Friday, September 30, 2011

Skills in Neoclassical Geek Revival or "I make the roll to scale the wall due to my years experience as a piano player"

One thing that always gets people about Neoclassical Geek Revival is the way skills are handled.  I hear much wailing and gnashing of teeth over how skills/non-weapon proficiencies "killed the game".  Bull.  The concept was a great one in terms of character customization,  the execution was just terrible.

Neoclassical Geek Revival has no list of skills.  Honestly the number of potential skills is daunting and the overlap between one skill and another makes it a jumbled mess.  Who would have thunk that representing the entirety of human education and knowledge would be difficult?

So players in Neoclassical Geek Revival make up their own skills.  This includes things you would expect like "Forestry" , "Blacksmithing", or "Bear lore"  but also ends up with more unconventional things like "Procrastination", "Wilful ignorance", and "Social leech".   And they all work fine.

Bullshit is an important player skill in Neoclassical Geek Revival.   The most common use of skills is on d20 rolls: attribute checks, saving throws,  social conflict rolls, stealth action rolls, etc.  Each skill you can justify (pronounced bullshit) into being relevant to your action will give you a +2 roll.  This will require giving some situational explanation and will lead to some "out there" justifications.

So in the title example,  A character was rolling to scale a wall and justified a +2 bonus from "Piano playing".  How?  Well they described how they were crawling over the wall and their fingers were just barely holding onto the lip of the roof.  A lesser man may have fallen to their death as their fingers couldn't hold on,  but thanks to years of piano playing the character had strengthened their fingers to the point where they could hold on long enough for their feet to gain traction on the wall and push themselves up onto the roof.

The second use of skills is investigations,  but that is much more mundane.  Rather than "I search for information!",   the players just state what kind of information they are after the GM gives them information relating to that.

Note that skills are in no way linked to levels,  gaining in levels does not give you more skills.  That is a function of time, effort, and intelligence.

A final note is that I did not include combat rolls on this list of places to use skills.  The reason attack and defence rolls do not use skills , while a jarring break, is a practical matter.  Because the stakes are so high (continue playing VS make a new character),  the amount of bullshit can make the game a right piss-off. Now skills can still be used in rolls resulting FROM combat (like a saving throw),  but the actual "axe to forehead" has an arbitrary break.  Not thrilled with the arbitrary break,  but it does seem to make people enjoy the game more (which is the ultimate goal).

From Neoclassical Geek Revival,  Page 19

Skills and Knowledge

  Every character in NGR starts
with a number of skills equal to their
intelligence score. Skills represent the
large amount of training an individual
will pick up that is not directly related to
their primary training. Skills fall into
three categories: Languages, Knowledge
and Weapons.

  Languages represent the written
or spoken tongues of the world. There is
no default language that everyone
speaks, so languages are quite important.
Being able to speak a language does not
give you the ability to read a language
and vice versa. If you can speak a
language and read another language with
the same alphabet you can probably
manage to grasp basic concepts through

  Knowledge skills are the most
useful and versatile skills. Beyond being
used in investigations, skills have several
uses. A skill may be used to grant a +2
knowledge bonus to related tasks.
Someone with wood lore might gain a
+2 bonus to a hiding check in the forest,
or with religion they may gain +2 in a
social conflict’s appeal involving a
church. Skills may also be used (in
conjunction with attribute checks) to
perform tasks. An individual with
blacksmithing may be required to
complete a set of strength and awareness
checks to forge a high quality sword.
Players are encouraged to think up of
their own general skills. Skills that are
deemed too broad by group consensus
must be broken into specialities.

  Weapon skills are also
considered general skills, but with an
important second function. Characters
are assumed to be skilled in any
weapons required or commonly used
with that skill. A character with fencing
would know how to use swords, a
lumberjack an axe and a butcher a knife.
If a character is using a weapon they
have no training with, they suffer a –2
penalty to their attack roll.

  Characters may attempt to gain a
new skill each season they spend
training full time. Character’s make an
intelligence check at the end of the
season. If they succeed, they have gained
the new skill. The time will be increased
if the character has less time to study, if
studying part time for instance, the
check will be after half of a year. As an
optional rule, a player may sing an
appropriate montage song while making
the intelligence check. If he fails the
first check, he may make a re-roll 30
seconds later, providing he is still
singing the song and has not yet
forgotten the words. Other players are
allowed to join in.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Xena: Warrior Princess - No I am serious here

So flicking through Netflix and I saw in their recently added pile  "Xena: Warrior Princess".  Well,  me and the spouse decided it was time to dust off the 90's and become connoisseurs of exquisite cheese.

