Thursday, December 31, 2015

My Gaming Resolutions

My New Year's resolutions as far as gaming is concerned are the following:
  • Make a plan of running a game every alternate weekend, and stick to it. Even if only one or two people are able to show up, have something. Temple of Elemental Evil works nicely; Cthulu Dice works nicely; even a video game with good cooperative play, such as Gauntlet: Dark Legacy or Dynasty Warriors: Gundam would be a good way to spend an afternoon with a friend.
  • Read any books I buy (hard copies or downloads) cover to cover. I still need to do this with Basic Fantasy and a few others; sitting down and powering through the AD&D 2nd Edition Player's Handbook and Dungeon Master Guide (particularly the sections on combat and wilderness exploration) gave me a better understanding of the systems involved.
  • Figure out a good platform for online tabletop sessions. I tried OpenRPG but couldn't figure parts of it out, and Skype is fairly limited in terms of visual display (although a program I found a while back called ManyCam would serve decently). Tabletop Simulator seems pretty cool, although each person would have to pay for it.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Random character thought (possibly NSFW)

The harlot subtable got me thinking about something else. In-character as Sradan, I once used the line, "Hello, I have a nine-inch tongue and I can breathe through my ears."

If it's literally true, I have a feeling that this detail might increase the odds of a saucy wench giving out useful information.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Single-book systems

As much as I enjoy leafing through my AD&D 2nd Edition core books, I can't help but acknowledge that a huge part of the appeal of B/X is its compactness. I put the character sheets, scratch paper, and my notes (typed or hand-written) into my large zippered binder, slot the Moldvay Basic Rulebook right next to them (thank goodness they drilled holes in it!), and I'm ready to go. This is a lot harder to do when there are one to three hardcover books involved, although I could manage if I were a player in a 2nd Edition game.

(Speaking of which, I really want to get a hold of one of those "Player Packs" they came out with for 2e. These were a plastic clamshell case with a handle - much like my old Lego boxes - that included a set of dice, pencils, character sheets, and miniatures, and were designed to hold a copy of the Player's Handbook in the lid. Anyone else want one?)

Anyone? Come on!
Back on topic, I'm beginning to see the value in having all of the rules in a single volume. The best example I can find of this is the almighty Rules Cyclopedia, which I still hold hopes of obtaining in like-new condition. Nowadays, though, I'm thinking of making my own, as Timothy S. Brannan has explained how he did so on his blog. Seriously, standard classes, supplementary classes, an entirely optional skill system, a list of classic monsters not included in B/X, rules for high-level play (i.e., what your character does when they get tired of flipping dungeons and crawling around hexes)... the only thing missing from this is the level titles. And if I decide that the game gets too unbalanced after passing out of the B/X level range, I can always just use my DM powers and set a level cap of 14.

Should I ever decide to escape the gravitational pull of the D&D brand, I have one of two major options that I would seriously consider (aside from Basic Fantasy, which is a fantastic modernization of B/X in my opinion - to the point that I'm considering shelling out the $15 for the hardcover in case my $5 perfect-bound copy gives up the ghost). The first is Prince Valiant: The Storytelling Game, which I have finally managed to obtain in PDF form, in English. The upsides: simple system, can easily replace the coins with dice, suitable for play with all ages (in case I ever have young ones of my own interested in gaming). The downsides: limitations on player agency written into the rules, limited magic (which might not be a bad thing in all cases, but it'd take some getting used to), inherent limitations on female players. The latter is a characteristic of the time period in which it's set, not entirely the game's fault, but it's still annoying.

The other option I'm thinking of is Halberd, a free RPG by Scott Malthouse that I got a few years ago, but didn't seriously read through until recently. The upsides: brilliantly simple rules system (even more so than PV), ultra-short length, flexibility in creating character classes and races, one of the coolest rules-light magic systems I've ever seen. (Also, the illustration of a druid PC looks a lot like my friend who always plays druids; on that note, happy Yule!) The downsides: no pre-made monsters, it's not D&D. I strongly urge anyone reading this to check it out.

Sorry I don't have a satisfying conclusion to this post; like most of mine, it's written off-the-cuff, just to get my ideas out into the blogosphere.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Would I ever run AD&D?

It's no secret that I have a soft spot for AD&D 2nd Edition, but what about the 1st Edition of the venerable system? Well, after skimming the books in PDF form*, I'll tell you.

Yes, it's a mess organizationally; except for the Monster Manual, there seems to be no logical layout of the contents of the system. Yes, said Monster Manual gives almost no information aside from the combat capabilities of the creatures contained therein. Yes, having the movement rates and distances listed in inches is confusing (although not quite as confusing as 2e's "movement rates"; why the hell couldn't they just use the feet per round/feet per turn numbers that they used in non-A D&D?). Yes, a lot of the limitations on classes and races make little sense (although there are actually fewer restrictions than in 2e; almost every race has unlimited progression as something, usually as a thief). Yes, rolling on a table for every attack sucks eggs.

But if I had grown up with this as the dominant system, and had a similar group of like-minded friends to the ones I had in high school, I'd wager we would have had just as many adventures with this set of rules as we did with the Pathfinder Beginner Box.

