Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween

My favorite time of the year, for a number of reasons. The joyous abundance of horror movies on television not least among them!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Myth and Magic Sighting!

Right here on my kitchen counter, as a matter of fact:

I didn't go in for the Game Master Kickstarter, but it does seem as if Tom is getting his act together and getting packages in the mail. Anyone else get one yet?

Myth & Magic is based on 2nd edition, "revised and updated." I haven't had a chance to pour through the books in any detail yet, but they are beautiful.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Metatopia Master Schedule is Live

A master's degree in game design and publishing crammed into a single weekend!

For those gamers in and around northern NJ, you really need to check out Metatopia. It's a convention being held in Morristown, NJ from November 1st through the 3rd, with merriment and preliminaries happening on October 31st.

If you are a game designer or publisher, this is a unique opportunity to meet your fellow designers and publishers, attend talks and panels, and... most importantly... have your raw designs playtested by hordes of eager playtesters who have been specifically selected for you based on type of game, genre, and more.

If you are a player, this is a tremendous opportunity to influence the future of gaming. Whether you're a LARPer, an RPGer, a board gamer, war gamer, card gamer, etc., you can playtest the new games coming down the pike and give your input. You can shape the next generation of games. And you can also see all the panels, and talks, and such.

You really can't lose - they got you covered coming and going. :-)

The master schedule of events has just been posted. I'll be doing three panels myself. Enjoy!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Do you use gunpowder or not?

It seems that the default setting for most fantasy campaigns is "no gunpowder". Certainly amongst the older crowd (such as myself), that is something that was ingrained into us at an early age, when we read these words in the 1st edition Dungeon Masters Guide:
Unless you desire to have gunpowder muddying the waters in your fantasy world, it is strongly urged that BOOT HILL firearms be confined to specific areas, and when gunpowder is brought into the fantasy world it becomes inert junk -- ergo, no clever alchemist can duplicate it. Likewise, dynamite and similar explosives become inert.
Certainly I didn't want to "muddy the waters" of my early campaigns, and dutifully kept guns out of the picture for many years. Gygax reiterated the sentiment in later years as well.

But I have to wonder if that's really a necessity (or even a good thing), since gunpowder was such an integral part of warfare in the Middle Ages in Europe. The Chinese had gunpowder weapons in the 11th century (or possibly earlier), and the Moors were using cannon against the Christians in Spain in the 13th century. The English had cannon by the 14th, and by the later years of the century they were mounted on wheels and could be (relatively) easily moved from battle to battle.

"Hand cannons" (I love that name) came relatively soon thereafter, but Europe didn't see the first things that would be identifiable as modern-looking guns until the development of the arquebus in the 15th century. Still within the upper range of the "quasi-medieval" time period that most fantasy RPGs seem to embrace.

Personally, I am stricken with an image of dwarven armies with sections of handgonners, and I don't think having arquebusiers unbalances a game any more than squares of pikemen or lines of halberdiers.

I put the question to the floor. Have you ever included gunpowder and handgonnes in your fantasy RPG? With what sort of success (or failure)?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Monster: Greater Skeleton

The following is declared to be Open Game Content under the terms of the Open Game License v. 1.0a. It is specifically written for the Adventures Dark and Deep™ system, but should be usable with most OSR-type games.

In honor of the festive Halloween season, I give you...

Skeleton, Greater

Number 1d4
Morale n/a
Hit Dice 3d8
Armor Class 7
Move 120'/min.
Magic Resistance Standard
No. of Attacks 1
Damage 1d10 or per weapon type
Defenses Spell immunity, immune to cold-based attacks, non-blunt weapons do half damage
Attacks Throw skull, fear music
Weaknesses Holy water
Size M
Intelligence 0
Alignment Neutral
Treasure Type None
Treasure Value n/a
Magical Treasure None
X.P. Value 65+3/h.p.
Turn as Type III

General: Greater skeletons are created by the spell animate dead, but only a spellcaster of 7th level or higher may use the spell to create one. The process is identical to the regular process of creating an animated skeleton, but requires powdered ruby of at least 100 g.p. value, which is sprinkled over the bones and lost as the spell is cast. Greater skeletons can be ordered about like ordinary skeletons, but can retain instructions up to 200 words in length. They seldom arise spontaneously, but when they do they invariably form from the bones of someone who was not lower than 6th level in life.

Combat: Greater skeletons attack with a weapon or with their bony fingers. Like all mindless undead, they are immune to mind-affecting spells and magical effects such as sleep, charm, illusion, etc. Cold does them no harm. Because they lack flesh, only blunt weapons such as maces and clubs will do full damage to them - all others will only do half damage (round down). A vial of holy water inflicts 2d4 h.p. on a greater skeleton.

Greater skeletons also have the ability to detach their skull and hurl it at an enemy up to 30' away, causing a blast that does 2d8 h.p. to the target and 1d6 h.p. to anyone within 5'. The skull is not destroyed in the blast, and will roll back to the skeleton in the next round, where it will be picked up and reattached. The skull can be hurled once every ten minutes.