The first thing that hit me was the narration in the opening credits.  Having recently watched the 5 movie announcers in a limo it made me crack up to no end,  because I could picture the announcer sitting there in a fold up chair reading it from a sheet of paper (I'll link to that at the end).

I tell you, this show was a delicious ham and cheese sandwich garnished with nostalgia.  From an RPG perspective,  this is what I imagine most peoples campaigns are like.  "Medieval Europe" in the same was Xena is "Ancient Greece".  A horrible mishmash of time frames,  pop culture and hammed up to the max with cheesy dialogue and bad writing.

And it was damn amusing, even if for all the "wrong" reasons.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Who wants pie? The class building system of Neoclassical Geek Revival

One of the questions I have received a few times in the last few games deal with character class.  Neoclassical Geek Revival has a "build a class" mechanism known as the "Pie Piece System".

There are 5 different class groups (warrior, wizard, rogue, priest and bard),  each group has 5 powers related to that class to choose from.  So a warrior has for instance : Shield Use, Dual Wield, Weapon Specialization, Combat Tricks and Combat Awareness.  A character who puts one of their starting three pie pieces in warrior could select one power from that listing, perhaps shield use.  The character then puts the remaining two pie pieces in priest and chooses three powers from the following list: Miracles, True Belief, Fervour,  Dogma and Exorcism. The character chooses Miracles (think cleric spells), Fervour (bonus damage) and Exorcism (think turn undead, thematically anyway).

The pie pieces in each class determine how fast you gain a benefit in the score associated with that class.  So  the more warrior pie pieces you have, the faster your combat bonus increases.  For a rogue,  your stealth modifier increases faster, etc etc.

Lastly, each class has their own brand of a personal item that has a small chance of increasing in power (in effect becoming a magic item) based on the daring deeds of the character.  For the hypothetical character above that would be a trademark item (from a warrior) and a holy relic (from the priest).  So as the character wins battles they have the chance of one of their mundane items to become synonymous with the character and better represent their glory.  Perhaps the characters shield has their personal heraldry on it.  As the character furthers the aims of their faith they have a chance at one of their mundane items becoming a holy relic,  perhaps a holy symbol or perhaps something more mundane like their boots.  In 400 years after the characters death other adventurers may hunt for the boots of St.Cuthbert or the shield of Lord Cuthbert the bloody.

From Neoclassical Geek Revival,  Page 9


Many RPG’s feature a class or
archetype based system where a set of
abilities is selected to match a class.
NGR differs from this system; it uses the
‘pie system’. Everyone loves pie right?
Each character in NGR normally
has 3 pie pieces to define his class.
While this number could be altered from
as low as 2 to as high as 4 through traits,
3 pieces are the normal amount and the
maximum number that may be selected
from any one class at character creation.
At 10th level a character may choose
another pie piece, this can bring a
character up to 4 pie pieces in a single
Each pie piece within a class
gives a character a larger mechanical
benefit, partially by giving modifiers that
increase per level, and partially by
gaining new powers. A character may
choose 1 class power if they have one
pie piece in that class, 3 if they have two
and all 5 if they have three pie pieces. If
they have 4 pie pieces they receive a
special power for the class. Note that a
power may only be taken once.
The final benefit is that each
character class has its own type of
'personal items' that characters can
develop. These are methods that allow
characters to naturally develop magic or
magic-like items through adventuring. A
character may be able to have personal
items of multiple types if they have
training in more than one class


Friday, September 23, 2011

Group Templates

Listening to FtB talk about "Group Templates" today I thought I would post the test from Neoclassical Geek Revival dealing with group templates.  This is designed to fit in with Schrodinger's Character to allow for fast PC  generation in the middle of a game without slowing things down.   In high fatality (or potentially high fatality) games this can be very important to keep the game moving and still giving a reason for all of the current characters to associate with each other.  Character's get perks for tagging as a way to encourage adoption as a benefit rather than a chore.  Two different characters are tagged by each person to avoid a central character who the entire group revolves around.  Thus if that character died in the first 10 minutes the group would no longer have a solid reason to adventure together.

