Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Aaron Allston's Strike Force Kickstarter

Aaron Allston was a noted RPG authors in the 90s who a number of good RPG supplements for various games. Sadly he passed away in 2014 in his 50s from heart failure. Strike Force for Champions is considered one of his best supplement but more than that is considered one of the best campaigns supplements for any game. It is a well written account of the details of his Strike Force campaign and more importantly delves into the nuts and bolts of how he ran that campaign including the reasons why. While much of is about the nuts and bolts of a superhero campaign, many of the insights he provides work for any type of campaign.

Luckily for us, his legacy is not finished. A group of friends is working to finish his manuscript for an updated Strike Force and now have just launched a kickstarter. I am personally interested in this as the original was very good and that was just from a few years of running his campaign. I can't wait to see what insights he gleaned from the intervening years.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Handling social mechanics

It is my view that no mechanics can simulate human interaction. Even today with thousands of hours and millions of dollars the best that science been able to produce are a few clever simulations of human interaction that work very well for specific circumstances. For example Siri on Apple iOS devices.

One of the strengths of tabletop RPGs is having the human referee to adjudicate the actions of the characters as they interact with the setting.

You do have to have some type of mechanics because we have players with characters that have skills and attributes better than their own personal skills. In my experience, it is easier to come up with mechanics to deal with attribute that deal with physical interactions like strength, dexterity, and constitution. And it is harder to deal with the mental/social ones like intelligence, wisdom, and charisma.

My technique is based around this concept; while the player may not be as mentally/social adept as his character, as the human referee, I have complete control over how the setting/NPCs respond to him. So in the absence of a compelling reason, I will act as if he was the smartest or most socially adept person in the room if his attribute/skill warrants it.

A compelling reason for me means that the player has totally misread the situation to the point that he is not just way out in left field but not even in the ballpark.

What I use to decide how my roleplaying plays out are the circumstances of the encounter, the result of a skill/attribute check, and my notes on the NPCs involved. For example if a 1 or critical failure is rolled on a check, I will roleplay it as if it is a disastrous social encounter. If a natural 20 or critical success is rolled, I will make it work out even if the player is out of the ballpark in how he handling the situation.

The downside of course these are all highly subjective criteria that benefit enormously from personal experience. Both from life and time spent refereeing campaigns. This can make it daunting for a young referee just starting out in tabletop. Hence the appeal of social mechanics as an aide.

I would tell the young or new referees is to rely heavily on the stereotypes that they know already. To sit down prior to the campaign and make a one or two page list of notes on the different types of NPCs and how they would act when roleplaying them. Use that as your starting point. Eventually as you grow older and gain more experience, you will develop a greater range in how your NPCs act.

I think most RPGs, even detailed ones like GURPS, would benefit from more advice and less rules when it comes to social interactions. I will say for GURPS, I do like their reaction tables. While I think as a rule mechanic they are so-so, I do think they are good lists of possible outcomes for specific social situations ordered from worst to best.

When I hear that a RPG, say DnD, is lacking in social mechanics I view it as being short sighted. The one of the rules that ALL RPGs share is the fact that the game has human referees adjudicating the actions of the characters as they interact with the setting. As all social mechanics are inadequate to simulating human behavior, the need for a human referee handle social interactions for D&D is no different than any other RPG.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

OD&D has been released in PDF!

Great news folks, ODnD has been released in PDF form. It is based off of work creating the Premium ODnD boxed set released a few years ago. Those of you who purchased it before Wizards took down the PDFs can re-download it.


Monday, January 25, 2016

My Dwarven Forge City came in!

Last year, I bought into the third Dwarven Forge kickstarter. The first one focused on the dungeon, the second on caverns, this one focused on cities. Last week, I got my order in and then took it down to my friend +Dwayne Gillingham for the unboxed.

The boxes before being unwrapped


After it all sorted and placed within containers. Note I am using the same storage I used for the previous Dwarven Forge stuff.




Finally what a tavern looks like built from the pieces.


