Tuesday, November 29, 2011

ConstantCon update

ConstantCon games are still going along strong,  the party has currently decided to leave the werewolf infested forests and dragon haunted mountains of Norway and booked passage on a raiding party heading to Ireland.  Where they were dropped off on a desolate beach, causing them to walk inland to the small backwater village of Corroc,  ruled by a local "king".

Meeting up with a wizard from Wessex they decided to look into some local issues in exchange for gold and favours from the local lord.  They managed to ambush a massive, green, sabre tooth tiger that was plaguing the lord's hunting preserve and causing much distress.  This mystical creature seemed to be some sort of nature spirit set loose on the king,  so they captured it and gave it to a secret druidic cult.  Assuming this couldn't end badly,  they asked the druidic cult for help in dealing with the black knight and his band of demon worshippers and witches.   They shared their magical knowledge of summoning swarms of angry bee's,  but demanded that the Juju tree not be destroyed, but rather be preserved.

The party seems to be caught in a three way fight between the old faith of Titania, the church of Spartacus and demonic worshippers of Baphomet.  And the party seemed split on who they should back..

Then again in a month they hop on board with a passing Roma caravan and head to a port city, before going on to Rome.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Slay the monster or Keep the magic sword?

Usually a player character goes out to slay a monster and take the magical item it guards.  But in my current game I had set that up rather differently for one location and sets of magical items.

The various potent magical items were made by a wizard who had a special little version of the permanency spell.   For OSR or D20 equivalence,  this version of permanency did not cause a loss of con, xp or what have you from the wizard.  Magic item factory right?  Kinda.

Magic has a price, and rather than the caster being harmed this had a secondary side effect.   Somewhere in the surrounding area (a large area the more powerful the spell being made permanent) a monster would spawn.  The power of the monster is likewise related to the power of the enchantment to be made permanent.  This monster is always malevolent, seeking to cause destruction and ruin (especially to the caster).  But the enchantment will only be held permanent while the creature lives.

So the first question the party comes to is whether or not to slay the giant jellyfish comprised entirely of flame as it destroys a village or keep their +3 sword.   The next question is what to do with the spell when the party's wizard gets a hold of it.  Giving the player a +4 sword is so easy..how hard can it be to track down and capture a monster anyway?  and what are the odds that all the monsters you keep in locked cages will kill their zoo keeper and escape?

Linking back to Zak's Vornheim,  you could potentially add a great twist to the Immortal Zoo adventure.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Vornheim: A review

Perhaps I am just more aware of the negative press and complaining about Vorhnheim, but it has begun grating at me because it has not seemed  to be actual complaints about the product but about it's author.

I figured I would do a few posts to give my view on the product, keep in mind this is just my 2 cents worth and it may be very very wrong.


Vornheim does not appear to be written for use with the type of game that I tend to run.  It is set to appear quite a bit stranger and more surreal than I would normally run a city.  This however is not a hidden feature of the product,  it is also not really that large of a hindrance.  The sample locations it gives (the immortal zoo, the Medusa's house, the library) are all strange in their own right,  but plopping one of those locations in a faux historical medieval world would not be out of place.  It would make that area strange and adventure worthy,  but it wouldn't alter the character of your entire game world in all its historical knock-off glory.  Likewise many of the charts and tables are perfectly fine to roll on every now and then to add some detail to such a game.  Worthwhile for when you want to get a random tavern name, or backwater custom,  or name of a random book a PC steals.

Summed together however and Vornheim paints a world that is much stranger than I would normally set for a game.  Reading through it and it struck me as a mix of Necromunda and Gormanghast.  This however is required for Vornheim to function as it's stated purpose as a city adventure kit.  Cities are boring, dull, predictable and safe. That is why so many people live and work there, dreaming of their picket fence and comfortable retirement.  Adventurers leave the safety of cities to go die in some god-forsaken jungle or trap laden underground complex filled with monsters.  If you want there to be city adventures,  then the city has to be at least as dangerous and mysterious as any dungeon.  By nature a city has to be somewhat safe for the average person,  that would seem to mean the mystery would need to be cranked up to 11 to compete with a dungeon.  So if I were to think about plopping Vornheim down in a campaign world somewhere,  I would use the same logic for location as I would an ancient tomb complex, or a skull island.  It would have to be somewhere PC's go to, explore and either leave with riches or die trying.

Now mechanics!

This has some really great things to sink your teeth into mechanically.   Many of the die mechanics are superb,  using the die rolls for far more effective 'seeding' than traditional numerical charts.  The inclusion of the physical location of the dice as a seed element is utterly brilliant.   The 'Chase' system is quick and effective,  but I doubt I would use it personally just due to mechanical differences in how I run chases and escapes.  The item cost mechanic is a good one I happen to enjoy,  it very neatly meshes in with the simple cost mechanics I use and its fairly easy to remember.

My personal favourite though is "God's Chess", as that was a common movie motif for me growing up.  So many films I enjoyed had similar events.

Example monsters and areas!