From Neoclassical Geek Revival on Page 20:

Creating a Group Template
When a new group of characters
is built, it is important to have a group
template. This gives the characters a
reason to band together beyond meeting
in a tavern. Each character must have at
least two relationships to other party
members; the character whose player is
seated to the left and the character whose
player is seated to the right. You cannot
alter another character’s history without
the other player’s consent. Thus if you
chose 'Romance', you could not declare
the two character’s had dated. You
could declare that your character had a
crush on the other character. Likewise if
you chose 'Family' it does not mean their
character consider your character family
or that there is a blood relation, it may
simply be that for some reason your
character considers them ‘like family’
(perhaps your character knew their
parents). Each relationship has a slight
mechanical benefit. A set of example
relationships is listed below:

Relationship: Family
Gain: +1 fate
Example: This relationship represents a
blood relation, adoption or a strong
friendship or sense of obligation
resembling family. For example, you
could be the child of a close family
friend to the other character. Either way,
your character feels a familial bond.

Relationship: Protector
Gain: Target gains +1 fate
Example: This relationship represents a
sense of strong protectiveness. A parent,
a bodyguard or a trusted lady-in-waiting
is examples of a protector. A character
could feel protective of a character they
have only recently met and it does not
need to imply a long history. Never the
less the relationship is strong not merely
a passing sensation.

Relationship: Romance
Gain: Target gains +1 luck point
Example: This relationship covers
everything from long-term marriages to
unrequited love. This is a romance
beyond minor attraction or infatuation
and is unlikely to ever fully leave the
mind of the character.

Relationship: Employee
Gain: $500
Example: This represents any financial
relationship; the character has been paid
and has a job to do. This could be that
your character was paid by the target, or
paid by a third party to watch over the
target or perform some other action.
This relationship also requires a
dedication to reputation and work ethic
that this is a major impact on behaviour.

Relationship: Higher Calling
Gain: 50 Piety
Example: This represents a sense of
divine duty. Perhaps your character
believes the other is a chosen one, or
simply part of a wayward flock. Either
way your character sees their destiny as
dependant on the safety of the target.

Relationship: Life Debt
Gain: +250xp
Example: This represents a deep sense
that the character owes their life to the
target. Perhaps the target saved their
village, spared their life or saved them
personally. This could also represent a
debt that the character feels he owes to
the target’s bloodline, nation or species.
Either way, the character feels an
unshakable debt to the target.

These are only some examples,
feel free to create other relationships
with GM approval, they should always
be generic however to leave room for
both parties to determine exactly what
they mean to each character.

EDIT:The Alternative:

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Never had a monster manual

So I was reading Monsters and Manuals , about making customizing your Orcs.   Now,  while I like the options there for making weird orcs,  at that point I figure they aren't Orcs.  They are goatmen or monkey demons or what have you.

Then I started wondering if this might be because I never owned (or used) a monster manual.  Eventually I did get a tattered Monster Manual 2 (from 1e) for use with 2e.   But I never really did much more than look at the pictures 99% of the time because really:  Those monsters are not that useful or common.

No orcs,  no goblins, no wolves or centaurs.  So I had to make every monster a custom monster.  If I am making up all the stats for orcs anyways,  turning them into a goatman is really not any easier than just making a goatman (who I use far more often than orcs come to think of it).  However if I had been used to having a set of  stats and templates for orcs it probably would have been easier.   Looking at how monsters are handled in Neoclassical Geek Revival,  I wonder how much it is influenced by having to make my own damn monsters.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Foreword

So,  I have had some fun gaming with various people out in the interblogs and running some Neoclassical Geek Revival games,  so I thought I would take a moment to handle some questions about how the game works.  I can then post the sections and spend time discussing them.  So please feel free to post questions here, through email or on G+.

