Wednesday, May 28, 2008
The more I hear from people who have the books or have seen them, the less optimistic I am as to whether the game will be one I'll want to actually play. I'm pretty sure the system will be fun to design stuff in, but... I don't know. My concern that just about everything rule-wise is being reduced to its role in combat has been strengthened by just about everything I've read.
While I usually don't judge games by their art, I really don't like the direction of the art that has been released (with a few notable exceptions). I think it reinforces my fear that monsters are going to lose their identity in a sea of variants. (Today's reveal? Zombie artillery. Gross? Yeah. Make sense? Not so much.)
To be fair, D&D before 2nd ed AD&D was pretty much totally combat-centric rule-wise... In that sense, the move back toward a combat-centric rules system is sort of retro... but, as I noted in my last post, I'm not really into the retro gaming thing.
This got me thinking.
On the Internet, the retro-nostalgia gaming movement has been gaining a lot of currency lately. I think it has clearly gained momentum from an anti-4e backlash (and, sadly, the death of Gary Gygax), but it was also fairly clearly growing before then (see Labyrinth Lord, OSRIC, Mazes and Minotaurs, Encounter Critical, ZeFRS, etc.)
With some exceptions, I tend to prefer newer games over old one... but I game with Jeff, and he's pretty much at or near the forefront of this whole thing... so I'm far from ignorant about the movement, such as it is.
I'm rambling. On to the point of this post.
Jeff has this here threefold model thingamajig. It classes games as retro, pretentious, stupid, or some combination of all three. Jeff's aforementioned post on Mike Carr got me thinking about the validity of the retro / pretentious divide. In particular, are retro games simply a subcategory of pretentious games?
As I understand it, the defining aspect of Pretentious games is that they know that they are better than other games.
The retro-nostalgia movement seems to have this attitude about retro games, at least to some extent. Some people seem to think that new games have lost a lot of the wonder that early games had, depending upon rules over imagination. Others claim that it isn't a true RPG (whatever that means) without classes and levels and hit points.
Moreover, retro games are often written in a pretentious voice (I'll point to Jeff's post that got me thinking in this direction for a prime example... but, really, anything Gygax wrote will do). They don't, strictly speaking, present themselves as better than other RPGs... but when they were written there really weren't any other RPGs. What about new retro games? OSRIC and ZeFRS may not sound pretentious, but neither would an open-source clone of Sorcerer, Dogs in the Vineyard, or Vampire.
Maybe the problem is the definition of Pretentious. What if we were to change Pretentious to Sophisticated... and say a Sophisticated game is one which takes itself seriously and often has
I'm not sure. Thoughts?
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
DotFA is a supplement for playing PCs in the First Age. I haven't looked through it extensively yet, but it looks impressive. First, it is a box set. I don't know when I last got an RPG that came in a box. It was probably in the 1980s. Inside the box were:
- Lords of Creation, a book with supplementary game rules for the First Age.
- Lands of Creation, a book with supplementary setting information for the First Age.
- A cloth-ish map of Creation. Cool, but the level of detail wasn't great.
- A heavy cardstock battle-wheel (for tracking actions in combat).
- An in-character city guidebook (in the spirit of things like The Book of Nod).
In other news, I'm reading Nobilis.
Monday, May 19, 2008
What about an otherwise normally powered opponent who simply can't be taken down? I'd call this a "mastermind" but that name appears to already be taken. How about antagonist?
Here's the deal:
When an antagonist would otherwise be killed (or, perhaps, reduced to 0 hp or whatever), something intervenes and the antagonist escapes or disappears.
Would such a classification be a good addition to a game? I think it would totally depend upon play-style.
Essentially, a minion in 4e is an opponent that is made to come in a horde. You can wade through them, dropping them left and right, but you can't ignore them.
In 3.x, this was very hard to accomplish. Someone of sufficiently low level to be dropped with a hit or two was often incapable of actually being a threat. A level 1 goblin warrior, for instance, is unlikely to be able to hit most PCs above fifth level or so with anything less than a natural 20... and, when it does hit, the damage it does will be negligible. The problem, of course, was that hit dice reflected both power level and staying power (hit points).
In 4e, these are decoupled. Monsters have levels that reflect the level of the PCs for whom they are appropriate threats. This level, however, doesn't determine a monster's hit points (at least not on its own). For that, you'll also need to know some other things... notably including the monster's role.
For instance, if the monster's role is Minion, then - regardless of its level - it has one hit point.
This is a bit weird. What it means is that you can have a powerful (say, level 20) monster that a level 20 PC will find challenging to hit, and will be worried about getting hit by, but will go down in a single hit.
