Saturday, April 6, 2019

April TTRPG Maker, Day 6

Day 6: Long or Short ttrpg texts?

Not 100% sure I know what this one is asking.

So I am going to repeat what my Ph.D. advisor told me when I was writing my dissertation.

"Make it as long as you need it to be, but no longer."

Another bit of advice he gave was to quote an anecdote from Napoleon.

"Dear Josephine, I am writing you a long letter because I don't have the time to write you a short one."

Brevity is key. Keep things concise and simple for everyone to read. Avoid a page of text where a paragraph will suffice.

Good advice for academic writing and good advice for game writing as well.

Friday, April 5, 2019

April TTRPG Maker, Day 5

Day 5: Character or Worldbuilding?

Hmm...

As a gamemaster I enjoy both, as a player I enjoy characters.

I have often said I am a bit of an oddity in my OSR crowd. I have said in the past that I explore characters and not dungeons.

To me, I love character development.  Don't get me wrong, I love worldbuilding, but only insofar as it provides a stage for the characters to grow in. 

Do I care about weather patterns or the price of grain on the local markets? No. I really don't.  If it needs to rain, it is raining.  If there is no grain then there is no grain.  The only reason I need is how does it affect the characters in their situation right now.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

April TTRPG Maker, Day 4

Day 4: Favorite Type of Game Scenario?

I think, and this has a lot to do with the media and books I was raised on, is the Haunted House.

Haunted house scenarios, especially ones with long and tragic backstories are my favorites of any game.

This all goes back to this reoccurring nightmare I used to have that I called "The Very Haunted House".  The house was an old Victorian manor complete with spooky attic and sub-basements.

It was haunted by the ghost of an evil old woman that used to torture kids.

This house was based on a few things in real life.  The biggest was "Maplecrest Apartments" in my old home town.  It used to be an old tuberculosis hospital turned into low-income housing. I delivered newspapers back then and that was on my route.  Scary place.  The house took more form when I went with my dad to see the Dana Thomas house in Springfield, IL.   These nightmares plagued me forever to be honest, and they were not the "whew that was a weird dream" nightmares these were the "oh my god I am going to die in this dream" sort where you wake up afraid and still full of terror.  I added details to dream with every movie I saw or book I read including a bathtub full of black water with a rotting corpse that I am sure I got from "Silence of the Lambs".

Oddly enough they stopped about 15 years ago. I had the dream and in it, my wife was standing in the dark attic only now it was bright. She held a mop and had her hair tied up, she looked at me and said "What? I cleaned it."  Cheesy as it sounds I think she helped get over whatever fears it represented.

I have since used this house in other adventures I have written.  I first used "Cotton Crest" in my Buffy RPG adventure "Under a Cajun Moon".  Years later "Oak Crest" made it's debut in "The Haunting of Oakcrest Manor" in the Guidebook to the Duchy of Valnwall Special Edition.
I am considering also doing it again, only this time Willow Crest.  Cotton Crest was haunted by demons, Oak Crest by ghosts and other undead.  Willow Crest?  Extra-dimensional aliens.

So yeah, give me a good haunted house and I can have a blast with it.

Dungeons & Dragons Stranger Things Starter Set

There is no doubt that Stanger Things gave D&D a boost.
D&D 5th ed was already doing great and was on its way to being the best selling version of D&D ever before it became a major feature of the highly popular Netflix show Stranger Things.  When Season 1 premiered I had adults my age (who would have been the same ages as the kids in ST at the time) coming to me and asking how they could get a D&D game for their kids.

Well, I wish I had had this boxed set at the time.


The new Dungeons & Dragons Stranger Things Starter Set is making it's way to retailers now.
I picked up a copy on Amazon (to donate to my son's D&D club at High School...yeah they have now) and getting another one from my FLGS.

Truth be told I don't *need* it, but it sure is fantastic!

Done up like everyone's favorite red box D&D this is a starter set for D&D 5th Edition.  And it is PERFECT for anyone that is a fan of the show and wants to learn how to play D&D.
It does have the Wizards of the Coast logo on it, but also the "Hasbro Gaming" logo which is new.  Also since this is being sold not only in game stores and Amazon it is being released to Game Stops (the video game store) and other markets.   Hasbro is serious about backing D&D and I think it is going to be a huge win for them.

