Monday, December 31, 2007

Dashing Swordsman

Over on EN World, some people were trying to come up with a (made-up, as far as anyone knows) prestige class that was mentioned in The Order of the Stick. Here's my version:

Dashing Swordsman
(V 1.2)

Hit Die
d8.

Requirements
To qualify to become a dashing swordsman, a character must fulfill all the following criteria.

Base Attack Bonus
+6.

Skills
Perform 8 ranks, Bluff 5 ranks, Tumble 3 ranks.

Feats
Dodge, Persuasive, Weapon focus (rapier).

Class Skills
The dashing swordsman’s class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are Balance (Dex), Bluff (Cha), Diplomacy (Cha), Escape Artist (Dex), Jump (Str), Listen (Wis), Perform (Cha), Sense Motive (Wis), Speak Language, Spot (Wis), and Tumble (Dex).

Skill Points at Each Level
4 + Int modifier.

Base Attack Bonus:
Good

Good Save:
Reflex

Poor Saves:
Fortitude and Will

Class Features:

1 Sharp Wit
2 Combat Expertise
3 Dazzling Opponent (feint)
4 Bonus Feat
5 Uncanny Dodge
6 Dazzling Opponent (critical)
7 Dramatic Entrance
8 Dazzling Opponent (charge)
9 Bonus Feat
10 Dazzling Opponent (defense)

Sharp Wit (Ex) Add 1 point of Charisma bonus (if any) per dashing swordsman class level to your damage when wielding a rapier, provided that you make a quip or pun during the attack.

Combat Expertise - gain as a bonus feat. You need not have any of the prerequisites normally required.

Bonus Feat: At fourth and ninth levels, gain a bonus feat from the following list: Acrobatic, Agile, Improved Critical, Improved Feint, Improved Initiative, Mobility, Spring Attack, Quick Draw, Weapon Finesse.

Dazzling Opponent (Ex) - At 3rd level, you add your Charisma bonus (if any) to your attack roll when you make a successful feint. At 6th level, you add your Charisma bonus to critical confirmation rolls. At 8th level, you add your Charisma bonus to your damage on a charge attack. At 10th level, you may add your Charisma bonus to your armor class as a dodge bonus against a single foe per round (as per the Dodge feat), provided that you are wearing light or no armor.

Dramatic Entrance (Ex) At 7th level, a Dashing Swordsman may, as a full round action, enter a scene in a particularly dramatic way. In the process of doing so, he may move up to twice his speed and may swing in through a window, bash down a door, or perform some other feat. If he is required to make a roll to accomplish his entrance (such as a Jump, Tumble, or Strength check), he may freely substitute his Charisma for Strength or Dexterity. All who witness this (friend and foe alike) must make a Will save (DC 10+Dashing Swordsman class levels+Charisma bonus) or be dazed for one round.

Uncanny Dodge (Ex) At 5th level, a dashing swordsman retains her Dexterity bonus to AC (if any) regardless of being caught flat-footed or struck by an invisible attacker. (She still loses any Dexterity bonus to AC if immobilized.) If a character gains uncanny dodge from a second class, the character automatically gains improved uncanny dodge.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Rules of the Second Age

I can see running this with a variety of rule-sets:
  • d20, heavily-modified
  • D&D, house-ruled
  • Burning Wheel, high artha flow
  • Sorcerer (& Sword)
  • Maybe something else?
The first two here are more differentiated by degree than type of rule-set. If we went the heavily-modified route, I'd be tempted to write a modified magic system that looked a bit like the stuff in the Tome of Battle. Otherwise, it would be a bit of an amalgam of tweaked 3.5 D&D rules plus some imports from SWSE and 4e hints.

I picked up Burning Wheel at GenCon. I haven't played it yet. I don't know that I'd want to go through getting everyone comfortable with a new, relatively complex system, though. It has some need ideas. I will give it that...

Sorcerer and Sword, I will use as setting-stuff and GMing advice regardless. The system could work here. I don't know how people would feel about it, though.

Otherwise? I don't know. I'm sure I'm missing something.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Taxonomy of Spirits, Addendum

All spirits benefit from attention - whether that is emotion directed at them or, even better, conscious worship. Such things not only empower the spirits who receive them, but gradually shape them. This is reflected in animae as well. For example, a creature (or a person!) who is feared will gradually become more dangerous while a child-prince who is beloved by his subjects and imagined as a great leader will gradually tend to become one. With animae of intelligent beings, this is only a tendency that can be overcome with free will, but it is often the path of least resistance.

