Goodies Received

I recently placed orders at Amazon, Lulu and DriveThruRPG, I got the last of the Amazon order on Friday and the others on Saturday.

I’m not doing an in-depth review, just touching on what I got.

From Amazon, I got a good deal on a copy of Manual of the Planes for AD&D 1e. I never had the book, but I have the PDF and wanted a “complete” set of the AD&D manuals. By complete, I mean complete to me. That is, I now have all the AD&D manuals that I want. The only exception is if I find inexpensive Players Handbooks that are good for use at the table. I think that I’m up to three table copies, but would like to boost that a bit.

Manual of the Planes
Manual of the Planes

Earlier in the week, a separate shipment of my Amazon order came, with Playing at the World, by Jon Peterson. So far, I’ve gotten through the introduction, acknowledgements, and the fist few sections of chapter one. As I write this on a rainy Saturday, I’m leaning towards more reading, since I can’t do my yard work and don’t feel motivated to do inside chores.

Playing at the World
Playing at the World

I also got two copies of a board book, one for my granddaughter, and one for me: C is for Cthulhu. There was a Kickstarter for this. I didn’t learn of it until well after it. I think it is a neat idea. I also can’t wait to see the look on my son’s face tomorrow* when I give it to them. He has read some H. P. Lovecraft, he got a book several years ago from the local library’s annual sale.

C is for Cthulhu
C is for Cthulhu

Here’s a picture of my granddaughter with her new book. Her parents were geeked out about this book. She was taking a nap when I arrived, and their dog barked and woke her up just a few minutes into it, so she wasn’t as exited. However, I did read it to her several times and she enjoyed it.

Nikola with her new book.
Nikola with her new book.

The Lulu order contained Revised & Expanded Petty Gods and Metamorphosis Alpha. I did not contribute to Petty Gods, but I already have the PDF and with a 30% sale Lulu had, I jumped in.

Petty Gods
Petty Gods

Metamorphosis Alpha is the original rules, but with James Ward’s minor changes on the cover and title page indicating it is his. When I saw it and picked it up and started flipping through the pages, it brought me back to when I had my copy of the game. I can see myself sitting in my parent’s basement way back in high school, reading the rules and running one of the few games we had. This is just like so many of the rule books back then. It reminds me of all those other TSR games in the early 1980’s: Gamma World, Top Secret, Boot Hill, Gang Busters, Star Frontiers, etc. We played them all, but kept coming back to AD&D.

Metamorphosis Alpha
Metamorphosis Alpha

I did not back the Metamorphosis Alpha re-print Kickstarter. I did get the PDF from DriveThruRPG and print it out. I also backed the Epsilon City Kickstarter and plan to add the softcover MA re-print, but I didn’t want to wait for that to arrive in a few months.

I also bought this to help Jame Ward with his recent and ongoing hospital stay. This is on top of my boosted pledge to the Epsilon City Kickstarter and a donation to his GoFundMe. #WardenCrew

From DriveThruRPG I got the Portrait GM Screen, and the OSR Sci Fi GM Screen for White Star. I already had the PDF of the Sci fi GM Screen, but if I bought the Portrait GM Screen, they would just give me a copy of the Sci Fi GM Screen. I used up all of my credits and then some to get this, so if you want to buy something from my affiliate links, please do, so I can get more things to review!

The Portrait GM Screen is actually TWGS – The World’s Greatest Screen, by Hammerdog Games. Hammerdog has free inserts that you can download from their site. This screen has a bit of heft to it. It reminds me of a few executive style notebooks I have. The inset pockets are tight and it might be a challenge to switch things up and use inserts for another game. With binders we have at works with such insert pockets on the cover, the ink gets stuck to the plastic and it is a challenge to get the inserts out. I’m not sure if it is safe to leave fancy inserts in. Home printed inserts, or copy paper inserts, the ink will most likely stick to the pocket sleeve. Unless this plastic/vinyl is a different quality and ink does not stick to it, I wouldn’t leave inserts in there for an extended period of time, unless you planned to play only one game, or get a new screen for each game. The latter would get quite expensive.

I’ll have to look for long-term reviews about the issues of ink sticking to the sleeve pocket, etc. Hammerdog does have a page on caring for the screen. I’m curious to see if anyone who has followed their instructions has had any issues. I found this unboxing video of both the portrait and landscape sceens on YouTube.

TWGS
TWGS

The SciFi GM Screen is visually appealing and the card stock is about the same grade as that of the Metamorphosis Alpha GM Screen that I reviewed here. It has a couple pages of tables and a sector map and mini adventure for the GM and another one for the players. This is an interesting idea. I have the PDF of the GM Screen, but I have not thoroughly reviewed it. I’m used to seeing combat tables and other things on GM screens. I know with the Ascending Armor Class, one doesn’t need combat tables. Somehow, I feel a table or two that might be relevant to play is missing. I will have to review my PDF copy of White Star before I stick to a claim one way or the other.

Sci Fi GM Screen
Sci Fi GM Screen
Sci Fi GM Screen
Sci Fi GM Screen – All the Inserts
Sci Fi GM Screen
Sci Fi GM Screen – Sector Map

 

* I wrote this on Saturday, will give it to them Sunday, and set this article to publish Monday.

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General Tables

Why do we get the ideas that we do? The other day, it came to me. I wondered, why don’t we have a collection of generic tables for the most common attributes of persons, places, and things? With the addition of adjectives and verbs, one can use simple tables to build up hints for ideas that are easy to flesh out.

For example:

COLOR (add sub-tables for variations on Red, Blue, and Yellow.)

