Monday, 31 December 2012

Actual Play: Somewhere North (session 3)

Yesterday I met up with noisms and Patrick to continue their adventures Somewhere North... Actual play report, and then some notes/thoughts at the end.

Previously (at the end of session 2, which I forgot to mention last time), Kolk the Artifex (Patrick) and Esa-Pekka (noisms) had really ticked off a greedy toll-levying village by cursing the village and surrounding area to silence. Forever. Hastening to the town of Rovaniemi, they set about installing themselves in some digs (above that wonderful drinking establishment The Knife & Cousin - thanks Vornheim!) and going for a lookaround. Esa-Pekka took a seemingly blank book to the grotesque and diseased Ungrall the Unctuous (a bookseller), who made a big noise about wanting to keep it. The contents could be revealed and read only under the light of a full moon. Ungrall sent his hulking servant Jonas after Esa-Pekka, but despite accusing him in public of being a thief, Esa-Pekka was shrewd enough to worm his way out of it. Meanwhile Kolk had acquired the services of Helvi Ritva, a cleric (NPC) of the spirit Ritva; the PCs planned to take her with them when they went to explore the tomb of the long-dead Dwarven King Oddli. Oddli's burial place is rumoured to be filled with treasure and undead monsters. The PCs know that some reindeer thieves are camped out there as well.

So, session 3!

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Actual Play: LotFP, Somewhere North

December has gone by in a flash, and I've not written on here at all! I disagree with noisms describing me as having an irregular blog - I just haven't written in the last month. I was pretty regular before then. But no matter. I'm writing here and now.

And it seems appropriate to write about the campaign that I seem to be running for Dave and Patrick. It started in the week before Christmas, when I offered to run a festive weird horror setting for them; I had just recently received LotFP (taking advantage of the 50% print discount), and created "the Lodge of Zinternik" - an evil red-dressed toymaker, who delighted in putting life of all kinds into things. The local villagers had heard that he had recently died, so his house on the mountain, and more importantly the conternts, were ripe for the taking...

Patrick rolled up a Specialist (or as he prefers, Artifex), a young adventurer named Kolk, and Dave created a Magic-User, the older gentlemen-rogue Esa-Pekka. Both had to be careful, as they had low STR, and Esa-Pekka also suffers from having a Charisma of 3. But they have their wits and creativity to keep them going.

Zinternik's Lodge was a mix of monsters and traps, and NPC "baddies", some of whom the players turned really quickly. They convinced a pair of halflings hired by "Zinter" to labour in his workshop, and turned some elves against each other; they avoided Dolf, the animated evil stag with a blazing red ruby for a nose and and tractamorphic tentacle antlers, firing at him from the roof of the lodge. And finally they left the Lodge with some mysterious (probably magical) items, and with a promise to Mumble and Crumble (the halflings) that they would help them return to their home in the far frozen north.

And that was that... Or so I thought...

When we mentioned playing again in the setting I updated the map, a few more villages (generated with help from noisms' own random village generator) and a handful of details about the nearest large town. I googled One Page Dungeons and had a quick look for something that could be modded easily. I statted up a few more creatures and things. And I thought about what had happened before, and noted a few interesting things that could be good. And that was it.

In the second session the players decided that their characters needed answers, and set off for a nearby village where someone was said to be very wise, perhaps someone who could tell them what they had found at Zinternik's Lodge. The old man, Hannes, gave them some ideas of the artefacts that they had found, and they set off across country for Rovaniemi, the nearest large town. They were looking for provisions and gear to head on the long road north, back to the home of the halflings.

After a run in with a banshee wolf, and a night of talking with some nomadic reindeer herders, they found the road and kept on for the town. However a small village stood in the way; the village was built in a narrow pass between rocky cliff faces. To go around might take a day or more. To go through they would have to pay a steep toll. This did not sit well with the PCs.

In Zinternik's Lodge they had found a magical scroll of incredible power. A one use Scroll of Indefinite Silence. If the nine syllables on it are read aloud then a permanent silence would fall in a sphere with a mile radius. Everlasting silence. As far as they know this can never be removed.

So, what do you do when some toll-charging villagers have hacked you off? You curse their village to silence. Forever. And off you ride to the town you're headed for...

In town they set about trying to recruit retainers for an expedition to a Dwarven King's Tomb, filled with the undead, Kolk sleeps with a young woman (noisms asks "Does she become pregnant?" The DM rolls and makes a note...) and Esa-Pekka of the Low Charisma ticks off a shady bookshop owner, calling the attention of the town guards. As they make their way back to the tavern they are staying at, one of the halflings runs up and says "I was down by the gate, and a posse of a dozen men from that village have just rode up shouting and asking if anyone had seen you!"

Oh dear...

Tomorrow I'll collect some thoughts about what I'm using and how I'm doing this, and what the setting is like. Anyone interested in seeing stats and descriptions of weird creatures that lurk the frozen north?

Friday, 30 November 2012

Fighting Fantasy Maths

In a recent post I started to muse about the likelihood of surviving a Fighting Fantasy gamebook. Of course it is easy to say "the higher the SKILL and STAMINA, the more likely you are to survive." But therein lies a question for maths geeks like me. How much more likely?

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Week Off

Had to cancel this week's games night. A combination of Nanowrimo, Merseytunnel tours and lack of ideas lead to no games. And I've got to miss next week too because of work.

With the holidays coming up, it seems like a regular game might be out of the picture for a while. I know that noisms is trying to marshall us for some kind of game while he is back in the north west for a few weeks, so keeping my fingers crossed.

Instead, last night I spent some time looking over and updating my notes for a short campaign based on a Kickstarter scenario that I supported. Potential players might be reading this, so I'll be a bit cagey on a few details. Here's what I was thinking:
  • It's the 1930s and the Dust Bowl is hitting hard. The players all find themselves in a small town that's hit harder than most.
  • Bad stuff is happening... (can't say any more due to spoilers)
  • Game runs on a mix of stripped down Cyberpunk with Apocalypse World health and harm rules: so stats and skills from Cyberpunk, but only a small number of hit points.
  • Weapons are classified with the Apocalypse World tagging rules. So a hatchet is say, 2-harm close sharp messy, whereas a hunting rifle might be 3-harm long-range loud big.
  • The BODY stat would act a little like Apocalypse World's armor rules to potentially reduce harm, as it wouldn't be "of the time" for characters to wear armor.
  • Clearly, removing a lot of the anachronistic skills, tech and gear from Cyberpunk! Also thinking that I might do away with special character classes and skills completely. Possibly include possibility for players to nominate one skill in particular that they can re-roll on a critical failure (they have to articulate why that skill would be special for that character).
The game would be a bit of investigation, some conflict... Have you ever run a game that takes place during a particular historical period rather than a completely fictional setting? What have you done to try and convey the time? What are the important details to put across?

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Games Night: GHOST/ECHO

Yesterday's games night was great. We played GHOST/ECHO with me GMing, and Patrick taking the role of GRIP, and Steve playing COIL. One minute these characters were just names on the page, and soon they were thieves on a job-gone-bad, armed with origami guns and brain hack knives, stealing information from the Ghost World and running from men and wraiths in a future-China of seemingly endless night...

Monday, 19 November 2012

Aside: The Maths of Fighting Fantasy

This blog, at least in name, talks about the maths of RPGs. Most of the time I actually just want to talk about RPGs, ideas and what happened the other night at the table, but I thought the following video was worth sharing, as it follows on a little from my post about Murderous Ghosts from last week, and also from the post that noisms made about us playing it at the weekend.

I'd recently been thinking about doing something similar to what this video does with Island of the Lizard King, which I found in a charity shop, but there is no way I could do it as much justice as this video does.

One follow-up question does occur: I wonder how much difference there is in the graph structure of the various Fighting Fantasy books?

And another interesting problem that might be do-able: what is the probability that a person actually makes it to section 400, given the skill/stamina that they start with?

There's some work in figuring that out, but it's essentially coming up with a general formula for calculating the odds of surviving an encounter, and figuring out the various general paths through the book (taking into account when you come across things like traps that you have to roll under skill or suffer penalties). To solve it you would build up a couple of general results, then plug in numbers. Not simple per se, but not hard... The actuarial tables of the Island of the Lizard King...