There's been some controversy about this... including speculation about such things as what happens when one minion punches another. That sort of thing misses the point, though. Minions are an abstraction, a way to present monsters to PCs so that they will be viable threats without being major encounters. This is a specific instance of the 4e design mentality of using separate rules to create PCs and, well, everyone else.
Minions presuppose a particular play-style. As written, they won't work at all in a sandbox-style game that imagines a world totally independent of the PCs. Minions don't really exist as minions except with respect to the PCs. In a sandbox-style game, I suppose it would be easy enough to just say that the level of minions encountered is always scaled to that of the PCs. That what the rules seem to intend. Whether the game would still count as a sandbox game at that point I will leave to others...
Friday, May 16, 2008
I'm skeptical, but I'm going to reserve judgment. The DMG may well have advice that isn't in the preview on deviating from the strict schedule of magic item acquisition. I hope it does.
What does bother me, though, is this quote from today's excerpt (accompanying a table of magic item market prices):
The sale price of a magic item (the amount a PC gets from either selling or disenchanting an item) is one-fifth of the purchase price. . . Prices shown are the base market price for the items. The actual cost to purchase a magic item depends on supply and demand and might be 10 to 40 percent more than the base market price.In 3.x, it was assumed you could sell a magic item for half the market price. This was a kludge, but it worked as a guideline. If PCs went to the effort of trying to get a good price, they could... and it wouldn't disrupt things much. Mostly, though, they didn't bother. They took what they could get easily and didn't spend the time or effort on shopping an item around.
Of course, with the 'new' system, a magic item might sell for as much as SEVEN TIMES what the PCs can easily get for it. Presumably, it will be possible for some PCs to have mercantile skills. It would bother me if the rules (and built-in balance) of the game don't allow players to get reasonable prices for things if they really tried... and I worry that with the increased difference between sale and purchase price, PCs will have a dramatically increased incentive to try...
I hope this isn't an issue, but I am a bit concerned.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Today, I'm looking at Zoho. Those who have tried both seem to prefer it over Google. In addition to the typical apps (word processor, spreadsheet, presentations, etc.), Zoho seems to offer a free/integrated wiki, planner, chat service, database, and web conferencing service. I haven't poked around it, but it seems like a nice collection of services with which to run a campaign. If anyone has any experience with it, let me know...
Monday, May 12, 2008
The reason that vampires have such weaknesses, of course, is because they are a part of real-world folklore. We have a lot of stories about vampires. We don't have as many stories about, say, displacer beasts.
Of course, inside a game world, this distinction disappears... and so does the reason for vampires to be unique in their pile of weaknesses. Many monsters could have such weaknesses. This idea seems to have a lot of traction. There is even an entire PC class built around the idea that monster have weaknesses that can be exploited.
The problem, of course, is that players read monster manuals. If the weaknesses are listed there, players will be aware of them whether or not their PCs are.
One possible solution to this is the Secret Weakness.
The material enclosed in the box below is released via the Open Game License.
Edit: Additional weaknesses in comments. Add your own!
The premise of the setting is that there was a quantum explosion in the near-future that ripped a hole into other (magical) realities.
A quote from one of the Amazon reviews, "I found this author's vision irreconcilable with my own pre-conceived notions of Tolkien's Middle Earth. I feel like this work border's on blasphemy with regards to how Elves speak and act."
How can you not read the book after something like that?
Sunday, May 11, 2008
I was impressed for all the usual reasons - good acting, good story, great visuals, and enough fidelity to the source material that the deviations didn't bother me.
What's more, the movie succeeded without the overabundance of supervillains that plague superhero movies these days. This is really heartening. Hopefully, it will set a new trend.
One of the central themes of the story was focused on taking responsibility for ones past actions and taking extraordinary measures to correct past mistakes. It struck me earlier today that this could make for an interesting series of plots in a campaign. Early on in the PCs' career, let them make a deal that will give them an immediate benefit for little cost... the primary cost will be to others who the PCs won't expect to ever have to see. Later on in their career, confront them with the reality of the results of this deal. Let them see the effects on those who suffered because of it. Let the individual/group they made the deal with benefit from this suffering... and watch the PCs (hopefully) take responsibility...
Friday, May 09, 2008
Thursday, May 08, 2008
The game last night consisted of an introductory combat. A couple of Dragonblooded on a giant, flaming bird attacked the airship we were riding. Jeff gives a rundown here.
Pat hadn't actually given his PC any charms yet. We didn't figure this out until about a third of the way through the game. He still held his own. I'd made Jeff's character and it seemed to work out pretty well. He made excellent use of Monkey Leap Technique. I'd never played an archer in Exalted before, so I was having fun with that.