  • White
  • Black
  • Brown
  • Red
  • Blue
  • Yellow

RAINBOW

  • RED
  • ORANGE
  • YELLOW
  • GREEN
  • BLUE
  • INDIGO
  • VIOLET

SIZE

  • Sub-atomic
  • Atomic
  • Microscopic
  • Miniscule
  • Tiny
  • Small
  • Little
  • Medium/Mid-Sized
  • Big
  • Large
  • Giant
  • Huge
  • Brobdignagian
  • Planatary
  • Galaxy-Wide
  • Universal
  • Infinite

DISTANCE

  • Close
  • Near
  • Here
  • Far
  • Distant

MEASUREMENT

  • Imperial
  • Metic
  • Other
  • Miles
  • Inches
  • Light-years
  • Parsecs

SHAPE

  • Specific
    • Square
    • Circle
    • Triangle
    • Rectangle
    • Rhomboid
    • Pentagon
    • Star
  • General
    • Roundish
    • Ill-defined
    • Non-specific
    • Lump
    • Pile
    • Heap

For a very general noun generator, pick a letter of the alphabet and a noun that starts with that letter. Perhaps categories of nouns, like the biggies, person, place, and thing.

Pick a letter and come up with something that describes a person, place, and thing, adding in a verb (action) and perhaps a description (adjective). For example, ‘S’. Sailor, Sea, Ship. This makes it easy to come up with a simple idea: A sailor sailed his ship upon the sea. So the action is sailing. Easily one can thing of pirates, maritime trade, whaling, naval battles of any era, or even space battles.

I think the key is not to limit oneself. You can just as easily use a different letter for each thing. Just go with what works. If you happen to get a rush of ideas, don’t wait, jot them down, and you can have a large collection of ideas ready to flesh out for play.

For a plot, pick a book in your personal library that has a word that starts with that letter, in this case, ‘S’ in the title. I looked quickly and only see one book on my shelves that has an ‘S’ word in the title, and it is actually a periodical, “Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine”, April, 1980. It’s the only one I have. I liked some of the stories in that one, so I kept it. Perhaps I should read them again to get some ideas.

Another book jumped out because I mentioned he possibility of pirates, “Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates.” This is nonfiction, but that doesn’t matter. Truth is stranger than fiction. There are some pirates that are little known today that inspired old movies and before that adventure stories. As I recall, there are some good ideas here. I haven’t read it in a decade.

Instead of reading either of these in their entirety, get the page count. For example, “Under the Black Flag”  has 244 pages before the Appendix with various tables and charts. To keep it simple, just do a d200 roll. That’s a d100 with a control die. Any die will do that has an even number of sides. For example, a d6. 1-3 is low, so add 0, and 4-6 is high, add 100.

A roll of 127 for page 127 gives us: The third page of chapter 7, Torture, Violence, and Marooning. Page 127 picks up mid-story about a leader of a mutiny that was captured, tortured, tried, and executed and his body hung in chains until the bones were picked clean.

I’m not a lawyer, so an adventure involving courtroom drama does not sound exciting to me. However, hiring the PC’s to go capture a mutinous crew and bring them and their ship back for justice sounds interesting.

Every story needs a complication, so an obvious one is a rival band going after the mutineers. Further complicated that the mutineers were justified in their mutiny and are actually freedom fighters out to overthrow the evil overlord.

If you want an original idea, try something like this. With an outline for a story like that, you can easily flesh out the band of mutineers, the other adventurers, perhaps loyal flunkies of the evil overlord who are also out to get the party. Throw in some random encounters, maybe roll on the ocean random encounter table to get a unique crew member, like a sahuagin sailor, or some large sea creature who pulls a ship.

Place the action in your world, and figure our how different ocean going peoples, nations, and real pirates figure into the mix.

Use the general/generic tables for colors, shapes, sizes, descriptions, etc. the AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide has great tables for ambiance of dungeons and other ideas. Many other OSR rules have similar tables, like OSRIC, ACKS, Swords & Wizardry, plus many sites online.

Another option might be to pick an RPG blog at random from your blogroll, then go to that blog and look at its blogroll and pick one table at random from each of those blogs that has a collection of tables. Take the results of all these tables and see what you get.

I’m sure I have heard the inspiration for using a random page in a book in other places, but most recently, it was from +Adam Muszkiewicz at Dispatches from Kickassistan, with this article. Actually, he mentioned that during the sessions of DCC he ran at Marmalade Dog 20, back in January. He just recently wrote it up.

I like input and suggestions. Are there other general/generic tables that can be added to the mix? Other creative ways to take random elements to get an idea for an adventure? The main idea is not to require too much time to get a solid idea that you can have ready to play with minimal prep time.

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Quick Campaign Creation Checklist

I had a post like this in the past – Checklist For Gearing Up For An Online Campaign, but I wrote this without reviewing it. I also had a post on Campaign Design, with lots of links to great online resources. For some reason the variation below really hit home with me.

If you are planning your first campaign or planning a new campaign, what do you need to do to be ready for players?

First, you decide what genre, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Horror, Western, etc. The decision of a genre may be determined by the rules you already have, or a new game you bought but haven’t had a chance to play. Or you may be gung ho and want to design a new game to go with your campaign.

Before we get to far into this, what do we mean by campaign. For me, a campaign is on open ended series of adventures in the same setting. Basically, this is sandbox style of play. I played in a campaign that is over 30 years old and still going, ran by my brother, Robert. I can play in it whenever I want (Well, that and when his work schedule and my being back home in Missouri….).