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Game Night: Murderous Ghosts

Last night Patrick and I played Murderous Ghosts. The short version: it's amazing, really quite a remarkable, fun, scary and plain good game. We had time to play two games, so both got to play as MC and urban explorer.

Some thoughts:
  • It works really well as a role-playing game for two people. The playbooks are helpful and not intrusive - it provides you with steering but leaves things up to the imagination of the people playing - and prompts the MC to be as scary as possible.
  • Playbooks are really good: each person has their own "choose-your-own-adventure" book.
  • The general set up is just great: the MC is the abandoned place and the ghosts, and the other player is an urban explorer who has lost their way. Each moves according to what their place in the playbook says.
  • Randomness is in the form of each player drawing cards from a regular deck. The mechanism is somewhere between blackjack and the Apocalypse World under-7/7-9/10+ dice-rolling. It really works. It's a little tactical: if you ace one situation, you will not succeed as well on the next one (statistically).
  • It didn't matter that we died (on both occasions). The horror and scares were really satisfying. Dying felt inevitable, surviving was great while it lasted.
Also: Patrick is good at weird scary stuff. My character found himself in an abandoned and haunted animal testing lab. The next forty minutes were terrifying.

Final Thoughts: I wonder how the blackjack/AW mechanic would work in other settings... And I wonder how simple it would be to fashion a "haunted house" game from the basic structure, i.e., a game for more than two players...

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Dead Dogs: Rumours

More speculative ideas for a zombie game mostly based on Dogs in the Vineyard.

At the start of a campaign, the players have some typical set-up; stats and so on. The GM has had some set-up as well. The basic setting that I am proposing is that the players play characters that exist in the most well-known city to most of them. This is the starting point, somewhere familiar.

Then you take that familiar place and take it to zombie hell.

If the game was to be based on Dogs then it would be good to still include a version of the initiation stage that each character goes through (more on that some other time). I have an idea for a quick card game that could help steer the tone or the setting. The GM will have done some scenario generation just like any sandbox game, and things will change as the players interact with that world and define their own goals. But right as things get going five minutes are spent to see what the characters have heard.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Dead Dogs: 1

For a long time I've been thinking about running a sandbox-y zombies game. And for a long time I've just been making notes in various places, scraps of paper, little journals - even the odd page of a Moleskine.

And then I thought, why not share some of that thinking here? See if other people can spot good ideas or spot obvious drawbacks. There are two main game systems that have influenced my thinking so far, Apocalypse World and Dogs in the Vineyard. If you've read this blog before then you'll know that AW is the game that got me into RPGs and Dogs is the first game that I've GMed for a campaign. So maybe it's natural that they're the ones which are leading me in terms of system.

I started making notes earlier this year convinced that AW was the way forward for a zombie game. Archetypes abound in zombie fiction, and so the playbook style characters for a zombie game would work quite well. Couple that with what I still think of as the best dice mechanic in a game, and a system of experience that creates cinematic, larger-than-life characters (without feeling like they are overpowered superheroes), and there starts to feel like the bare bones of a zombie game.

More recently, having GMed Dogs, I'm more inclined to go with that as the basis for a zombie apocalypse game. The main reason being a game mood one: in Dogs it is not the place for the GM to pass judgement on whatever the PCs do, only to respond in-game. The Dogs are the Law, in a world filled with sinners and demons, what they say goes. It struck me that in a post-apocalypse filled with the undead hungry for the living, there are going to be difficult decisions everywhere. And there is going to be no-one to judge those decisions, save for how others respond. So the mood of Dogs might be relevant - in which case the game mechanics might also be relevant... (if mechanics and mood have any connection at all; I don't know if they do, I don't know if they don't)

Anyway. I'll spew out thoughts about this over the next few weeks and see if any of it starts to make sense. I know that there are other people who have hacked AW and Dogs for zombies games, and I'll link to those or interesting bits in future posts too. And I know of All Flesh Must Be Eaten! but haven't been able to find a copy in the past; plus I think I'm more interested in something with a The Walking Dead vibe rather than out-and-out archetypes or cliches, which is what leads me more to Dogs than Apocalypse World I suppose.

Anyway (take two). Thoughts? Suggestions?

Monday, 5 November 2012

Games Day: Risus

noisms has already blogged about our game on Saturday, but I thought I would chip in a few thoughts. The three of us (including Patrick) met up having already decided to give Risus a go. We had also decided that TNG-era Star Trek was the way to go. As noisms has described we ran things pretty fast and loose, although the ability to take on or force GM-ship worked very well for a comedy game. I'm sure that we didn't follow the Risus mechanics exactly, but it lead to a fun bit of storytelling.

We decided on rank by rolling a d6 and working from there. I rolled high so we decided on Lieutenant Commander; Patrick got a 1 and noisms got 2, so they were a cadet and ensign respectively. I have no idea how someone who was born on the Neutral Planet got to high rank; we had a bit of a discussion about whether or not a Neutralien was more or less able to follow the Prime Directive. I think we came down on the side of more able...

The game ended with my character poisoning and killing a crystal alien with a heart of pure dilithium, then escaping back to the Enterprise while being pursued by intelligent radioactive feldspar. Patrick's character had a bizarre stress-related life-cycle, and so stormed on to the bridge - swatting Worf out of the way. My Neutralien needed a life-saving hypospray, and was cured from deadly radiation poisoning in two seconds flat. noisms related every role to his character being born on a prison planet. Typical TNG really.

We followed Risus with Settlers of Catan; it was my first time playing the game, and I really enjoyed it. There were a couple of rules that we missed right at the start (only building settlements at the end of roads etc) but we had a good time, and I'm hoping that Santa got my Amazon wishlist in time to pick it up for me...

A fun Saturday afternoon.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Back From Being Away

In my "day job" I am a freelance skills trainer who works with PhD students and researchers in general. I do various things, most of which is to get people thinking about their skills, what they can do to develop them and maybe more importantly how they want to develop them (getting them to reflect on what they want).

This week I was away tutoring on a week-long course in the Lake District. And as a bonding exercise we were all (on the tutor team, and also on my tutor group) talking about guilty pleasures or things that we do for hobbies. And a couple of times I mentioned how much I've enjoyed playing tabletop RPGs over the last year or so (which is when I got into it). On the last night in the bar someone asked me "so what is a tabletop RPG?" followed by "is that the same as LARPing?"

We talked about it for a bit, and she was genuinely amazed at the thought that there was more than one system (i.e., that there wasn't just Dungeons & Dragons). Not in a malicious way, but because it was so far removed from her experience. In talking about it I described tabletop role-playing as
"Collaborative story-telling between two or more people; typically one person will facilitate the game, and the others will take on the roles of individual characters; the remaining one person will take on the role of any other character in the world of the game, and respond to the other players' actions and requests for description about the world; if the outcome of any proposed action is in doubt then typically dice are rolled according to some game mechanism; other materials can be used depending on the type of game; some games require players and the game facilitator to keep track of details of attributes that their characters have."

Or at least I said something close to that. I'm sure it is a trope of people blogging about games to ask, but what would you say to someone who has little to know experience of tabletop role-playing games?

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Dogs Thoughts

As I mentioned last week, due to work commitments I've had to take a few weeks away from regular games nights and Dogs in the Vineyard. Dogs is the first campaign that I've run, and it's been really enjoyable. It is a system where there are so many different directions that a game can go in. Even with the simplest of backgrounds and a handful of NPCs rolled up you can get an intriguing game going.

I read the final section of the pdf a few days ago, and there were some neat thoughts that have helped steer my thinking a bit more as well. Vincent Baker describe it (paraphrased badly by me) as a noir investigation that happens to be set in an alternate West. And with several factions possibly at play, none of them exactly in the right - but one or more of them probably very much in the wrong, it gives the Dogs something to do.

In the first and second sessions the Dogs set up a town meeting, so that the guilty/sinful could confess in front of the whole town and hopefully get rid of any bad blood that existed. This worked really well, a solution that I didn't see coming at all. Quite a facilitated solution in fact, the Dogs didn't immediately pass judgement, but brought out into the light everything that was going wrong. And they were happy with how things ended up.

