Saturday, March 31, 2012

Return of the Lift Bridge

My long-term goal of running a public Labyrinth Lord game is, at long last, coming true. Yes, this May, after my current teaching semester winds down, I am moving my currently-on-hiatus Brockport Campaign back to the original locale I intended for it: Lift Bridge Books. I am certain that three or four of the current players -- the regulars -- will likely make the move there with me, plus I have it on good authority that I may pick up a couple of extra players at that time.  I will likely start the group off right where they left off, in the Underground City beneath the Step-Pyramid of the Cynidiceans.  From there, they can pretty much take off in any direction they wish.

Public gaming rides again!

Friday, March 30, 2012

It's Official - I Like FUDGE

Last weekend my local gaming group assembled and played a couple introductory scenarios using the FUDGE system.  I was quite impressed with how smoothly and intuitively that system works. I like the notion of "tagging aspects" in order to cause or prohibit certain actions from occurring.  I like the relatively easy mathematics involved.  And, as I have previously mentioned, I really like the dice.

My enjoyable first experience with the FUDGE system inspires me to consider how I might utilize the basic mechanics of FUDGE in an extremely rules-lite kind of way. I don't need it for fantasy RPG'ing -- Labyrinth Lord will do just fine for that, thank you very much -- but maybe I could embark upon a side project (with what time I wonder?) to construct a super-simple FUDGE-based system for quasi-realistic post-apocalyptic gaming a la Twilight 2000.  That is a game/genre I have always wanted to play, and yet I have not been able to wade my way through the Twilight 2013 rules yet -- the book's too thick! I am a busy guy with limited time, so rules simplicity is a must for me.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Is Roleplaying Inevitable?

While I am not always the most avid follower of Alexis' Tao of D&D blog, this post is, as Talysman points out, extremely succinct and spot-on.  Check it out if you haven't.  In it, Alexis correctly states that:

People roleplay at the level of comfort which suits them personally.  [. . .]  No matter how you huff and puff, no matter what games you invent or tables you ascribe towards the manufacture of roleplay, at best you'll get those who were inclined to sketch out the Sarsparilla family tree without your help; and if those people happen play a game where there are no roleplaying rules provided, they'll do it just the same, because they don't need your damn rules.

I share Alexis' disdain for (or at least general disinterest in) role-playing-heavy systems like White Wolf's Vampire -- I have never played it.  Of course, some of that has do with my utter lack of interest in paying a vampire or other "monstrous" character.  But is is also true that as a RPG'er brought up on Holmes-era D&D, White Wolf and all those 1990s hipster RPGs just seemed to be taking things too far in that "narrative" / "storytelling" direction.  As Alexis says, players will infuse even the simplest tokens (like plastic Risk pieces) with "character" and infuse role-playing into whatever scenario is placed in front of them.  Human beings display a persistent tendency to anthropomorphize and narrativize (or aestheticize) practically everything they come into contact with.

The human tendency to anthropomorphize simple icons is what leads us to see a smiling face here. Illustration copyright 1993 Scott McCloud.

So rules that encourage or mandate role-playing probably aren't necessary unless the kind of game you want to run is incredibly character-psychology-driven.

Also, as I have discussed before, the DM can do a lot to encourage role-playing by hamming it up when s/he portrays NPCs.  So in short, and despite my belief that the particular rules system you choose DOES impact the tone and feel of your game, I would agree that role-playing rules are sort of redundant, unless you are pushing toward an extremely psychological (rather than action-driven) type of play.

Thanks Alexis!

UPDATE: Roger at Roles, Rules, and Rolls supports this point as well, and even references Scott McCloud!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Lands of Ara Compendium 2011 Now Available

I am thrilled to announce that the Lands of Ara Compendium 2011 is now available as a free, downloadable pdf here. It contains over 40 pages of game content culled from this blog, plus top-notch illustrations and artwork by Johnathan and Daisey Bingham, Kelvin Green, and The Marg. I also want to thank Spawn of Endra for all his diligent and inspired work on the editing and layout of the voluminous material here.

 I hope you enjoy the Compendium!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Dick Cheney Gets A Heart Transplant

Click, of course.
Too late for a soul transplant, unfortunately.