For others, a campaign is a series of connected adventures that has an end, either a set number of adventures, or a goal/culmination, that all the players and the DM are working towards. This does not mean that multiple campaigns can’t be in the same world. Why design a world/setting for adventure and not use it? For some, like back in the old days, their setting is running through a bunch of modules, with custom modifications. The One Page Dungeon Contest provides plenty of these.

Scope – Just how big do you plan this campaign to be? Even if you start out with a handful of six mile hexes, just how big is your setting? Will it be limited to a sub-continental or continental scale, a planet, a solar system, a galaxy, parallel universes, different planes of existence? While it may start small in a village or small town with a dungeon, if it takes off, how big is the limit? If you and your players only want to do dungeons, for example working through all the dungeons from the One Page Dungeon Contests, you have your scope. However, if you all want grand and epic adventures across time, space, and multiple dimensions, you have your scope. You don’t have to plan any of that now, just make a note, and as ideas strike you, put them in your notebook.

Background – How much is needed? Do you write sweeping histories and legends? If so, do you share with your players, or allow them to uncover them through play? Or do you have just the barest of notes to set the tone. Or do you get input from players to help set the tone?

Powers/Dieties – If you have Dieties in a fantasy setting, or perhaps in other genres, do you design them whole cloth, or use existing mythos? For example, in AD&D there is Dieties & Demigods or Grewhawk Advenures with dieties all stated out and ready to go. Some GM’s don’t care and just let each player choose what they want for a diety. Or are there super powerful beings that fill the role of dieties, like Q from TNG, or all the major aliens from the Star Gate series?

Races – In a fantasy setting, for example, do you allow all the races that players can be? Do you limit the choices for your vision of your campaign. Do you not care and allow any type of creature to be a PC?

Classes – Do you allow all the classes in the core rules? Do you limit the availability of some classes? Do you allow players to create their own classes?  Will you allow multiclass combinations different from the rules? Will you have race as class?

 Level Limits? – If you plan a game with level limits, do you plan to enforce it or revise it, or have no limits?

Alignment – If your rules have an alignment system, do you use it as is, or modify it to suit your preferences or the flavor of the campaign?

House Rules – What other changes to the standard rules do you have? Do you ignore certain rules? Do you have your own custom rules or mix and match ideas from multiple other games and blogs?

How much do you need to start? – I am assuming a sandbox style of preparation. For D&D, for example, a town, a dungeon or two, some rumors, shops, an inn, a bunch of names for NPC’s that come up, and some monsters, with a few random encounter tables. Keep it simple and keep it small. If you have a hook for people to run off halfway across a continent, then you will need to vastly expand your sandbox before play starts. Keep the focus on the starting area and minimize your efforts. There are tons of helpful ideas for all of this online, with all kinds of random tables to help you build a sandbox, create tables for various purposes, generate random names, etc. Work your setting, don’t make it work you. (This is a big finger pointed at me. I all too easily can get lost in the minutiae.)

Narrow your focus and only make as much material as you need to run the first few sessions. Be open to the players going in unexpected directions, and if they “go off the map”, roll with it. Take notes after the session, and prepare for next time.

Rely on the abundance available. There are tons of free modules and dungeons and other resources online. As mentioned above, the One Page Dungeon Contest has ready made adventures for multiple genres.

Maps or no maps for players? – There are tons of maps online. Do you only need them for you, or will you make them available to players? For example, maps of dungeons, cities, towns, etc? Of will it be theater of the mind and players can make their own maps.

Battlemats/Miniatures? – Will you use battlemats and miniatures for everything, or at all? I tend to use a simple map to show the lay of the land and relative position. Miniatures mostly for marching order and relative position. Often figures can be different dice or marks on a page, or other trinkets.

Player Handouts? – Will all of your preparation and design require a player handout with house rules, campaign setting information, or other things a player in your campaign needs to know? If so, this alone can take as much time as all your other preparation. Be smart, copy and paste and avoid typing something that already exists electronically. Keep a well backed up copy of this document and edit as needed during the course of the campaign.

Keeping it Organized – Plan for success. Don’t wimp out and assume no one will like your game. The first session may not go so well, especially with a group of people new to each other and perhaps new players. The first session will help set the tone and will help you launch into following sessions.

Keep a campaign calendar. If you have determined random events put it on the calendar and track on it the things players do. Include the actual session number and play date and what amount of time on your game calendar were covered.

Take notes during play. Note things you need to remember, have a section for To Do, research, preparation for next time, major events to remember and work into the game, etc. They only need enough detail so that you understand what they mean later.

Get the players involved. Especially for an online game, invite players to write up each session and given them XP, or other in-game rewards for their efforts.

If you have an existing campaign, and your plans to organize it did not go well, learn from what did not go well when planning and organizing a new campaign. Perhaps you can also take time to better organize your existing campaign.

Online tools – Whether you play online via Roll20 or other VTT, you can still use online tools to keep it organized. As long as all players have access to the internet, they can use a Google community to organize play reports and communicate between games, and the GM can message all players in one spot and simplify changes to the game schedule.

If you do play online, use a tool that all players can use and keep everyone involved. This is a bit more challenging remotely, as more quite players can sink into the background if they don’t get their queue to chime into the matter at hand. Whether in person or online, make sure that each player gets their moment. Some very loud and obnoxious players can crowd out the rest of the players.

Organizing as you go will simplify things down the road. Have a filing system that works for you, so you can find anything you need in seconds. Keep a list of NPC’s at hand so you always have the stats you generated for them and avoid generating new stats. If you do this, as I have done a few times, use the new stats for a new NPC. Make sure that everything you do is something you can use.