And yet in the last town they were deeply unhappy with the situation as they arrived in the town of Jewel: daily sundown services where people confess the wrong they have done so that the demons are kept at bay. Leaving aside the demons (whose existence wasn't proved until the last session), they did not like the Steward leading these public confessions. And then one of them said, "Is that different from what we did?" - which was a great realisation. It was in no way planned by me (the setting detail of the sundown service had been made before the start of the campaign), but was a neat thought. The Dogs do have a final say: I don't judge their choice of actions, and there is no higher authority in the game that says they can or can't do something, other than their own thoughts/beliefs.

If the Dogs start to doubt past actions perhaps that leads to something interesting - as I plan for possible future sessions - can I exploit their doubts somehow...? Present them with situations where they might really disagree? Can I devise a situation that's not "on-rails" but which is a kind of Kobayashi Maru? Not so that I can say "that was a bad decision" but so that THEY can't see a way out, but have to act all the same. And when they do act, how will they respond to the consequences?

(lots of half-formed questions there! Apologies)

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Making a Dungeon

After recent fun experiences playing both noisms Yoon-Suin setting and Lamentations of the Flame Princess with Patrick DMing, I've been thinking about (eventually) running something a bit old school myself.

I'm trying to come up with my own homebrew dungeon and have some ideas for (hopefully) novel traps and situations; I'm wondering what people would recommend doing/thinking about when creating a dungeon. There are great resources out there of course:
But nevermind those: what do you think is important to think about when designing a dungeon? Are there particular tropes that should be followed? And are there cliches that should now be avoided?

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Random Table: Street Performers

As you walk the streets of the city, through the markets and thorough-fares, you never know who is going to be blocking your way: trying to show you something entertaining, asking you for money, for help or just being a damn nuisance. But what do they really want? And what might they be hiding?

Roll three d10s for Performers (to see what they're doing), the Number (to see what to roll to see how many there are in the particular troupe) and Want (to see what their aim, as performers is - or possibly what they pretend to want). If the sum of the three d10s is even, then the group also have a Secret; roll another d10 for what else is going on with them.

Know the location of something valuable
One of them is on the run for a crime
Part of a streetgang
Spies for a rival city/country
The puppets of a wizard
Living Statues
Slavers trying to find people to kidnap
Religious zealots looking to convert
Pickpockets who have settled on the players

The Seven Hungers of Callista (Living Statues + 2d6 + Food + Part of a streetgang)
A group of seven women who stand suggestive in their stillness. Regular visitors to the market know to leave small parcels of food in the baskets at their feet, which stirs them into motion. They are the eyes and ears of the Black Ruins, a gang of muggers. They spot likely targets for their colleagues to rob.

Grimmers (Orators + 2+d3 + Help + Slavers trying to find people to kidnap)
Grimmers tell anyone and everyone that the world is going to hell in a hand basket. Taxes are too high, there is war and famine and evil magic and monsters. But you can help! Help them! Please...? If you do go with them and you seem like you might be of practical value, then you'll get coshed over the head and wake up in a wagon headed south...

Buddy and the Bass Lutes (Buskers + 1+d2 + Revolution)
Buddy and his two friends sing songs to inspire! They engage people with their marching pieces, Buddy on short fiddle, Gall on bass lute and Jero on bass lute. Their songs are based on centuries-old protest chants, and have no relevance in the current age. No one listens to them, no one likes them, and no one is going to join them.

Chuckles (Clowns + 3d4 + Violence + Know the location of something valuable)
In ragged threadbare outfits, half a dozen men stalk the streets daring you to laugh. They wear big red smiles, curly rainbow wigs and floppy shoes. Go ahead, laugh. They hear so much as a giggle and they'll go for your throat. They're lean, fast and strong and looking for any excuse to hurt someone. They love their freedom: if subdued, beaten down or if more than half are knocked out/killed then they will change tack and offer their store of treasures.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Dogs in the Vineyard, Session 5

Last night the Dogs assembled as "Three in Authority" and brought deliverance to the town of Jewel. Brother Paul arrived in town just as Sister Basemuth (Patrick) tried to hold the Steward back from killing a woman who was strongly suspected of being a witch; Brother Caleb (David) meanwhile was in hot pursuit of a man - the witch's brother - who had staggered away despite being tied up and shot in both legs.

After sessions of solving town squabbles and disagreements with local tribes, this was a full tilt into horror, action and exorcism. Brother Caleb tracked down the tongueless brother, Alex, and had to fill him full of lead as he transformed into an unspeakable monster, all triple-jointed fingers, razor teeth and deformed skull. The dice went with Caleb, but it showed up that when it comes to dealing with demons it really pays to have more than player acting against them. Demons/monsters can have a lot of dice in physical conflicts...

Monday, 22 October 2012

Treats from The Great Bakerie

More from Merion's bakerie... Tell him I sent you!

Terminal Loaf (Elvish + Plait + Death + Intense + Instant)
Previously unknown outside of a few small Elvish communities, this is the small loafcake that immortals eat when they grow tired of life. Merion makes it out of a morbid sense of duty to the universe of baking, but only sells it to those who are absolutely sure that they want to die.
(if eaten by an Elf they will die within minutes, no save; if eaten by a non-Elf, player gets to save against Death. If the save is made they must then roll under their CON. If successful they are only knocked unconscious for three days instead of a week)

Mischief Cake (Spiced + Cupcake + Evolution + Strong + Half an hour)
A prank cake, sold usually to young children to play tricks on their elders. Whoever eats it will begin to change in appearance in some way, and will remain that way for a full day. The change takes thirty minutes. A minor counter-curse or disspell should remove the change... Unless the person eating, eats A LOT of the cakes at once, in which case changes stack and become more difficult to remove, either through time or through magic.
(d10 roll for appearance change:
1. Eyes change colour.
2. Ears grow pointed. Elves' ears shrink.
3. An offensive word forms in freckles across the forehead.
4. Little fingers bifurcate and form baby talons.
5. Prehensile eighteen inch nose.
6. Skin morphs into amber scales over whole body.
7. Loss of all body hair. After a day hair starts to grow back at three times normal rate until restored.
8. Tongue shrinks to a small lump.
9. A fox tail sprouts.
10. Two fox tails sprout.
DM gets to rule on any modifiers/in-game bonuses/penalties.)

Socratic Slice (Cream + Doughnut + Wisdom + Effective + A turn)
A huge piece of sweet hollow dough, filled with sickly whipped cream. Anyone who eats a whole one, and it takes some effort, is given something to think about...
(after ingestion, has +1 for WIS related rolls and saves for one week; anyone who tries to eat more than one in a week will automatically lose d2 points of CON. Too much of a good thing and all that)

Mementoria (Lavender + Ring + Transference + Sharp + d3 minutes)
Merion doesn't advertise these small scented ring cakes, and only sells them to people who have official paperwork for the city. He won't even tell you where he picked up the recipe, let alone how to make them. It's rumoured that he learned how to make them from the creator and then killed him. Anyhow: the cake is broken in to two uneven pieces. The smaller piece is eaten (willingly or forced) by someone who has information; the larger piece by someone who wants information. Within a few minutes the person with the information feels their mind become completely open to the other. This is a one way stream that is more like a flood (for 12 hours). It's almost certain that both participants will be rendered unconscious by the process (save-versus-magic every hour for 12 hours, or be unconscious for 3d8 hours - applies to both). The information being sought will crystallise in the mind of the person who ate the larger piece (whether conscious or not, and within d6 hours).

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Random Table: The Great Bakerie

Being the first in an irregular series of random provocation tables for games of various types. In my mind when I started writing this one I just thought, "Hmmm, what kind of cakes would a magic baker sell?" It seemed silly at first, and is possibly over-written, but it's just designed to give some ideas. You fill in the blanks, and of course YMMV.

Merion is the son of a Sorceress and a Gourmet. Trained by both, he set off to find his own path in the world; after years of travel and practice he set up The Great Bakerie, a shop where he makes and sells confections that defy the natural order. There is usually a selection of cakes and pastries that have magical effects. Sometimes he has far rarer and more bizarre delights...