The techgods are the spirits of working technology. They are conscious - and often malicious - inanimae, awakened and given strength by the fear and wonder that people have for technology. The more powerful of them can inhabit the physical objects to which they are attached, animating them. All but the least of them can cause their physical halves to malfunction. Some wizards specialize in the domination of techgods, binding them to servitude or mutating them to create strange technology the likes of which was never known, even in the ancient world.

The Taxonomy of Spirits in the Second Age

It looks like the Thundarr/Exalted mash-up is likely to happen.

I'm personally trying to flesh out the setting in my head. I came out with a bit of cosmology the other day - it will probably have little bearing on the game, but I think it is neat.

The Taxonomy of Spirits in the Second Age

Inanimae are the spirits of inanimate objects (including plants). Most are unconscious and incapable of taking material form - they can, however, be affected by magic and other spirits... with a consequent effect upon the objects to which they are linked. Powerful inanimae - also called small gods - dwell in objects of great importance or have been awakened by magic. These are conscious, though not necessarily very intelligent. More important objects often have more intelligent spirits, while a simple sword that has been enchanted is fairly single-minded. The most powerful inanimae are often indistinguishable from the true gods.

True gods are the spirits of ideas or concepts. These include such things as war, death, and love as well as things such as specific nations or cities. Some true gods are not particularly powerful: a single person might have a unique idea. With the creation of this idea comes a tiny god, probably unable to have any real effect on the world (such tiny gods are usually preoccupied with their own survival - they often do what they can to spread their own idea). Moreover, things given names by men - such as forests and rivers - develop true gods.

Animae
are the spirits of animated living things. The animae is fused with the living creature and has no real independent existence. All such organisms have a spiritual component. Sentient beings have varying levels of control over their animae. Some men focus upon developing this control and become wizards. Some creatures have a limited natural control which gives them strange abilities.

Magic is what happens when the spirit world has an effect upon the world of matter. A wizard might use a death magic effect - causing his own animae to slay the animae of his enemy, thus resulting in the enemy's death. Another wizard might pick up a stone and have his animae shape the stone's inanimae... causing the stone to become a useful tool. A third wizard might opt for a showier display and briefly alter the inanimae of air to become that of fire, burning his foes physically.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

First Impressions

I got my Paizo/Green Ronin sale order in yesterday: The Freeport Trilogy, Denizens of Freeport, SpirosBlaak, and Temple Quarter (for under $14 total with shipping. not bad.)

Work is still insane, so I only really glanced at them. First impressions:

The Freeport Trilogy: Not really my first impression. I'd seen it before. Will I find use for it? At least $2 worth, yeah.

Denizens of Freeport: Lots of evil types and people who aren't what they appear to be. It looks useful, but perhaps not as useful as a more generic set of NPCs would be. On the other hand, it looks like there are a lot of potential plot hooks here. It looks like it will better serve as a plot-generator than a set of filler NPCs.

SpirosBlaak: Interesting, but not what I was hoping for... most of the setting information is ancient history and religion. Most of the book is crunch. It does have some interesting (and extensive) black powder rules. It also has some new classes and races, but they don't have a huge amount of appeal at first glance. The map is small and shaded to the point of illegibility.

Temple Quarter: I'm not a map-fetishist, but damn. The maps in here are gorgeous. (Sadly, the rest of the art is mediocre at best.) Unfortunately, it doesn't look like the book includes details on anything other than temples, religions, and priest-types. I'd hoped for some businesses catering to religious-types: bookstores, an inn, artisans, etc.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

One-on One Gaming

I ran into this thread on EN World this morning and it got me thinking about GMing for a single player. This is a subject I've been interested in for awhile - so much source material for RPGs is based around a single protagonist rather than a team. It seems as though a one-player, one-GM game might be liberating in a number of ways.

I don't have any particular plans or intentions to run a game this way, I'm just interested in the possibility.

Since I am interested in the possibility, though, I did a quick search and came up with some links to check out later. I thought I'd share them:

Other suggestions are welcome...