If hosting in your home, make sure that you have an understanding on pens/pencils, dice, paper, rule books, snacks,  etc. Unless you are a relatively new GM, you may not have extra dice to share. I fall into the camp of, no one uses the DM’s DM dice! But I have many other sets that I share. If the GM hosts, will the players bring snacks, etc? Is alcohol permitted? If you are a particular person when it comes to your stuff and your home, figure out how to explain your rules of use, so that it doesn’t turn people away.

 

I only mention this from my experience way back with one friend who would always lean back in chairs, and he ruined several of my parents chairs without much of an apology or offer to replace them. This usually is not a problem with adults, but some adults can still be careless with other’s stuff. You also didn’t dare give this guy a pencil, as he would chew it up, and leave slivers all over. Bic ink pens also suffered, the caps most of all.

Also be realistic, if you live in a tiny apartment, can you really host sessions with ten players? Is there a local place you can go to play? this goes back to how portable is your campaign? Can you play it anywhere? If you only have one toilet, how long will breaks have to be so that everyone gets a turn?

Get feedback from the players before, during, and after each session to see if they are into it and enjoying themselves. If a session goes very well, you won’t have to ask, they will either say it outright, or give obvious clues that it hit the spot.

Use the players suppositions and fears. – Players can’t help to speculate about what they will encounter. If you get them into it, you can really use themselves against themselves. Use this to tweak the current session, or collect notes on all their wild speculations and build an adventure built off of them. When you use player’s ramblings in play, they buy into it all the more, because now they are invested and see that you are willing to play along.

Build and revise as needed. – As you go through the process of building your campaign/world/setting, you will think of something not listed here. Add it to the list. As players begin interacting with your creation, it will have to adapt, be willing to let it change as it happens. If you have a “really great idea” in the planning stages, but it doesn’t seem to fit once play begins, that’s ok. Either save it for a different setting, revise it so that it fits, or wait until the campaign develops so that it makes sense to use that idea.

What did I miss? I left out links to all the articles on how to build a sandbox

THE OUTLINE

  • Genre/Rules (Game) – This is not necessarily the same thing.
    • The rules should be one that you know well enough to run without too much delay for “getting things right”.
    • I am more and more of the mind that “getting things right” does not mean stopping the game for an extended period of time to figure out some forgotten, obscure point, or edge case in the rules. Make a decision/ruling, note it, live with it, and move on.
    • Can you pack up the game and take it anywhere, or must the players come to your place because of how much material is involved?
    • How crunchy/detailed/complicated do you want your rules to be? If you like realism, choose a system that goes for realism. If you want rules that allow fast and simple play so you have more time to enjoy the cooperative play and storytelling of RPG’s, find the system that works for you.
  • Type of campaign (open ended ongoing or limited duration)
    • Sandbox vs. something else.
  • Scope
  • Background
  • Powers/Dieties
  • Races
  • Classes
  • Alignment
  • House Rules
  • How much do you need to start?
  • Maps or no maps for players?
  • Battlemats/Miniatures?
  • Player Handouts?
  • Keeping it Organized
    • Campaign Calendar
    • Notes during the session.
    • Player Involvement
    • Online Tools
    • Hosting in your home?
  • Feedback
  • Use the players suppositions and fears.
  • Build and revise as needed. –
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Faction Interaction Tracker

As I have mentioned before, I play in a weekly Wednesday night AD&D Roll20 campaign that just hit 71 sessions this week.

After session 69, our DM, John, asked us to put together a list of all the factions and potential enemies we had made. I made a quick off the cuff list in a reply to that thread on our G+ Community. You can catch John’s blog about his design for the campaign here.

Before we got going on session 70, John mentioned that he had built a spreadsheet to help him keep track of all the factions, but had an issue tracking which groups were friendly or in communication with other groups. I suggested color coding or using mind map software. John mentioned that he thought of building an SQL database and using SQL queries to make sense of it.

While I love technology and the idea of using bells and whistles and shiny bits to track such interactions, that is impractical. There has to be an easier way to do it with a spreadsheet so you can just print it out for use at the table.

First, I turned to Google, but did not quickly find anything searching for “RPG faction tracker” or “RPG intrigue tracker”.

It is simple to make a list of groups and keep track of whether or not they like the PC’s and how much. The complexity comes in when when keeping track of how the various factions feel about each other.

Factions that don’t get along might cooperate if they also don’t like the PC’s enough to do so, and there is benefit in their cooperation.

Factions that don’t get along and one side likes the PC’s would only cooperate in helping or hindering the PC’s if the benefit were enough to counteract their favorable or unfavorable opinion of the PC’s. For example, the group friendly to the PC’s would only sell them out if the price of losing the abilities and services of the PC’s were worth it.

Factions that like each other would be challenged if one liked the PC’s and the other did not. Which friendship would win out, faction1-faction2, or factionX-PC’s?

An X-Y type chart with each faction on each axis to chart how they interact with each other, and how they view the PC’s.

A straight text faction tracker does not display very well.

Faction 1   N/A                –                      0                        +

Faction 2   –                        N/A              _                         +

Faction 3   0                        –                       N/A               +

Faction N +                          +                     +                            N/A

Faction 1    Faction 2   Faction 3   Faction N

Here is one built in LibreOffice and copy and pasted in.