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Dogs in the Vineyard, Session 4

Tonight was a great session. After a week's absence the Dogs (two out of three of them) returned to their duties and straightened things out in the Hope Mission. That didn't take all that long, and they set out for the town of Jewel, hot on the heels of a woman that they suspected of being a witch.

They quickly started making other plans when they found her dead body, strung up in a tree and with the symbol of their faith carved into her flesh...

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Games Night: BRING IT!

We couldn't get everyone together to play Dogs In The Vineyard last night, so once again Patrick offered to run a Lamentations of the Flame Princess session for me and David. As with our previous session we were playing with Charley (Specialist), Chastity (Fighter) and Aleph (Cleric of Namco, God of Idle Pursuits) but there were two big differences:
  1. We decided very early on that we were going for treasure and XP rather than out and out exploration.
  2. My characters had silver to spend and more levels than the last time they had met Aleph.
The first thing that we did - after meeting a crazy skeleton with roses for eyes - was to spend some money and really try to get some crazy weapons. We had a mission: to go and kill a vampire, who was by all accounts very old and powerful. We needed something to tip the balance in our favour, especially since we were going into a dungeon with rumours of undead creatures.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Dogs in the Vineyard, Session 3

After a week's absence we return to the small, isolated Hope Mission. The Dogs had arrived at the end of a day's riding to find that people were scared: the Steward was holding some of the Mountain People in the basement of the Meeting Hall; one of the hunters was claiming he had been stabbed by a Mountain Person days earlier; events had snowballed before they even arrived, and now it seemed like they had only hours before a war party would descend on the town and take back their people by force. What could the Dogs do???

Quite a lot actually...

Friday, 28 September 2012

Games Night: Joining the Teens

I was able to squeeze in an extra gaming session this week, and decided to join up with Patrick's regular game that he runs with the Teens. One of the Teen's, Teen1 in Patrick's AP reports, is my nephew. In fact some months ago I introduced him and his friends to Patrick when they happened to be at our local games haunt, and as I was the only person who had turned up from the proposed group they joined in with us.

I played for a few weeks, but then couldn't keep up with two regular games nights each week; I've dipped in and out of playing LotFP with Patrick when we were available, and really enjoyed hearing about how they were getting on - or more often getting in to evermore insane situations (usually with some choice dialogue ensuing).

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Games Night: Another Day in Asp

There's been a fair amount of rain in my part of the world over the last few days, which meant that one of the Dogs couldn't make it to continue sorting out the problems of the Hope Mission. Instead, Patrick volunteered to run a one-shot in the town of Asp for mine and David's characters using Lamentations of the Flame Princess.

I continued with two of my three LotFP characters that I used the last time Patrick ran a one-shot, and David had a character he had used previously. So the party was:
  • Charley Shortbread: one-eyed Specialist, Level 2. Comes up with overly complicated plans that get shot down by everyone. He seems to be very much in favour of stabbing first and asking questions later. (me)
  • Chastity Glean: first level Fighter. 19 years old, arms are full sleeves of tattoos and scars, short mohawk on top. Her stats are pretty much in the middle, except for STR 16 which gives her a distinct advantage in melee. 8HP don't hurt either. (me)
  • Aleph: androgynous female Cleric of Namco. Level 4! David created a table during play to interpret the will of Namco (the God of Idle Pursuits).
In total we got about 150XP between us all night. And killed somewhere in the region of 20 men. We rolled high on a lot of early melee - it's easy to forget sometimes just how quickly combat runs. At one point Patrick had to remind us that we had killed six men in the span of about 18 seconds. We had taken a job of investigating a dungeon beneath an abandoned bakery for evidence of a conspiracy against the town.

We seemed to interpret this as: kill everything that moves. Patrick gives the option to describe what happens when we kill someone in combat. This lead to ever-increasing descriptions of gore and mayhem, that started with the first guy that we met in the dungeon. His beheading fountained us in blood, and the red that spilled from his comrades soon meant that we were three comrades at arms, running through the dungeon dripping blood everywhere we went.

Patrick: "7! OK, that's enough to kill him, what happens?"
Me: "I jump and force the blade down and right through his chest, skewering his heart!"
Patrick laughs.

Patrick: "6! He's a goner, what happens?"
Me: "I disembowel him, stabbing in and twisting the blade all the way across to the back his spine!"
Patrick laughs, uneasily.

Patrick: "So he hits you for 1, but simultaneously you hit him for 7, he's dead.....What happens?"
Me: "So, his morningstar glances off my armour... And then I move to slash him, but at the last second flick his morningstar up and it smacks him square in his face. It crushes his nose and embeds all the way back to his brain."
Patrick laughs, then stops. Then shakes his head.

We didn't find anything in terms of treasure - Patrick said it was there, XP all over the place in the form of treasure, but we were too busy running from one encounter to the next. We got eight silver pieces in total.

Namco only knows what will happen when I join him for his game with my nephew tomorrow...

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Dogs in the Vineyard, Session 2

Last week we left things with Sister Basemuth (Patrick), Brother Caleb (David) and Brother Paul (Steve) at the farm; they've tracked down Newton's kidnappers, Cornelius and Nate, but they're too late - Newton has been strangled to death...

...or has he?! The slight trace of breath is in him, and so they perform ceremonies to call him back, to tell him that his time has not come - and it works. They save the boy.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Thinking Ahead

It dawns on me this afternoon that I am halfway through the week to the next games night. Which means that I need to think about expanding my setting notes for Dogs in the Vineyard. Without giving too much away to some of the players (who might read this) it's fair for me to say that while I had the starting conditions for the first few towns in place, I have only the briefest of sketches for others.

I know of connections between some of the towns, and I know of the sins but not the sinners for some more. The only really time intensive thing in terms of prep is the names of everyone, and their stats. I spent an evening earlier this week rolling dice against NPC stat tables again and again to build up a buffer of numbers for play.

(thought: there must be a simple way to mechanise that, an app that just generates a list of disposable NPCs... Select the number of people that you want, click Go and it creates a pdf list of stats)

So maybe that's what I need to do this evening: the valley has seven towns (or does it...???) and I have prep for three. So best be getting on with the other four - not that the players will ever visit them all - and think about the connections and webs of wants and needs. Again, that's a key insight that makes Dogs in the Vineyard work I think: the town creation drives you towards thinking about human relationships. It directs you to think about what people want - crucially, what they want from the Dogs. You're not just building a shooting gallery.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Thursday Tales

Making a few connections with the help of the Tales From Zero Point Oracle...
Jack of Spades: The recycled Death Scream of a world. The cult that worships it.
Three of Diamonds: A renegade librarian guards a vast archive in the station's lower reaches with dangerous traps.
Jack of Clubs: The Engineers Guild prepares an initiation and a geneered woman flees persecution.
Two of Spades: A chitinous, black mercenary arachnid alien, terrifying yet honourable guard for the elite.

The geneered woman has an artificial adaptation that is anathema to the Screamers Cult; she runs, heading for a labyrinth of learning, aided by an alien mercenary. She cannot pay him, but he recognises something kindred in her, something "right". The archive is well-protected, and if they can get past the initiation ceremonies of the Mechanikers they will have to persuade the insane old Archiver to allow them sanctuary...

  • The Screamers are living mosaics and mash-ups: their appearance and speech is taken from images and sounds captured from the Dying World. They wear and speak to honour the world.
  • The Mechanikers' initiations are legendary, both for the wave of innovation that follows a novice's acceptance and for the collateral damage usually inflicted.
  • The Archiver does not like people returning items late. He hates it so much that people now have to prove themselves worthy of being in the archive. Few do.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Dogs in the Vineyard, Session 1

Last night was the first outing for Dogs in the Vineyard in our group, and I was GMing. It was the first time any of us had played it, but I think that despite a couple of head-scratching moments with the mechanics (more on those later) it was a good evening.