The box set includes a basic rule book similar to what we got in the first D&D 5e Starter set.  We also get an adventure "Written by Mike Wheeler", character sheets, a set of dice (mine are exactly like the ones I got in the Starter Set) and two "Demogorgon" minis; one painted the other plain.




Starter Set Rulebook
This book gives all the basics of D&D in 44 concise, full-color pages.  Everything is here to get you started. How to play, the basics of combat and adventuring, a chapter on spell casting and a subset of magic items and monsters.  Pretty much what you expect in a "Basic" set.
Instead of art we get some screen grabs from the ST show.
There are stats for the Demogorgon monster (not the demon).

Hunt for the Thessalhydra
Ok, truth time, I LOVE this. I want more adventures like this.
The sample adventure is done up to like a notebook written by Mike from the show.  Complete with wide ruled notebook paper background and Jr. High style art (only much better).  D&D artist Stan! is behind this one and I could not be happier about that.


The adventure is as old-school as summer 1983. You have a quest, a knight a monster to defeat, a table of rumors. Troglodytes! (art takes it inspiration from the Monster Manual) and random encounters.
The adventure is not ground-breaking, but it is not supposed to be.  BUT it does take place in the "Upside Down", so that is cool. They describe it a bit like the Shadowfell, but no attempt is made to make it part of the larger D&D 5 cosmology and that is perfectly great by me.  There is even a sword from the Upside Down.
And no Refrigerator Aleena in this one, there is a Proud Princess that will aid the characters but they can't even harm her if they try.  She is obviously the Eleven stand in.

Character Sheets
These are all stand-ins for the kids on the show, more or less, We get all the major races; elf, dwarf, human, half-elf, and half-orc. No halfling though. And a good subset of classes; bard, cleric, paladin, ranger, wizard. But no straight up fighter or rogue.  A halfling rogue (or maybe a zoomer!) would have been a nice touch.  No names or genders on the sheets as it should be.

Dice and Demogorgons
The dice a pretty standard, same set I got with the other starter set.  There are only six (as were in old-school sets) so no d%, there is a standard d10 (and d4, d6, d8, d12 and d20).
The Demogorgon minis are the weakest part of this set.  The minis are the right scale but the plastic is really flimsy. The "painted" one only has a little bit of orange on it. These are not the Wiz Kids minis we get at game stores, these are made by Hasbro and appear to be made cheaply so they can make tons of them.

But really, this box hits all the nostalgia boxes AND is still a solid introduction to the D&D 5 game.





Wednesday, April 3, 2019

April TTRPG Maker, Days 1-3

I have to admit I miss participating in the April A to Z blog marathon. 
Not the work, of course, it is a lot of work, but the feeling of participation and focus it brings to post something every day on a particular topic and theme.
Plus I feel that when I do it I am ignoring my primary audience in favor of another audience that time has shown don't stick around. 

There is however a new April social media that is more RPG focused, so I thought what the hell, let's give it a try. It is focused on RPG "makers" (I prefer the word "creator" myself, or "author")

It is called #AprilTTRPGMaker and it is mostly on Twitter, but open to all social media platforms.  With the demise of G+ I feel the need to branch out more.

Here are the topics for the month.  Unlike the A to Z's 26 posts, this one has 30 for every day.


Since today is April 3, I'll do the first three here.

1. Introduce Yourself
Hello, my name is Tim Brannan and I write RPGs.  I have been playing RPGs now for nearly 40 years (started in 1979) and writing my own material nearly as long.  I am most famous for the Ghosts of Albion RPG for Eden Studios and my various books for the Witch class for all sorts of variations of the D&D game.  I worked on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG, did some minor work for the Doctor Who Adventures in Time Space, Angel and Army of Darkness.  Did some other work for the All Flesh Must Be Eaten line at Eden and playtested a few score other RPGs over the last 20 years.  I also have some work coming out Gaslight and Blue Rose.