From Neoclassical Geek Revival:

Hello reader, and welcome to Neoclassical Geek Revival (NGR). NGR is a
fantasy heartbreaker RPG; it does what you would expect out of a traditional fantasy roleplaying
game. While NGR will work as a complete game I have no doubt it will rarely
be played as such; This game is designed expecting that you will most likely see things in
this game you would like to remove and plug into your own game rather than playing it
whole cloth.
This game is designed to simulate low magic fantasy, but most mechanics are
equally at home in a science fiction, action or post-apocalyptic game. The rules are
designed to be as setting neutral as possible while solving commonly held gripes and bad
tropes. In the writing of this game I used the following as guiding principles:
1.) Funny dice are fun on their own merits
2.) Choices to make are better than problems to solve
3.) You are already familiar with role playing games
4.) You are not looking for gritty realism, but do enjoy the presence of the ‘fourth wall’
5.) Gaming is meant to be entertainment

Where to Look
This book is (rightly or wrongly) laid out in the order you would require it during
a game. Basic mechanics up front, followed by rules for character creations,
adventuring, rewards and finally the end of the game night awards and rules for character
death and retirement.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Minecraft: Where quantum ogres breed

All of this talk of quantum ogres has gotten me thinking about minecraft.  Either that or the 1.8 adventure update that consumes my free time like fire to tinder.  My game design extends beyond RPG's to pretty much any game if I play it long enough,  once I start finding what I consider flaws I feel an incessant need to fix them. Why not play a game that does what you want?  Pssh, that's a lazy way out.

So minecraft 1.8 has new features,  one of which is the "stronghold",  a massive underground dungeon complex hidden "somewhere" but only once per world.  The stronghold is in effect a quantum ogre. But this doesn't bother people.  They have no choice,  the world generates as they explore it.  Left, Right, North, or South; it doesn't matter.  The stronghold is equally likely to appear no matter where you go and you have no idea or way to discern clues (really) about what type of terrain it will be in.  It will be where it is.

But no one cares,  people still hunt for the stronghold even if it is just picking a direction and walking in a line.  Why?  because exploring the stronghold will be fun to explore,  because you know it is out there somewhere.  It may be destiny that you will run into it somewhere,  but you don't care.  Part of this is because you know the rules ahead of time.  You know there will be a stronghold, stumbling across it is just part of the game.

Such is part and parcel of the quantum ogre.  Illusionary player agency is only a problem if players don't know that is the way the game is played.  If people all know and are cool with it,  then go for it.  In my case,  planning story lines seems like work.  I like to force the players to be the story tellers, I am just the referee.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I don't like coffee

I came to this unfortunate conclusion a while ago.  I just don't like coffee.   Now this may seem odd,  I used to think I loved coffee.   I drink 8 to 10 cups a day, I am drinking a large coffee right now..THIS VERY SECOND.   But I dislike coffee.

I realised this because I now have access to a far wider range of coffee's and I notice I do not like "bold" coffee's,  I tend to gravitate to mild flavoured coffees.  I don't like my coffee to taste like coffee...I want it to taste like something else.  I should have realised earlier since I like to add cream and sugar to my regular donut shop coffee.  I like everything about drinking coffee: the routine, the warmth, the caffeine, the cream and sugar, everything except the actual coffee.

You may have noticed this is tagged as game design at this point and start to wonder why.  The fact is that this very much describes my relationship with AD&D.  I love playing AD&D,  I just don't like AD&D.  I feel the constant need to improve upon the "flavour",  be it less bold blends, cream and sugar or even flavour shots.  I love everything about the game other than the game itself.

So,  with your own house rules:  How much of it is the fact that despite being an avid coffee drinker (and hell or high water you aren't going to stop drinking coffee),  you just don't care for the taste of coffee?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Calculate your own damn XP

One thing that struck me at my home game over the weekend was that I was holding onto a little bit of tradition that no longer really was needed.  I was still "handing out the XP".  

Back in the day,  when I ran a D&D game this was rather necessary as each monster had their own really unique XP value.  Not to mention how to handle XP for unknown magic items and the like.

Neoclassical Geek Revival doesn't work that.  XP is pretty easy to chug through.

 - XP for travelling through harsh terrain? A simple block per week and the players know exactly how dangerous the terrain is (they had to make the roll to suffer injuries while travelling!)

 - XP for reaching locations?  This is lump sum based on how unknown and mysterious the area is.  This is a fairly easy lump to hand out and if there is any real debate they can ask or work out consensus.

- Monster's give XP based on their notoriety normally, if there is real question over if this is a local menace or a regional terror they can ask,  but they probably knew before they hunted it down. (THE monster is worth more XP than A monster).

