.


Now here you can go the Point buy route and buy BCs (2.1.7) and Powers (2.1.15). OR you can go completely random.  If random then you roll six abilities, two for offense and two for defense and Miscellaneous Abilities and keeping four. Also taking two random weaknesses.
There are a number of derived stats (Hits, Power, Base Damage) and ones that deal with origin (Gender, Age, Weight) and background (where are you from, your legal status, superhero license).  In general, this is easier than V&V.

The Abilities are covered under Section 2.2 Abilities.  In truth, this could have been its own chapter/section.   Abilities cover what your hero can do.  The abilities are described in terms of effects.  So there is a Power Blast ability, this can be any sort of blast that say in not covered elsewhere.  There is an Ice Blast, a Laser blast, a Fire blast, a Sonic blast...and so on.  The granularity of the system allows you to fine tune these abilities to a large degree.  While the default is 10 CPs per power you can break it down into increments of 5 CP or even 2.5 CP.  Each Ability is scaled with the others so a sonic blast at 10 CP should be the same a Power Blast at 10 CP.   Working with your Game Master and other players you can really fine tune a hero any number of ways. This also means that any given concept of a character can also be created multiple ways.  You can spend (and I have spent) hours creating all sorts of characters.

One thing the rules mentions is that if you are new to V&V/MP you might want to read over Sections 3.0 to 5.0 to get a feel for the rules and task resolution.  It's pretty good advice really.

Section 3.0 covers Saving & Task Rolls.  This is everything that is not combat related.
Every BC, except Strength, has a save roll.  These are noted as some number X-, meaning you need to roll X or less on a d20.  While I am not a fan of roll under mechanics (just my own prejudice) it works here.
Background (3.0.2.1) is a broad category of skills. So no one really cares how well Superman can drive a car or even if he knows what is going on in the Stock Market, save how it relates to his background as a Reporter or even growing up on a farm.  Clark will know the major crime families in Metropolis and maybe what is a good growing climate for a particular grain.  So we do not have the granularity of skills that we would in say Mutants & Masterminds or even Silver Age Sentinels.
Other interesting rules are include Opposition tasks and Inventing (3.1.3), or using your Inventing Points (IPs) to customize powers on the fly.  Something that is not really a new ability but the different use of an existing ability.  It's pretty clever and again fits with the comic book origins.  Think about how many times Superman used his heat vision for something other than setting things on fire. Rearranging the ink on a page comes to mind.

Section 4.0 is Combat.  This section is obviously quite important. I HIGHLY suggest using minis here. The rules imply this and recommend it, I am saying it is a must.  Here HeroClix or HeroForge is your new best friend.  Of course Legos, D&D minis or even pawns are fine too.  This is particularly helpful when dealing Knockback rolls in case you or a target are blown back by an attack.



The combat, once you get the hang of it, moves rather quickly.  Yes, there are a lot of options such as multiple attacks and two-handed attacks, sneaking and other things that can modify the rolls.  It's my experience though that most players will emulate a superhero and have a couple of signature moves.  These will then become second nature for both the player and the GM to roll.  Again we are rolling low on d20 where a "1" is a potential critical hit and a "20" is a potential critical fumble.  Another roll is required after that.  Even items that require a lot of charts say improvised weapons, become faster with use and a GM's screen.

Section 5.0 Physics handles all the ways you can break things or things can break you.  It's actually more than that, but that is a start.  It ends with an example of play.

Section 6.0 Being a Superhero covers the roleplaying aspects of playing a costumed superhero. This is a little more "in-Universe" than the other sections.  If you are using MP to play in another world you can modify this to fit your own needs, though the rules were written with these realities in mind.

Section 7.0 The Mighty Protectors Multiverse. Is very much In-Universe.   Jeff Dee has commented elsewhere online that early versions of V&V were fairly universe agnostic.  This setting described here has developed over the last nearly 40 years of gameplay.  Indeed, reading this book and see names like Maxima and Bowhunter made me happy.  I knew these characters back in the day and seeing them again is like seeing old friends again. What follows are 15 pages of groups, people, places and things in the MP Universe.

Section 8.0 Gamemaster Section covers Gamemastering advice and rules which includes creating your own adventures to creating your own world. If you don't want to convert your favorite comic book story (Hollywood has been doing it for years!) there are tables for random adventure creation.  This section also covers Experience and Wealth Rewards.  Finally, we get to section 8.6 Converting V&V 2.1 Characters. Good guidelines, but I have preferred to just rebuild them from the ground up

The game is a lot of fun, but it is not without it's own issues.
For starters there is no index in the book.  Minor thing in the days of PDFs with full-text searching, but it's not there on my softcover while sitting on my couch trying to figure out the stats of Arrow's Oliver Queen.
The game also took me a bit to figure out properly before it clicked.  Once it clicked everything else was easy.
The game is wonderfully old-school, but that can also be a bug (not a feature) for anyone coming from Mutants & Masterminds or other games with full-color interiors.

