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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Remember Trader Chang?

Mona sketched this out during our last game session, I scanned it today after I got the scanner working again (it was apparently a driver issue).

She says that it is Chang watching the party leave his territory.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Demon of the Lute - Bad Hair Day

I am not really sure what to say about this, except that I need more stuff like this in my OA campaign. Really.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Happy Belated Thanksgiving and Happy Anniversary Mona

I hate when I take a break from blogging, it always seems harder to get back to it than if I'd just kept going. Here in the US, of course, we had Thanksgiving on Thursday. We've also had a house guest for Thanksgiving, our family friend Michael, who comes up several times a year from New Jersey, apparently for the peace, quiet and fresh air. Sickness, in the form of some virulent plague, also paid us a visit. John brought it home with him from wrestling practice on Tuesday evening after school and it has since passed through the rest of us, Mona is sick now, and probably has it worse than anyone else but John had it. I had it and my iron constitution shook it off pretty easily. Sadly for Mona, today is our wedding anniversary; we've been legally married for seven years now. Here's a fun trivia fact- our wedding anniversary is on the same date as the anniversary of the day that we had our first date, way back in 1993; purely by coincidence.

Gaming-wise it's been an unusual time for me too. I created a Steppe Warriors tribute page on Facebook, for those of you that don't remember, or haven't been following the blog long enough to have seen the stories; the Steppe Warriors are a Mongol warrior roleplaying guild created in 1996 for the original Neverwinter Nights on AOL. This led me to talk to Darryl today, first via email, then over the phone, for the first time in a few years. I guess we'll see where this takes us. Darryl and I have a relationship that goes back decades and has been filled with great partnerships and great clashes of vision. In some ways I think we are like central NY RPG gaming's version of Lennon and McCartney, take your pick on which of us is which. We talked for like 2 hours, he told me he read my blog. Turns out he recognized one of my blog followers as a guy from one of his gaming groups, small world.

Today he tried to convince me that Fudge is a better system than AD&D or D&D, again; which I find amusing because that makes him the anti-version of his dad, who was always looking to make a more simulationist wargame-ey RPG. I think Big Darryl would still hate 3rd and 4th edition D&D, despite their more tactical and rules heavy nature, because they aren't simulationist enough, but he might consider them a step in the right direction; or he might just think they were piling on even more errors onto a bad chassis, it's hard to tell. Darryl, on the other hand, wants more rules light than I do. I am comfortable playing the same game I grew up playing, that everyone I play with already knows the rules for and I can DM with little to no preparation, I might consider other rules systems to break myself out of a rut, but I am unlikely to give up on D&D as my workhorse of choice. It may not be simple, elegant or new, but it is tried, proven and everyone understands it.

I also saw Lance yesterday and played a game of Munchkin with him and his new girlfriend here at my house, that was nice. He came bearing gifts too, although not really out of the kindness of his heart (or so he said), but because he didn't have anyplace to store them and wanted them to go somewhere they'd see some use. The gifts were a huge box of paints and washes for miniatures, old issues of The Dragon and Polyhedron and some old Miniatures, mostly older citadel Dwarves and some other stuff. I recognized some Grenadier Kobolds in there too, for instance. I haven't inventoried the whole box yet. The oldest Dragon I spotted on a quick check was #87. Does every old gamer have a huge box of old issues of The Dragon? I do, mine goes back to #49.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Document I wrote up Today...

I wrote this calendar document up today for my players, it's mostly just stuff that's in the 1985 1st edition AD&D Oriental Adventures book, but it's in the DM section, so most players probably should never have seen it. Also noteworthy is that I set the date in my campaign as the 4th day of the month of Yang, in the 5th year of the reign of the Divine Emperor Gonijo. There weren't any days of the week listed as named, so I am going to have to look something suitably Japanese up.

Shou Calendar

Just because keeping track of time in the campaign has become much more necessary, I thought I'd write this document up so everyone could familiarize themselves with the calendar. Ancient Shou philosophers devised this calendar to set down the proper dates for the celebration of festivals, since pretty much all culture in Kara-Tur flows from the Empire of Shou Lung, every nation in Kara-Tur uses this calendar, occasionally with some local modifications. The empire of Kozakura is no different, although they measure years in 60 year cycles instead of centuries and name them by the reigns of their emperors.

The first day of the year falls sometime around our February or March, depending on phases of the moon, however for our game's purposes I am using DM fiat to make it exactly March 1st.

Month # of Days Major Festivals, Feasts, and Holy Days
Tsou 30 New Years Festival, God of Heaven, Feast of Lanterns, God of Spring, God of Wealth, Fertility Festival, God of Happiness, God of Learning.

Ju 30 God of North, Goddess of Mercy.

Yu 30 God of Central Mound, Queen of Heaven, Cherry Blossom Festival.

Kao 30 God of Medicine, God of South.

Kao II 29 God of Thunder, Dragon Boat Festival, God of War.

Chu 30 -------------------------------------

Hsiang 29 God of Fire, Purification Festival.

Chuang 30 Moon Feast Festival, God of Land and Grain, God of Furnace,
Great Sage's Birthday.

Hsuan 30 Wine God, Yang Feast, God of Wealth, Polar Gods.

Yang 29 God of Disease.

Ku 30 -------------------------------------

Tu 29 King's Festival.

The character of the various festivals and religious observances depend upon the practices of the people in a given area, often they are just used as an excuse to have a feast.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Rules Tinkering and Unintended Consequences

For those of you that didn't read the lengthy report I posted late last night about Sunday's OA game, to summarize very briefly, Lee Ann's character Ami died and Ashli's character Aiko suffered a broken leg because I am using a slightly modified version of this and will be out of the game for 2d4+9 weeks. Ami died from poison, so she didn't get to roll on the table.

Here's where my rules tinkering has had an unintended consequence, under "standard" AD&D rules, as played by pretty much every group I've ever played with, death comes at -10 hp. Aiko got knocked down to -3 hp. Which would have been unconscious and bleeding, there were plenty of people there to "bind her wounds" and a Shugenja to cast Cure Light Wounds, which she had memorized and ready to go.

Instead, she is going to wind up making another character to take the place of Aiko for the three months or so that she's going to be laid up recovering, all because I decided to change a rule to make combats simpler, more survivable, more "realistic" (from my point of view) and do away with tracking negative Hit Points. 1st edition AD&D is actually MORE forgiving here, maybe EGG was on to something when he wrote the Hit Points section in the DMG. That being said, apparently every single group I have ever played with has read no further in Zero Hit Points sub section than the first paragraph, because at no point has any group I have ever played with ever used any of the penalties associated with dropping below 0 hp. Hell, I've had a long standing house rule that once your wounds were bound, or any cure spell was used on you, you automatically returned to 0 hp and started raising your total from there. This made small 1 hp doses of healing potion, 1 hp uses of a Paladin's "Lay on Hands" ability, the Cleric Orison "Cure Minor Wounds" in 3e and simply "binding wounds" very popular activities to do before any serious healing magic was used; which was another unintended side effect of a minor rules alteration.

This is where I feel kind of bad for Ashli and not for Lee Ann. Lee Ann's character died from poison in a "standard" AD&D save or die way, we were both cool with that. Her decision to stick around and duke it out with the Huge Spider wasn't perhaps the best thought out, but poor choices kill Thieves, and apparently Yakuza, that rely on luck to save them all the time. Ashli's character is getting sidelined, essentially retired, which in D&D terms might as well be dead, due to a rule I changed and she'd be more or less fine if I hadn't. Her character Aiko is especially screwed by the injury to any limb because she's a Kensei that specialized in a two-handed weapon. Any Fighter type would have been hurt by a broken limb, what would have been most playable would have been broken ribs, it wouldn't have been fun or easy, but it would have been playable.