Mola-Ram pic found here. Cheney pic by Ceneta/AP found here.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Questions on Layout and File Types for the Compendium

The Spawn of Endra beseeches the audience:

Ahoy folks. Work on the layout for The Lands of Ara 2011 Compendium is going well, and as Carter recently mentioned we're aiming for the end of March for its release. This will be a free download available on the blog, and it's going to be pretty cool, if I do say so myself. Lots of great gameable content and some sweet artwork by the Binghams, Kelvin Green, and the Marg over at The Oubliette.

We want this to be a useful resource so I'd like to get some input about how folks use electronic files during the game, or just reading stuff. In the first place, I like to see stuff in the hard copy, so I'm trying to make the layout work in terms of the usual coherent page breaks, no orphans or widows, etc. I also know that two column formatting (a la B/X) seems to irritate people reading electronic files. For the most part it's going to be single column except where we've got, e.g., stat blocks next to images, or places where text or tables makes sense side by side. That is, you're not going to be reading to the bottom of a page and then scrolling back up to the top again.

We're thinking of this being a pdf, but I've heard (I think) that certain e-reading devices don't handle pdfs. I don't have any such new-fangled devices, so I have no idea. Are pdfs generally okay, and if not what are the alternatives?

Lastly, we have some really cool color art, but perhaps some people printing a hardcopy don't want to deal with that. We do have BW versions of the artwork as well, and I could conceivably also have a BW version of the Compendium available. At this point that's not a high priority for me to deal with, but I'd be interested to hear from folks on this score.

Any feedback on these topics are greatly appreciated!

Friday, March 16, 2012

John Carter of Mars

The City of Helium

I saw the new John Carter movie on Wednesday, and I really liked it.  While acknowledging that it ain't Shakespeare, I nevertheless enjoyed it thoroughly.  It was great fun to see Barsoom brought to vivid life, and I would single out the film's depiction of the Tharks, its portrayal Carter's faithful "hound" Woola, and its casting of Lynn Collins as Dejah Thoris as particular high points.  The airships were killer too.  I wasn't totally sold on Taylor Kitsch as John Carter at first -- I agree with Al that he could have been characterized as more of a "chivalrous gentleman," as in the ERB books -- but he grew on me over the course of the movie.  

As you may know, there has been a ton of press circulating about how the film is a colossal box-office flop, sunk due to the studio's overindulgence of director Andrew Stanton and a seriously botched marketing campaign.  That all makes fascinating reading, and I am especially interested in (and, having seen the film, frustrated by) Disney's last-minute decision to change the film's title from the appropriately evocative John Carter of Mars to the blandly obtuse John Carter.  This was a big blunder that, if corrected, may not have widened the actual audience for the film by a great margin, but as it stood surely didn't help the film's chances to accrue the following it deserves.

Much of the press about John Carter zeroes in only upon the tumultuous production and distribution circumstances that brought the film to the screen.  Yet as a loyal Edgar Rice Burroughs fan who knew I wanted to see John Carter even if it was flawed in certain ways, I am more interested in the movie that actually made it to the screen.  I want to judge the film on its own merits.

A Red Martian airship

On that score, John Carter is a total success.  It is an engaging, thoughtfully crafted and very well made science-fantasy action epic.  I would even say that it is the superior, entertainment-value-wise, of many recent superhero films including Thor and Iron Man 2.  I personally had much more fun watching John Carter than I have practically any other big-budget movie since the first Iron Man.

For a really smart video review of the film itself, check out the Red Letter Media "Half in the Bag" Review, which begins at the 11:03 mark in the linked episode.

At around the 13:44 mark in that review, Jay (the light-haired guy on the right) calls John Carter a "1980's throwback," and that assessment may account for much of its appeal to me. I am forty years old, and my movie tastes are starting to become increasingly "old-fashioned" I think. I really enjoyed John Carter's fun spirit and straightforward, comprehensible action sequences. In fact, the editing of the action sequences in John Carter works for me in ways that the action-sequence cutting seen in Christopher Nolan's Batman films or Michael Bay's Transformers films does not. I find much of the action portions of those movies to be literally baffling; I cannot tell what the hell is going on from shot to shot. In addition to its general fidelity to source material I care about, John Carter moves more at my pace, editing-wise, and I like that.