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Thundarr meets Exalted

I might as well flesh this out a bit, even if I never use it:
  • The First Age was a time of technological wonder. Over a thousand years ago, the spirits arose and magic came into the world. The First Age ended not in a Cataclysm, but in a century-long period of death and rebirth as the technological world struggled to survive and the spirits slowly awoke.
  • Was the world of the First Age ours? More or less. I want to feel free to have PCs explore the ruins of Earth as we know it, but feel no compulsion to make everything recognizable or even coherent with respect to today's geography. If I want to have the ruins of New York within walking distance of Mt. Rushmore... or a three-mile tall First Age skyscraper in the middle of a desert, I will.
  • The world is animistic. Everything has a spirit attached to it. Most such spirits are unintelligent and unconscious (and for most purposes irrelevant), but they can be awakened. More important things have more powerful (and intelligent) spirits capable of leaving the spirit world. Even non-physical things (conceptions, ideas, emotions, movements) have spirits. These often set themselves up as gods. They seem to get something from worship or respect.
  • There are two moons: one is deeply scarred - the legends say it was by ancient weapons of the First Age - the other, smaller moon hangs stationary in the Western sky.
  • There are areas of strange magic that can mutate the spirits of things. This often results in the physical thing attached to the spirit being mutated as well. Normal animals have mutated into a near-infinite variety of strange monsters.
  • People have spirits attached to them as well. Strangely, the spirit of a living thing is almost never separately sentient. Some people, however, have learned to control their spirit in a variety of ways - even to the point of being able to use magic themselves.
  • Much of the world is carved up into petty domains ruled over by wizards. A few of these are benign rulers, but most are anything but... many wizards use forced labor in large-scale projects. Others use those they rule over as subjects in arcane experiments.
  • A powerful empire in the West is ruled over by the Moon Lord. The Moon Lord forbids his subjects from worshiping the gods, and only those in the noble-houses of the Moon Lord's empire may practice magic.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Things I could run: D&D

I'm of two minds about running a D&D game right now. On one hand, d20 is the system that I know the best of those I'm willing to run. (I may know Storyteller better.) On the other, it has a bit of a lame-duck feel to me at the moment.

That said, if I were to run a more-or-less-straight D&D game I'd probably want to run one of the following:
  • A game based around a troubleshooting/P.I. type business, with the PCs as agents (or maybe a governmental/guild-based spy-thing). This would probably be mostly urban. It would work in a cosmopolitan setting. Maybe Sigil (Planescape) or Sharn (Eberron). I'd go for a noir feel here... with a dash of pulp.
  • The post-apocalyptic Thundarr-type thing I mentioned yesterday.
  • A game based almost entirely in the Underdark. This could also be combined with the first thing on this list.
  • A psychedelic, cross-dimensional travel game. Inspired by Otherland, Marvel Comics Exiles, and a bunch of other stuff.
  • I might also be able to be talked into running a published adventure path. Maybe.
There are heavily-modified d20 things I could run that aren't listed above. These are just things that would be mostly recognizable as D&D. I'm also, as always, probably forgetting something.

On a side note, the work-stress was lessened today. This is good.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Do I have anything to say...?

I'm really wiped out from work right now. This is the busiest I've been in about two years, and there is all kinds of backstabbing political crap going on right now... and it looks like I'm backstabee numero uno.

Joy.

So, anyway, I'm sorry that I haven't been updating very much of late. I've been preoccupied.

That said, I had lunch with Jeff the other day. Oddly, we mostly talked about things other than gaming... but we did discuss possible future games. We both said that we'd love it if Doug ran something. I thought his d20 Modern Star Frontiers game rocked. Unfortunately, he said he doesn't have time to run something.

Neither do I.

I probably will, however, in February.

But what?

Jeff said he's mostly up for anything... when pressed, he expressed an interest in something post-apocalyptic. I'm still waiting to hear back from Doug. I don't even know if he's interested, though. Pat? Anyone else local?

What's going on in my head...

I think I'd like to run a game that's episodic or mission-based.

I'm still playing around with this cyberpunkfantasy thing, but I don't know what system I'd want to run it in. Heavily-modified d20/d20 Modern? Shadowrun?

I could run Shadowrun, but I'd have to bone up on the system.

Doug's been bugging me about Exalted. I'm almost tempted to cave in and just run the damn thing. Given my druthers, though, I'd rather run a modified d20 game set in an Exalted-inspired world. That I could do.

Nobilis is sitting on top of my PC case. It stares at me.

I could also go for a Thundarr-esqe game... a post-apocalyptic world with strange mutations, weird science, and magic... possibly bringing in some of those Exalted elements.

I'm probably forgetting half a dozen things I'd be interested in running...

No. I'm not very decisive. Why do you ask?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Magic Items with Purpose

I always liked the idea of intelligent magic items in D&D with special purposes. I appreciate that 3rd ed expanded the options to include things other than weapons.