The thing that gets me is that this is the second session in a row where unintended consequences have struck my game, and they were both based on the same desire to do away with the negative hit point tracking and having everyone act like they were a combat medic. The last time it was my wife Moan's character Misaki and she got totally hosed by a table I designed on the fly for dealing with the people who hit 0 hp, there was a tiny chance of a permanent stat loss and she not only hit that, but got the worst possible stat loss. I decided to commute that to temporary, because I hadn't had too much time to think the table through while I was creating it, and moved on with the game.

Both of these session's worth of unintended consequences were the results of good intentions, and I can't say that I intend to do any alteration of this week's result; I just feel kind of bad about it because of the fact that Aiko would be pretty much fine under standard rules. The session before had one of the intended results of increasing survivability, all of the characters that were dropped to 0 hp or below survived what would have been, almost certainly, a TPK under standard rules; just because characters would have stopped being active participants in combat to try and save other party members. TPKs three weeks in a row killed my OA game last year, so I was/am a little gun shy on this issue, which is part of the reasoning behind this rules tinkering I've been doing. A few extra spells for the Wu Jen at lower levels isn't going to dramatically impact the game anymore than a few extra spells for Clerics does in standard AD&D. I couldn't use the "Shields Shall be Splintered" rule here, because they don't use shields in feudal Japan. I still use the d30 rule.

Now, the last game session technically ended with Aiko still unconscious with her lower left leg broken. The Henchmen had returned with the spooked horses and the party had searched the room for treasure. Ami's body had been found. My wife's character Misaki had not cast any cure spells because, inconveniently at the end of combat with the Huge Spider, Mona's Aunt called and she had to take that call. It was getting late-ish by then anyway and John and Em had school in the morning. Theoretically the party doesn't have to leave, Aiko can limp along with them and there are three NPCs with the party currently that could be played by Lee Ann and/or Ashli, although I'd rather keep Buntaro to myself for now and the foreseeable future, and I can't see either Dalton or John really wanting to give up their Henchmen to the other players to use. Plus Lee Ann really seems pretty psyched about bringing in her new character Chakha.

So The Party Made it to the Mura of Hondo...

...From that point on it was like herding cats to get the game to actually start. Actually, it's worse than that, because I had to pick Dalton up for the game and when I got back it was lunch time, but my wife was making bread, you know, old fashioned style, not with a machine. John was deep in a game of Fable II on the X-Box 360, and I was running late to start with because I had to stop and pick up a prescription at the pharmacy on the way home from picking Dalton up. Then Lee Ann showed up and we all got caught up in the fun of hanging out and catching up with her, because she had missed last game due to illness, flu or something, she's a nurse and has 2 elementary school aged kids, so whatever is going around is going to get her; I just appreciate that she doesn't bring it here.

Paul never showed and didn't call, he didn't respond to the invitation (I use a Facebook group for the game), and he wasn't answering any phone calls or emails. Last time he was sick. The time before that his car wouldn't start, and when we offered to come and pick him up he said he needed to be there for the tow-truck guy. I suspect he won't be back. I won't bother going out of my way to try and accommodate him on that either, three strikes and you're out. I don't really get it, he had a really good time while he was here, I could tell, but he just couldn't work up the ambition to come out and do this on his own. The first week his mom drove him here, her husband Scott is an old buddy of mine in KAG and was a player in my really cool, and all too short lived, HackMaster campaign. I was the minister at their wedding back in September, and ended up doing most of the caterer's job too. They moved out of the immediate area (50+ miles away) for a new job between the first and second game sessions and Paul hasn't made it back since. Paul is a 22 year old college drop out, with no job and is kind of a stoner, he was a bit of a project for me, but you've got to give me at least a little bit to work with. He said he wanted to learn to fight heavy in the SCA too, and make armor and get fit and go back to school and get a job, really turn his life around, I told him I'd be willing to work with him every day.

Anyway, that makes me sad.

So, on to the lots of time spent trying to catch Lee up on what she missed at the last game, there was a lot of talk about going back to try and take out Trader Chang, but Misaki wouldn't hear of it. Actually it was Mona, because she never shared Chang's nature with the party in character, Dalton just wanted to needle her a little bit because he is like a huge amount of XP on the hoof, or paw as the case may be. They discussed the sad death of Akihito and his retainers, who, while I was acting in the role of Karasu, considering the way he had been played and his LE alignment, I figured would certainly have sacrificed his cousin to erase a black mark on his family's honor and his cousin's retainers only got what Bushido demanded of those Samurai who had disgraced themselves by being captured. I had Karasu act as Kaishakunin in every case, thus completely and solely erasing the blot on his family's honor. He also argued convincingly that the slaves in the brigand camp were, in fact, property. To be fair, while this was happening most of the players were distracted with eating lunch and chatting about other things. This is what happens when you don't give the DM your full attention while the game is in session.

They then talked about what to do with the body of the dead imperial magistrate that they had found, whose body had been drained of blood and had mystical writings all over his skin, which had something to do with either demon summoning or demon binding or both, the Wu Jen Katsuo wasn't really sure. Ultimately they decided to build a pyre and burn the corpse, which they spent several hours doing, despite being only about a mile from town, which, not only did I mention a couple of times, but they actually remembered from the last session and mentioned themselves. I am not really sure what they thought they would accomplish by doing this, but it certainly makes it look like they are trying to conceal this occult murder.

Things didn't get a whole lot better once they actually got to town, the renamed "Inn of the Welcome Wench" became the much classier sounding "Doi no Aoihana"*, which according to my Japanese dictionary means "Inn of the Blue Flowers", which is too close to Kill Bill's "Inn of the Blue Leaves" for it to pass unnoticed by the players in my game. So that, of course, led to much speculation about the bride coming in to fight the O-Ren Ishii, the Crazy 88 and Gogo Yubari, which actually would have been pretty cool. Ami tried to claim the best room in the inn for herself, but I assumed that the innkeeper would rather give the suite saved for wealthy traders and nobles to the noble Samurai Masaru instead.

Things started breaking down again here.

Ami wanted to just keep messing with Masaru's stuff, because he got the nice room. Natsumi and Aiko just went along for the ride and played along with that, which was kind of annoying, because Dalton was actually trying to take care of stuff in town, like stable the horses and hire on some extra muscle, he got the OA Elmo- reskinned as a woodsy Bushi named Buntaro. Misaki tried to keep them in check, but it became obvious that, even when they were getting ridiculous, they weren't going to stop, they were just having too much fun at the nobleman's expense, which, given Aiko's background, was out of character for her at least. This was also the point where I "wrote" Karasu out of the campaign, he received an urgent message to return to Tamanokuni. He left with his surviving servants and took the six slaves as his share of booty.

Just to show how out of hand things were getting here with the girls messing about in Masaru's room and Masaru actually trying to do "in town" stuff- John made another character during the downtime. For some reason he was under the impression he would be allowed to have two player characters, I don't know why, but he thought that having a back up would be a good idea, so he made a Bushi. His reasoning behind making a Bushi was pretty transparent, we had been talking earlier about what characters in OA have the best end game and Bushi pretty much have the best. But then he pretty much admitted that he wanted his Wu Jen to die because he was sick of being the "useless" character. I gave him a talk about how Magic-User characters in AD&D are about delayed gratification and how I had been so pleased to see him branching out and trying a spell casting class this time around. He also had been pretty much the session MVP in the first session of this campaign with his perfect use of an Elemental Burst spell, and I had changed a rule to go 3e style and give bonus spells to Wu Jen for high Intelligence like Clerics get for high Wisdom, balanced out with my no doubles house rule. All in all, I think he had it pretty easy for his first time as a Magic-User type class, but this is the kid who quit playing for over 6 months because I told him he would have to roll stats high enough to be a Ranger, I wasn't just going to give it to him. I did just let him have the Bushi as a Henchman though, without even roleplaying through any of it, because damn it we needed to get this show on the road.

