Friday, January 14, 2011

Reviews at DriveThru

One thing I want to do this year is post more of my reviews.  So here is a first batch.  Hope you enjoy.

Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space
A great and worthy game to bear the name of the highly acclaimed "restart" of the Doctor Who series. While the focus of the game is on the 10th Doctor (David Tennet) years, the game is great for all time periods and Doctors.
Using a simple 2d6 + stat, roll over target number system, DW:AiTaS though goes beyond what is typically since in RPGs. Talking and Running are preferable to fighting, just like in the show and there many ways to measure success.

The system is similar to Unisystem and even GURPs, but not as "crunchy". This is a game of normal humans and the occasional alien battling foes that out match them, out gun them and out "tech" them. You are going to need to be very clever or lucky (or both!). While this could have fell into the Call of Cthulhu end of the spectrum on hero survival, heroes are expected to survive and even win.

This is one of the best games to come out in the last couple years and one of C7's best.
5 stars

Zelart 035
Yawning or screaming succubus. You can see the preview. The art is good, and if you have a project using succubi then it is a good buy. Not very useful for player-character art though.
4 stars

Gaslight Calender Pack
Very useful resource for Gaslight or any other Victorian era game. Important dates and moon phases. Wish it had some more detail, not looking for a full almanac here, but just a touch more.
4 stars

Gaslight OGL Character Sheet
Quick and easy OGL sheet for Gaslight. Nothing fancy but gets the job done well.
4 stars

Gaslight Savage Worlds Character Sheet
Savage Worlds sheet for Gaslight. Very functional, and despite it's plainness I like it better than the Rippers sheet.
4 stars

The Traveller Book
This was my first ever sci-fi RPG. I bought the book years ago and now I am very pleased to have the PDF. Everything is here to play what is many consider to be the best sci-fi RPG around. Some of the "tech" seems outdated to our newer eyes of course (computers that weigh tons and only run 6 or so programs) and you can still die in character creation. But this is the "Red Box" of Traveller and it is still great fun. A great game of our Futures Past.
5 stars

There will be more in the future and I am thinking about a regularly scheduled posting of reviews.  Just thinking about when is a good time and how many per post.

Little Witches

So a while back I mentioned I needed some minis painted.

Alisha Ard emailed me some pics of her work and I took her up on her offer, and I am so glad I did.  Here are the witches she painted for me.
First up the Dark Sword Halloween 2009 Witch.  This is my newest Hexblade character.

For the 3.x game I am in with my boys this witch is mother of the one above, I have a few different versions of her since she is also my play-test character for any new magic rules I am working on.

The Laurana Sorceres mini from Reaper,

and my personal favorite, the Larry Elmore Early Snow from Dark Sword,

I think she did a fantastic job on these!  The detail is amazing. If you look at the Laurana one above you can see her spellbook in her bag and see pages.  The reflected glow of my hexblade's magical sword is just too cool.

Here are all three together on my game table.

And here are three of the same character (plus my older Elmore Dark Sword mini).

Even though done by two different painters, I am pleased with how well they look together.  You can't see it here, but there is a streak of grey in the hair of the last mini.  I guess I have them in Maiden, Mother and Crone alignment here.

I want to thank Alisha Ard for painting these.  They look so awesome that I can't wait to play some this weekend.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

January PDFs from DriveThruRPG

It's time for some new DrivethruRPG codes!

As usual you can use this code to get a 20% discount on the following items.  Just my way of saying thanks for being loyal readers and visitors here.

This month's code is BlogPodJan2011 and it is good till Jan 31.

Here are this month's products:

One Night Stand: The Warren of the Death Spider (Pathfinder) [Otherworld Creations]
Script Crypt Volume 2: Four Damned Scripts [Crucifiction Games]
Volunder (Mega Dungeon; D&D/OGL) [Stainless Steel Dragon]
QUEST CARDS Game Set 3 [Fuller Flippers]
Incorporated Volume 1 [Brutal Games]
Deadlands: Reloaded Player's Guide [Pinnacle Entertainment]


Product changes at WotC: no more Minis

Well WotC seemed to avoid the pre-Christmas layoffs this year that had plagued them in years past, but the product line did not fare as well.

As reported in Ampersand, there are some product changes on the way.

  • The D&D minis line is now dropped.
  • Three books have been removed from the product schedule, with the Shadow book now coming later in the year.
  • There will be no monthly compendium of Dragon and Dungeon articles, just the same single articles to download when they are ready.

The anti-WotC and anti-D&D4 crowds will find nothing but doom and gloom in this of course.  But even as someone that enjoys D&D4 I find this a bit disheartening.  I like minis. I have no ability what soever to paint metal ones so pre-painted plastic was fantastic for me.  The loss of books is a sign of other issues, even I had no real plans to buy those particular books.