When comparing the two, I can see why some people prefer this over 2nd Edition. The removal of assassins and half-orcs (for moral reasons) as well as monks (for setting reasons) is annoying, sure, but there's no reason why someone who owned both sets of rules couldn't just stick them back in. Plus, the Greyhawk book The Scarlet Brotherhood added essentially unchanged versions of the two excised classes, updated for 2e rules, but considering it came out in 1999 I'm not surprised few remember it. The removal of psionics from core is also kind of disappointing, but the psionics system from the splatbook (and the revised version from Player's Option: Skills and Powers) is much clearer in its wording.

Beyond these concerns, the 1st Edition Dungeon Masters Guide (sic) is freaking beefy. Admittedly, some of the information therein might be more appropriately placed in the Players Handbook (again, sic), but there are so many things here that were outright omitted from 2e. The endgame is only very briefly detailed in the 2e DMG, and each DM is expected to make up their own random encounter tables for each environment. In contrast, the 1e DMG gives tables for everything... including the infamous "harlot subtable". (If you haven't read this part yet - it's in Appendix C under "City/Town Encounters" - please do so. It is even more hilarious than you think. I'll wait.)

I might be getting the premium reprint of the 1e DMG as a holiday present. Not necessarily to use, you see, but because I want to read it cover to cover someday, and I'd like my copy to be as beautiful as possible.

Anyway, to answer the question in the title: if I could find a group of players with even more time on their hands than me, willing to rise to the challenge of playing this system, I'd be up for it. But with one exception: I would use the Monstrous Manual from 2nd Edition, instead of the 1e counterpart. It's a better book, hands down; not only is the art improved (a minor advantage for me, to be fair), but the listing of each monster's culture and society, and the additional types of dragons included, beat the hell out of the original.

Also, I doubt my players would cower in fear if Ashardalon
looked like he just shat himself after smoking five joints.
* I fully intend to get old copies of the books if I ever play, and as I said above I might be receiving WotC's premium reprint - new. A trip to Half Price Books next time I visit family in Austin will provide me with the opportunity to snag some old copies, which I hear are very durable.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Addendum to "Quick solutions"

I forgot to mention these in this post:

Holy cow! I want one of these so badly; too bad they were apparently hard to find even when they were still being made, around 1999.

There's more information here:

Also, I found out about these initially through a review at

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Watch out where the huskies go...

Just a quick re-post of my comment on Timothy S. Brannan's post, in case the comments on that post ever get wiped due to a glitch or something.

Yellow Snow (slime/jelly/ooze), 2 HD
This crystalline, powdery mass is sometimes formed when a mustard jelly is frozen by an unusual magical effect, or created by a secret arcane spell. It will attempt to force itself into the face of any human, demihuman, or humanoid creature that approaches within 10 feet. On a successful normal attack roll, it deals only 1d3 points of frost damage, but also causes blindness for 2d6 turns. On a natural 20 (or when attacking a completely defenseless creature), it instead forces itself into the victim's mouth; the victim must save vs. Poison or die. The yellow snow is immune to cold and lightning, but takes double damage from heat.

Create Yellow Snow (M-U/E 1)
This spell turns an ordinary amount of snow roughly 1' x 1' into a handful of the deadly Yellow Snow. The material component is at least 1 vial's worth of dog or wolf urine.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Quick solutions for an RPG "fix"

All right, I realize I haven't updated this blog in a while. I'd love to say that it's because of school winding towards finals, but the real reason is that I haven't had as many ideas, nor the motivation to post them. I'll be working to remedy the latter, so any readers should bear with me.

As always, the ever-present struggle of the Dungeon Master is getting enough people together for a game. After a rather nice session a few weeks ago involving a party of four (only one of whom was a member of the original group of three... and the two totally new players did fairly well, to be honest), I scheduled another session for two weeks later. I invited about five people, and eventually three dropped out. With this, I decided to instead pull out my copy of the Temple of Elemental Evil board game (up to this point, only used once). It was pretty fun with three players - since I didn't have to DM - although we got our asses kicked. This is also what happened when I set it up in the lounge at my university about a week later.

This highlights the only major issue with this game, which seems to be shared by the other D&D Adventure System board games: it's pretty difficult. That being said, I love it so much, and am beginning to see where D&D 4th Edition might be usable purely as a skirmish wargame (although even so, I'd probably use 3.5e or Pathfinder for that purpose... and maybe I'd get to set up my set of HeroScape tiles!); the reason I got this one instead of Wrath of Ashardalon is because of the added campaign rules, which remind me a little bit of the old Dragon Strike game by TSR. Considering that the earlier three games in this series are mostly compatible rules-wise - if not entirely visually, since ToEE uses the 5th Edition graphic layout - and each comes with its own selection of plastic miniatures (which are all listed here) which I might use in my D&D campaign, I'm tempted to buy another one of these games.

Of course, carrying around a box full of cards, Dungeon Tiles, and fairly high-quality minis is a bit cumbersome. I always carry my Cthulu Dice set in my backpack (in a smart-looking dice bag that also holds the rule sheet), in case I run into some people up for a simple dice game. At under $8, and available a lot of places (even some chain bookstores, which is where I got mine), it's certainly worth it. Now I'm debating whether I want to get the Metäl version...
This is the one I carry my dice in; the Elder Sign glows under blacklight!
(Also, my FLGS sells this series of bags for $5)