The party then realized that they had never properly divided up their treasure, since they'd never been to a town yet since they started getting real treasure, so they decided that had to be a priority now too. To be fair they were hauling a lot of extra goods by this point, even after doing the "good guy" thing and giving weapons and armor to villagers in bandit prone outer areas so they could defend themselves, they still had a lot of pretty good weapons and some armor and a few extra horses, even after outfitting every party member that didn't already have a horse with a light warhorse. They made a pretty good chunk of change and outfitted their Henchmen (and Buntaro) pretty well. Ami actually handled the sale, I gave them 60% of actual book value; my usual starting point is 50%, but I figured that a decent charisma and underworld contacts have got to be somewhat helpful when selling loot.

To break up the "defile Masaru's stuff" room party as Masaru was returning to his room, I had a monkey screech at the window. So, of course, Misaki opened the window and let the monkey in. The monkey was carrying a scroll case and dropped it on the table, then left. In the scroll case there was a note that read "Come to the Temple of the Way at the edge of town", so they did. The Temple of the Way is the converted Druids Grove from T1, I kind of plot hammered them at this point just to get them actually adventuring and told them that the priest at this temple suspected that the old Moathouse, which I had given a cool Japanese name to, but forgot, was being used as a base for bandits again, and pointed them on the way.

Once they arrived at the Moathouse area, I described it pretty much as written from the module, once again, because my copious notes were missing, but also because the area as written by EGG is kind of eerie enough. Since everything thus far in the campaign has been given a Japanese coating, I didn't really need to go into too much detail about the finer architectural points of the ruined Moathouse, they more or less supplied and assumed them on their own by this point. They were a little weirded out and paranoid by this point and the game had, at long last, really begun. Ami scouted on ahead, in what was, is, and probably always will be, the classically biggest killer of thieves, splitting them way off from the party, alone. Yes, spoiler alert, she dies.

Ami, used her thief skills to sneak right up to the Moathouse, she sneaked past the Giant frogs near the fallen drawbridge and then straight through the moat and climbed the ruined tower to the left of the drawbridge. There, in the darkness, she fought a desperate battle against a huge spider and succumbed to it's venomous bite. All of this happened while the rest of the party stayed back within "sight" of the Moathouse, this is important because later they wanted to have some sort of "Hear Noise" check to see if they would have heard anything happening to Ami during her single round of combat. Honestly, when she won initiative I expected that she would run away rather than try and duke it out with a man sized wolf spider in the dark, she died pretty ballsy.

The party waited for her a reasonable amount of time and then assumed that she was either dead, captured or hiding, so they made their own foray. Obviously the players already knew her fate, Lee was already rolling up her new character. The charged that fallen drawbridge on their warhorses and promptly got attacked by the Giant Frogs. Katsuo used his Ki power to win initiative, but his horse panicked and he was thrown. I have played through this battle a bunch of times over the course of my AD&D life, always as a DM, other than Katsuo getting thrown and one packhorse bolting, this party had a cakewalk. The whole fight lasted two rounds and nobody really got hurt.

Masaru sent Hikaru and Buntaro after the two horses that had fled, and then the party advanced into the courtyard over the fallen drawbridge and through the broken gates. Then the entered the damaged tower that Ami had climbed into, because they had watched her enter it, and were attacked by the unwounded Huge Spider. That fight is a whole different story when you have an entire party** there to do the fighting instead of just one lonely Yakuza in the dark, it only lasted two rounds, and probably only would have lasted one if anyone had thought to light a torch before entering the dark room. Aiko the Kensei got dropped to 0 HP though and got to roll on the table, she got a broken bone- my subtable made it her left leg below the knee, which really means somewhere between the knee and the ankle, 1d4+9 weeks to heal. She's pretty much out of the game for three months, so Ashli will be rolling up another character too.

They looted the room and that's where we broke because it was already pretty late and a school night for my two kids that are still in school.

Lee rolled up a Barbarian, by the way, just because she's never played one and it sounded fun. She also really enjoys being the outsider in Japanese culture, because she's 1/2 Korean. This character is a Steppe Barbarian named Chakha, that's 8th rank nobilty, so I started calling her Chakha Khan.

Ashli hasn't really decided what she wants to make as an alternative character, the entire concept is alien to her since Aiko is still alive, but cure wounds spells don't work on broken bones and the party can't afford anything that will work. So she either makes another character, or sits out a bunch of game sessions.

*It was at this point that I discovered that the copious conversion notes that I had written weeks before, including hand drawn maps, which I HATE to do, weren't with my OA stuff, I actually couldn't remember the Japanese for it and just gave the English translation, which was probably the whole reason for the problem. I actually still haven't found it, I suspect that one of my kids grabbed it and took it to school, they most likely just tore out and threw away the pages that were written on, because it was an otherwise new and empty notebook.

**OK, most of a party, Hikaru and Buntaro were still getting the spooked horses.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Teaser OA Play Report

The Party had it's first PC fatality tonight. I am pretty sure I lost a player too. The events are unrelated.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

You know what could be fun...

...For the next campaign, the one I want to do with the chivalrous knights? Make the object of their ultimate quest be really far away, so it turns into an epic journey through exotic lands too. I was thinking if we start of in our alt-England, as good Christian cognate Knights (or Squires, I am getting a whole Pendragon vibe from this idea too) we send them all over the Feudal Alt-European world and have encounters with the Fairy realm too. Then we throw them into a really hostile environment like, an alt-Muslim world they have to travel through, maybe with an alt-Crusade or Jihad in progress. Then I can use all of those cool things from middle eastern myth and legend for a while, and all the stuff that medieval Europeans thought about the lands of the Saracens. Then, if they survive all of that, make the object of their quest be someplace REALLY exotic, like an alt-Indian sub-continent, with all the cool stuff from there, exotic thoroughly Pagan culture, Nagas, Rakshasas, Yetis. I guess the object of their quest would have to be like the "Legendary Crown of alt-Alexander the Great" or something like that, an artifact that will unite all the nations of alt-Christendom under one true King maybe? Maybe that's the only way they stand a chance to hold back the combined onslaught of the Heathen alt-Saxon horde and the alt-Muslim Jihad?

The other thing is that I am going to go deliberately anachronistic with this, take a setting that is essentially 5-6th century and dress it in the clothes and attitudes of the high medieval period, but romanticized; so it's more Morte D'Arthur than historical. That way I can have tournaments and heraldry and all that AND get all the fun of migration era invasions. Well, that and I'll be adding in magic, miracles and fairies. I am also about 95% sure I am going to adapt the "birth sign" table from "Fantasy Wargaming" to AD&D too, it's been a while since I looked at it, but as I recall it shouldn't be too difficult.

I also had a thought that I could wargame this out, as a referee, with another group using the Warmachine rules and a hex-map, like the module X10: Red Arrow, Black Shield did in The Known World. I would set them up as two teams and then let the PCs in my AD&D game live in the living world at war being created by people other than me. I think that could be cool, because I, as DM, really wouldn't know how the war was going to end, where battles would be fought, what unholy alliances might be forged, there are a lot of possibilities there.

If this group was really interested, we could fight pivotal battles out using Battle System too, I certainly have enough miniatures for it. I have both AD&D versions of Battle System too, and 2nd edition's Battle System Skirmishes; I've never really had a chance to play any of them, does anyone have a recommendation of which is better? The only time I ever had an opportunity to run a really epic miniature battle in an AD&D campaign I was running I was a senior in high school. 1st edition AD&D Battle System was out then, but I didn't have it. There's actually a pretty epic story associated with that.

My buddy Darryl and I spent a couple of days "dumbing down" the AD&D rules to make them suitable for mass combat, and a few more days making counters because we realized the size of the force the PCs had recruited was vastly greater than the number of miniatures that we as a group had, even scaling them at 20:1. We also lacked variety of unit and monster types, so counters it was; several hundred on construction paper, 3/4" square, hand written in pen, color-coded to type. I saved them for years. They got used once. I don't have the mass battle rules we came up with anymore either, they were probably a victim of my mother's purging of everything I owned and cared about but didn't take with me when I went away to college; I don't know what her criteria were, but it was a pretty brutal purge, gaming stuff, comics, books, magazines, Star Wars & Battlestar Galactica cards, they all got tossed pretty much at random. In one particularly bizarre case, my copy of Avalon Hill's Gladiator- she tossed out all of the counters and playing pieces, but left the rules, game board and gladiator sheets. Fortunately, I was young and didn't have that much yet.