Faction Tracker

Faction 1 N/A | + + | 0 + | + – | – – | – –
Faction 2 + | 0 N/A | – + | 0 – | – – ++ | – – – –
Faction 3 + | + + | 0 N/A | 0 + | – – – ++ | – – –
Faction … – | – – | – – + | – – – N/A | – – + | – – – – –
Faction N – | – – ++ | – – – – ++ | – – – + | – – – – – N/A | – – –
Faction 1 Faction 2 Faction 3 Faction … Faction N

In the above example, each faction on the grid is shown as having a relationship of N/A with itself. I got to thinking about it, and you can color code that to indicate the stability of the organization, or divisions and intrigue within the organization. To the right is how that faction views the PC’s.

So the left side of each cell is the relationship/opinion of one faction for another, and the right side is the net view of both factions for the PC’s.

In column one we see that Faction 1 has a positive relationship with the PC’s. Faction 1 & 2 like each other, but Faction 2 does not like the PC’s so the net view of both factions is that they are neutral to the PC’s. Without some major event or other leverage to move the discussion between them, Faction 1 might not sell out the PC’s.

Faction 1 & 3 like each other and because Faction 3 is neutral to the PC’s the net view of the PC’s is positive.

Faction 1 & … don’t like each other, and Faction … dislikes the PC’s twice as much as Faction 1 likes them, so the net view of the PC’s is negative.  However, since the two factions don’t like each other or get along, the PC’s should be OK from Faction 1.

Faction 1 & N don’t get along and Faction N dislikes the PC’s three times as much as Faction 1 likes them. On top of that Faction N has some sort of a power struggle or instability in its ranks.

The benefit of using multiple +’s and -‘s is a quick visual queue for the level of like or dislike for the PC’s. This gets tricky to enter into Libre Office because one has to remember to tab off after entering a multiple – or it tries to do a formula, even if you set all the cells to be text only. I did not test it on Excel on my work laptop.

So a simpler and quicker entry method would be to use signed numbers, i.e. 1, 2, 3 for degree of positive, and -1, -2, -3 for degree of negative.  If using a spreadsheet, having two columns for tracking the interactions would make it easier to use the graphing/charting capabilities of a spreadsheet.

Screen Shot 08-25-15 at 05.57 PM

 

Faction 1 N/A 1 1 0 1 1 -1 -1 -1 -2
Faction 2 1 0 N/A -1 1 0 -1 -2 2 -4
Faction 3 1 1 1 0 N/A 0 1 -3 2 -3
Faction … -1 -1 -1 -2 1 -3 N/A -2 1 -5
Faction N -1 -2 2 -3 2 -3 1 -4 N/A -3
Faction 1   Faction 2   Faction 3   Faction …   Faction N

One can also just as easily use a sheet of graph paper and colored pencils.

The way to gauge how a faction in a town, city, or region views the PC’s, it should be as simple as tracking the number of times the PC’s do something that furthers or hinders the goals, prestige, and power of the faction. If the members of the faction say, “Who? Never heard of them.” when asked about the PC’s, then they are neutral. If they have heard of them, and the PC’s have not done anything to affect their standing in the world, it would still tend to be neutral.

If the PC’s do something to further or hinder a cause that the faction favors, but it does not change their position in the world, the faction would also tend to be neutral. If the cause was not core to their purpose in life. For example, the local thieve’s guild probably won’t care what the PC’s do as long as it doesn’t impact their business. If the guild is limited to what goes on in the city, destroying the local goblin tribe may not matter to them, so neutral. If the goblin tribe was stopped from breaching the city walls and killing all in sight, then the guild would have a positive view since no city means no business. However, if there were some sort of lucrative arrangement with the goblins and the PC’s wiped them out and ended that source of revenue, then a definite negative.

All of these things are relative. Different factions will have different goals and sources of power and influence.

If there is a city, for example, and there are multiple factions vying for control, and the PC’s actions strengthen the position of one or more factions and weaken others, the PC’s may not be safe in certain parts of town. Add in the some factions are allied or opposed to other factions, and the interactions get complicated.

When there is a major slaver’s ring when there are interactions in multiple cities and factions in each, breaking open that slaver’s ring will change the political landscape and factions that are unknown to the PC’s suddenly come to the fore. This is what happened in our weekly online AD&D game. We are still learning of connections. I find myself wishing we had a wizard with a crystal ball, or the ability to be invisible and read minds, to find out more of what we need to know to not get dead.

Just knowing what I know as a player, it is hard to keep straight. Our group seems to be a magnet for trouble and upsetting the social and political balance wherever we go. We view ourselves as the good guys who are there to help, but some we have tried to help might not see it that way, while others are grateful for our assistance, and those we have offended are very thirsty for our blood. It is the ones who are patient about taking care of us, and using them to their advantage while they can that bother me the most. This has made for an engaging and exciting campaign, and I keep wanting to know more.

If PC’s just stick to fighting monsters and looting dungeons and keep out of politics and justice, they could end up with fewer enemies and perhaps stronger friends. It all depends on the group interaction of the players and how they play their characters, and how they interact with the world. If they don’t work to upset the apple cart wherever they go, they can be more scared of the monsters and villains they encounter, than all the factions that are after their heads.

If your players have gained the attention of lots of factions, you might need to keep track of them. Hopefully, these ideas will help you do that.

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500th Post!

500 Posts since I started this blog!

My G+ page has 199 followers and over 255,000 views! If I had a dollar for every view, I’d be out of debt with a huge chunk left over, and seriously thinking of retirement in ten or fifteen years, instead of twenty plus.

I really slowed down posting since the last week of July when I ran out of steam and time for daily posting. I would have hit 500 posts with daily posting the first or second week of August instead of the last.

Daily posting is a major challenge if your buffer of posts run out.

I have had a burst of daily posting the last few days because I went to one day of a con and had some other stuff I did that I posted about.

