Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Carcosa Review

So I was able to acquire a hard copy of Carcosa and give it a look through in all of its Sci-fi, Post-Apocalyptic, Cthulhoid and Dinosaurian glory.

First off the book itself.   It is a pretty nice hard cover,  sleek smooth cover and nice sturdy paper and binding. I am thankfully able to still call Neoclassical Geek Revival the nicest looking book to sit unused on your game shelf, but Carcosa is defiantly the second nicest on my shelf at the moment.

The interior art is nice, its black and white line art with evocative weird images are quite well done and definitely add to the feel of the book.

The dark arts section is very dark and not for the feint of heart, even though it does have a clinical method of talking about things at most points. I don't know if that is better or worse. These are the type of rituals where if they were the default magic, you would very much understand why Witch Hunters are the good guys in stories.  This is the mindset people have about "Witchcraft" when they talk about the need to gather the pitchforks and protect the community, and it does a good job making you want to play characters who would join in.  Its not a vague "Magic is unnatural and/or wrong, even though it is so useful and saves lives. just take our word for it and hate wizards too!" it is "Magic requires that,  let me get you a torch".   Though I do have one beef with it,  looking through them, I noticed more than a few dark rituals that only a male sorcerer could cast (which is fine, I don't expect magic, especially THAT kind of magic to be PC or used by one),  but I didn't notice any that only women could cast.  Seems like a bit of a lost opportunity for horror.  Another note about the magic,  is many of the rituals are very tied to not just the concept of the setting (different colours of men) but also the specific map (referencing specific hexes needed as locations, and specific items only found in some hexes).  This could be re-skinned (different locations,  replace say "Jale Men" with "Elf" and "Ulfire Men" with Gnomes) if you want to keep that Cthulhu Mythos style magic in a different setting.  It does a very good job evoking what a ritual that costs 5 SAN means instead of being an abstract number, a resource to deplete.  It digs into some of the things I was digging into earlier about real evil VS cartoon evil.

I got to admit,  the 1950's sci-fi robots crammed in there,  just irks me.  It totally fits with the gonzo setting, where cavemen ride dinosaurs (who are specifically described as usually being mutant dinosaurs with laser eyes, fire breath or other mutations),  but my personal aesthetic doesn't care for them (at least not right now). That is primarily an art thing however,  which is an easy 10 second fix,  just describe them different to your players.

If any of this sort of thing seems interesting buy the book.  If you want a nice looking book for your great grandchildren to find in 80 years without context and think you a monster,  buy this book.  If you believe in supporting small publishers willing to take this kind of risk to not just rehash the same stuff and try something new?  Buy this book.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Deep Mountains (Lightly Forested)

Here is a sample seed chart I use in games, I am compiling a list of those I use (slowly).

To use, roll a d8, d6 and d4.  Know the total result, and the result of each die.  Unless specifically told to roll a die,  you should only have 1 die roll.

Terrain: Deep Mountains (Lightly Forested)
Travel Speed: 1 per week

Where? (d8)
1.  Pine Forest with a steep slope.
2.  Rocky detritus from the collapse a cliff further up the steep slope.  Some shrubs sprout as well.
3.  Cliff face: 20+total feet in height. PC's at base on odd and top on even.
4.  Route to summit,  if the PC's go up the summit they see surrounding area (hexes) else avoid encounter
5.  Long abandoned and collapsing log cabins (d4)
6.  Pine Forest with a gentle slope.
7.  Mountain streams bubble down a rocky slope with a few large trees. Flowers everywhere.
8.  d4 = (1: Path Found! +1 speed (use d6 for terrain), 2: impassable drop/chasm, backtrack required (use d6 for terrain). 3: cliff face as 3, 4: pine forest and overgrown town)

What? (d6)
1. Total x d4 fast zombies
2. Nothing
3. Wild Game (1: Bear, 2: d8 wolves, 3: d8x2 goats, 4: d8/2 deer)
4. Total # of sentient beings (1: hillfolk, 2: Froglins, 3: hillfolk, 4: Adventurers)
5. d4: (1-3 = nothing, 4 = d8 ghosts)
6. Single settlement (1: hillfolk, 2: hillfolk, 3: prospectors, 4: all dead)

Weird? (d4)
1. Dangerous levels of magical energy in immediate area on 12+
2. Poor Weather on odd, Pleasant weather on even.
3. Wooden Totem
4. Nothing

Triples (in addition to other results)
1. Not fast moving zombies but cultist zombies.  Dark shrine and a cultist priest.
2. Oh no! Its a rock fall!
3. A Faerie noble and retinue is in the area.
4. There is a fortress (either repaired ruins or wooden palisade, hall and watchtowers.)