All in all it is a really great game that has all the old school charm of V&V.

If you are a fan of the original Villains & Vigilantes then I would check this out.  If you want a supremely flexible and easily modifiable game then I would also check this out. OR if you are like me and a fan of supers games it is worth a look.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Mighty Protectors for Sweeps Week

I have been on vacation all week. So not a lot of posting. None tomorrow or Friday either.
Though I have not been idle. Been spending a lot of time with +Jeff Dee and Jack Herman's Magnum Opus "Mighty Protectors".


Hope to have some fun things for "sweeps week" next week.


I am having a lot of fun with this!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Weekend Gaming: The Second Campaign

Got some great gaming in on the weekend.

Moved forward more with the Second Campaign.


But it turns out the characters are only 3rd level, and at the start of 3rd really.  So not really ready for the Forbidden City and its jungles.  So instead I thought up some minor encounters to get them from where they are now, closer to the jungle.  Have not decided 100% if that jungle is in Hempoland or Chult, but at the moment that is fine.

I thought about taking them to the Ilse of Dread again and maybe even setting I1 there.


But through the course of play, something else happened and we ended up at the Shrine of St. Aleena.   


I building up the idea that a cult is growing in this world and the PCs will be the ones to stop it.
+Pete Spahn's adventure converts nicely to 5e and the "Spawn of the Infamous One" work great as tiefling warlocks.  Maybe their patron is Bargel. ;)

Fun was had by all, but when the goblins and bugbears fled the shrine and regrouped outside there was a huge battle.

I also used Devilswine from the Expert Set.  In my world were-boars are the only type of lycanthrope that orcs can become.  It was a lot of fun to use them again.  Though there are no Wereboar or Devil Swine stats, so I faked it with a werewolf.
That's when I noticed this.


 The art in the 5e MM is very, very similar to the one in the BECMI Rules Cyclopedia!  Nice bit of nostalgia there.

The characters are only 200 or so XP away from 4th level.  I think they might have to encounter something along the way.

Now.  Here is the problem I am having.
I want there to be a big bad.  The kids love having those.  I just have not figured out if it should be Asmodeus or Demogorgon.  I have never used either in a game before and really want too.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Skylla: Quest of the Ancients

I am posting this as part of the RPG Blog Carnival for November: The Past Revisited hosted by Campaign Mastery. This is a sequel to all my Skylla posts and my Quest of the Ancients posts.

Quest of the Ancients is one of those games I keep coming back to.
Not for the game itself mind you, but for the witch class.  Author Vince Garcia's love and devotion to the witch is equal only to my own and it shows in his game.

I reviewed the game a while back.  I figure it is close enough to *D&D that I should give my Skylla a try.

Skylla
Level 7, human Witch

Armour rating: 1
Tactical move: 10'
Stamina points: 18 (Die: d4)
Body points: 10
Stots: St 9; Ag 11; Cn 10; IQ 15; Ch 12; Ap 12: Lk 7
Attack 1
Dmg: 1D4+1 (dagger) or by spell
Ethics: E
Size: 5'4", 130#

Witch Abilities
A: Create Focus (Demon skull helm)
B: Additional Combat Skill Slot (4 total)

Skills (150 points)
Animal Handling: 25%
Herbalism: 40%
Nature Lore: 40%
Read & Write (Elvish): 45%

Spells
Rank 1: Beguile, Helping Hands, Light Ball, Magic Dart, Read Magic Script, Unlock
Rank 2: Discern Magic, Fire Darts, Fire Tounge, Net, Night Sight, Witch Wand
Rank 3: Charm, Electric Arc, Sheet Lightning, Witch Knock
Rank 4: Lirazel's Globe of Invulnerability, Staff of Absorption

Very interesting.  Her combat is not quite as good and it's harder to learn new languages.  But she gets a lot more spells.




Thursday, November 16, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #49

Bit of a cheat today.  I went out to my FLGS and picked this one up just so I could review it today!  I wanted to have a look at the Alchemist class.  I was having a conversation online with a former co-worker and former White Wolf designer about the Alchemist.  I thought it might be fun to go back to the source.  So set back, enjoy because They Don't Write 'Em like this anymore. It's May 1981 and this is Issue #49 of This Old Dragon!

Let's talk about the cover first.  Wow. Nothing gets my early 80s gaming nostalgia going more than Tim Hilderbrandt.  A freaking HUGE dragon attacking a castle? Wow. That's some next level D&D action there.  The adventurers have retired and suddenly the big brother of all those dragons they killed comes a knockin.

Lovely old-school ad for ICE's Arms Law. 

So we learn right away that Dragon has a new publisher, Jake Jaquent and a new EiC, a young man by the name of Kim Mohan.  I bet we will hear more about him in the future.