Anyway, I ran the bad guy forces and the PCs and Darryl, who was not a regular member of that D&D group but was a pretty avid wargamer as well as being a regular D&D player in another group, ran the good guy forces. The PC Barbarian, Osric*, had used his "Summon Horde" ability, which was part of the reason there were so damned many troops on the field. For weeks leading up to the assault on the main BBEG's castle the party had been traveling around and calling in favors and hiring mercenaries, including a fair number of humanoids and giants. They had pulled together an alliance of all the petty squabbling lords in the vicinity and those lords had called out their militias in addition to their household troops.

The weeks of set up leading to a climactic assault should have gone really well as an epic end to the campaign, but there were a few things I didn't plan on. First, Darryl was staying over at my house for the weekend, and we were playing the battle out in my parent's basement- I know, D&D players in the basement sounds pretty clichéd, but it was where we had room for the 4'x8' table to set the battle up on. Oh, yes, I forgot to mention us spending the time to faithfully draw the entire castle and it's surrounding terrain out on a 1" graph sheet overlay for that 4'x8' table, that we also had to draw. To be clear, we took large sheets of cardboard and drew 1" square graph onto it, so that we could then use it to draw the entire prospective battlefield. I suspect that this kind of effort was why Darryl was so invested in seeing through to the end a battle in an AD&D campaign in which he was not a regular participant.

All in all, I thought it went well, although the assault ended in defeat for the PCs and their army, I figure that's the breaks in any battle, there's always a chance of defeat. I don't subscribe to the theory of D&D as a tactical miniature battle game that I, as DM, am expected to lose week after week. Smart adversaries will fight to the best of my ability, within the limits of fairness. Luck sometimes turns bad for the good guys (PCs), sometimes it goes the other way too. The regular players were pretty pissed about the outcome of the battle, and I guess I should have seen that coming. Darryl and I were seniors in High School, the regular players were all younger, the oldest was Lance, who was a year behind Darryl and I. Over the course of the evening, the battle took so long to set up we were barely starting when the youngest players started having to go home. Maybe we should have started earlier, I don't know why we didn't, it probably had something to do with my parent's going to church, they are Seventh Day Adventists, honestly I was lucky to be having the game at their house at all.

The PCs had a pretty solid plan, they had hired on a bunch of giants, at enormous cost, to be living siege engines and batter the walls of the castle from all sides while simultaneously maintaining a fairly constant rain of arrows and magic down on the defenders of the walls. They had calculated that they would make several breaches in the wall simultaneously, and then they would concentrate on assaulting those breaches and taking those sections of the outer wall. This might have worked, but Lord Evil Bad-Ass had his henchman, Evil Demon Summoner, Gate in a Type VI Demon, who convinced the Chaotic Evil Giants (Frost & Hill) to switch sides to a man, and they were more numerous than the rest of the Giants on the field (Stone & Cloud, plus one lone Storm Giant, the party had botched negotiations with the Fire Giants), this led to some serious Giant on Giant violence and then a few Giants rampaging their way through the allied army towards the hills. I don't remember if any of them made it. Evil Demon Summoner, for his troubles, got hit the next round with two Fireballs and a Flamestrike, it wasn't pretty.

At this point, as I recall, pretty much every regular member of the D&D group had to leave and we considered calling it a night, but Darryl convinced Lance and me that he had the situation under control and could still pull this out. I was young and still game for more action, so I didn't bother to listen to the little voice in my head that told me that the regular players might be disappointed if they aren't there for their final victory or pissed off if he loses the battle for them. So away we went and we duked it out until dawn. He did manage to inflict massive casualties on the evil forces, but at the cost of nearly the entire allied army. However, the entire Barbarian horde that Osric summoned was destroyed, almost to a man, simply forcing their way into the outer gatehouse under heavy fire, Osric died there. They took the outer gatehouse and were on their way to taking the entire outer wall, but then I gambled and lowered a drawbridge and charged across and forced the good guys back and out. Darryl made a few tactical errors, he kept certain troops in reserve because he didn't trust their reliability after the Giants turned coat; in one case because I refused him access to a Monster Manual and he couldn't remember if Lizard Men were Chaotic Evil or not, and didn't want to lose them to the Demon, in another case because he was meta-gaming and knew that a trusted party NPC was actually an Assassin sent to spy on the party. He had helped me design the rules for this shindig, and he had helped me make all the counters, so he knew what she was, but the party had assigned her command of a fairly important unit that he refused to commit to battle after they left because he was sure that she would betray them and take her troops with her, which was kind of unrealistically paranoid. As it happened, in her "character arc", her loyalties had already switched to the party and she was acting as a double agent, but Darryl didn't know that part because it wasn't necessary for game mechanics. When it was all said and done though, I can't say that the actual party would have done any better than he did. He tried to keep casualties, particularly PC casualties, to a minimum, it's just that assaulting fortifications isn't easy. He was downright heroic in trying to make sure he recovered every single PCs body if they dropped. I just should have waited and let the players from that game play the battle out themselves; if I had, then win, lose or draw, they'd have had no one to blame but themselves.

In the end, I don't remember how many PCs died there and how many Henchmen, but it was pretty epic, all of the PCs, except for Osric, got resurrected and the campaign continued, along a different course. I do remember that I spent at least a couple of Physics classes writing a long poem about the heroic death of Osric. That battle altered the entire game world forever, the PCs had to leave their homeland as hunted fugitives and all the formerly free peoples cursed their names for forcing that bloody, horrific battle. They moved to the more civilized and decadent south where they tried, more or less successfully over time, to rebuild their reputations as heroes and repair the damage they had done as best they could and to prepare the south for the coming of this growing tide of evil.

*Osric had originally been named Conor, but the other players mocked him mercilessly for being "Conor the Barbarian", so after months of play he got his name changed to Osric, which I had suggested as an Anglo-Saxon Barbarian name, and thus free of Conan association. The other players still called him Conor all the time though, just to piss him off. I actually rather liked the name Conor too.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

It's Snowing Here Today.

And the snow is sticking to the ground, and the dog. Snow marks the official beginning of the bad part of the year. I didn't get everything winterized completely, but at least I managed to get a propane delivery first. On the plus side, I apparently did not tear the ligaments in my knee and will not need surgery, I did end up wasting half a day at the doctor's office running between his actual office and the x-ray department so they could get various different angled shots of my knee.

I got this bit of old school goodness in the mail though-

FASA Star Trek may not be what most people are thinking when they think old school RPGs, but it is from 1982. Big Darryl had pretty much everything for this game back in the day but I don't think we ever played it. He was always trying to integrate it into some vast Star Fleet Battles campaign, which he never quite got to mesh. I bought ADB's Prime Directive recently and haven't had a chance to play it yet, but I think that's the game he really wanted there. FASA Star Trek we never got past the "making characters" stage, which I think is a shame. I'd like to give it a shot.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

This Guy-

My wife Mona stumbled upon this picture on the internet-

I, of course, have threatened to use him as the master of the Black Temple. I won't really, but he is pretty cool, maybe for some post-apocalyptic or cyberpunk setting.

I also informed my regular group that I was changing the way martial arts work, based on this, and switching to Trollsmyth's Death & Dismemberment, they haven't had a chance to get back to me on this yet, but I don't foresee any difficulties. I will most likely be slowly working in Fabian's Kensei & Kitsune work too to playtest, but not until some of the characters actually die.