I was thinking, though... what if all permanent magic items had purposes? Maybe without a purpose, a magic item couldn't sustain its magic. This wouldn't require the magic item to be intelligent - the purpose would, in general, be that of its creator.

For example:

Cloak of Elvenkind
Old-style: gives a +5 competence bonus on Hide checks.
New-Style: The cloak was created by elves to allow them to ambush orc invaders to their woods. It gives a +5 competence bonus on Hide checks against everyone but elves. In addition, Orcs have a -2 penalty to their Spot checks against you. This penalty increases to +5 in forested areas.

Monday, December 17, 2007

That's no ornament...

My boss hung Christmas ornaments in our office last week. They all look like this:

I don't know why.

I keep expecting tiny TIE fighters...

Thursday, December 13, 2007

WOW! A recipe!

I don't play World of Warcraft. I've never been interested in MMORPGs.

Still, I find this sort of offensive. For those too lazy to follow the link, it is to a food blog that I read regularly. It has a recipe for "Murloc Fin Soup" - a bit of Googling tells me that is a soup in WoW that is made from the fin of a Murloc (a humanoid fish-thing) and some hot spices.

(Side note: I find it interesting that Blogger's spelling dictionary does not recognize "Googling" as a word.)

There are, of course, issues with making a soup from the fin of an intelligent humanoid. That's not what I find offensive. What I find offensive is that this Murloc Fin Soup recipe doesn't even include any seafood.

Let's fix that.


A recipe for Faux Murloc Fin Soup.

I recognize that Murloc fins can be hard to come by. The Murlocs are loathe to relinquish them willingly... yet who can resist the delicate taste of Murloc fin floating in a sea of fiery broth? It has been said that there is nothing quite like a soup made from their fins - heartier and smoother than a fish broth, not truly fishy, yet still distinctly a product of the sea. I can tell you, however, that a faux murloc fin soup is possible. Those who have tasted true Murloc fins in recent days may detect a difference, but it is subtle enough of one that it will be missed by many.

For this recipe you will require the following:
5 cups of fish stock.

3 cups of chicken stock. Duck stock would be preferable, if available.
2 jalepeno peppers, seeded and sliced
2 teaspoons of mustard powder
1 tablespoon of sugar
one sprig each of thyme and parsley
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1/2 pound of Squid. Visit your grocer. Pre-cleaned, frozen squid has become widely available.
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, cut in thin slices
1/2 cup carrot, finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped spinach
1 tablespoon butter
juice of one lime
salt and pepper to taste


sautee the onion and carrot in the butter until the onion becomes translucent. Add the spinach and garlic and sautee for two more minutes. Add this mixture to a pot along with the first six ingredients. Bring to a boil and simmer for ten minutes. In the meantime, cut the squid into triangles, one inch on a side. After the soup has simmered for ten minutes, bring it to a fast boil and add the squid and the fish sauce. Reduce heat to a simmer for three minutes, add lime juice, and serve.

I don't know precisely what D&D 4th edition will look like...

...but the more I think about it, the more I like the idea of it looking like the Tome of Battle: Book of Nine Swords in terms of structure.

Ignore the wuxia feel of the book for a moment. What's the structure of the classes in it?

Well, there are different schools of martial maneuvers maneuvers (let's genericize these a bit and call them categories of "class abilities"). Each class has access to a few such categories. Some categories are unique to a class. Some overlap. Each class has potentially different rules for how often they can use these class abilities.

Each category has several different types of abilities at different levels. Higher level abilities typically require lower level abilities in the category (unspecified as to which ones) as prerequisites.

I've already written about how I think the spell system would be better off in this format... but what about doing all class abilities like this?

A rogue could have access to categories like sneak attack, stealthy movement, trap mastery, etc.

Multiclassing would be taken care of by feats or something that would give you access to a category from another class (including, potentially, a category of spells).

I wouldn't be shocked if 4e looked something like this. The 'categories' here aren't much different than Star Wars Saga Edition's (or d20 Modern's) talent trees, though they are larger.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Brief respite

I have a bit of a breather at work. This is necessary for my sanity after working all weekend and into the wee hours last night.

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to give much thought to gaming things of late. I did order a few things from Paizo's Green Ronin sale (which ends tomorrow) - lots of books are $2. I mostly picked up setting stuff that will be useful with whatever system I want: Denizens of Freeport (d20), Temple Quarter (d20), SpirosBlaak (d20), and Freeport: The Freeport Trilogy (d20). The total came to about $13, including shipping. Not bad. I probably should have ordered me some of that there Pathfinder I keep hearing about, but I was really just in the mood to get a darn good deal.