As for Dragon, while I understand how they want to keep the name I miss the Dragon mag of old.  Not just the days when Paizo was publishing but the days when it was a multi-game magazine.  But in a day and age when print periodicals have trouble staying afloat, let alone profitable, then I understand the business decisions.

Anyway here are some other places it is getting talked about.  The reactions vary.  (love the header on this blog!)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Buy some books, part 2!

And now a post from author Kimberly Pauley.   Kim wrote the fantastic books Sucks to Be Me and Still Sucks To Be Me.

Her latest post is about how you can help authors and keep their books in the stories.

This comes from a post she made a bit earlier about how her second book had been illegally downloaded more than it actually sold.

This point of view is repeated here as well,

I totally understand this.  Ghosts of Albion is by no means a cash cow for me.  I don't need to rely on payments of it in order to make my bills.  Kim and Saundra Mitchell though do, or least need the money from their books more than I need the money from Ghosts.  Yet, I still see Ghosts of Albion on file share site EVERYDAY.  I get Google Alerts every single day letting me know that there is a way to get a Ghosts' PDF without paying a dime.

No offense people, but large sums of money or not, I worked my ass off on that book.  I'd like to get paid for the work I did.

Kim mentions that this all puts the future of the 3rd Mina Hamilton book in jeopardy.  This really sucks.  I like Kim's books.  But if people are getting her books from other means then there is less incentive for publishers to want to pay for books to get written.

I think this is worse in the RPG community to be honest.  And what is shocking to me the sense of entitlement that some gamers seem to have that they use to justify the theft of someone else's work.  But I am not going to get into that now.

Instead I want to remind people that if you like the work of an author, buy their product.  If you can't ask your library to buy it and then write reviews.

I love PDFs, but I also like to see people doing what they love and if authors can't get paid then they run the risk of not being able to do what they love to do and we run the risk of not being able to read these books.

Witch Hunter Robin: True 20

Been going through a stack of True20 notes and thought I'd post some of the better ones here.

Here is another take on Robin Sena, aka Witch Hunter Robin.

Robin Sena

STR: -1 DEX: -1 CON: +1 INT: +2 WIS: +3 CHA: +2

Initiative: -1 Defense: 0 (-1 +1 leather trench coat)
BAB: +1 (2 -1)
Toughness: +1 FORT: +2 REF: +0 WILL: +7
Virtue: Determined Vice: Stubborn

Bluff: +6, Computers: +4, Concentration: +8, Craft (‘craft’ items): +8, Drive (Vespa): +2, Escape Artist: +1, Gather Information: +8, Knowledge (Foreign Culture): +4, Knowledge (Religion): +8, Knowledge (Supernatural): +8, Notice: +4*, Perform (ritual): +8, Survival: +4

Benefit (STN-J contacts and clearance), Quicken Power, Supernatural Focus (Elemental Blast)*

Fire Shaping, Elemental Blast (Fire)*, Elemental Aura, Psychic Shield, Psychic Blast

Italian (native), Japanese, English

Leather Trenchcoat, Vespa Scooter, STN-J issued phone/com link, glasses*

Conviction: 5

*Robin can’t use these powers without the aid of her glasses. Without them she can not strike any targets beyond 20 feet.

Age: 15 (in 2002)
Gender: F
Weight: 105#
Eyes: Green
Hair: Auburn

Mother: Maria, dead
Father: Toudou, dead.
Grandfather(maternal): Juliano Collegrie, priest and high ranking officer of Solomon HQ.
Allies: Amon, Nagira, hunters from STN-J
Enemies: Rogue witches, rival hunters

I think this one compares nicely with some of the other versions I have done of her; OVA, BESM 2r, and
Witch Girls Adventures.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

True Spell Casting: True 20

True Spellcasting – an Alternate Spellcasting Rule for True20

I have been enjoying playing with True20 off and on and it has really met my needs in a game, but there are still some things about it that I miss from other games. In particular is magic.

The True20 powers system is a very good one and it can emulate almost any magical system I have wanted to try, but there is one area where it falls short and that is in terms of spells. By spells I mean magical effects that are typically written down and can be learned or taught. Yes, very similar to D&D, but also spells that could be found in Call of Cthulhu or the Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPGs.

Why Spells?
Part of it is one of storytelling, sometimes I need a one-time magical effect and I don’t really need a new power to describe it or I need a way of transmitting the knowledge of magical effects in a portable means; ie. in books.
The other the is one of necessity. I have dozens of D&D 3.x/d20 books, many are filled with spells, so all in all hundreds if not thousands of spells.
Wouldn’t powers-as-spells work just as well? Well yes, and in fact it would work for I guess 80% or more of all the spells. With a limited power selection the difference between Adepts are often mostly cosmetic.
Also there are spells that there are not True20 Power equivalents, wish is a good example, and most of the spells in d20 Call of Cthulhu.
And finally, I like to run a magic-rich game. True20 is perfect for this low-magic game I am working on now, but less so to emulate say D&D or my modern horror/supernatural game.