Dubs (in addition to other results)
5. A black coach is present on a full moon, until then anyone murdered will rise on their own for revenge.
6. Settlement is a level d4x2 hermit guarding a magic relic on a 3 or 4, or a level 3 witch/druid on a 1 or 2.

Max (in addition to other results)
18:  Habitable valley is found,  lush and uninhabited. If this result has come up before, re-roll the d4.  If Path is found, it is the only way in or out.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

GM Questionnaire

From Zak originally,

GM Questionnaire
Repost and answer. Or, if you don't have a blog, answer in the comments. Or be a big rebel and do neither.

1. If you had to pick a single invention in a game you were most proud of what would it be?
  Awesomeness Score
2. When was the last time you GMed?
3. When was the last time you played?
4. Give us a one-sentence pitch for an adventure you haven't run but would like to.
 Imagine a persistent megadungeon that became more of a Monty Haul the more who died adventuring in it.

5. What do you do while you wait for players to do things?
Try to figure out what they are going to do, or go get coffee

6. What, if anything, do you eat while you play?
  Nothing usually while playing (Pizza often before or at a break), occasionally some Doritos (thank god for chopsticks)
7. Do you find GMing physically exhausting?
 No, I am a lazy GM and offload everything to the players.

8. What was the last interesting (to you, anyway) thing you remember a PC you were running doing?
 Making exquisite maps.

9. Do your players take your serious setting and make it unserious? Vice versa? Neither?
  A little of both,  it varies from mood moment to moment.
10. What do you do with goblins?
  As in what do I make them?  Fast breeding, egg-laying, short lived, highly intelligent, soul-less vermin.  Every single one is a complete sociopath with no concept of empathy or right and wrong,  but certainly not stupid or inherently hostile.  Unless it is immediately beneficial.

11. What was the last non-RPG thing you saw that you converted into game material (background, setting, trap, etc.)?
  The layout of St.Patrick's Cathedral.

12. What's the funniest table moment you can remember right now?
  Oh, its the sound effects of one player once he gets a few beers into him.  It won't translate well, but its always hilarious.
13. What was the last game book you looked at--aside from things you referenced in a game--why were you looking at it?
Al-Qadim sourcebook,   I was looking at the interior border illustrations.

14. Who's your idea of the perfect RPG illustrator?
Gustave Dore

15. Does your game ever make your players genuinely afraid?
Yes.  I don't often run horror, but if I do I try to do it right or not at all.

16. What was the best time you ever had running an adventure you didn't write? (If ever)
I ran James Raggi IV's Death Frost Doom (only module I've ever run, and only recently).  It went about 20 minutes in before the 'end of the module' as they went directly (beeline almost) to cause it. Still dealing with the consequences.

17. What would be the ideal physical set up to run a game in?
I am pretty happy with my current set up. A bunch of comfy leather chairs, a round poker table with drink holders.  No clocks,  non-abrasive lighting.

18. If you had to think of the two most disparate games or game products that you like what would they be?
 I have an old Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1st edition book, and a copy of the 2nd Edition D&D Al-Qadim Sourcebook.  The two implied methods of play and character types and behaviour is night and day.

19. If you had to think of the most disparate influences overall on your game, what would they be?
The games of Lori Anne Cole, flat out mythology and the ever cliche choice of Weird Tales.

20. As a GM, what kind of player do you want at your table?
 Ideally someone who is able to let things slide, good at bullshit, and proactive.

21. What's a real life experience you've translated into game terms?
  The mind numbing drudgery of some kinds of work.

22. Is there an RPG product that you wish existed but doesn't?
   Yes but I am working on making it.

23. Is there anyone you know who you talk about RPGs with who doesn't play? How do those conversations go?
  Usually its first a primer on what exactly is it they want to know (the same thing I do when talking about anything the other person doesn't really follow: work, poker, my family) and then keep it pretty succinct and general "We ordered pizza, had a few beers, goofed off for three hours, made inane jokes and called it a night".  If someone is asking because they are interested in playing that is a different matter. "We ordered pizza, had a few beers, goofed off for three hours pretending to be dwarves and wizards, made inane jokes and called it a night.  Shame you weren't totally rad like us"

Monday, January 16, 2012

What I am currently working on:

So,  I figured I would give an update on what I am working on at the moment.  To help kill Projectitis I work on one main project (4 hours a week minimum),  one side project (when I am stuck on the main project), a "here and there project" (a few minutes a week) and "daydream" project that every so often I scribble down notes on out of the blue.