We started out with character gen; it took a little while because of thinking about potential with relation to the setting (it's late August, 1851), but after a bit of thinking we arrived at:
  • Patrick, playing Sister Basemath Armstrong, a fearless and funny Dog with a Strong Community background. During her initiation she corresponded with a geologist and was able to satisfy both him and the public that dinosaur bones had been left behind in Noah's Flood.
  • David, playing Brother Caleb Romney (a distant relation perhaps), a Well-Rounded Dog who is able to employ a coldly logical perspective, track people and he's also pretty handy with a gun. During his initiation time he unfortunately failed to capture a criminal, but this has now spurred him on.
  • Steve, playing Brother Paul Usher, a Dog with a Complicated History - not raised in the Faith, but a part of it now. He's rugged, stubborn and has all the traits that you might expect from a western gunslinger. During his initiation he saved a child from a burning building.
After initiations and descriptions of their coats they were given their commission by Brother Emmanuel from the Dog's Temple: go out on a long journey to the southern-most valley where the Faithful live. It's a long time since Dogs have been through that part of the world; give the Stewards letters, help the communities as you see fit and do whatever you have to do to keep the Faith strong in the towns.

We join the Dogs as they come up to a farm outside of the town of King's Bridge.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Dogs and Dice and Decisions

It's Games Night! And tonight I start GMing a game of Dogs In The Vineyard, something which I'm really excited about. It's the first time I've played DitV and also the first time (assuming all goes well) that I'll be GMing something which isn't a oneshot. And we have at least one new player joining our merry band.

I think I have my head wrapped around the dice mechanics and the general principles of "Say yes or roll dice" and "Escalate, escalate, escalate!" Other than that, I'm just interested in playing something a bit different. DitV feels like a breath of fresh air. I thought that setting prep would be difficult, but so far it has been really straightforward. Why? Because they focus on people, what they need, what they want and how far they might go if others (or demons!) push them. And it is so much easier to focus on those fundamentals, the inclinations and breaking points. I have a little map (which I have to redraw to get rid of my notes) and I have notes of circumstances for a few towns and their inhabitants, as well as a paragraph each for those I've not fleshed out yet - I want to see what direction my players take things...

I'll be writing a lot about this over the next few weeks. If I ever finish writing about other dice mechanics I've been interested by I might even get around to thinking about the simple but complex dice of DitV. I can't wait to see it in play.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Thursday Tales

From the Tales From Zero Point Oracle...
Five of Clubs: Uplifted spider-monkey clans worship a pantheon of Echelon-II emulates.
Two of Hearts: A scroll-bearer for a librarians' cult makes a discovery.
Four of Clubs: The League of Docking Bay Families refuses passage to any and all who would attempt ingress.
Ten of Clubs: A HMBT stasis-pod drifts in to Zero Point's gravity well; the occupants awake.

The Echelon-II emulates are machine consciousnesses based on old (but still hyper-advanced) sentient software; the cores available to them in the Eighth Level Arboretum are merely functional at best. They can still think at far faster rates than humans. Or uplifts, like the Spider-monkey Clans that bring them processors, drives and other tech as offerings. The uplifts know that the Echelon-II gods are not divine, but they are technology indistinguishable from magic - and to be obeyed. One day, the gods request a very dangerous offering...

The Scroll-bearer is a junior functionary in the Sophos Cult. They track and worship knowledge - especially precious paper based media. The Scroll-bearer finds information that a lost enemy stasis pod is approaching Zero Point. The Cult has known this for years, and known that the HMBTs inside would surely wake, surge through the station and kill all inside. The Cult suppressed the knowledge because this apocalypse seemed inevitable...

The Docking Bay Families have been ordered to lock off the entire docking bay, and to do everything they can to repel the HMBTs. They are not optimistic. A Salvage-boy wonders if there might be another way when he receives a shortwave radio signal from a nearby habitat area. The sender claims to be a digital deity...

The PCs
A Spider-monkey: The alpha-warrior in the tribe, a faithful servant of the Pantheon. Called on by the "gods" to serve and to aide the Scroll-bearer. A true believer in the power of the Pantheon, he calls the HMBTs "space devils". His best interest is to kill a space devil and thus earn eternal glory.
The Scroll-bearer: Has a digital treasure trove of information about the HMBTs, and knows how to access their equipment. She needs help to get there because the Docking Bay Families have secured most of the passages. Her best interest is to use the information she has to stop the HMBTs.
The Salvage-boy: He knows all of the ways in and out of the docking bay circle, including the unblocked passages. The Echelon-IIs have promised him some truly great tech if he helps them. And what other choice does he have? His best interest is to help the Scroll-bearer and the Spider-monkey. This may be thwarted because others in the Docking Bay Families will see it as their duty to prevent any access, HMBT or otherwise.

The NPCs (lots of them!)
The Sophos Cult: They did the maths in years past that plotted when the stasis pod would return. Zero Point no longer has external defences to divert the pod away. They have gathered knowledge for years, with only a few knowing the true purpose: a faint hope that the apocalypse of the arriving HMBTs can be averted. Their best interests are to keep searching; if they think all hope is lost then they will become maudlin and possibly suicidal.
Spider-monkeys: A long-forgotten experiment gifted these creatures with human-level intelligence. Still slightly primitive even though they know the nature of the world. It is in their best interest to help the Pantheon.
Echelon-II Pantheon: If they can get access to a HMBT computer core they should be able to instantiate into a faster existence. And if they do that they may be able to find a way to defeat the HMBTs. A lot of ifs. It is in their best interests to convince representatives of the spider-monkey clans, the Sophos Cult and the Docking Bay Families to work for them. Their long term goals are unclear...
Docking Bay Families: Normally they deal with arriving ships and provide services. A central Zero Point AI has tasked them to hold the HMBTs at bay at all costs, and to allow access only to war mechs which are several days away (having to navigate through internal corridors and broken travel tubes). It is in their best interests to follow orders, but more fundamentally to stop the HMBTs and gain prestige for their caste.
The HMBTs: That's "Hideous Murdering Bug Things". When they gain access to Zero Point they will start xenoforming everything in sight. They will kill, maim and destroy, and find ways to reproduce. No-one knows quite how their reproductive cycle works - they were always too hostile to study - but they capture, kill and eat a lot of living creatures to do so. Their best interest is to get past the docking bay and into the habitats.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Turn To Stone!

noisms continues to negate the need for me to write any kind of actual play report of Yoon-Suin, by relating all the salient points. Suffice it to say that, as ever, a damn good time was had by all.

Even by me, when I was pecked by an evil magical peacock and turned to stone. Once the ongoing danger had been averted, and the rest of the party were safe, the question arose as to whether or not I could be moved. There is a monastery several days' journey away, and the monks there may be able to revert me back to flesh (or so the party thinks).

But since I am now literally stone, can I be moved? I was already a STR 16 Fighter in full plate mail, carrying about 300gp, a shield a big axe and a miscellany of adventuring gear. But now that my flesh is stone, could I be moved by five people, who already have to carry a man on a stretcher?

Gut instinct says no, but let's do the maths to check...

Monday, 3 September 2012

The Vornheim Question

Just a short post: I mentioned last week that I had a really great games night on Thursday with Patrick, who was DMing LotFP with the Vornheim book for part of the proceedings. In particular I know that the mission/quest for the evening was based around a character and location featured in Zak's book. Thursday was great.

So here's the problem: should I get and read Vornheim, given that I thought the details Patrick used were really cool and I want to see what the rest of the place is like, or as a player in a campaign that I dip my toe into occasionally, am I cheating Patrick - as DM - of the opportunity to run a session, given that I might pick things up that could provide me with "spoilers"?


Friday, 31 August 2012

Games Night: Nine Hours in Asp

noisms seems to have the actual play reports of Yoon-Suin fairly well in hand, and I don't think that there is much that I could add to his description this week. I had some free time last night, and Patrick invited me along to play Lamentations of the Flame Princess/Vornheim/Isle of the Unknown with the group of teens he DMs for. When we got there it turned out that none of them could make it, but since we were there anyway, Patrick offered to DM an escapade in the city of Asp with me playing as three PCs. I had a Specialist and a Cleric rolled up anyway, so just had to roll up a Fighter really quick and describe her. I'm reading Specials by Scott Westerfeld at the moment, so the image of a wiry-muscled 19 year old with arms covered with sleeves of alternating tattoos and scars came to mind quite vividly.