Doing reviews is also a  way to get a post done and forces you to engage your purchases.

I have some ideas that are too big for a post, other than a post to mention them; such as, a PDF/module/setting idea. Without the time required for sticking to a daily posting schedule, I have more ideas than just, “What can I blog about now?”

I did make some headway on organizing my campaign notes for doing a reset of my in person AD&D campaign online, but between work, keeping up with my yard, other commitments, and some outright just not doing it, it has not come together yet. I did add some links and information to my Roll20 Campaign, but I don’t quite have some things typed up that will speed things for players.

AD&D has been my preferred game for years, but I have in my mind that a lot more prep is needed. For an online game where you are not there to gauge your players, some aspects of improv just need a bit more for me.

It has me thinking if I want to use a different and simpler system for online play, like Delving Deeper or Swords & Wizardry. But for a different system, I would build a different campaign. I have played in a weekly online AD&D game that had session 71 last night, so I know I can handle it as a player, but takes just a bit more effort to DM.

I may also go with a different genre, and do Metamorphosis Alpha or White Star online. Part of me would like to do both, but my best days for doing that keep getting occupied. I think I need to re-think which day or days I might do this.

There is also a local game I play in that is looking to change days and times to be have more regular play. So until that is resolved, I will avoid starting a new game online with a set day and time. Why does the phrase, “Just do it.” come to mind?

So, I will post if an when I have something to review or discuss. The next 500 posts might take a long time….

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The Thieves of Fortress Badabaskor – Reprint

I received a review copy of The Thieves of Fortress Badabaskor, a softcover reprint of the Judges Guild module, including printings 1-4 and some new material. This is a portion of the Judge’s Guild Deluxe Colector’s Edition. The deluxe edition will be a hardcover over sized book, but the various parts can be purchased separately in softcover. You can get a PDF of the original here.

This reprint uses the same cover as the first printing, and a sample of the cover for each printing is on the inside back cover.

I must confess that back in the day, my brother and I judge the products from Judges Guild unfavorably, and for not good reasons. We judged the books by their covers, and not the quality of their information. Thus, until the internet showed me what helpful information and tables Judges Guild had, I was ignorant of many of their good ideas.

One major example is Ready Ref Sheets. It has many helpful tables for assisting a DM with various aspects of game prep.

Fortress Badabaskor is a town, fortress, and four level dungeon. It has a backstory, intrigue and can easily fit into an existing campaign. This town could prove to be a base of operations for adventurers even after they had delved the depths beneath Badabakor. In the 40 pages of this mini setting/module are 8 maps showing the surrounding area, the town, and the dungeon levels with a side-view of the elevation.

Judges Guild uses a stat block that I could figure out easily, except for one thing. CLASS, ALIGN, LVL, HTK, AC, SL, S, I, W, CON, DEX, CHAR, WPN. On my first skim through, HTK had me scratching my head until I started over and read it. An earlier NPC spelled out Hits To Kill, which is used instead of Hit Points/HP. Why, I am not sure. I am sure there are those out there who can comment and enlighten the rest of us. Thus remains the bit I don’t understand, SL. I managed to find this link via a google search, and SL is Social Level. It is an interaction mechanic for encounters. That is something that would be good to define in a re-print that can stand alone. If not for the internet, I would have to find someone with the answer to what this is. Now how does this mechanic work? Which book explains that?

[EDIT: Thanks to +Guy Fullerton for pointing out that a list of these abbreviations and their definitions are at the bottom of the table of contents page.]

Before the room descriptions for level one, is this note, and thus a key to what Old School was/is. “Note that each dungeon chamber has a recommended description and some alternate descriptions have been provided to assist the designing judge. Please alter these to suit you campaign!” [emphasis added]

The “designing judge”. That is a helpful turn of phrase. To me, it implies that this setting/module is just an outline for an idea that the GM can modify in whole or in part to suit the campaign. Too many people get on the path of “this is he way it must be”, and lose site of the ability to improvise and shape it to meet the situation.

I really like the alternate descriptions that one can choose to use in place of the ones already there. In some ways, one can mix and match the descriptions in a lot of old school dungeons and not impact much how they play.

Between the town description and the dungeon levels is a table for generating random traps. Like a lot of similar tables from Judge’s Guild, like Ready Ref Sheets, there is a percentile roll to determine the type and then a series of 1d6 tables to further define that trap. There are lots of sub-categories used to flesh out various aspects of traps that get one to think about the depth of such tables, and not just a large number of one line traps. This is a concept akin to story dice that give you words and phrases that you can use to build a description of a trap.

The final eleven pages are a supplement added by Goodman Games, by Michael Curtis. It goes into more detail about some things on level three, and presents some factions for level 4.

Since this is designed with D&D in mind, it is generic enough within that mold to work with little or no modification for various clones. It could even be used for ideas for use with different genres.

The last four pages are re-prints of the ads for various Judges Guild products and sending in S.A.S.E.’s and your money to have it mailed right back to you. That brings up memories and gives a taste to the younger generations how things were before about 15 or 20 years ago.

One thing I soon noticed, on an earlier page halflings are mentioned, and later it mentions hobbits. Seems like the Tolkien estate may not have gone after Judges Guild as stridently as it did TSR over the use of hobbit.

This volume is of much heavier stock than the original such, as I remember them. The pages and cover and slick and shiny. The shininess makes certain angles in some light wash out the test, but otherwise it is very legible.

This is $19.99 from Goodman Games, a PDF of the third printing is on DriveThruRPG/RPGNow for $3.99, which does not have the new material. If $20.00 plus shipping is too much for you, and you can use the PDF, you have options. There are also periodic sales and so forth that can make it easier to dive in.