Main Effort:  my horror module:
  "Scenic Dunnsmouth"

Side Effort:  A wilderness travel table, a whole book of 'em for easy encounter generation.
 "The Great Wide Yonder"

Minor Effort:  Updating any bugs or suggested improvements in "Neoclassical Geek Revival"

Daydream Effort:  My gonzo fantasy campaign setting
  "Mythic America"

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Following up with the GM Character Sheet:

Zak has also put out how he would like to see the module's organized.

Well worth a read:


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Casino Dice VS Gaming Dice

From AwesomeDice:

The gyst being the completely different method used to make the two types of dice, and I began to wonder if there is a market for precision made gaming dice.  I do like the crisp corners of Vegas dice sometimes.

The GM's Character Sheet: Dungeons and Dragons Next centric

Every player's character has a sheet defining who the character is, what they can do, what they have and what they cannot do.

This big "news" of D&D 5th edition  (D&D Next) focusses on trying to make it modular and fit every edition of D&D.

 I remember the second edition "Optional rule" listings.  The concept of "option rule" (or modular add-on) was nice,  but there was quite a bit.  Still workable for a DM to say what he was using and what he wasn't.  The problems come in when you want 4 previous editions,  some of which feature dozens of splat books,  not to mention retro-clones and different style "Campaign source books" with dozens of extra races and classes, some of which plain don't fit in some settings, but are key to others.

If the goal is to unite everyone to using one system, well, penny arcade says it quite succinctly:


So having a GM character sheet also allows the players to know what to expect.  This shouldn't be a long document listed every rule,  but rather every rule, race, class, magic item, etc, should be tagged with descriptors.

Does your game have firearms?  Firearms might be tagged with "Renaissance Era" while the GM has set "Hellenistic Era" on his sheet.  "Tieflings" might be out as the GM has set "Human Centric" as a tag.   Wondering if you can buy magic items or not?  Check the GM character sheet to see if it is set to "High Magic" or "Low Magic",   then you can know if your wizard will be in Harry Potters world or Middle Earth in terms of getting magical items.

Having a GM Character sheet would solve a lot of problems for having thousands of optional rules, and still being able to know as a player, which ones are in.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Monday, January 9, 2012

D&D 5th edition

"'Dungeons & Dragons' designers are also planning to undertake an exceedingly rare effort for the gaming industry over the next few months: asking hundreds of thousands of fans to tell them how exactly they should reboot the franchise."

Maybe they can put the cat back in the bag, I doubt it though.  Part of the problem is, most of the good DIY work, doesn't lend itself well to their current business model, by the nature of "DIY".

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year, New Contest for GM's!

So as we start the final year of human existence according to bad disaster movies and long dead Mayans, it seems like a perfect time for a contest!

I am currently out of the second printing of Neoclassical Geek Revival in all of its glory.  But I did keep one of these tanotex bound beauties with its linen pages and silk ribbon.  This last copy is not for sale however.

Instead I am hosting a contest where you can win it.  I want you to run at least a mini-campaign of Neoclassical Geek Revival and provide write-ups of how each session went, what you liked and what you didn't, what worked and what didn't.  The campaign would need to be at least 5 sessions long and have at least 3 players.  One lucky GM will be mailed a free hard cover (assuming shipping isn't more than $20 CDN, which covers North America and Europe for sure).  Shoot me an email to LiberInterdico (from Google's mail provider) with your name and mailing address, I will email you back a PDF copy and confirmation of your entry into the contest.  You may either email me session reports, or post them on a blog and provide me a link.

I'd like to see contestants enroll by the end of January and a book be mailed to the winner by the end of March.  Games can be a local home game, or a G+ ConstantCon game, or anything else you are looking to run.  Theme, Setting, all up to you, but I would ask that you run the game straight so I can get the most useful feedback on what needs fixing.