2. Describe Your Work
I consider myself very, very fortunate. I can write the kinds of books I want to play and use.  So my primary focus is typically, "what do I think is fun?" and then I make it.  I mostly like to write about magic and horror themes. If it has a witch or a vampire in it, chances are good I have tried it.  If a game doesn't have a witch in it chances are also good I tried to fit one in somehow. ;)

3. Key to Your Making Process
Like I mentioned above I usually start with "What do I think is fun?" and go from there.  I also look for what others would enjoy in my game material.  I do try to make things that people will use and enjoy.  I also work from the philosophy of once it leaves my mind and hands and it is in yours it is no longer just "my" game. It is what others make of it.  So I love hearing about what others do with my materials even if, or especially if, it is not something I would have done on my own.

I am going to try and not let this interfere with my normal posting. I still have things I want to talk about this month other than just what is above.

Participate if you like or just post your responses below.  Yes, please link to your creations! My dad always says no one will toot your horn for you.  So use my venue to talk about YOUR creations as well.


Tuesday, April 2, 2019

The Refrigerator for Prowlers & Paragons Ultimate Edition

Still playing around with Prowlers & Paragons Ultimate Edition, so this time I decided to bring back a villain to challenge Justice.

A while back I introduced you all to Dr. Andreas Gelé, aka The Refrigerator. He is a socially stunted misanthrope with mommy issues and the intellect to act out in the worst ways possible.
This guy came, literally, out of a nightmare.  Around 1982 or so (I was 12) I was hit with a double shot of women being frozen alive, the movies were "In Like Flint" and "Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die". It really bugged the hell out of me and gave me nightmares for a long time.  Still kind of bugs me.  Of course, later I learned there is a whole creepy fetish thing related to this.  I think my issue is far more elemental.  I hate being cold and think being frozen is quite possibly the worst thing ever.

What solidified this character for me was a cover from the pulp magazine "Horror Stories" from 1937.


The cover is by John Newton Howett and typical pulp tradition it was reused for the first issue of Startling Mystery. That picture deserves a villain.  I have not found the issue yet so I can't say if there is a story that goes with that cover. But I have enough of my own nightmare fuel.

His name, The Refrigerator, has a nice pulpy sound to it, but that is not its origin.  He was named for the comics trope, Women in Refrigerators.   I figure I will have superheroes in my games fight this trope in a quite literal way.

History of The Refrigerator
Dr. Andreas Gelé was born to wealth and privilege but never to love.  His father was a rich industrialist who made his money on the work of others and his mother was a noted and beautiful stage actress.  From his father, he gained his intellect and from his mother, he learned lessons in cruelty.

As his mother aged she became more distant and crueler.  In his mind's eye, he still saw her as beautiful. This was reinforced by all the pictures of her on the wall of their estates where she was young, beautiful and happy. Frozen in time.  Gelé began to work on a process to forever keep the beautiful women young.  He was drawn to beautiful women, and his prestige later as a doctor and his wealth made that easy.  But he never could talk to or relate to them having grown up socially stunted.  So Gelé embarked on a plan so he could have his desires met.


His first experiments in cryonics were failures. Animals would not return to life when frozen and even when he perfected the process they still had damage.  Finally through a combination of fluids and gases at supercooled temperatures.  He tested it first on his hated father. He died soon after he was free of the ice, but Gelé expected that since the old man's heart was now weak.  He froze his mother next. He was overjoyed that the ice preserved her remaining beauty.


All his research though has left his fortunes depleted so he robs banks to keep himself funded for more research and to keep his "beauties" on ice.

The Refrigerator Today
The Refrigerator is very much a pulp style villain.  I always pictured his mother as a silent film star and his father cut from the same cloth as the business men of the early 20th century.  So how is he still around today?  Or more to the point how is he still around in the world of 2040 where Justice is from?  Well, that is easy really.  Sometime after his last defeat, he escapes the authorities once again and freezes himself to be awakened at a future date.  The plot point here is that the future date is much later than Dr. Gelé planned on and now it is the 21st Century.  Still, undeterred he goes about rebuilding his "collection".