These were definitely interesting enough,  but I won't spoil anything for those still waiting on their copy.  What was important was that monsters did not contain stat blocks in neat formatted little charts next to the creature.  This did not bother me,  but then again I also attribute stat's to monsters in response to the description of the monster.  For my use, Vornheim is overkill as simply saying "Its a giant M*&^%F$(*&!@ ape with laser eyes!" is enough for me to stat up a giant laser ape in a few seconds.  Other systems may not handle that as well.  This brings me to..


I didn't really have a problem with the layout of the text, or the fonts or the borders or any such thing.  It did not prevent me from reading it and gaining the knowledge contained within (the only real purpose of formatting, grammar, spelling and the like is to facilitate that end).  So I really didn't see an issue there, it wasn't hard on my eyes or anything, and its not like misspelling "Challenge" as "Challange" once in the entire book is going to render me unable to grasp useful details.   One thing that did irk me in reading through Vornheim the first time was the charts all being in the back, as reading the description for the how the chart is to be used then flipping to the back to look at the chart became annoying.   That said,  for actually USING the book at the game table it is a superior method of organization.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Dictionary of Mythology by J.A. Coleman

The Dictionary of Mythology is a massive and lengthy tome containing a giant listing of entries on pretty much every mythological creature you can think of (and tonnes more you can't) over the span of 1200 pages, with dictionary sized entries.

This is a great GM tool for a sandbox game.  If you are trying to fill some hexes and don't want the same old same old,  you can  get a good randomized (a few d10's works well enough) and bam:

Fang Chang:  one of the three islands of the blessed
Hereshguina:  an evil spirit of the Winnebago.  In some accounts this spirit is equated with Wakdjunkaga
Nuye: a mythical bird.  This bird is said to have monkey's head on the body of a dog, the feet of a tiger and a tail like a snake.  Eating its flesh is said to cure hiccups.

Well,  that should be enough to craft something cool in the region.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

New Printing: First Thoughts

So the book binding is still top notch, if anything slightly better as the printer I went to this time was able to properly align the grain of the paper.  The paper is the same type as I had previously used before, however I have noticed a watermark on a few pages,  that irks me and I'll have to talk to the printer to see if that can be avoided in the future or I may look for yet another printer.  It is only noticeable if you hold the specific and random page up to a light source,  but I still don't just accept flaws in something I make.

I will be sending out an email today confirming interest,  if you are still interested reply with your address.  Cost will still be materials and shipping ($40),  but if you live outside of Canada and you have any weird customs fees I haven't a clue how that will impact you, though I haven't heard any complaints yet.

This is the "Lion Printing", and all copies will also have the Unofficial Games Lion Heraldry stamped in gold on the front.  I don't want to get into edition numbering so how about edition stampings?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

New Printing has arrived!

So a new set of Neoclassical Geek Revival has arrived back from the binders.  I tried a different printer this time so hopefully there are no surprises as I survey the books, the binding is still excellent.  In the coming days I shall now have to figure out how to actually handle the logistics of sending them out.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Roll for Awesomeness!

One of the most beloved and player ruining mechanics of Neoclassical Geek Revival is 'Awesomeness'.  Players who play Neoclassical Geek Revival often have a hard time readjusting to more careful and tactical games ( I have been told this directly by said players).

So what is awesomeness?

Awesomeness is what makes every situation has more than one 'correct answer'.  You hear a strange noise coming from the cellar in the ruined building your party is camping in.  Do you  A: wake the party, arm yourselves and go check it out? (the tactically correct answer) B: Grab a flickering easy to extinguish torch and go check it out alone without telling anyone where you are going,  especially if you are in an abandoned summer camp where all those teens died 13 years ago to the day under a full moon just like this one (the awesome answer).

Normally in an RPG,  while B might be good for a laugh every now and again, if you want a party to survive then option A is the right call.  Which is why you always see it get made.   But think of all the hilarious opportunities you miss!

I didn't want to flip the table 180 either,  I didn't want the correct answer to be that you should ALWAYS be zany and off the wall, and that being careful and serious is always wrong.   I like choices to make, not problems to solve.  Choices always keep players involved (and away from phones),  problems keep thinking once, until its been solved.  Then it is ignored.

So the smart and safe choice is the best answer,  but if they make an awesome decision (Extra risk purely for style) then there is at least some small chance at reward. It will still probably end up with your death in the above example,  but if you live?  Think of all the awesomeness points you'll earn!  This lessens the amount of analysis paralysis as well, even if they make a bad decision they can pretend it was for the awesomeness later and they meant to do that (no really guys, I MEANT to do that dumb thing)

So what does awesomeness do?   At the end of the night, the players decide on an MVP (more awesomeness) and then sit around and recall their awesome exploits during the night.  This also reinforces what was done (at least the cool parts people want to remember), and keeps people paying attention to the game (the end goal).

Once they have their awesomeness scores they begin rolling against it,  whittling it down to receive more and more fate points (which are die re-rolls) for future use.