I also got this in the mail-

Funny story there, I have bought this module now 5 different times. I keep buying new copies on EBay for the province map, so I can have a clean, pristine non-torn and ratty one, and I keep getting copies that DON'T HAVE THE DAMNED PROVINCE MAP in them, even when they say they are complete. The last one I bought was just booklets and maps, no cover. I figured "What the hell? I've already got a bunch of OA1 covers", so I bought it. When it came, no maps, just the booklet with the maps in it, that's what the seller mean't. Finally, this one came complete. I am content.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Well That's Just Crazy.

Dwarves can't be Paladins!

I Am A: Lawful Good Dwarf Paladin (6th Level)

Ability Scores:







Lawful Good A lawful good character acts as a good person is expected or required to act. He combines a commitment to oppose evil with the discipline to fight relentlessly. He tells the truth, keeps his word, helps those in need, and speaks out against injustice. A lawful good character hates to see the guilty go unpunished. Lawful good is the best alignment you can be because it combines honor and compassion. However, lawful good can be a dangerous alignment when it restricts freedom and criminalizes self-interest.

Dwarves are known for their skill in warfare, their ability to withstand physical and magical punishment, their hard work, and their capacity for drinking ale. Dwarves are slow to jest and suspicious of strangers, but they are generous to those who earn their trust. They stand just 4 to 4.5 feet tall, but are broad and compactly built, almost as wide as they are tall. Dwarven men value their beards highly.

Paladins take their adventures seriously, and even a mundane mission is, in the heart of the paladin, a personal test an opportunity to demonstrate bravery, to learn tactics, and to find ways to do good. Divine power protects these warriors of virtue, warding off harm, protecting from disease, healing, and guarding against fear. The paladin can also direct this power to help others, healing wounds or curing diseases, and also use it to destroy evil. Experienced paladins can smite evil foes and turn away undead. A paladin's Wisdom score should be high, as this determines the maximum spell level that they can cast. Many of the paladin's special abilities also benefit from a high Charisma score.

Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus (e-mail)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Another Day...

...Another visit to the dentist, fortunately this time just for a teeth cleaning, but it was my first one in decades, since my insurance never covered dental before.

I didn't get a lot of gaming related stuff done today, I have been quite busy with my other, other hobby- The Klingon Assault Group, or KAG. As SCA time slows down KAG time picks up somewhat, although there is some overlap and I do have to prioritize one over the other. If the SCA is kind of like a medieval LARP, KAG is kind of like a Klingon LARP, although neither of them is really a LARP at all, I just figure it's easier to explain to a mostly RPG playing group of readers in those terms. Really KAG is more like a Klingon themed costume party, that's also part improv theater, particularly at conventions and also does some charity work on the side, but it's more than the sum of those parts too. In KAG I am known as Commander Jag sutai-MaHcha' Comanding Officer of IKV Fist of Kahless and Dark Vengeance Quadrant Commander, it's part of KAG's Dark Moon Fleet comprising New York, New Jersey, Pennsyvania, West Virginia and Delaware. For more information on the Klingon Assault Group follow this link to their website. If you are familiar with the FASA Star Trek RPG treatment of Klingons or John M. Ford's Book "The Final Reflection", then KAG's version of the Klingon empire will be somewhat familiar to you. Here's a picture of me in my very first Klingon uniform circa 2002.

It was taken at my buddy Scott's apartment in Brewerton, NY right before we left to dominate some costume contests that Halloween. It's kind of dark and grainy and the flash doesn't do the make up work justice, it really did look pretty damned good.

Here's some Legend of the Five Rings RPG stuff I won on EBay and got in the mail today-

I shamelessly got these for like $2.00 each, some of them are still shrink wrapped.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

My list of TRPBTNTWAs, or, Things Role Playing Bloggers Tend Not To Write About:

From Monster and Manuals- Noisms list, my answers, because I can't help but fall victim to an OSR blogging meme.

Book binding. (I can't be the only person who bemoans the way new rulebooks tend to fall apart like a sheaf of dry leaves after about 5 seconds of use).

The only problems here for me came from TSR- my 1st edition AD&D Oriental Adventures book's binding glue cracked literally the first time I opened it, as I was leaving the store- it was a pre-ordered 1st printing, the other 1st edition AD&D TSR book that started to self destruct almost immediately was Unearthed Arcana, the other "bad" TSR book was my 2nd edition AD&D DMG, that had a few pages fall out pretty quickly, but they looked to be a printer's error, a fluke. I can't bitch about newer products because I don't really buy any, most of the "new" stuff I get is older RPG stuff off EBay anyway and, while I have had a couple of problems with bindings, here and there, they are mostly good; not like, say, old issues of The Dragon- those bastards practically had tear-away covers.

"Doing a voice". How many people "do voices"? Should they? How do you get better at "doing a voice" if that's your thing?

That depends. Sometimes I change up my speech patterns or alter my pitch or tone for different NPCs or intelligent monsters with whom the party parleys, mostly it's a change of attitude for different characters, rarely a change of accent- because I hate to sound like a stereotype of whatever accent I am going for, but if I am doing a WW2 game I'll do accents for all the foreign NPCs and regional accents for all the Americans too. Having traveled all over the US and having a good ear for accents I can do this pretty well usually. The British will get a range of accents from me, I don't try Welsh, I do a decent Scottish (not Glasgow though), the English get to either sound like Imperial officers from Star Wars or how every lower class character sounds in a film adaptation of a Dickens tale. The French all get the same accent from me, kind of resistance-ey, with a hint of DeGaulle. The Germans are fun, the get to be either Schwarzenegger, Hollywood Evil Nazi or what my wife calls Dieter the Gay Bavarian.

Breaks. How often do you have breaks within sessions?

Breaks are for the weak, time enough to stop gaming when you are dead. No, really, I usually call breaks for a meal time and that's about it. Or if I have to pee. Otherwise it's kind of like being at a movie, if you have to get up and go, do it quietly and try not to disturb the rest of us, hopefully you won't miss much and someone will fill you in on what you missed when you get back.

Description. Exactly how florid are your descriptions?

Depends on what I am describing and how much I am "feeling" it. I tend to start minimal and add detail if asked.

Where do you strike the balance between "doing what your character would do" and "acting like a dickhead"?

Don't be a dick, not only will your character not live a long and healthy life, but you probably won't be making it back to too many more of my games. Life's too short to game with people that you wouldn't hang out with if they didn't game. That is a lesson that took me a long time to learn (cough, cough, the 1990's, cough, cough).

PC-on-PC violence. Do your players tend to avoid it, or do you ban it? Or does anything go?

I don't game with dicks, so it's not really an issue. I don't ban it, so it could happen, but I haven't seen any PC on PC violence in my games, ever that I can remember, and that includes before I quit playing RPGs with dicks.

How do you explain what a role playing game is to a stranger who is also a non-player? (Real life example: my friends and I were playing in the local M:tG club space. A M:tG groupie teenage goth girl came over and asked, "What are you playing?" "[We answered.]" "Sounds kind of gay.")

I have a hard time imagining a situation where I would be somewhere where there were strangers that were non-roleplayers, so it's never come up. I have had to try and explain the game genre to a number of friends and girlfriends and friend's girlfriends over the years, usually it's something along the lines of "Remember playing make believe as a little kid? It's kind of like that only with some rules as guidelines." I tailor it more or less to the person in question, but it's pretty much like that; this usually elicits no response other than "Oh, OK.".

Alchohol at the table?

I have a fairly strict no drinking and RPGing stance, when I was younger me and my buddies tried it a few times and it sucked. Maybe now that I am in my 40s and a more responsible drinker it might work, but since 1/2 of my current group is too young to legally drink, it's not an issue still. I have had a couple of games where I had a beer in the past and it was OK, but I still feel like I'd rather keep my drinking and my gaming separate.

What's acceptable to do to a PC whose player is absent from the session? Is whatever happens their fault for not being there, or are there some limits?