It was GREAT fun. After getting over the initial "how do I handle this?" moments, I was soon into playing the three different characters. In some ways I found it easier to handle Charley, Chastity and Priam and keep their personalities straight than to just manage one PC. Perhaps it is because I could use different characters to do different kinds of things? Maybe. In my mind it was also clearer that it was "right" for example to send Charley to do one thing (go about looking for rumours) while leaving the others to scout out an area; the narrative seemed to flow that way really well. The only real difficulty was brainstorming plans, but that was only a minor hindrance.

After some time of investigating, the only real snag that I hit was when it came to planning how to break into a house. We had learned that the sculptress whose house we were breaking into was a little more than human (I won't say too much as I don't want to spoil Vornheim for any one), so we needed a good cover. Since she lived in a rich area, and the area we had gone to plan was dirt poor, I hit on the idea of paying some "hate-the-rich hooligans" to cause a diversion by knocking at her door and then bricking every window in the front of her house, while we climbed up the back to the roof.

It worked. We had plenty of time to search her bedroom and a secret room, got the proof we needed, found evidence of even greater evil and then the artist arrived and attacked. As a five hit dice opponent against first level Fighter and Cleric and a barely level two Specialist it was not an easy fight, and she did have a special ability to ward us off. Still: we got a few hits in, the Cleric used Command to force her to her knees (she failed the save) and then we got some serious hits in. She tried to run, but a Sneak Attack with a short bow was enough to amp up the damage. BAM! One dead bad guy, XP galore.

Chased out by an undead house protector, Charley had to jump off the roof while the others climbed to safety. Very lucky that he got levelling HP earlier in the day. We returned to the office of the city factotum who gave us the mission and accidentally presented him with a magical item which put him in a state of kleptomania. With only minutes to go before the end of the session it seemed appropriate to put him to sleep in order to get our possessions back.

This is where I fell down. I pushed my luck too far with the Lords of the Roll and spectacularly failed my roll for the Command spell (Patrick's house rule for unmemorised magic) causing my Cleric's shadow to separate and try to kill him.

"And that's where we leave things for tonight..."

Awesome - and the first time I've had a character level up in LotFP/D&D. Great games night.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Thursday Tales

The Tales From Zero Point Oracle delivers something a little different...
Queen of Spades: A trio of crippled friends, none human, all without fear and destined for adventure.
Six of Clubs: A starscraper lies empty, save for the man who tries to maintain it.
Nine of Diamonds: A slum lord depressurizes a section of the station because his tenants can't pay the rent.
Seven of Spades: An epochs-old damaged war mech, one functioning weapons pod and cracked lenses, guarding the last repository of original art.

The Caretaker lives in a starscraper that is owned by the Slum Lord. He's the last person living there after the Slum Lord depressurised it because of "non-payment of tithes". The Slum Lord sees himself as a feudal baron, and because he has access codes to local environmental controls (among other things) he will see his will be done. He has some retainers, police thugs, and most of the tenants were evicted beforehand. He is waiting for them to disperse before he can repressurise it and claim their belongings, then advertise the starscraper as new living/business space. Living in the far future, his thinking is trapped in a hybrid 12th/20th century model. He holds secure a treasure trove of art, acting as banker and broker for minor art houses (some legit, some not).

The Trio lived in the outer floors of the starscraper, on the 110th floor out to space, in a relatively low gravity environment away from the core of Zero Point. They were soldiers, variously an uplifted dolphin, an uplifted wolf and a neanderthal. Wounded in battle, they retired to live out their remaining years in peace and quiet. Until now. They have left the starscraper in some basic mobility suits, but need both power, shelter and revenge on the Slum Lord... A plan is formed.

The PCs
The Dolphin: is totally reliant on the suit that she wears. A muscle paralyser dart has reduced her motor functions, and besides she can't get around on land easily without it. In the water she can get about. Her best interests are to locate the art and to have revenge on the Slum Lord.
The Wolf: has two cybernetic hind legs, and has cognitive brain functions boosted by implants. Consequently he is tactically brilliant, even if his mobility is not what it once was. His best interest is to rip the throat out of the Slum Lord.
The Neanderthal: lost his arms and eyes in combat. He has excellent vision now, his eyes boost light in multiple wavelengths and "see" what the station sees (where service allows), but his arms are very basic models, and do not fit with his body type at all. His best interest is to take the Slum Lord's place and attempt to lead well (not as a tyrant).

The NPCs
The Slum Lord: an evil greedy bastard, basically. Not too smart, but not stupid either. If there's an angle, he wants to play it. The artworks are a nest egg; he gets a cut of their appreciating value, and a cut when transactions are made. Usually, everything stays in the vault, which is guarded by the Mech: a great big ancient City Pacifier, capable of controlling a city district of 10^6 sentients single-handedly. Luckily it doesn't have the firepower it once had... Right? The Slum Lord's best interest is to do whatever it takes to get the Caretaker out of the starscraper, to establish total control, kill anyone he has to and make a lot of money.
The Caretaker: a middle-aged man, trying to find a way to usurp the starscraper controls away from the Slum Lord, hopefully permanently. If he can do that then hopefully the former tenants can move back in, and form a proper defence against the Slum Lord's future ambitions. He has a few floors pressurised, and otherwise gets around in an atmosphere rig. His best interest is to get control of the starscraper and re-pressurise it. If possible he may want to try and lock out the Slum Lord's access permanently. (could work as a PC)
Various Thugs: a motley crew of ne'er-do-wells and mercs, they do what the Slum Lord says. He pays them. Their best interest is to get the job done and drink themselves stupid afterwards. Nuff said.
Former Starscraper Tenants: have set up a shanty town nearby to the starscraper. Thugs keep harassing them, but so far it is mostly for fun. The Slum Lord will want them to be moved soon though, so that he can sell up the facilities. Their leader has lived in the starscraper for her whole life, and is uncomfortable at the fringes of the Zero Point habitat. The Tenants' best interest is to hold out and reclaim their homes.

The trio jump out to me as protagonists, but maybe that is because the Paralympics start today. I also like the idea of the themes about justice and revenge. If the Slum Lord is taken out then there may be some social justice, but possibly through the lens of revenge... Why does the Neanderthal want to lead in the place of the Slum Lord? What is the motivation?

What do you see in the Oracle?

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Thursday Tales

Following on from last week I thought it might be interesting to take something from the Zero Point oracle that our group put together for a far future sci-fi setting (which sits within our Microscope-generated "To The Stars" universe), and see what falls out of the elements selected. This is just my interpretation - the story set-up that I see. If you see something else, then tell me in the comments!
The Oracle says...
Jack of Hearts: Monks plot revenge on those they envy.
Eight of Hearts: There are ghosts in space who worship Satan.
Five of Diamonds: After civilisation collapses, an AI takes the form of an ancestor spirit to relate to the survivors.
Seven of Diamonds: A grief-stricken soul dreams of a new life as a ship's captain.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Games Night: A New Man in Yoon-Suin

Last night was another journey in Yoon-Suin, and my new character didn't disappoint. noisms has given a good account of the session, but states early on that I rolled "a ridiculously lucky set of stats" which, I guess, is probably accurate.

noisms method for rolling stats was to roll in order for STR, DEX, INT, WIS, CON and CHA, and he would allow one switch after they were all rolled (i.e., no re-rolling, but if I wanted to WIS and CON scores I could). Thankfully, the dice were extremely well-behaved last night!

STR 16
DEX 13
INT 11
WIS 13
CON 13

Well, OK, except for Charisma... I decided that these were pretty good stats for a Fighter, and early on decided that the only way to play someone with a Charisma of 6 is to act as someone who thinks they are very charming, and can't understand why others seem to screw their face up at him or roll their eyes. Poor Manjeet.

I don't have a clear picture in my head yet of what Manjeet actually looks like; I'm thinking tall, shaved head but with a few days of stubble coming in around his chin. His family are artisans (again, the luck of a random roll; after my previous success with stats and maximum hit points everyone was rooting for my personal history to reveal I was a eunuch) so I guess he would be fairly well turned out.

When I first met Marich (David) and Anil (Patrick) in the forest they gave great short descriptions of themselves. Patrick said, "You see a short, squat, bald man." David: "You see Prince Harry in a wizard's robe."