- XP for defeating a character?  10%  of opponent's XP if killed, 25% if captured.  If they don't know the level they can ask and they would find out pretty quickly either way once they get the XP for them.

Etc Etc,

Granting XP from on-high is an old tradition but I am thinking it may be time to let the players just calculate it themselves based on their actions.  If they forget something they did that was worth XP (and they aren't new to the game) then it obviously didn't matter to them.

Anyone else out there let players calculate their own XP or am I just becoming a lazy GM?

Friday, September 9, 2011

ConstantCon Game: Monday September 12th

September 12th at 6pm Eastern or Midnight Berlin Time.

Levels 1-3 for Neoclassical Geek Revival Characters.

Finishing up excavation of the ancient elven aerodrome and West Africa.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Star Diamond: A Lovecraftian entity

My local game group had been trying to figure out what to make of something.  In this post-apocalyptic setting the world ended in the age of enlightenment about a century ago.  The PC's have left their isolated Amish mountain community and ventured into an abandoned town, in there (after some other things) they plan to use it to settle the area as for other reasons it had been semi-maintained.

There was also a barricaded and partially collapsed museum. Initially routing through it, they found it intact with its exhibits still intact.  Moving into the back however they found a barricade of furniture and rubble.  Starting to root through the rubble they found something terrifying: A baby.

Now they knew this was in fact not a human baby,  but sensing an opportunity to adhere to trope and take extra risk for style (and thus gain a tonne of awesomeness points for a shot at some re-rolls) one of the players instantly adopted the baby and took it from the museum,  setting up a nursery in the quote "creepiest looking house I can find, ideally one with a rusted swing set in its yard".

Further investigation found the back rooms (past the rubble) to be haunted with ghosts of the dead.  Various professors who dabbled in the black arts and had been attending to their interns rather than their study,  passing off translation work on strange artifacts to new students.  The hallways looked like a high powered thrasher went down the central hall, busting out of the restoration area.   After assembling the fragments of a set of tablets, and deducing how they fit together (hint: its a 3d map and is a straight rip-off from "Contact", the only good thing from that awful movie..the alien looks like her dad? screw you, I want my money back".) They saw it was a ritual to summon something called a star diamond.

Time goes by and they decide after communing with some powerful magical beings to attempt to use a version of Detect Magic to see the babies true form.  It was as expected, not a baby at all.

A Star Diamond is a very large (often at least bowling ball sized) crystal being composed of diamond.  It has no limbs, being perfectly symmetrical.  It is however orbited by a number of other smaller diamonds.  This creatures has the ability to float and levitate, containing a wide stretch of seemingly telekinetic magical powers, as well as a great control of illusions and charms.

Physically it is tremendously resistant to physical damage,  being a solid diamond.  Its ability to lash out with its orbiting diamonds to lacerate can kill a large number of creatures very quickly.

The star diamond doesn't seem particularly violent as long as it is undetected,  but it reacts with lethal efficiency when it thinks it has been exposed.

While its charm fell against most of the party with some saves,  its new "parent" went full tilt to protect (though attempting to subdue other PC's as they were not under mind control) it in a bid for even more awesome points, forcing the party to subdue the character (and making their life harder), while the Star Diamond escaped.

Its utterly alien, as are its motives.

Friday, September 2, 2011

An honest question about getting reviews

One thing I have often wondered is how many people actually read anything they find on-line that is longer than a few pages long.  Given the reluctance most players would have to reading even a two page hand-out on a games setting I have my doubts that it is a great number.  This became more central to my focus today after reading the Hill Canton's from yesterday.

So I wanted to ask a question and I am hoping to get honest answers that will hopefully be useful to all content generators looking for feedback.

What would it take to get you to read and review a setting, module or game?

Please be as descriptive as possible in the blurb about page counts etc.   Cash? Swag?  Artwork? Quid Pro Quo (you review my stuff I review yours) etc.  If so how much?  $0.10/page? etc etc.  Saying something like "I will review anything that interests me!" isn't too helpful,  what would it take then to get you to review something RPG related you didn't really have an opinion of?

Knowing what it would take to get the average RPG blog reader to not only read, but to review an item would be very useful if people are looking to get feedback (for improvements, or ego,  why doesn't matter to me for this exercise).