Verdict? Mixed, on the one hand Stefan Pokorny developed an absolutely brilliant system of building city terrain. Warping was present but minimal and overall the quality was excellent. But even buying in for several hundred dollars, the amount of square inch coverage I got was vary disappointing.  I could be hard pressed to build even the haunted house from U1 The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh with.

Partly this was my fault as I dropped down a pledge and opted to get more add-on for what I budgeted. Figuring variety would be more important than square inches. However until I unboxed I didn't figure it would this low.  Analyzing it with Dwayne, I will probably grab few more floor pieces especially stone floors along with the associated corners.

Another factor for me is that I already own some resin Medieval building sets which will be used to make more intricate buildings. The base tile of the DF City Builder System is a 4 inch by 4 inch square representing a 20' by 20' area. Plus I already own a lot of dungeon pieces that I already effectively used to create a cityscape as shown here.


If you do have the bucks what Dwayne suggested is to have pre-built building or even city blocks and then just move the whole assembly into the session. What I plan to do is just layout individual floors and perhaps go up in height when there is a balcony or an overlook involved.

If you have the money this is the stuff to build cities out of. But if you want to cover an area in a diorama fashion then be prepared to shell out the bucks. Go for the biggest base set over buying smaller and more add-ons. Especially if you already own terrain, props, and miniatures.

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Invincible Overlord is Dead!, Long live the Invincible Overlord!

A couple of months ago my friend +Dwayne Gillingham designed a game revolving around the idea of a civil war in the City State of the Invincible Overlord. You play one of five factions, Nobles, Followers of the god Set, Follower of the goddess Mitra, the Merchant, or the Mage's Guild. As the faction leader you attempt to use your influence to control building, recruit armies and NPCs. From that you can either engage in combat, or use intrigue or magic. The game ends when one faction achieves a combined influence of 25.

Once of the long standing plotlines of my Majestic Wilderlands is a civil war between Draco-lindus, a warrior who follows Mitra, and Divolic a Myrmidon (anti-paladin) of Set. They are played by two of my oldest friends, Draco-lindus by +Tim Shorts and Divolic by +Dwayne Gillingham.

The whole thing been going on for nearly 20 years starting in the mid-90s with the actual civil war erupting in the mid 2000s. It has formed the backdrop of several Majestic Wilderlands campaigns including the two most recent campaigns. The three of us were talking and decided it was time to resolve it and that the perfect game was Dwayne City-State civil war game.

And on Saturday January 16th we finally played it out and what a game it was. Tim of course played the Mitra faction, and Dwayne played the Set faction. I played the Noble faction with the idea that they were trying to get out from under the thumb of the two and to reestablish their authority.

Turn 1
Tim went first and attempted to recruit Elder Carmine and was rebuffed. Dwayne was able to have the Setites take control of the Blue Dolphin Inn on By-water road. The Nobles lead by me were able to seize control of the Market Square which gave them a healthy boost in income.

Turn 2
The Mitrans (Tim) were finally able to convince Elder Carmine to commit. The Setites (Dwayne) were able to convince Sergeant Jakamar and the 2nd Infantry Company to join their cause. The Nobles (Rob) were able to convince the renowned knigh Sir Galius to lead their forces

Turn 3
The Mitrans scored a major victory by recruiting a powerful force of viking raiders known as the Blood Raiders, The Setities recruited Garosh Prim a noted assassin and Sergeant Jakamar was appointed Chancellor of the City-State. The Nobles recruited Dura Prem an influential noble to their cause. At the end of turn 3 the Mitran had 5 influence, The Setites 7 influence, and the Noble 10 influences.

Turn 4
The Mitran attempted to recruit an order of paladins known as the Lions of Mitra, but they declined to get involved in any politics. The Setities recruited a merchant, Zastor Species. While the Nobles managed to gain control of the income of the Red Pearl Inn in the wharf districts as well as the city's Crossbowmen. With the Noble having the upper hand the Setities attempted to assassinate Sir Galius. The attempt failed but the knight was left greviously wounded.

At the end of the turn the Mitrans had 5 influence, the Setites 8, and the Nobles 11.