I was sort of relegated to running a combat tutorial, which was fine with me. I went through some of the more complicated things: flurries (aka multiple actions), piercing damage, coordinated attacks, and things like that. We didn't really get into the stunt mechanics, despite the fact that everyone was doing things that qualified as stunts (Jeff jumped onto the back of the firebird to attack its rider, Pat was maneuvering tactically to find openings in his opponent's defenses, I shot a guy in the face with my bow while standing on the edge of his shield)... but that's OK. There was enough for them to learn.
One thing that this brought home is that Exalted is fiddly. It has a number of exceptions to the rules that are often legacies from earlier versions of the storyteller system. Some of these things can get confusing. For example, wound penalties apply to die pools. This has, pretty much, always been the case. Of course, Exalted PCs have some statistics (notably defense values) that are calculated as 1/2 your die pool. So, whereas you would normally subtract your wound penalty from whatever you are doing, you subtract one-half of it from your defense values. Awkward.
On the other hand, the system for initiative seemed to work more smoothly than I expected it would with this group. More importantly, everyone seemed pretty happy with the ludicrous kung fu that was going on...
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
SPAWN OF DAJOBAS
Size/Type: Large Undead
Hit Dice: 12d12 (78 hp)
Speed: 15 ft. (3 squares), swim 60 ft.
Armor Class: 19 (-1 size, +3 Dex, +7 natural), touch 12, flat-footed 16
Base Attack/Grapple: +6/+15
Attack: Bite +13 melee (2d6+9)
Full Attack: Bite +13 melee (2d6+9)
Space/Reach: 10 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks: Blood Frenzy
Special Qualities: Bloody rebirth, damage resistance 15/slashing, darkvision 60 ft., keen scent, resistance to acid 10, shark mastery, undead traits, +2 turn resistance
Saves: Fort +6, Ref +7, Will +9
Abilities: Str 23, Dex 16, Con Ø, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 12
Skills: Hide +10, Listen +13, Move Silently +12, Search +6, Spot +12, Survival +10 (+10 following tracks), Swim +19
Feats: Great Fortitude, Improved Initiative, Improved Natural Attack, Track, Weapon Focus (bite)
Environment: Temperate aquatic
Organization: Solitary or school (2-5)
Challenge Rating: 9
Alignment: Always chaotic evil
Advancement: 11-13 HD (Large); 14-20 HD (Huge)
Level Adjustment: —
This creature looks like a great, red shark. Its gaping maw is filled with razor-sharp teeth that seem to extend all the way down the inside of its otherwise hollow body. A trail of blood winds its way through the waters, hungrily whipping about of its own volition. It stretches back to the beast, revealing that the entire creature is composed of animated blood.
Spawn of Dajobas, or bloodsharks, are created through a special ritual in which a worshiper of Dajobas is sacrificed to a school of sharks. The blood of the sacrifice and the spilled blood of the sharks in blood frenzy mingle and give birth to one of the Spawn of Dajobas. The bloodsharks are mere shells of animated blood, and constantly hunger to fill the emptiness inside them. Ruled by this hunger, they prowl the oceans, devouring everything in their path in service to their master.
The Spawn of Dajobas are typically 12-15 feet long. They grow larger as they consume more blood.
Spawn of Dajobas can speak Common, but they rarely do so.
The Spawn of Dajobas are cunning hunters and trackers, able to smell blood up to a mile away. They are fearlessly dedicated to devouring all that they come across, but they are not stupid. If their prey appears powerful, they will often surround themselves with a school of sharks before attacking.
Spawn of Dajobas can travel on land, but rarely do so except when in pursuit of prey. On land, their body thins and lengthens, and they move like an enormous, shark-headed snake.
Blood Frenzy (Ex): A bloodshark that draws blood by damaging an opponent with its bite immediately flies into a frenzy. It will continue to attack in a frenzy until either it or all living creatures in its immediate vicinity are dead. While the frenzy lasts, the bloodshark gains +4 Strength and -2 AC. In addition, during a frenzy, its bite attack automatically confirms all criticals. If the bloodshark's opponent does not have blood, no frenzy will be triggered. It cannot normally end the frenzy voluntarily, but if the only living creatures in its vicinity are sharks, it may make a Will save (DC 20) once a round to end the frenzy.
Bloody Rebirth (Su): When a bloodshark in frenzy kills an enemy, it consumes its lifeblood and immediately heals a number of hit points equal to its victim's hit dice.
Shark Mastery (Su): Normal sharks are drawn to the carnage caused by a bloodshark's frenzy. If there are sharks in the area of a bloodshark attack, they will often arrive at the earliest possible opportunity to share in the feast. They innately sense the ties which bloodsharks have to Dajobas and will submit to them, not attacking except in self-defense. A bloodshark may control sharks as if using Dominate Animal with a caster level equal to its hit dice (DC 14). This ability is usable once per round. The save DC is Charisma-based.