I have some ideas for how I might use this. Mashed potatoes and aliens anyone?

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Metamorphosis Alpha GM Screen

I picked up a GM screen for Metamorphosis Alpha from +Roy Snyder at MichiCon.

While I like the art from the original cover, and all the tables are just what you need to run a game, the card stock is very light. It is not what I am used to from the first DM screen I ever had for AD&D.

I need to run a game to make sure that all the most used tables are included, but the content and layout appears to be spot on. I just wish the card stock used was a bit heavier. The only benefit to being this thin is that it takes up less space.

I suspect that it would get knocked over easily because it is so light. Due to its light weight, I might use it more as a quick reference. However, I tested it, and while it might get nudged and moved more easily than my AD&D screens, it seems fairly resistant to getting knocked over.

It seems like it would be a challenge to keep this screen from getting bent up. The original AD&D DM screens could double as a clipboard and could take a lot of punishment.

I guess that’s what makes us Grognards. We remember when things were done right. However, I know that not every original product from the beginning was of the most resilient manufacture. Some items were of the thinnest newsprint and did not bear up well. So it is relative. However, my first experience with a DM screen set the bar for what I want.

For $10 I want something sturdier than the material used for a free GM screen, like the one for DCC and FreeRPG Day 2015. My druthers for such light card stock would be to have them as inserts for one of the models that can take inserts, such as those from OBS. I ordered the portrait screen for something else. It should arrive next week or so. I will have a review once it arrives.

OneBookShelf GM Screens:

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Lords of Waterdeep

+Jared Randall, his wife Karen, and their five kids hosted a housewarming/tabletop game party at their new house Saturday.

It was a fun time!

I played a board game I had heard of but not seen or played before, Lords of Waterdeep. Waterdeep being one of the cities in Forgotten Realms.

It looks complex for all the various cards and pieces, but is fairly simple once you understand. I do not recall the man’s name and his son who showed Jared’s oldest daughter and I how to play. But he said that by the third turn you will understand it. He was right.

There are enough options to it that a beginning player can do well against seasoned players. Yet there is enough complexity and depth that one could play a lot of games and not grow bored. Shuffling of decks and drawing random cards that define how to focus your play make each game unique.

Both the quick play and full rules are available in PDF from WotC. WotC has a quick start video and also links to Wil Wheaton’s Table Top episode where they played the game.

At the end of eight turns, a final tally is made and the person with the high score wins.

It says for ages 12+. I think some younger players that get it could do well at this game.

There are a couple of expansions for it, but I can’t see running out of options unless you played this game all the time.

I liked it and had fun. If I thought I would play it even a few times a year, I would get it. It is fairly fast to play. With four players, my guess is that it took an hour, but I wasn’t timing it, and did not check start and stop times.

It is not an introduction to RPG’s as there is no role playing and no characters. There is no way for players to operate outside the rules as written, since it is  within the realm of a “standard” board game.

$49.99 suggested retail price seems a bit steep, but it is not as simple or straightforward as the old standbys, like Monopoly or Scrabble, that you can get at the major chain store for $9.99. If you play it often, it can soon seem like a bargain. With a cost like that, I can understand if you want to see it played, or better yet play it yourself, before buying. There’s nothing worse than getting a board game, getting it home, and it being either too complex, or too simple, or something that you wouldn’t get had you only known.

I don’t have a lot of board games, and don’t play them often. Most are designed for two or more people, so when you live alone, they gather dust on the shelf. Are there any single/solo player board games?

If your family likes board games, they might want to give this one a try. I can see a marathon weekend series being an option, if I were still in high school, with no responsibilities.

Side note: There were a couple of kids,none of them Jared’s, there who did not know how to shuffle cards. It makes total sense why this is: computers and solitaire. Not many kids play card games anymore, unless they are in a household that plays them. I was younger than these kids when I was halfway competent at card shuffling. My suggestions for teaching them were not accepted. Oh, well, kids these days…. I wonder how long until the skill of shuffling cards is lost to all but the dealers at casinos.

 

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Michicon Follow Up

Last Saturday I went to Michicon. It starts on Friday, but I was not able to get the day off. Note to self – Alert social secretary to be more on the ball next time. Oh, wait, that’s me….

I had heard of Michicon last year, but this is the first year I attended.

It was held at Oakland University on the NW side of the Detroit metro area. I had a late start and there was road construction that made it a challenge to get there, but I finally made it about 2:30 or so.

I found +Roy Snyder with his booth and spent money on a few items. I got a second pristine Tramp cover AD&D Player’s Handbook, and another Player’s Handbook with the Wizard cover for the table. I went ahead and got Legends and Lore. I realize it is the same content as the Dieties & Demigods – without Cthulhu & Melnibone, but I didn’t have one. I already had the PDF of Legends & Lore.

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I also picked up Oriental Adventures. That is one that I keep thinking I have, but don’t. I lost my original with the water leak incident. I have it in PDF. I now have all of my original AD&D manuals from back in the 1980’s re-built. I know I said that before when I wrote about getting two Chulhu/Melnibone mythos Dieties & Demigods on the same day.

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I have items I added to my PDF collection of manuals that I did not have back in the day. I have a hard copy of all the ones I have in PDF, except Manual of the Planes. I don’t need it, but want it for “completeness.” While I have Greyhawk Adventures in PDF and hard cover, I am not interested in the book for Forgotten Realms or others they may have.