You can really tell this is much older issue.  The first couple of articles deal largely with Tournament Play and Judging.

In the interest of fairness... by Dr. Allen Barwick fresh off the heels of Origins discusses the ins and out of judging a tournament game.

Philip Meyers has some more advice on The Slave Pits revisited.  It would have been interesting to have read this back when I ran the Slaver's series.  Granted, I was not doing it as a tournament play, but still, it would have been interesting.
Frank Mentzer has a rebuttal to this in Mentzer’s reply: It isn’t that easy.
I have run one (maybe two??) tournament games before.  It was fun, but not something I want to seek out to do all the time.

Related to all of this is a nice bit on Gen Con keeps on growing. No word on attendance predictions, but there will be over 170 events at Gen Con 14.

Anthony Salva is up first (! it's page 18 already) with the Samurai NPC class to fill that 80s need for everything Japanese.  Yes, I did own a copy of a Book of Five Rings too.   We are still few off from the official Oriental Adventures. But this is not a bad class really.  I never played Samurai at all, but I do see the appeal.

Merle M. Rasmussen has an article for Top Secret. This one covers various types of ammunition.
I really admire Merle's continued dedication to this game. That dedication is on display here in the long article. 

Karl Horak is next with a world-building article for D&D and AD&D; Getting a World into Shape.  Into shape is a bit literal, using various flat solids to represent a globe for mapping purposes.  This is something of a lost art in my mind.  I LOVE mapping software, especially ones that can give me a globe and a flat map.  But these skills are still very useful.

A series that I really miss is up next. Giants in the Earth covers some characters from Poul Anderson.  We get Holger Carlsen (14th level Paladin), Hugi (5th level fighter) and T. J. Morgan’s Ellide (6th level fighter).  Not familiar with these, but it is still fun. 

G. Arthur Rahman has an article on Historical Names.

Jon Mattson has an article that appeals to my obsessive desires to convert everything to everything else. Monster Mixing: Converting AD&D Monsters to Chivilary & Sorcery is exactly the sort of article I loved.  It gave me insight to a new game from the lense of a game I already knew.

The center section deals with the art and insight of Tim Hilderbrandt.  It is interesting and a real departure from the normal Dragon fare.

has a new creature. New even to me.  The Norga is a cat-like beast that causes darkness.  It is kinda cool really. Wonder if it ever got updated.
Ah, now we are at the feature I bought this for,.  Len Lakofka is back with his Tiny Hut feature giving us yet another NPC class that we all played anyway.  A Recipe for the Alchemist gives us a sub-class of the Magic-User. It's a long article giving us the level information for the Alchemist as well as the types of things an alchemist can create.  As with many of the classes from Lakofka it is elegant and very playable.  There are many great ideas here and I'd love to explore this class in depth a bit more.

Gary Snyder and Roger E. Moore have two independent guides on Wishes.  I took a novel approach to wishes in my games, I stopped having them.  No ring of Three Wishes and the Wish spell is severely Nerfed.

Travel & threads for DragonQuest by Paul Montgomery Crabaugh covers travel in the DragonQuest game.  DQ was always one of those games I knew about, read about and never got to play.   It looked like fun and I remember flipping through it a lot at my local bookstores.  Maybe I should pick up a copy, I bet they are pretty cheap on eBay (checking...eep! not as cheap as I hoped!).

The Eaters of Wisdom by Glenn Rahman looks like fluff for a game, but I can't tell what game.  Could be for any, certainly could work for any. 

The Eletric Eye covers a couple of new programs.  A BASIC program for keeping time for wandering monsters and a TI-58 Calculator program also for keeping time.  I think I still have a TI-58 here somewhere.  Maybe I could try it out.

Interesting Dungeon Hobby Shop ad.


Ed Greenwood is up with an opinion on Players Don't Need to Know all the Rules.  Pretty sure I disagree with this.

Dragon Mirth,  What's New (still in B&W), Wormy, and some Finieous Fingers.

Honestly a fun issue and worth the price.

I will admit it has a real White Dwarf feel to it for me.  Not sure why.
IF you are curious you can see what I was saying about White Dwarf at the time in White Dwarf Wednesday #24.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Save Versus All Wands: Witches in Early D&D

+Oakes Spalding has a great post over on his blog about Witches.
Save Versus All Wands: Witches in Early D&D


It is worth checking out and is the kind of analysis I do on my own but should really post more often because it is interesting. 

The post, like most of what Oakes does, is OD&D focused. So don't expect a lot about Dragon #43 or Dragon #114.

Still it's a good analysis and post and I enjoyed it.

This comes from his research while working on SEVEN VOYAGES of ZYLARTHEN.
The game is a "cleaned up" version of OD&D or a clone.
You could use his witch along with my own Swords & Wizardry witches in particular my "White Box" witches and ones directly influenced by OD&D such as Eldritch Witchery.

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