I hand their character sheet off to one of the players that did show up and they get run as an NPC. The ground rules are they don't give away equipment, or act stupid- no Polish mine detectors; and I as DM keep a veto on all of their declared actions. Otherwise, what happens happens.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

D&D Fault Lines- Where I Am

Brendan over at Untimately brought this subject up and I thought it was interesting, so here goes-

Race as Class- I am on the fence here. I can see the argument for both sides, and I have supported both sides at different times, but in the end I am too much of an AD&D guy to be all that into it I guess, despite starting with Holmes Basic or more likely probably because I started with Holmes Basic, every Dwarf and Halfling was a Fighter, although Halflings get hosed on Hit Points, and every Elf was a Fighter/Magic-User (and with a level cap of 3, if min/maxing had been invented yet, everyone would have played an Elf). I guess it really depends on the campaign and the rules set the DM is using; in my opinion whatever the DM is most comfortable with running is what you should be playing, but that's probably just because I am usually the DM.

Cleric Weapon Selection- Here's another one that I am on the fence with. On the one hand, if you open it up and give every weapon to Clerics, they're all going to worship longsword using Gods and be just Fighters with slightly fewer Hit Points and a bunch of spells, on the other hand if you keep it closed then my Cleric of Poseidon has to use a mace or hammer instead of a trident. The reasoning behind the Cleric's weapon selection is firmly medieval western European Christian thwarting the intention of a rule by following the letter of the law, all of these younger sons of nobles that had grown up in a warrior tradition, but had been sent off to the church instead of getting to be knights. They still wanted to be kick ass warriors like their brothers and cousins, so they found out how they could. My next AD&D campaign is probably going to be modeled on a western European medieval romance, so Clerics with maces would be perfect there. Otherwise, I think the most elegant solution, which I have suggested to my players and had them reject, is to just have damage done by class rather than weapon. Then any class could use any weapon and they would still only be as effective in combat as they are supposed to be, according to their level of martial training. Fighters (and their sub-classes) would be best, then Clerics, then Thieves, then Magic-Users. My thought was to have their damage die correspond to their Hit Die type, and have it move up a die type if they switched to a two handed weapon. So Magic-Users would do 1d4 with most weapons, but 1d6 with 2-handed weapons like a Staff of a Greatsword or a Pike. Maybe at some sort of initiative penalty or something for non-fighters, like they automatically go last in the round.

Demihuman Level Limits- Love them. Humans should be the most common characters in a campaign. I HATE seeing a party full of elves, 1/2 elves and Dwarves romping around my world, or even a Greyhawk campaign or a Forgotten Realms campaign; in every established AD&D or D&D world it's noted that demihumans are a serious minority, yet there they are always so damnably numerous in every single adventuring party. I admit, when I was younger I played a few Elves, I liked the multi-classing capability, but I understood this was counterbalanced by my level limits and when my beloved Elven Fighter/Magic-User maxxed out he was just done. Retire those Elves, Dwarves, Halflings, Half-Orcs and Half-Elves with some dignity. Gnomes didn't have any to start with, but they need retiring too.

Alignment- I never had a problem with alignment and most of the people I met who did were just looking for an excuse for why it should be OK for their character to be a dick. You know, the guys that want to be able to torture puppies, rape kittens and backstab their fellow party members while still getting all the awesome abilities of the Paladin class. They say "Don't straight-jacket my roleplaying!"; I say "Don't be a dick". Honestly if you can't hack having a shorthand term for a world view, that encompasses some key game concepts maybe you should not be playing any form of D&D. The rules of D&D and many of the spells work using alignment, so it is kind of there whether you like it or not, and it's a huge pain in the ass to remove.

Save or Die traps (Poison too)- Yep, life's not fair. Every now and again my players remind me of how I killed half a party once with three giant centipedes in an abandoned kitchen, not the most heroic of deaths. Humans die from venomous bites all the time in real life too, and they aren't out there actively messing with stuff that is venomous usually. Making poison ever so much wussier was one of the things that I liked as a player of 3e and grew to really dislike as a DM.

Ability Score Generation- Personally I love roll 3d6 in order, but I play AD&D and 4d6 arrange as desired has been ingrained in us for a long time. Stats matter more in AD&D than they do in OD&D or B/X or BECMI/Cyclopedia so I guess it just depends on what variant you are playing and how Iron Man/Hardcore you want to go with it. I have awesome dice luck, so it doesn't really matter- the last NPC I rolled was Otomo Hikaru and these are the stats I rolled 4d6 drop the lowest- Str 17 Dex 13 Con 17 Int 15 Wis 15 Cha 16 Com 14 - Since they were high enough to meet the myriad requirements for the Samurai class as is, I didn't bother rearranging them. I tried to get my group to play some Iron Man AD&D and roll 3d6 in order and just play the character you got, nobody liked it, several people had to keep re-rolling because of the hopeless character clause. I am tempted to try 4d6 drop the lowest in order one of these days though just to see what kind of a party we'll get with stats that aren't optimized by class.

Level Drain Attacks- I have actually always hated them, but I use them anyway. Clerics can restore lost levels, sure it isn't cheap and you have a limited time frame, but it can be done. The mechanics of level drain are the biggest pain in the ass, it's like you have to remember an earlier state of the player character so you can go back to it, sometimes multiple earlier states. Get hit 4 times by a Wraith? Remember how many Hit Points your character had at max 4 levels ago? Me neither. That said, sometime in the 1990's I started house ruling that PCs got a Saving Throw vs. Death Magic to avoid the energy drain. I am a softie I guess.

OK, here's a bunch of gaming stuff I got in the mail over the last couple of days-

This Oriental Adventures book brings my total up to four in the house, thanks to an anonymous donor and a couple of EBay bargains. Things are much easier around the table now, seven players and one book was a little rough.

Prime Adventures, Uprising (a Prime Directive Adventure Module) and the five issues of Captain's Log here I got for a pretty good bargain. Then I went looking for all my older Star Fleet Battles stuff, including older issues of Captain's Log and Nexus and the SFB Tactics Manual and a bunch of other stuff only to find that they were among my "missing" items, along with my 1st edition Pendragon boxed set, both editions of Twilight 2000, a bunch of old WEG Star Wars stuff, some of which I have already replaced, some not.

The WEG Star Wars stuff I got because it was cheap fodder for my lovely wife's impending Star Wars game. I wish the module had come with cards too, that would have been a nice bonus, but you can't have everything if you want it cheap.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

3rd OA Session- Against the Black Temple

OK, the dead dryer has been replaced and is, even as I am typing this, drying my family's laundry; so I now have a chance to sit down and recount the events of Sunday's Oriental Adventures Game. I followed the advice of my lovely wife Mona and rolled all of the possible random encounters ahead of time, which felt kind of like cheating and kind of like extra stocking the hex map; it did allow me the opportunity to give the random encounters some extra narrative, weaving them into the overall plot of the adventure and adding them to the planned stuff in the hexes seamlessly.

It should be noted for the record that both Lee Ann and Paul were sick and missed the game, but I figured I still had the majority of players and felt I had a good enough take on their characters to run them as NPCs; I let other players run them in combat and make most of the decisions for them, but kept a DM veto in effect for them and occasionally threw in some role playing stuff that was very much in character for both of them.

Our intrepid party had decided to take the shortest route to the mura of Hondo rather than the easiest, which sent them over a less often used mountain road through a high pass after marching down the much more often traveled coastal road for days, that's where we left off before; they'd lost a day of travel due to a bad storm and run into a scouting party of bandits that got more of a fight than they bargained for. Total party casualties at this point were one of Date Karasu's servants that just got in the way of the fighting. He was given a proper funeral as were the dead bandits, and the party moved on.

The next day they came across an abandoned shrine near a spring, they took some time to clean it up and made appropriate offerings, they received the blessing of the Kami, but it didn't last long enough to do them any good. Misaki also noted that they had entered the territory of a large predatory cat, and that it was male. She began to warn the party not to pee on anything.