Now the only D&D item I don’t have from my original collection is the Greyhawk Gazeteer. I was glad to get it in PDF, but I miss those gorgeous maps. Maybe someday.

I also got a GM screen for Metamorphosis Alpha, I finally gave it a through reading and I like what I see. One less excuse to not run a game.

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The con was not well marked. The center where it was held was having remodeling and there was no food available on site. There were only vending machines for drinks. I chatted with Roy and bought stuff from him and got directions from Roy to the registration table. It turns out I came in the back entrance. It wrapped around and I came up the stairs that led to the game room, I just went in the door closest to the stairs – on the left. No outside signs and no inside signs. It is $10 for the day. Not a bad amount.

The big open room had maybe a half dozen vendors along two walls. The tables were numbered on the sign up sheet, but there were no numbers on the tables. Thankfully, I was there to play DCC, and +Jared Randal was running an open game 0 level funnel next to Roy’s tables. I dropped in and played all the way until the con closed. Jared ran a great game. The module was Sailors of the Starless Sea. I only lost one of my original five 0-levels. I ended with a full compliment of five, since we divvied up the characters of players who could not play the whole time. I had not played that one before. We used a d200 table of “special” items that each character got, and we had a blast using them in creative ways.

Finally, I won a door prize, a still sealed dice game of Walking Dead. I don’t play a lot of board games, so if I can’t sell it I plan to keep it sealed and see what I can get out of it in a few years.

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All of the Axes

For some reason, I was doubting myself on the plural of axis. I confirmed my recollection via googling that axes is the spelling of the plural of ax, axe, and axis, although the pronunciation of the plural is different.

Oddly enough, my topic is including each axis, of X, Y, and Z, still three items. My brain makes connections most others don’t, but I think of an axis of axes, AKA using an ax to represent an axis.  But that is a rabbit trail distracting from the intent of this post.

Yesterday, I wrote a review of +Jason Paul McCartan’s The Graveyard at Lus, for White Star. In that PDF, he briefly mentions position in space. While reading about the graveyard creation concept, I had an idea for determining the X, Y, and Z axis of a ship in a hex in space. I’m not sure what the three dimensional hexagon would look like. For example, a square in three dimensions is a cube. From this site I googled, it appears that a soccer ball or buckminsterfullerene is the closest thing.

Anyone who has watched Wrath of Khan will know why the Z axis is important.

My idea is to use 3d6, one for each of the X, Y, and Z axes. Ideally, a different colored die, or based on their position when they land.

The X axis is left to right, the Y axis is top to bottom, and we have two dimensions on a page or screen covered. The Z axis adds the bit that raises above or sinks below the page, or the things that appear to fly out at you in a 3-D movie.

If using dice of different colors, specify which is which before the roll. If using position, for example the one most to the left is X, most to the top is Y, and the remaining is Z, or designate the position to your liking. A third alternative is to roll one die three times, specifying which die is which axis, but that slows things way down.

Since we will be using 2-D maps on paper or screen, X will be running right to left on the page, Y will run top to bottom, and Z will rise above the page or sink below it.

Each die will use 1-2, 3-4, and 5-6 for 3 options for each. There’s no mechanic in this for dead center, but say if all three die come up 3 it means dead center. Or if they do come up all 3’s, roll a control die and if it comes up 3, or the designated number, it means dead center. That would be more for placement of a single item in a hex. This mechanic would work better for relative positions of one ship encountering another.

For the X axis:

  • 1-2 = to the left (For example 1 could be far left, 2 middle left.)
  • 3-4 = to the center (For example 3 could be left of center and 4 right of center.)
  • 5-6 = to the right (For example 5 could be middle right and 6 could be far right.)

For the Y axis:

  • 1-2 = to the top
  • 3-4 = to the center
  • 5-6 = to the bottom

For the Z axis:

  • 1-2 = higher in the hex
  • 3-4 = to the center
  • 5-6 = lower in the hex

The above only allows for rough approximations, and is probably good enough for a fast-paced game. Use another roll to determine distance, etc.

If more precision is wanted for more exact placement of an item in a space hex, determine the size of the hex and divide it into increments and pick an appropriate die to roll. For example, figure out how to divide the size of the hex by 100 and roll three percentile dice, i.e. 3d%, one for each axis. You may narrow a million cubic miles down to 10,000 cubic miles of space, and then repeat the process to narrow down to the 100 cubic miles, and once again, for where in that 100 cubic miles is the one cubic mile of space with the object in question. If the item is large enough, perhaps you don’t need to keep rolling, but what if it is a lost wedding ring? You’ll be rolling a long time. I think it would be good to just have the approximate location with the 3d6 method and just use roleplay and skill checks/challenge rolls to find the item.

The cool thing about the 3d6 for three axes positioning works for air travel/combat, and for elevation above or below ground, or above or below water, etc.

One could also take the teleport spell from AD&D and the percentage change to teleport high or low, but that does not allow for X and Y.

How would this work? Let’s take the example of two ships in White Star one with the players, the other a random encounter. Roll 3d6 for relative position of each, and determine approximate distance that each detects the other. The Graveyard at Lus has suggestions for how to handle distance with scanners. Generally, the GM’s will have an idea of what scale they are using, and will have an idea of what dice to use to determine distance.

There are a lot of variables for determining distance, including damaged scanners, cloaking devices, etc. I think rules for encounters and pursuit and evasion of pursuit have enough ideas to cover determining distance, so I won’t come up with something new at this point.

This is a bit of crunchiness in RPG’s that you can use as desired; meaning use it, modify it, or don’t use at all.

If this was helpful to you, please comment!

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Ramblings of an Old Gamer