I'm beginning to more seriously consider running something come February. I don't know what, really, or with whom... but I am getting an itch.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Wah.

This makes me sad.

In other news, I'm in grant-writing hell. I believe that is Hell #847 for those keeping track.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Creepy-crawlies that want to suck your brains out through your eyes...

At lunch today, I was thinking about this creature. I came up with a few quick sketches, more details on its life-cycle, and some notes toward some write-ups. I still don't have a name. I'm pretty sure mindspider is taken.

Any ideas?

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Why aren't humans weird?

About a month ago, Jeff wrote this nifty post describing religion in a home-brew campaign world he's creating. In it, he describes how religion is a distinctly human activity and other races find it kind of creepy. Personally, I think the idea would work without his cosmology... even letting other races believe in the existence of gods without worship or religion is sort of neat in my head.

Why?

Well, to me it comes down to the characterization of other races in RPGs (and much fiction). Typically, elves are nature-loving, long-lived humans with pointy ears. Dwarves are short, tough, underground-dwelling humans with a love of stone. Vulcans are emotionless, psychic humans with pointy ears. Klingons are warlike, honorable humans with funny foreheads.

See a pattern? Humans are the base. Humans are normal. D&D - and, really, every RPG I've seen other than Decipher's Lord of the Rings game - formalizes this by making the default human ability scores and such the base for everything else in the game.

Why aren't humans weird. That's where I thought Jeff's idea was brilliant. It took something we see as central to human culture - religion - and said, "This is weird. This isn't something other races do... or even understand."

How could this idea be expanded on? What alternatives could there be to religion as a distinctly human activity?

Here are a few possibilities:
  • Drunkenness (or, really, any intentional artificial mind-altering) for recreational purposes
  • Cuisine - maybe other races lack an acute sense of taste, or don't see food as anything other than needed to survive.
  • Money
  • Careers
  • Economics in general - employment, ownership, trade, economic valuation, whatever.
  • Medicine/health care
  • Art
  • Music
  • Romantic love
  • Recreational sex
  • Spoken language
  • Heredity/family ties
The list could go on.

What's the point, though? Well, let's grab one of these and say that humans are the only intelligent creatures (in a standard D&Desque fantasy world) that really care about family. Other races are longer lived, so heredity isn't really important. Marriage is a distinctly human idea. Elves don't connect sexuality with romance or commitment in any way. Dwarves engage in ritual sexual intercourse as a duty to their community and don't particularly enjoy it. Elven children are cherished and are raised by their entire community. An elven child's father is almost never known, and holds no special place in that child's life. Even an elven child's mother doesn't play a particularly important role for that child once it is a few days old. Dwarves don't go in for that mushy stuff with kids. They're all tossed into a nursery and someone tends them. They don't even get named or differentiated from each other until they can talk. Both of them think that humans with their nuclear families and dynasties and inheritances and family names are nuts.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Movie and books

I've been feeling vaguely sick for the last few days, so I've been unmotivated to do just about anything... including blog.

Last night, a few of us went to see Beowulf. We saw it in 3D, which was sort of interesting. Overall, though, I found the CGified style of the thing distracting. The men looked significantly more real than the women (I suspect this was due to facial hair). Angela pointed out that the CG monsters stood out far less than they would have in a live-action movie. They did a decent job of imposing a coherent narrative on the story, but it still wasn't incredibly deep or anything (not that I expected it to be). The movie got bonus points for having Crispin Glover in it. Crispin Glover is always worth bonus points in my book.

After Beowulf, I finished off the second novel of S.M. Stirling's Emberverse series; the series focuses upon the time after The Change, when the technology of the modern world stops working. It is a nifty take on the post-apocalyptic genre. The books are generally well-written, but I do have a few complaints about them. Stirling is pretty clearly a gamer, by the way. The first book in the Emberverse series had more than a few rpg and D&D references.

I'm looking forward to book 4 of Jim Butcher's Codex Alera series. The series isn't super-innovative or anything (the overarching plot follows a classic pattern), but it is enjoyable and well-written. The world it is set in is pretty neat and it has characters that are easy to care about. I'd totally play in an RPG set in Alera. I wonder if one is in the works... I should check with the Evil Hat guys. There would be some trickiness with power-level, but I think I've figured out a way to handle that.

Also, apparently Gene Wolfe is coming out with a new novel that is some sort of retro-future pulp thing. That sounds really neat.