How to Do it?
I do not want to abandon the Power structure in True20, nor do I want to adopt the d20 Spell system wholesale either, but a simple compromise seems to work out well.

To do this I have created a new Supernatural Power called simply enough, Spellcasting. An adept can take Spellcasting up to nine (9) times.
To actually cast the spell the adept uses the Spellcasting power just like any other power.

Spellcasting 1
You can cast spells of the First Level. Read the spell description for effects and it the spell needs to be Maintained and if it is Fatiguing.

Spellcasting 2
Prerequisite: Spellcasting 1
As Spellcasting 1 except now the caster can cast spells of Second Level.

And so on…

Learning Spells
Taking the power at a new level is not enough to cast spells. The adept must first take the power then learn the spell. This allows the Gamemaster to control which spells can be entered into the game. It also allows which spells can or can’t be learned. For example the Gamemaster can restrict Wizard spells or even “Ranger” spells to a particular group of casters, or even by schools or descriptors (Necromancy or “Fire”).
Spells could be learned via enrollment in specialized “Wizard schools” (D&D or Harry Potter), from occult libraries (Buffy) or found in ancient tomes (Army of Darkness, Call of Cthulhu).

To learn a spell requires a difficulty check.

DC = 15 + Spell Level (in magic rich games) or 20 + Spell Level (in magic rare game)

The bonus for this check is like a skill check. A d20 + Bonus
Bonus = Power Level (Adept Level + 3) + Key Ability (Intelligence, Wisdom, Charisma)

Alternately you can make this a true skill check with Knowledge (Supernatural) or even bringing in the Spellcraft skill.

If the spells can be found the Adept can learn 3 + Key Ability number of spells per Spell level in total, though they can have as many spells in their library as they can.

For example, Taryn, a 1st level Charisma-based Adept takes Spellcasting 1 as a power. She has Charisma +2. She can cast 1st level spells and can learn up to 5 total 1st level spells (3 + 2). Even though she has a library full of 2nd level spells from her mother, they cannot be learned until she takes Spellcastng 2.

Casting Spells
To cast a spell the Adept needs to have appropriate level of the Spellcasting Power.

Casting a spell is not quite the same as using a Power. They often do require the movement of hands, saying special words and the use of material components. Because of this anytime a spell is cast, a spellcasting check needs to be made.

Spell Casting DC = 10 + Spell level
Bonus = Adept Level +3 + Key Ability.

So in our example Taryn our 1st level adept casts Color Spray, a 1st level spell.
The DC for her to cast this spell is 11 (10 + 1) this represents her getting her colored sand and saying the words.
Her bonus is +6 (Adept level 1, +3, +2 for Charisma). So she needs to roll a 5 or more on a d20.

To Save Against a Spell
DC = 10 + Key Ability + Spell’s Level

Converting Spells
D20 spells are not written like True20 powers, but there is enough similarity to allow conversion, for the most part the conversions are dealt with in the True20 book.

Healing or Damage that does 1d6 per caster level has a damage bonus of +1 per level of the Adept.
For the odd case where damage is 1d8 or more then use the follow conversions.
1d6 per caster level = +1 per adept level
1d8 per caster level = +1 per adept level then +1
1d10 per caster level = +1 per adept level then +2
1d12 per caster level = +1 per adept level then +3

Damage the effects abilities is dealt with the conversions below
1d3, 1d4 = 1
1d6 = 2
1d8 = 3
1d10 = 4
1d12 = 5

Converting Spells, Part 2: d20 Call of Cthulhu
The spells in the d20 Call of Cthulhu are mostly d20 compatible. What they lack are spell levels and most cause some sort of damage to the caster, usually damage to an ability, but often damage in terms of sanity loss.

For ability damage divide the listed damage by 2.
For HP damage use the conversions above.
For Sanity use the Mental Health track from the True20 Companion. Sanity damage effects the base Sanity Bonus (page 88, T20C).

To convert Sanity damage take the amount the of d6’s rolled as the loss. For example if sanity damage is 3d6 then the damage to the Sanity Bonus is -3. For any die other than a d6 then add +1. So Sanity Damage in d20 CoC that causes 2d8 would be 2+1 or -3.

Spells in d20 Call of Cthulhu are all considering to be 1st level in terms of learning and casting. But do not let that fool you. The CoC spells are all difficult to cast and often dangerous to both friends and enemies alike. The DCs to learn the spells are often given not with the spell itself, but the books in which they are written in (the Necronomicon, Nameless Cults, etc.)

Alternately you can consider CoC spells to be of level 10, thus requiring another level of Spellcasting in order to cast, but that removes the ability of the regular investigator to cast these spells.

Converting Spells, Part 3: BESM d20 Advanced Magic
Spells in BESM d20 Advanced Magic were another attempt to overhaul the magic system. Instead of levels the spells are given in terms of DCs.
To find the level of any spell take the DC divide by 10 and round up.