The rest of the day and night and the following day and night, the party were jumpy, but nothing happened beyond them advancing up this crappy, poorly maintained mountain road with a huge entourage of slow moving servants. They tried at one point to mount the servants on the extra horses, but there weren't enough horses for all of them, even with the ones captured from the bandits. I also figured that none of the peasant servants would have any idea how to ride and would probably be at least a little afraid of trying it. Especially if you consider that peasants were forbidden to ride horses during the Tokugawa era, that prohibition must have come from somewhere and it's clearly designed to protect the status of the Samurai.

The day after that though, as they reached the highest point of the pass, they met, at about mid-morning, a party of nobles and their retainers traveling towards Tamonokuni from Hondo. The nobles were members of the Kato family, Kato Hiroki and his wife Haruko, traveling in a palanquin, and several Samurai and Bushi. They are traveling quickly and have clearly seen combat recently! Both of the Samurai in the party easily recognize that the Kato family are also retainers of the Tsu clan and therefore closely allied to their own families, so they stop and have a chat. Kato Hiroki tells them first that his party was attacked last night in their camp by a demon tiger that was only driven off by fire and magic, it's hide was impervious to attacks by his men. Misaki seeks out the wounded among his men, one of the Samurai is fairly badly injured, so she casts a cure light wounds spell on him. A pair of Bushi are lightly injured from the encounter, Kato Hiroki's Wu Jen advisor was killed though. Misaki is certain this all occurred because they peed in this tiger's territory.

Hiroki takes Masaru and Karasu aside and tells them that they need to watch out, the Black Temple is not the only enemy that the Tsu clan has in Miyama province. The fortification being built at the mura of Hondo, that he was sent to check progress on has been issued a stop work order by a shogunal edict. He is certain the Niwa clan are behind this move to counter the growing resurgence of the Tsu clan, and he is attempting to gather evidence that the Niwa are in league with the Smiling Fox Yakuza gang. The two Samurai in the party discretely avoided mentioning to the earnest Hiroki the fact that the Tsu clan DEFINATELY has connections to the Poisoned Flower Yakuza gang, at a minimum in the form of Ami.

Anyway, they part ways, the Kato party moving as fast as they can away from the demon tiger, the party moving deeper into his territory, the party is getting pretty freaked out. They are keeping a pretty heavy watch at night and burning lots of torches and lantern oil, keeping multiple campfires burning and Katsuo the Wu Jen has studied battle magic.

House rules note here- I have gone the dreaded d20 route and let Magic Users have bonus spells for high Intelligence, I don't see it as a game breaker and it encourages people to want to play a Magic User. I have, however, balanced that with a "no multiples of the same spell can be memorized" rule, which encourages spell diversity, which I made for both Magic Users and Clerics. John had Katsuo memorize Magic Missile and figured he'd invoke the d30 rule if the "Demon Tiger" attacked; which was a pretty damned good plan if you ask me.

2nd house rules note- I also have the "Sword & Sorcery" or "Conan the Barbarian" rule in effect, where anything that can be affected by only silver or magic can also be affected by fire. This rule became important in old campaigns I played in where magic items were pretty rare and mostly one use items, but we would still use the full range of AD&D monsters on the encounter tables. Without it a single Wererat can make pretty short work out of a party of 5th level fighters and thieves and their henchmen and hirelings. Obviously, some discretion needs to be used, a flame demon is probably immune to fire, for instance, but it's a pretty workable house rule.

Not that it mattered, that night passed without incident and their tired group trudged down the mountain road until they reached Trader Chang's. Trader Chang was a Shou Silk Road merchant that gave it all up to come to Kozakura and become a trapper/fur-trading mountain man. There's a lot more to his story, since he's a Weretiger too, but that's what the locals know about him. Misaki and Chang hit it off right away. He likes cats, she is a cat. Chang was just a weird random encounter that I rolled up and thought to myself "Damn, here's my TPK."; I was wishing Lee Ann hadn't had Ami short-sightedly sell the only magic weapon in the party's possession. That trident was like a gift from the random treasure gods. I was giving serious thought to going all d20 and just diving him a damage resistance rating, it turns out it didn't have to, but not every idea to come out of 3e was complete suck.

Then I start reading about Weretigers and their 5% chance of mingling with cats, their ability to speak with cats, the fact that most of them are female and I beat the odds on all of this stuff. I rolled my d% and got 02 for whether or not there would be cats there, OK I figure I'll make her a crazy cat lady, just go the other way with it. Then BAM, it turns out shes a he, so a crazy cat dude? OK, I guess. Well he can talk to them, so I guess they'd be the only company he has, right? So then I start to back story him, I figure Tigers are solitary, this one is anyway (thankfully), so he's maybe a foreigner. His treasure makes him rich, but it's all in portable stuff, mostly gems. So I make him a former merchant that contracted Lycanthropy and left civilization for this backwater island empire and moved up into the mountains where he could be reasonably sure that he wouldn't hurt anyone during that time of the month. Now, Weretigers are Neutral, not Evil, so he's not a bad guy; I mean Druids are Neutral, it's just nature running it's course at this point. Tigers also have a pretty large territory, and he has been one long enough now that he accepts his nature. The attack on the Kato party was unfortunate timing on their part, being in his territory and being made of food during that phase of the moon.

Anyway, long story short, Misaki sees settling down with Chang the Weretiger as her retirement plan and he's cool with that. They'll still have a chance to see each other every now and again, he really isn't that far from Hondo, where she's going to be based.

The biggest real encounter they ran into was a bunch of brigands. They discovered a brigand camp because the brigands were being indiscreet while torturing some prisoners. The brigands also were flying a large silk banner in the center of their camp, the banner of the Black Temple! The Brigands had guards with bows posted, but the guards were enjoying the torture show in the center of camp more than they were enjoying guard duty, the party crept up along the ridge that both obscured the location of and overlook their camp. The gaggle of servants crept along too, not wanting to be too far separated from their masters when battle was imminent. Surprisingly, this plan worked fine and they got into position for a devastating sneak attack, the only person not really happy about the plan was Aiko the Kensei who didn't have a ranged weapon and would have to charge down into the Brigands alone.

They got a good look at the camp there were 22 bad guys total, including an obvious leader type, 4 prisoners and 6 slaves. the slaves were being smacked around and were clearly terrified. the prisoners were bound and gagged, with the exception of the one that was being tortured. Karasu recognized the one being tortured as his cousin Date Akihito. This provided a serious moral dilemma for the party, they were seriously outnumbered, but the bad guys were actually members of the force they were on a mission to oppose AND the prisoners being tortured were members of one character's family and that made him a family ally to 2 other characters. There really was no debate over it. I think Dalton said it best when he said "This is 1st edition and you're DMing, I already have a plan for my next character."

Note here- I roll all my dice in the open and I use black dice with white numbers that you can read from across the room. I really do let the dice fall where they may, I also have really good dice luck.

House rules note- I have ruled that negative hit points do not exist, mostly because I hate having people stop fighting and risk their lives and the lives of their fellow party members in an unrealistic attempt to "bind wounds" like some sort of combat medic. I had planned on using a saving throw vs. death magic to see if you survived hitting zero hit points after the battle and combining it with some type of traumatic injury table that I saw somewhere once; when this later came into play I searched and searched and could not find the table that had various sorts of character building disfigurements and stuff on it, so I will be using a different system where you just roll when you hit zero and see what happens in future games.

So, surprise round- Misaki casts Bless on the entire party, Aiko leaps down the slope into the camp and attacks the nearest person to her, every other party member attacks at range from the ridge line targeting the leader, the guards (they have bows), then any other guys with bows they spot. Aiko missed the first round, she is sure she's going to die now. Masaru drops the leader with one shot (used his d30 for damage), Karasu drops a guard, Katsuo drops a guard and Ami wounds a guard. The others in the party miss.