Turn 5
The Mitras failed to recruit anybody to their cause, While the Setites managed to recruit Hiss Basilor another assassin. With two assassins the Setites managed to finish the war of knives they started in Turn 4 and killed Sir Galius. In relations the Nobles sent the Crossbowmen after Hiss Basilor and managed to injure him in a chase throughout alleys of the City-State. However war of knives caused a massive change in who could be recruited and as result the Myrmidons (anti-paladins) of Set came into play. The Nobles poured in every ounce of influence they had but failed to bribe them into their cause.

At the end of Turn 5, the Mitrans remained at 5, the Setites remained at 8, and the Nobles tumbled down to 9.

Turn 6
The Mitra remained quiet and managed to recruit Elina another elder of the church. Offended by the noble's bribe, the Myrmidons readily agreed to join the Setities. Nobles recovered to take control of the Gate of the Gods a major source of income. However the War of Knives resumed with Dukas Prem of the Nobles attacked by assassins.

Afterwards the Mitrans had 6 influence, the Setities 9, and the Nobles jumped to 12 nearly halfway to victory!

Turn 7
Nobody listens to the overtures of the Mitra. While the Setites recruited the Mambas Street Gang and took control of one of the city's Patrol towers. The Noble were able to take control of the Alchemy Shop and it's production of Healing Potions. But that was too late for Dukas Prem who suffered further wounds by assassins and finally died by the hands of the Myrmidon in the streets of the City-State.

The Mitras remained at 6 influence, the Setites jumped to 11 influence and Nobles moved to 13 influence.

Turn 8
The Mitra got a major boost in income when they were able to take control of the Arena. Likewise the Setites were able to gain control over the Hall of Merchants the major trading forum of the City-State. The Nobles were able to recruit the Thunder Gang. And the Crossbowmen of the Nobles ran down Hiss Basilor and riddled him with bolts.

The Mitrans now have 9 influence, the Setities 13, and the Nobles 14.

Turn 9
The famous paladin Endless Star joined the Mitran in their fight and along with taking control of the Wharf. While still behind the Nobles, the Setites had a banner turn in taking control of the Apothecary, another source of healing potion, and the Bristling Tavern. Along with that Silar, a noted lizard man warrior broke with the Mitrans and joined the Setites, and Sergeant Basilon and the 4th infantry company. The Noble seized control of Orchold the headquarters of the city guard.

At the end of the turn the Mitrans had 12 influence, the Setities jumped up to 16, and the Noble are at 17.

Turn 10
In a stunning move, Langwellan the Blue declares his support of Mitrans along with them taking control of a Weaponsmith shop. The Seties recruited Delphia a priestess of Set solidifying Divolic's control over the church. Divolic also starts to consider to openly enter the war (his card appears as one of the NPCs that could be recruited). The 3rd Infantry Company and Vadius Crocker, a noble, are recruited by the Nobles. However in a stunning display of power, a few days after his annoucement Langwellan was assassinated by the Setites.

At the end of the turn the Mitra had 15 influence, the Setites 18, and the Noble 18.

Turn 11
The Mitran fail to recruit anybody to their cause. While the Setities recruited Zishun, Amharic the Scrouge, and in a stunning development persuaded the Brotherhood of the Lion to join their cause. The Brotherhood are the thieves guild of the City-State and are descendants of Mitran resistance fighters opposed to the Invincible Overlord. The Brotherhood rename themselves the Brotherhood of the Serpent. The Nobles continued to build their army with the Mounted Guards and despite the Mitrans control of the Arena also managed to recruit the Gladiators. However the Setites sent the 4th infantry shop and other forces to to burn down the Alchemist shop. The attempt succeeded and the shop was destroyed depriving the nobles of a reliable source of healing potions.The Nobles made the leader of the Thunder Gang a Justicar.

Afterwards the Mitrans dropped to 15 influence, the Setities gained and had 19, and the Noble also rose to 19.

Turn 12
After the shocking death of Langwellan, the Mitra recruited Bodyguards to safeguard Endless Star and the rest of the members of the faction. Sergeant Jakamar of the Setites gains influence by being appointed Justicar. Rumors swirl that he second in power only to Divolic himself.  The Mitrans enters the war in a big way when the Blood Raiders, gladiators from the Arena were lead by Endless Star and ran down Garosh Prim, the Setites master assassin, and executed him.  The Setites also suffered another blow when the Gladiators, Mounted Guards, and the Crossbowmen attacked the Apothecary.

