Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Shadowrunning the Dungeon

I've only played Shadowrun a few times. Most of them have been with the same group of people. Our playstyle focused upon extensive recon and planning, and - while that style of game might annoy some people - I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Yesterday, I got to thinking about how that playstyle could be merged with a dungeon crawl. It doesn't seem that far off. Many Shadowrun adventures involve breaking into and stealing things from office buildings, factories, warehouses, or mansions. Those aren't that different from dungeons, are they?

Well, sort of.

In published adventures, dungeons tend to be closed systems (or close to it). They don't do a lot of business with the outside. They don't receive deliveries. The inhabitants don't all go out to lunch on reliable schedules, much less go home at night. There aren't phone lines, power lines, or data lines that can be tapped into and monitored. They often aren't visible from surrounding building - or even the air. There are very few ways to gather effective intelligence on them.

Moreover, characters going into the dungeon generally have a "clear it out" mentality. Even if they've been hired to retrieve something specific from the dungeon, the genre conventions suggest that the real reward they receive will be from killing the dungeon inhabitants and taking their stuff. In Shadowrun, the monetary reward that Mr. Johnson was offering was usually enough to motivate us. There was a job to do. We go in, do it, and get out. If we happened to see something shiny on the way and grab it, that was gravy.

For this style of play would work with a dungeon, we'd, therefore, need:
  • Multiple possible methods of gathering intelligence on the dungeon. Tavern rumors don't really cut it.
  • A specific goal within the dungeon.
  • Motivation to complete that goal that, on its own, makes the dungeon delve worthwhile.
These aren't things that the typical dungeon adventure has, but they could be.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

After Hiatus

Today was my first gaming session in almost two months. It was good.

Angela and I joined a game that an old friend of mine has been running once a month or so. The system is First Edition AD&D, more or less. Definitely not my first choice for a system. Incoherent and random.

The game premise: all the PCs are amnesiac extraplanar semi-humans. They are running around somewhere near the Temple of Elemental Evil (and might come across it). I was told that the game included a Satyr Kensai, a Half-Dragon Cleric, a Wemic Ranger, a Half-Pixie Thief, and a seemingly-human Monk. A former character was, apparently, a centaur whose hindquarters were those of a Nightmare. I was challenged to come up with something sufficiently weird. I settled on a Half-Slaad Psionicist. Angela decided on a Dire Corby Thief.

The game was not precisely serious. That was perfectly fine by me.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Alchemists in RPGs

There are few fantasy RPGs that have a really interesting way of playing an alchemist. Most of them require a tremendous amount of forethought and bean-counting as you buy and construct your alchemical creations ahead of time. D&D is among the most egregious of these.

I like the idea of playing an alchemist, but that's not the way I want to play it.

Here's the sort of alchemist I want to play:

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Dungeons and Dragons Sodas

As I posted on my other blog, Jones Soda recently announced that they are partnering with Wizards to create D&D-themed sodas.


I have to wonder whether these will actually be tasty... or if they'll be more along the lines of the Jones Thanksgiving flavors.

What do you think Illithid Brain Juice tastes like?

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

It all comes together

I've mentioned that I've been mulling the idea of a FATE/d20 hybrid. Today, I had a breakthrough. It was one of those things that seems obvious in retrospect...

In FATE combat, you can use a maneuver during an attack. Instead of inflicting stress (damage), a successful maneuver allows you to place a temporary aspect upon your target... or generate an effect of some sort. You can, for example, disarm or move an opponent with a maneuver.

In d20, there are a lot of special moves that you can do in combat. In Pathfinder, these are all called combat maneuvers. These include things like grappling, disarming, feinting, tripping, etc. d20 also has conditions. Some conditions are more or less extreme versions of each other (such as sickened and nauseated).

The breakthrough I had was to use FATE maneuvers not only to replace combat maneuvers, but to do it by imposing conditions. Essentially, a maneuver will allow a PC to place a condition on a target. An extraordinary success will allow a more extreme version of that condition to be placed on the target. Tagging an aspect will have the potential to do likewise. This also works well with stunts (or feats or whatever). An intimidation stunt/feat might make it easier for a PC to place a more extreme version of a fear-based condition on a target.

The problem is that the conditions aren't particularly balanced. I'm not a huge stickler for balance, but I certainly don't want there to be a clearly superior combat strategy in all situations.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Firefighter RPG?

RPGs often let you take the role of heroes. We see RPGs that support different sorts of heroes: fantasy adventurers, super-powered do-gooders, elite military teams, cowboys... yet, despite the fact that they have pretty good hero-cred, I don't think I've ever really seen a RPG that focuses upon firefighters or search and rescue teams. The closest I can think of is Unsung - I should break out my copy and see if it explicitly supports such things.

A firefighter game would be weird. Your antagonists would generally not be other people... or even living beings. Could your run a satisfying game in which the struggle was against time and the environment? Probably. Unsung, with its emphasis upon morality under pressure, would probably be a good choice. It would definitely be a different sort of game than I am used to, though...

Thursday, September 03, 2009

I'm Back

We're settling in to the new apartment in Takoma Park. Setting up a gaming space was, of course, a concern, and I think we did pretty well. We have a table that can expand out to seat up to ten people, and a nearby bookcase that holds our gaming books.

Now we just need to find people to game with.

In the meantime, I am hereby promising more frequent updates, and I leave you with a rabbit:
Apparently, when you see the scary doll in the antique store, you are not supposed to take it home with you. I'm not sure why Angela waited to tell me this until after I bought it.