Time for round one. Roll d6 party initiative, party rolls a 2, I roll a 5. Brigands roll a morale check (they have taken their first losses and their leader is dead), they pass it awesome, which is odd for them, since Brigands are more known for cutting and running, but apparently they just realize that they still seriously outnumber the party (the servants are down behind the ridge line, out of sight); so they roar out a battle cry and charge up the ridge (except the surviving archers, who take aim and take down both Misaki and Katsuo and wound Masaru pretty badly) one of the guys charging up the ridge takes Hikaru down , a few stopping to cut down Aiko (they fail). The party's turn, Ami shoots the wounded archer again, but still doesn't kill him. Aiko kills two of the three guys attacking her, weapon specialization multiple attacks per round FTW. Masaru and Karasu switch to Katana, Natsumi switches to Testsubo; a couple of the guys charging up the ridge get ganked.

From here it gets harder to remember blow by blow, I know the party lost initiative in the next round too, and Masaru got taken down by a spearman. The archers from the brigand force flanked the party, two of them were mounted and flanked to the south, the wounded one was on foot and flanked to the north, they started shooting the servants and killed five of them before they were taken out. Ami was eventually taken down by the brigands. In the end only Karasu, Aiko and Natsumi were still standing and Aiko had killed seven of them, roughly a third of their force.

We were close to breaking for the night there, the players wanted treasure and XP, so I figured out the XP totals for the treasure and the fight, we did NOT discuss what to do about the prisoners. Date Akihito has begged to commit seppuku and asked his cousin Karasu to be his kaishakunin, and further asked that, since the disgrace of his capture will be erased by his death, that his men be given a second chance in service with the party. Since Paul wasn't here, I didn't want to play that part out for him, so the end of that encounter is technically in limbo, but I did advance the party down the road some anyway to the last random encounter before they reach the Mura of Hondo and the Module OA-T1 actually begins.

The final encounter was this- Approximately one mile from the mura of Hondo the party discovers the body of a man hanging upside down from a tree near the side of the road. He kind of looks like the hanged man from the tarot deck, except that his throat has been cut and his skin has had kanji written all over it. When they cut him down, his personal effects reveal that he is an imperial magistrate with investigative authority. The kanji are some sort of demon binding/summoning spell. There is no blood anywhere near the body.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Quick Before Bed

Because I am apparently quite mad, as in insane, I am considering running a second AD&D campaign. This one will take advantage of my Medieval Studies education and be based around medieval romantic themes, questing and chivalry. I actually intend to include a slightly remodeled version of the Cavalier class. Think what the high middle ages thought of earlier medieval times; King Arthur, the Grail Quest, Le Chanson de Roland, or even La Poema de Mio Cid. Maybe with a sprinkling of earlier stuff too, Germanic heroic stuff sneaking in and a wee bit of weird Celtic fairy stuff too. All of the characters will be human, and all of the monsters, when they show up, will be unique and really weird. I intend to read through both Pendragon and Fantasy Wargaming again before embarking on this odd little endeavor, but I think it'll be fun. I get DM ADD and like to change things up a bit every now and again too.

Now, we played the OA campaign this past Sunday and nobody died, but it was a close run thing. No spoilers though, I'll try and get the full report tomorrow. I wanted to get it today, but our dryer died yesterday and we had to spend today searching for a new one; it should be delivered tomorrow afternoon.

I also got some more OA stuff in the mail; OK technically it's Clan War/L5R stuff, but same thing to me.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Gamer ADD and Me

First off, I hate the term Gamer ADD, but since it's in common usage I'll use it too. I am as susceptible to it as any other gamer out there and as the guy who is usually the game master my only outlet for gamer ADD is to usually play a board game or a wargame. I know that if I don't take the occasional break from DMing I'll just suffer from burnout and need to take a break eventually anyway, which can lead to the death of a campaign if it's not addressed promptly and efficiently.

Now, I am not saying that my OA game is anywhere near burnout stage for me as a DM, we've hardly begun. Most of the players actually want more game time, but I can't reasonably schedule the OA campaign for more often than every other week because the older adults that are playing the game that have families need to be able to spend some time with them. However, when Dalton was at the house for a couple of days for the Halloween film festival we talked a lot about gaming and maybe setting up a game for the off weekends, for those of us that don't mind sacrificing the extra time. He's 18 and has lots of spare time. My whole family is here gaming with me. I don't think it'd be a great idea for me to run another game myself, although if push came to shove, I would; but my lovely wife suggested that she had a pretty cool idea for a Star Wars campaign set during the Old Republic era.

So, I jumped on that opportunity. She doesn't GM much, but when she does it's usually pretty memorable. It saves me from GMing another game, which keeps my burnout level down. I love Star Wars, because I was seven (almost eight) years old when it came out, so, like most men of my generation, I have a fixation on it that is nearly religious :) Seriously though, I have heard Star Wars referred to as the Viet Nam of my generation; while I think that's more than a little hyperbole, it certainly did help to shape my generation, I am one of those people that agree when they say that George Lucas reintroduced the concept of Good vs. Evil and the Heroic Journey to western culture. That said, I am no Lucas fanboy, I am pretty sure that almost everything he has said was his master plan about Star Wars since the release of Star Wars in 1977 has been pure unadulterated BS; BS that he, sadly, has come to believe is true.

I also used to think that Jedi was the weakest Star Wars film and that Ewoks were the worst thing to happen to the Star Wars universe; then George made the prequels and proved that he hated the fans, his own early work and, apparently, everything but money; but that's just my opinion. Hell, it's probably our fault, we begged him for more Star Wars films, despite the fact that he hadn't made a decent movie in decades; then we were shocked by the steaming pile of shit that he delivered unto us. We should have known The Phantom Menace would suck when he made the special editions of the original trilogy, I am still pissed about Greedo shooting first- it changes the entire character of Han Solo. That said, I still went to see the damned prequels in the theater and I still bought the damned prequels on DVD when they came out. My kids loved them. My dad loved them. Maybe it's me.

I didn't like the Star Trek reboot either, although it took me a while to figure out why; but that's a rant for another time. I really didn't plan on ranting about movies at all today, it's my daughter Ember's birthday, she's 14 today and she's my youngest. Maybe that's what brought out the cranky old man in me today.

Anyway, here's some stuff I got in the mail today-

These two Star Wars modules I looked for on EBay as soon as Mona said that she was willing to run a Star Wars game, I figured I should strike while the iron is hot, even if she doesn't use the modules as written (which seems unlikely, since she is leaning towards a version of the D20 Star Wars), there are bound to be plot ideas, NPCs, maps and other stuff she can mine them for. I was actually pretty impressed with how quickly they arrived, since I only ordered them on the 1st.

These pictures aren't actually all that great, they are Ratling Heroes and Goblin Leaders, I bought them both for use with my OA campaign, despite the fact that I haven't actually used any miniatures yet, I may in the future. The Ratling Heroes actually would make good Goblin Rat miniatures, I could have used them last time we played.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Something Cool

This was made by one of my clan mates on Emerald Empire- the Legend of the Five Rings Facebook RPG I play, we're currently at war; good times. It's an L5R TCG Card featuring my character.

He made L5R TCG cards for a bunch of us, but I think mine kicks ass!

I also got this in the mail today-

The picture is from the EBay auction, because I haven't mastered the use of my new digital camera yet. It's a campaign setting supplement for the 1st edition L5R RPG; I know I said I was going to back off of buying L5R RPG stuff, but it was a bargain. The box is a little dinged up, but other than that it's pretty pristine.

Other than that, I'd like to say I spent a lot of time working on my campaign and that's why I don't have an awesome blogpost for you all today but I didn't. Dalton C. came over for a couple of days, he's the guy that plays the Samurai Tetsugawa Masaru in my OA campaign, to spend Halloween with the family and we spent a lot of time watching movies and talking about gaming. I also recently discovered the game "Mystic Warlords of Ka'a" on Facebook, it's a virtual CCG and I've been playing that quite a bit.