Skills: A bloodshark has a +8 racial bonus on any Swim check to perform some special action or avoid a hazard. It can always choose to take 10 on a Swim check, even if distracted or endangered. It can use the run action while swimming, provided it swims in a straight line. A bloodshark may track by scent through the water.
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
My Monday night group is currently playing in a postapocalyptic nWoD/Morrow Project game. I've had some frustrations with it, but we had a really good game last night. The dynamics of the game are interesting. We have far more firepower and better equipment than almost everyone we've encountered (and certainly everyone with whom we have had a conflict). Somehow, this doesn't make things easy. Part of the issue is that we have small numbers and aren't willing to accept casualties. Still, I'm not sure where the challenge comes from. It is something I should, perhaps, look at more closely.
Every other Tuesday or so, I play in an Exalted game. My character (a Night Caste from the Realm) is currently shifting from overexcited kid to rebellious teenager after killing a member of the Wyld Hunt. I'm having a lot of fun in that game, though... for some reason... I'm not really getting into the combats as much as I might otherwise... I'm not sure why.
Every other Wednesday has been a variety of things... most recently the Gygax Memorial 1e AD&D game. Now, we are shifting to Exalted, and Doug is running. Jeff gets to play for once. Despite my love-hate relationship with Exalted, I'm fairly excited about this game. It begins tomorrow.
Sundays alternate between Angela's D&D game and Nick's Mage game. The D&D game is fun. Last session, I ate the tears of an innocent - and they were tasty. (There was a kidnapped myconid that tried to talk to us via spore release - Angela said the black ones... which we determined to be connected to emotional distress... tasted like the best truffles I'd ever had. I followed the myconid around for a bit, just in case it would cry.)
The Mage game is wrapping up, soon to be replaced by a supervillain campaign. I'm seriously considering playing a disgruntled former sidekick to a superhero with growth powers... my character would have had shrinking powers and be known as Boy Toy. I don't know if I can bring myself to do that, though.
I'm still not running anything.
Monday, May 05, 2008
I've written before about how big a difference numbers make in 3.x - a group of PCs against one powerful enemy has a disproportionate advantage due to the per-round limit on actions. This could make climatic fights against the big-bad at the end of an adventure somewhat... ummmm... anti-climatic. A great example of this was in the epic-gestalt-Greyhawk/Ragnnarok campaign Jeff ran. On our way to kill a dragon, we fought a bunch of mutant spider things... and it was an enormously tough fight that we barely won. When we got to the 'dragon' it was a half-dragon (x2), two headed Tarrasque. We took it down in, I think, two rounds (the fact that it rolled a 1 on the save vs. the monk's stunning blow made a difference).
So, yeah, encounter design is an area they ought to have considered.
Now, the two ways they could have fixed this can be fit into two large categories:
1) Increase the frequency with which enemies in an encounter take effective actions
2) Decrease the frequency with which PCs in an encounter take effective actions
They appear to have focused all of their efforts on (1), while ignoring the possibility of playing in the conceptual of (2). On a superficial reading of (2), I can understand why: playing someone who doesn't take actions in combat is boring. This option, however, allows for plenty of action. Just because you aren't swinging your sword and hitting the dragon every round doesn't mean you aren't doing anything. You could be maneuvering it deeper into the cave where it can't take flight. You could be climbing up onto its back so that you can (later) plunge your sword into the base of its skull. You could be drawing its attention away from one of your compatriots. There are a ton of possibilities that could make for a more colorful and exciting fight scene while decreasing the number of attacks PCs can make.
Instead, though, Wizards seems to be focusing on giving enemies more attacks through two methods: (1) Giving monsters more attacks (which I've already written about) and changing encounter design such that the default assumption is that there are a number of enemies equal to the number of PCs.
I can see a lot of problems with this. First off, it seriously limits the sorts of foes PC face. Most monsters won't be encountered alone. This will lead to PCs guessing that there's an ambush when they only see the single enemy who has been laid out as bait. It may well also ring false to players that they are always running into things in groups of four.
Mostly, though, it is the thought of this encounter design at epic levels that really bothers me. Most encounters past level 20 will be with 4ish foes of the PCs' approximate level. When the PCs are epic, their enemies are, as well. This leads to the creation of things like entire races of creatures of epic power. Such things don't make a whole lot of sense to me. Why haven't they taken over the world yet? The too-pat answer of "the PCs" isn't satisfying. Moreover, when I think 'epic enemy' I think of individual enemies of colossal proportions, not everyday baddies that just scaled up in power relative to the PCs.
It is unsatisfying to me.
Also, I am sorry, but this is not a worg.
Friday, May 02, 2008
I'm not keen on them abandoning the OGL, though this allays a few of my fears. I'm still worried about just how restrictive these licenses will be, though. Will non-fantasy games need to refer to the PHB for character creation rules? If so, that will be a problem.