In addition, if more than one greater skeleton is encountered, they can act in tandem to create an eerie music which instills fear in any living creature within 60' that fails a saving throw vs. magic. This is done by one of the skeletons removing the bones from one of its legs and playing the ribs of the other skeleton like a xylophone. While they are doing this, they cannot attack. If one or both take damage while creating the fear music, they will stop and attack. Creatures struck by the fear will flee in terror in a random direction for 1d3 rounds, and must make a wisdom check to keep from dropping anything held in their hands.

Appearance: Greater skeletons appear as animated skeletons with a cold light burning in their eye sockets. They are indistinguishable from regular animated skeletons until they use their special powers.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

How do you do wilderness adventures?

One thing I've always struggled with is wilderness adventures.

Not sandboxes. That I can do in my sleep. Preset encounters sprinkled across a wilderness, with clues stretching from one place to another to point the PCs in the right direction. Let the PCs wander about and tug on the plot-threads that they will.

I'm talking about an actual adventure set in a wilderness, analogous to a dungeon adventure. Somehow, when I have the PCs in a wilderness, I can't get out of sandbox mode, and subtly encourage them to go off in whatever direction suits their fancy. Even if I have something in mind that I would like them to do.

So tell me. How do you do non-sandbox wilderness adventures? What's your carrot and your stick for keeping the PCs pointed in the right direction, rather than scampering off towards the nearest hillock looking for a barrow?

Saturday, October 12, 2013

On Finding those Lost "Doctor Who" Episodes

Here's a quick interview with the man who found those recently-rediscovered episodes of Doctor Who. The tenaciousness this guy has is just amazing, and very much appreciated by us fans!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Bestiary Now Available!

I've heard a rumor that the Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary is now available for sale, and the Kickstarter rewards have gone out five months ahead of schedule.

But it's just a rumor, of course. You might want to click here to see if it's true:

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Metatopia Panel Schedule Now Posted

If you're at all interested in designing or publishing games (RPGs, board games, LARPs, or just about anything), Metatopia in Morristown, NJ (October 31-November 3) should be on your short list of conventions to attend. Not only is there a comprehensive playtesting track, which matches players to upcoming games that match their particular interests in terms of type, genre, etc., but there is a complete (indeed, three-track this year) batch of panels and seminars. I've said it before and I'll say it again, it's like a master's degree in gaming crammed into one weekend.

The full schedule of seminars and panels is now up. I will be doing three panels this year:

  • D018: "Self-Publishing On A Shoestring" presented by Joseph Bloch. Forming your own game publishing company using Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, OneBookShelf or Game Crafter, and a surprisingly small amount of up-front cash. A discussion of just what you can do using modern crowdfunding and print on demand technologies, including some of the pitfalls and winning strategies you can use. Friday, 2:00PM - 3:00PM
  • D024: "New School Mechanics In Old School Games (And Vice Versa!)" presented by Cam Banks, Rob Donoghue & Joseph Bloch. The borders between story games and traditional role playing games have never been blurrier, and many recent games have blended the two traditions to grand effect. Come hear our panel muse on what both schools have to offer, and what they can still learn from each other. Friday, 4:00PM - 5:00PM
  • D050: "E-Book Publishing 101" presented by Darren Watts, Jason Pitre & Joseph Bloch. What are the differences between publishing hard copy books and electronic publishing? This panel will fill you in on everything you need to know, from standards and tools to markets for reaching your audience. Saturday, 3:00PM - 4:00PM
I can't recommend this unique convention highly enough. Hope to see you there, if you're at all in the area.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

"Legend of Conan" movie news

It looks like the long-awaited (by me, anyway) sequel to the Arnold Schwarzenegger films of the 1980's is actually getting made. The Legend of Conan has a writer now - Andrea Berloff. Schwarzenegger himself will reprise his role as Conan, this time focused on his time as king of Aquilonia. What really makes me hopeful is the attitude they have towards the character:
He [Producer Chris Morgan of "Fast and Furious" fame] was the one who decided to draw a parallel right back to the original raw, violent Conan films, which ended with the image of the barbarian king sitting atop his throne. The new film is about his efforts to stay there and the final cycle of a life spent obliterating anyone who got in his way. ...
Morgan called Berloff “an amazing writer who can juggle masculine grittiness with extreme emotional depth. Her take on Conan is powerful and genuine and would make Robert E. Howard proud.”
Emotional depth from Arnold Schwarzenegger? We'll see about that, but for some reason this sounds like it might be worthy of the original 1982 film.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Bestiary softcover proof is here!

Some first impressions and pics over at the BRW Games website. Enjoy!

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug trailer

I really liked the first Hobbit movie, and this one is looking good too. I know a lot of fans are not happy with the liberties that Jackson is taking, and I completely understand that even if I don't agree with it.

Heck, I'm just happy that Bilbo actually pronounces "Smaug" correctly!