A high point of the session for me was being the one to deliver the killing blow to Manesh, the Bandit Chief who we battled against last time. I think we were really well coordinated, and Patrick's idea to hire retainers and to kit them out properly worked well. Not only did they hold their own quite well in delaying large numbers of attackers, but because we bothered to armour them up they didn't just die as soon as an opponent looked at them.

noisms claims I was ridiculously lucky; a quick bit of calculation and it turns out he is probably right: there's approximately a 1 in 6.8 million chance of me being that "lucky". And that's before you factor in the max HP roll as well. I just see it as the dice rewarding me for the spectacular fails in the last session. I wonder if I will be so lucky next Tuesday. When you have a Charisma of 6 you really have to make your own luck I guess...

Monday, 20 August 2012

Human Again

Two weeks ago my slug-man magic user Eki Ulele was killed in our regular OD&D game. noisms has hinted a little that there may be ways to raise characters from the dead in Yoon-Suin but has given no actual hints about how that might be done. That means that tomorrow I will be statting up a new character, and I've decided that this time he's going to be human.

And he won't be a magic user: after five sessions of getting knocked out and several where I've had spells that were often not useful - possibly, this was down to me not finding a use for them - I've decided that it might be best to go down the Fighter route. Our party already has a Cleric and a Magic-User, so I've decided that someone a bit hands on, covered in armour might be good. Playing as a Thief is tempting, but I'm not sure what the benefits of being a thief are in OD&D.

So I think I will be a Human Fighter. And I might play with the George Costanza path to decision-making: whatever my first inclination is, I will do the opposite. A pacifist fighter... Hmm. Maybe not.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Getting My Maths On

Watch this space; I've been struck by inspiration somehow today, and so am finally getting maths thoughts out of my head where they have been stewing for ages. I've been writing for a work-type project (I do skills training with PhD students and research staff) and need a different kind of outlet. I thought that was going to be figuring out whether or not to use Apocalypse World, GHOST/ECHO or Cyberpunk as the basis for a small campaign that I want to GM, but it turns out that I've had this growing thought about finally figuring out the In A Wicked Age dice-rolling probabilities that has been bugging me. I don't know the answer now, but I SEE the connections.

In maths, when you have enough pieces, sometimes you can just run them together and get an answer spit back out. Building proofs from the conceptual machinery of algebra is dizzying. You can go so far so quickly.

Of course, there are probably resources out there that have looked at this. On an internet with this many connected souls, the chances are quite high that that's true. However, there is something great about sitting down, spending the time and doing some maths for the sake of it. So that's what I'm doing.

Watch this space: soon we'll have the final word on rolling dice for In A Wicked Age!*

*because, you know, that's what everyone has been waiting for in RPGS...

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Wicked Wednesday (Sort Of)

No trip to Yoon-Suin this week: noisms was too busy with work, and then Patrick and David both had to cancel on the hastily arranged In A Wicked Age/Tales From Zero Point one-shot that I proposed.

I'm quite a fan of both In A Wicked Age and our homebrew oracle that we played with the same mechanics, Tales From Zero Point (I've blogged about them here and here before). Plus I like GMing and those have been my only experiences so far.

So it was that yesterday evening I decided to draw the cards anyway for what the story might have been at Zero Point Waystation, the greatest single work of humanity ever, a vast space station adrift in the Oort Cloud, right at the edge of the solar system...

Ace of Spades: An insane Robot tends an ancient mosaic, endlessly renewed.
4 of Hearts: A criminal punished with sentient stasis.
10 of Spades: The foundation stone. A beam of iron drawn from the heart of the Sun. The druid that serves it.
King of Clubs: A militant hegemony virus propagates through the transient population.

Now, I have no idea what Patrick and David would have made of this, but in the ten minutes after I pulled those cards, the following ideas for characters and interests came to me.

The insane Robot who builds the mosaic is not "insane" in human terms, it merely has Asimov circuits and directives that are stuck. I think this would be a good NPC. It used to work for or with the Criminal, a PC, who has been released from millenia of stasis by the Druid, also a PC, who is more of an Engineer-Mystic who tends the deep bowels of Zero Point and worships the central beam of perfect iron at the exact centre of the station.

No-one seems to know where the Virus has come from: perhaps somewhere long forgotten within the station, perhaps from a fragment brought in by a salvage-captain. Maybe it is a weapon sent by the Schwarm-Laden beings from beyond space-time. What is known is that it is organising. It creates a network within the small pockets of sentience within the station, then it spreads. And spreads.

The druid thinks that the criminal might be able to help stop it, and the criminal needs the robot repairing to get it done. It's in the druid's best interests to help the criminal recover and stop the Virus. The criminal wants to escape the station and head for Far-Away Earth, even after all this time. So he'll do what he needs to in order to achieve that. The Robot, for now at least, just wants to perfect the mosaic.

And the Virus... Well, no-one can figure out what It wants...

I'll turn it over to you anyway: given the four prompts from our Oracle up there, what do you see?

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Games Night Redux

Some thoughts, actions and communication from this week's games night, which I talked about here and noisms talked about here.

As some party members consider attacking some birdmen...
Me: You know that a slingshot has roughly a 30% chance of killing you outright?
David (Level 1 magic-user): What???

After a spot of melee, our party decides to psyche out our remaining, retreating opponents...
David: I pick up the head of one of their fallen comrades and throw it at them!
noisms (DM) (immediate quip): It does d6 damage...

Following another battle, we have killed six bandits but paid a heavy price. The DM summarises...
noisms: You two are on your feet, you're unconscious, Asha and Bam (retainers) are dead... What do you do?
(give up?!)

After a night of wandering through the bamboo forest, randomly encountering non-aggressive animals...
Me: Did I recover a hit point?
noisms: No, you've been up all night messing with peacocks...

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Games Night: Yoon-Suin Obituary

noisms has already pretty much covered exactly what happened last night in Yoon-Suin, although there are a few points that I want to clarify, before I get on to talk about Eki Ulele.
With Eki Ulele eventually recovered, they pressed on, and discovered the treasure of the Feathered Men: 800 gold pieces in metallic urns. These urns, coated with poison, nearly killed the foolhardy Eki Ulele...
I was far from foolhardy! noisms described the urns as being covered in a thick, clear gel or oil. I scraped some off with my knife, looked at it under the light. Sniffed it, dabbed a rag into it to see if it was corrosive in some way, I think I tried burning it to see if it was some intense flammable agent. Finally I very carefully dabbed the tip of my little finger into it.

"Roll a d20," says the DM.
"What's your save against poison?"
"...oh come on!!!"

At the end of the session, Eki Ulele's death mirrored his life: he wanted to be more than a magician or wizard, he wanted to be other than a slug-man, bound by his caste and his father/mother. Despite being high-born, he had a rage against the unhuman and the inhumane, the treacherous and the despicable. And yes, somewhere along the way he decided that the Jack Bauer approach to getting information from NPCs was 100% legit.

Eki knew Read Magic, Read Languages and Charm Person: only the latter ever really worked, and even then it was used to charm opponents to lie down on the floor while he stabbed them through the back of the neck. He liked to talk, and his strange relationship with the world meant that he would veer wildly from acts of cowardice to acts of courage. He was about three-quarters of the way towards levelling up, and was desperate for more hit points and an offensive spell.

His death, in a bizarre and random encounter after successfully giving his friends time to make their escape was exactly in keeping with his life: short, strange and utterly unpredictable.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Games Night Redux

A few days ago I forgot to include a few things from our Yoon-Suin game that had really tickled me. Patrick, in writing about the game that he is DMing and which my nephew is a player in, reminded me of the importance of great lines and player strategy that come out in play, and which really should be recorded.

Here are some notes I made from last week's game; apologies if they make little sense to anyone else out there. They were perfectly reasonable at the time.

Patrick, thinking like a giant lungfish (whose stomachs were filled with silver pieces): "I'm so hungry, have you got any coins?"