Dr. Andreas Gelé, "The Refrigerator"

Archetype: Gadgeteer / Scientist
Major Villian

Edge 10
Health 3
Class Major
Group None

ABILITIES
Agility 1d
Intellect 7d
Might 1d
Perception 3d
Toughness 3d
Willpower 3d

TALENTS
Academics 6d
Charm 1d
Command 3d
Covert 3d
Investigation 3d
Medicine 7d
Professional 4d
Science 7d
Streetwise 2d
Survival 4d
Technology 5d
Vehicles 2d

POWERS
Omni Power (Gadget, Cold Protection Suit)
- Armor 10 Points, 5 toughness
- Healing (self only) 10 points
- Hibernation
- Immunity (cold, ice)
- Super Senses (thermal vision)

Omni Power (Gadget, Freeze Ray gun) (Item)
- Blast (freeze ray)
- Elemental Control (ice)
- Hibernation ray (Affect Others)
- Charges (Con) 3 times per scene
- Signature (ice residue)

Expertise (Cryonics)

PERKS
Headquarters (lab)
Resources
Great Wealth (has built it back up over the years)

FLAWS
Quirk (arrogant)
Compulsion (seek out beautiful women)
Insane (misanthrope)

GEAR
Cold Protection outfit
Freeze ray gun

DESCRIPTION
Age: 99 (appears to be in his late 30s)
Sex: Male
Hair: Gray
Eyes: Ice Blue

MOTIVATION
Power (over others, over the ravages of time)

CONNECTIONS
Iron Maiden (sometimes aids him in shared goals)

Horrible bit of work isn't he.  But I wanted a villain that people really hate.   He is after Justice because all he can see her as is a beautiful prize to add to his collection.  He would say it is because of her strength and unique heritage, but he is much more shallow than that.  All he sees is a 6'2" supermodel.   In his own sense of superiority, he can't even see Justice as equal, even though she is his superior in every aspect.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Monstrous Mondays: Wood Trolls

First Monday after spring break and I have a cold. Yeah, it sucks.  But thankfully I worked a bit on this one.  And it's a fun one.
We spent some time last week at the Morton Arboretum and went on a troll hunt.

Here they are for two similar systems; B/X Essentials and Blueholme Journeymanne Rules.

Wood Trolls
Wood Trolls are intelligent and remarkably passive creatures for the most part.  They stand anywhere from 9' to 16' tall (with some rare cases of 30' tall varieties).  Their skin and hair appear to be made up of wood. Their skin is hard inflexible and their hair looks like twigs and sticks.
Wood Trolls, as their name implies, live in deep woods.  They try to avoid other creatures when possible. Wood Trolls are often thought to be the more malevolent Earth Troll.  These trolls tend to be less evil than other trolls. 50% of these trolls are Chaotic Neutral in alignment, 30% are of the chaotic good variety and the remaining 20% are chaotic evil.
These trolls prefer to eat wild pigs with only the evil ones resorting to eating children.
Like all trolls they can regenerate, likewise they are also vulnerable to fire. Moreso than other trolls; taking double damage from fire.

B/X Essentials
AC 2, HD 8+4* (40hp), Att 2 × talon (1d6), 1 × bite (1d10), THAC0 11, MV 120’ (40’), SV D8 W9 P10 B11 S12 (F8), ML 10 (8 fear of fire), AL Chaotic*, XP 1,750, NA 1d4 (1d6), TT D
  • Regeneration: 3 rounds after being damaged, start regaining 3hp per round. Severed limbs reattach.
  • Return from death: If killed (0hp), will regenerate and fight again in 2d6 rounds.
  • Fire: Cannot regenerate damage from fire. The only way to permanently kill a troll.
  • Fear of fire: Morale 8 when attacked with fire.

AC: 2                                        XP: 1,725
HD: 8d8+4                               Alignment: CN (50%), CG (30%), CE (20%)
Move: 30                                  Treasure: 13 (0)
Attacks: 1 bite + 2 claws / 1 weapon
Damage: 1d6 each / 1d8
Abilities: Strength +1, Dexterity -1


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