The end result is less time over planning encounters,  more time paying attention to the game (instead of cell phones) and more time recounting the fun parts of the game (reinforcing the memories of the game)

From Neoclassical Geek Revival, Pages 99-100

Fate and Destiny!
As player characters progress
through their adventuring career they
will almost certainly accumulate ‘fate
points’ and ‘destiny points’. What
exactly are these points, what do they do
and how do you get them.
In brief, fate points are the fates
and trickster deities subtly altering
things to keep their favoured entertainers
(i.e. the adventurers) amusing them.
Only entertaining heroes and villains
will achieve fate points. Fate points are
used primarily to re-roll dice, though
they do have other functions. At the end
of every game session, players will roll
to see if they gain more fate points.
Destiny points on the other hand
represent a character’s purpose. They
are very rare and should not be given out
randomly. They occur when characters
undertake specific and life-altering
quests. If a character ever has more
than one at a time they become nigh
unstoppable in their task. Destiny points
give a wide range of possible functions,
not limited to choosing the results of a
die roll without needing to roll.

Destiny Points
Destiny Points are incredibly
valuable and may be spent in the
following ways:
* Pick the results of a die rolled by the
character without needing to roll it. A
character could thus determine their
attack will be an epic success without
needing to roll it.
* Disallow an opponent from using luck
points to soak the damage from an
attack. This particularly brutal use of a
destiny point would mean that even a
mighty hero could be felled by one
dagger to the back from a betrayer.
* Restore all Luck Points. This option
would allow a broken and beaten hero to
rise up and fight on, it is highly
suggested you have one or all of the
players mutter 'get up Rocky'
*Add a possible but potentially
extremely unlikely element to the
encounter or scene, provided it hasn’t
been specifically described as not being
present. This is one of the harder to
referee options, this option would allow
a hero or villain the option to
figuratively 'pull something out of their
#$%'. A hero could be running injured
through the wilderness nigh naked,
chased by wolves and spend a destiny
point to stumble into an ancient tomb
with a full set of quality weapons and
armour by spending a destiny point.

Fate Points
Fate points are substantially more
common than Destiny Points. At the end
of every game session players will roll
against their ‘Awesomeness Score’ to
gain more fate points. They will also
elect and MVP who will gain an
additional fate points. Fate points can be
used in the following ways:
* Re-roll a die or set of dice. This is the
most common use; a player who just
rolled an epic failure for their leap across
the chasm of doom could spend a fate
point to re-roll the die.
* Restore a luck die worth of luck
points. Used in this manner a player
could spend a fate point for additional
luck points, this can only be used after
resolving any pending attacks against the
player this round.
* Add a likely and plausible element to
the environment, scene or encounter
providing it hasn't been specifically
described as not being present. Used in
this manner, the words likely and
plausible are key. For example, a hero
who dives out of a city window could
not declare there is a saddled horse
directly below (unless he was in a stable
or other location with valuable horses
left lying around) but he could declare
there was an awning or pile of garbage
to cushion his fall.

Electing an MVP
Role-playing games are at their
core a co-operative game, and everyone
likes to receive recognition of their
efforts at being a team player. At the
end of each session, all players other
than the Game Master should elect
whom they consider the ‘Most Valuable
Player’. This should be the person who
added the most fun, made the biggest
sacrifices or otherwise added to the
game. Players may not vote for
themselves. In the event of a tie, the
Game Master casts the deciding vote.
The MVP receives +5 to awesomeness
this session, and receives one additional
fate point.

Rolling for Awesomeness
At the end of each session, roll a
d20 for each player. If they have an
awesomeness score less than the die
move on to the next player. If they have
an equal to, or higher awesomeness
score than the die roll, subtract the die
roll from their awesomeness score, give
them 1 fate point, and roll again. On a
roll of a natural 20, to celebrate that
rolling a 20 is in itself awesome, give the
player a fate point and have them roll
i.e. A player has 6 Awesomeness
this session, he rolls a d20 and gets a 4.
The player receives 1 fate point and is
reduced to 2 Awesomeness and may roll
again. On the next d20 the player lucks
out and rolls a 2, receiving a second fate
point and another roll. With 0
Awesomeness remaining the players
only hope for another fate is to roll a 20,
he does not and pass the die to the next
To determine a player’s
awesomeness score for a game session,
add or subtract the following (you may
wish to add to this list):
*Their Luck Modifier
*+1 for wearing a cape
*+1 for wearing an awesome hat
*+1 for a manly beard, +2 if the
character is female
*+1 if a character has “80’s hair”
*+1 for wearing an eye patch
*+5 if they actually need it
*+5 if MVP
*Bonus for adhering to trope/genre
(penalty for breaching)
*Arbitrary bonus for choosing to do
intentionally awesome things (defined as
taking extra risk for style)

A character’s awesomeness score
resets to 0 at the end of each session
regardless of fates gained (or not). Note
that this is a die roll for the player, and is
thus not affected by ‘Joe Average’.