(honestly, why am I even posting this, why would anyone care??? I had to hold my head and pinch by brow to stop myself from crying with laughter at the feeding habits of dungeon dwelling lungfish)

Eki Ulele, my slug-man magic-user, has a reputation for going all red mist-y around the edges whenever someone tries to get one over on us. His standard reaction is to burn the village and salt the land with the widows' tears. When the others talked him down from killing an unarmed prisoner it made me realise: "I'm like a slug Jack Bauer!"

noisms, the DM, as we set forth on an improvised bamboo raft across a dungeon lake: "You float off into the Dark Sea of Doom."
Everyone else thinks: "I've made a huge mistake."

Patrick's PC, Anil, is a cleric who serves Manpac (rearrange the syllables); Manpac is apparently the god of mazes, the eater of ghosts and his servants chant wakka-wakka-wakka as they do his work. When Patrick exclaimed "fear the might of Manpac" I thought I was going to die laughing.

But here's the thing: the repurposing of Manpac is AWESOME. If I was a cleric in another world, another time, I can totally see "the God of Mazes, the Eater of Ghosts" as a being who is to be feared and obeyed.

And Games Night is tomorrow.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Games Night: Yoon-Suin

noisms has already written about one aspect of last night's Yoon-Suin escapades, the loss of our devoted teenage retainer Dev. We all miss him very much. It was a strange sort of evening, our initial plan to get back to the dungeon and take some names was thwarted by running into some bandits.

We killed several of them easily enough, but a few escaped on horseback and another was our prisoner for a short time before he escaped as well. We know the name of the bandit leader, and perhaps we will have to do something about him sooner or later, but it was decided that we should push on to Sangmengzhang.

Some dwarf skeletons in armour nearly killed one of the PCs, and so we retreated out of the dungeon to rest up for a few days. We went back in, where we were promptly attacked by a horde of cockroaches. Escape on a flimsy raft across a deep lake of glow-in-the-dark jellyfish worked well; as we reached the far bank we tried to take out some giant lungfish that were stirring in a cave. Even this was beyond us, but eventually they ran and we licked our wounds.

For two minutes, until a giant slug oozed out of the lake and chased us into a corridor. Thank heaven for doors.

I'm beginning to find out more about my character. Eki Ulele is a slug-man magic-user. He has 3HP when at full health (more on this in a second), and the spells he knows are only borderline useful most of the time - although Charm has worked out quite well. He tends to think quickly, is more often than not an optimist (at least with others' lives). He is prone to rage and violent acts against unarmed opponents, possibly as an overcompensating reaction to his caste - his desire to adventure is atypical for slug-men - and possibly as a result of his upbringing, having a father-mother who was utterly indifferent to him.

I'm almost halfway towards levelling up, and next time we really need to find some treasure to make that happen. I did some back of the napkin maths and realised that an attack by someone with a d4 weapon has a probability of nearly 30% of knocking me out (if not outright killing me). For someone with a d6 weapon that probability jumps to almost 40%. Given that most things we meet have attacks at that level (at the moment) this is very, very bad.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Games Night: OD&D/Yoon-Suin

Last night we had another trip to Yoon-Suin, ably DMed by noisms. Patrick, Whimsy and I headed for the dungeon with three retainers to soak up some of the damage. We were cautious at first; we had arrived at the entrance to the dungeon in the late afternoon, and so our plan was just to have a quick explore so that we could get the lay of the land, see what the entrance was like, get a feel for the place.

Then we met the hostiles.

noisms described them as humanoid, grey-skinned, red eyes, dressed in rags and with long, lank hair: there were a lot of them, and they attacked in groups, armed with spears, clubs and slings. There were three or four skirmishes in all; they tried to flank us several times, but we were always able to stay one step ahead of them, more or less.

In the end, we killed all of them, but not without paying a price: we lost Patrick's character Damodar.

Damodar was awesome. He was always stood at the front of a fight, always keen to jump in; his INT stat was low, but Patrick played that really well by having Damodar ask naive-sounding-but-clever questions. Being the only fighter in a party of magic-users meant that he had to be the guy at the front; plate mail can only do so much, and Patrick effectively played the odds all night: hit after hit from slings, spears and clubs didn't connect, until they finally did.

Luckily, once we had killed all of the creatures in that party, we were able to "rescue" a 1st level cleric that Patrick was frantically rolling up. Damodar and one of the retainers were buried just outside the entrance of the dungeon, and the next day we decided to head back to Silaish Vo to lick our wounds and rethink our strategy.

It's my first time playing a magic-user, and I hadn't realised just how restricted options were in terms of combat: as a 1st Level I have only one spell as well, and none of my options are offensive in nature. I just about killed some of the grey-skins with my staff, and I had wits enough to make flame-bombs from flasks of oil. I'm hoping that I can level up (safely) over the next session, and possibly start the path towards offensive capabilities.

Having more than three hit points would also be handy.

Monday, 16 July 2012

A quick note on Ammo Maths

Some time ago I wrote about a curious little thought that I had had when writing out an ammo mechanic for the zombie game that I will get around to one of these days. I duly set about working on some all powerful equation that would calculate everything. This is what (some) mathematicians do, I did it quite often during my PhD: you reach to try and prove everything, building up from small cases until you have it all.
Except that that doesn't happen all too often in my experience. Instead, you find that the particular case you are looking in to has no easy way of stating it, and in particular, no nice way of explaining it to someone. You can talk in generalities, but often you are glossing over details. You don't find the "beauty" that you are looking for.

That's what happened to me while I was looking for my formula for the "Ammo Maths" problem. It dawned on me during one of those times I have been working on the problem that I was going about it all the wrong way. Sure, the formula(s), when complete, would have some novelty value or interest. But they, in themselves, weren't the interesting thing. In the first case, it would be great to know the answers to the two questions I asked originally.

But more importantly, it would be better to have a meaningful answer to the general case. There is no point in presenting a formula really. Who would use it? Instead, I'm working on typesetting the tables that (may) accompany the mechanic. They could be useful to GMs or players so that they have some idea about just how many shots they might get off. Having a narrative mechanic is a way of avoiding counting bullets and shells, but it would still be good for people to have some idea of just how high up the food chain they are.

So that's what I'm checking at the moment, what the numbers say and tell us, and then I will typeset it (which takes a little time as my HTML for tables is hopeless; I'll be copying and pasting over from word processor instead).

Friday, 13 July 2012

Games Night: OD&D in Yoon-Suin

It was games night on Tuesday, and me, Patrick and the Whimsybomb-man met up with noisms at the Scythe to continue our adventures in a setting that noisms has been toiling away on for years. Yoon-Suin is a strange place, humans and demi-humans live side-by-side in the city of Silaish Vo, it seems corruption is everywhere and magic is loose and free.

Patrick and W's PCs are a human fighter and a human magic-user; I am a Slugman Magic-user (look here for noisms' pictures of slugmen) - in this setting that essentially gives me a caste-style bonus, as slugmen are more highborn than humans. This comes out in the way that I roleplay him a little as Hugh Laurie in Blackadder.

Yoon-Suin is very fresh as a setting. What do I mean? We don't know what the world is like. noisms has it all on paper and in his head. There are no orcs and goblins that are a bit Lords of the Rings-ish. So far we've fought humans, moths and been really careful around scorpions. The small creatures are really scary and deadly from what we've seen. We captured an immortal man-beast, the Old King aka the Mad Eunuch, and took him to the Guild of Sages. We found a man made of clay, and ran away as quickly as possible when we got the distinct feeling that the DM was telling us we were extremely outclassed.

The Eastern feel to the setting is also really great. Silaish Vo in description reminds me of a mix of Mos Eisley, Hong Kong, perpetual street markets, and bizarrely it makes me think of William Gibson's work, but I can't put my finger on why...

This is the first campaign I've played using OD&D too. Great so far, reall enjoying it. At first it was mildly frustrating that as a magic-user the only weapons I am allowed are daggers and staffs. Now I'm starting to think more tactically - in fact, while this might be my character's first adventure, he has probably had to deal with miscreants and adventurous incidents in the past in order to get to Level 1. So he must have come up against this, being in a position where he has a spell and a knife and that's it. And he survived.

Maybe thinking about that I can figure out how to continue to keep him alive...

Next Games Night: more Yoon-Suin!