However it was four naught as the Setites recruited Jersha another priestess of Set and one of the last not to commit to Divolic's cause. With the three priestesses, Divolic was able to seize control of the Hellbridge Temple.

The turn ended with with the Mitran at 15 influence, the Setities 25, and the Nobles still at 19. Divolic (Dwayne) was victorious.

The aftermath and what it means for the campaign in tomorrow's post.


Friday, January 15, 2016

Is the format of Wizard's DM Guild a way out for GURPS?

So I was thinking, Steve Jackson Games has Warehouse 23 which not only hosts their own products but other RPGs and wargames as well. They also have a lot of IT experience having been at the forefront of using the Internet since the 1990s.

Perhaps a W23 version of the Dungeon Masters Guild is a path for SJ Games to allow the fans of GURPS to publish their own material but still have some type of control and get return for the use of their IP. Along with their other games that have dedicated followings like Car Wars and Ogre.

GURPS Fans who despise the idea of third party GURPS supplement would be covered as there is a single area that they can avoid.

And perhaps this program can be extended to the other games they host if those publishers are interested.

Realistically I don't see happening right away as everybody will want to see what happens with Wizard's experiment first. But the Dungeon Master's Guild work it may be a good compromise between the publisher wanting to keep a tighter grip on their IP than what the OGL allows and the fans wanting to keep some control over their own original work.






Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Brief pass at the 5e SRD

So I skimmed over the DnD 5e System Reference Document. The following leaped out at me.

  • Classes have one option each similar to what they did to the four core classes in the basic rules. 
  • I think some classes suffer a bit because of this particularly the Warlock patrons. 
  • Spells, Magic Items, and Monsters are extensive but it will take a bit of time to make a list to see what there and what is not.
  • The document layout is not amicable to just reading it. I had to break up the PDF into its component chapters to make sure I understood what was in it.
  • Because of the above, we are going to see a wealth of indexes and reformatted SRDs. I know people complain about how the OGL lets a person copy a work verbatim but the 5e SRD really needs a better format to be used even as a publishing reference.
  •  I expect some interesting mashup to come of this. There is enough of 5e in the SRD to make a complete 5e base RPG for example +James Spahn could design a 5e White Star out of this. Likes +James Raggi  could make a 5e Lamentation of Flame Princess with a focus on weird fantasy.
  • Or +Harley Stroh and Joesph Goodman making a mashup of the DCC RPG with 5e. 
  • I predict Frog God Games will quickly fill in any gaps with the monsters.
After looking around the Dungeon Masters Guild website here are some quick impression.
  • It is a closed creative circle with everybody participating sharing their stuff.
  • The main advantage is to be able to play in Forgotten Realm and make some money off your contribution. 
  • The price for the above is only a 50% royalty and everybody else in the DM's Guild can use your stuff.
  • However I suspect they are going to be pretty hard nose about any violations of the community guidelines.
  • It appears unless they buy it and make it canon, you retain full rights to any original content you create. Of course how useful that is depend on how much Wizards IP you weave into your product. For example it appears I could release a version of the Scourge of the Demon Wolf set into some corner of the Forgotten Realms and still have the Majestic Wilderlands version up for sale as a separate product. 
  • The DM's Guild already has some art assets and other aides for use. I suspect that will expand a lot in the future. 
  • While Forgotten Realms is the only setting at the moment they hinted that others may be added. I am totally down for some Greyhawk. I have a handful of stuff I created back in the day that I could polish up and release.
  • Finally Wizards is trying something innovative since the release of the original SRD for 3.0. I don't know if it work beyond fans of the Forgotten Realms and other Wizards IP. But it will sure will be interesting to follow.
  • Maybe Wizards is getting a clue that on the digital front and working with people who know what the hell they are doing.  Now if could get something going with Roll20 that would be great.
I will post more info as I find them.