To pick a couple of nits, I would say that John Carter's flashbacks to Carter's dead wife (??!) were totally unnecessary and did nothing for the story being told. The dialogue was a bit clunky and stilted at points, though no worse than what we get in most big-budget action films (this is where Nolan's work leaps ahead of the competition). I also wasn't totally keen on the role the shape-shifting Therns played in the narrative -- I agree with Oliver Lyttelton's point #6, which states that: "For all the many antagonists thrown at him in the first 90 minutes, John Carter finds out in the last third of the movie, it’s actually Matai Shang (played by Mark Strong) who's the villain. Pulling the strings behind Sab Than’s quest for power, he spends most of the movie keeping an eye on John Carter before they finally meet head to head late in the game, although he doesn't simply kill Carter, because he's a cliched movie bad guy." The Therns indeed seemed bad just for badness' sake, and I would have liked to see more actual development of the Sab Than character and a greater emphasis on the substance of the rivalry between John Carter and Sab Than.

In conclusion, I must admit that director Stanton's attention to the details of the original Burroughs concepts may alienate or confuse many viewers not already familiar with John Carter from ERB's books (Lyttelton makes this his point #4). Yet I also can't see how any moderately intelligent viewer wouldn't figure out what a"Jeddak" was once it is used three or four times in the course of the dialogue (which it is in rapid succession at the film's outset).  Come on, folks, how much spoon-feeding is necessary?  I admire Stanton for sticking to his guns and keeping Barsoomian language more or less intact -- it gives this movie flavor and uniqueness.

Jay of Red Letter Media captures this spirit when he remarks (starting around the 18:18 mark) that "I see this movie having the same fate as other big-budget movies that don't find an audience in the theater, like Tron or David Lynch's Dune, it finds its audience later, becomes more of a cult movie."  This sounds right to me. I think John Carter -- which thankfully retains its full original title, John Carter of Mars, in the title card right at the end of the movie -- will age well, and will be regarded more highly once the hubbub over its big budget and small theatrical returns have died down.  I plan to see this film again when it releases to DVD, and I know that I will be an avid member of the cult of John Carter of Mars.

Lynn Collins says: "Come see me as Dejah Thoris in John Carter -- I'm so good I practically steal the movie!"

We're Now Pundits!

This is a belated report of an event that happened sometime in the past few months: the Lands of Ara blog reached "Pundit" level!  This rank and title refer to the From the Sorcerer's Skull Blogger Advancement Table, which confers "Pundit" status upon any old-school blog reaching the 160 followers mark.  We passed that mark awhile ago; I just forgot to note it.  Not very pundit-like of me I guess.

THANKS to our readers for your ongoing support!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

d30 Emulator - Fudge Die Variant

As I recently reported, I am the proud owner of a set of Fudge dice now, and it occurred to me that those dice would be perfect for d30 emulation. Using the Fudge die as the "tens" column in a d30% roll, the "-" result would indicate a "0" in the tens column, the blank result would indicate "10," and the "+" result would indicate "20," i.e.:

Fudge Die roll
Modified d30% "tens" result

Yes, I know, I'm just swapping one esoteric die for another here, not very practical or widely applicable. But what fun! Doesn't this make you want to acquire a d30 now? Or some Fudge Dice? Look at all the obscure fun you can have generating tables that practically no one will use!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

d30 Emulator

I am sure I am treading over well-worn ground here, but I was walking to the grocery store last night and wondering what all those poor unfortunates who don't possess d30s do when they come across a d30 table?  How do they emulate a d30 roll?

Again, I doubt that this is wholly original, but here is what I came up with:

You take two dice, a d6 and a d10, and roll them as if they were percentile dice, using the d6 as a modified d3 for the tens column like this:

d6 roll
Modified d30% "tens" result

So, using this system, I could roll the d6 to obtain a 0, 10, or 20 result for my "tens" column, then roll the d10 for the "ones" column and obtain a final result of 1-30.  Of course, the "00" roll = 30.

Make sense?

Does anybody do this differently, or is d30 emulation even a very big thing? I assume it doesn't come up too often. . .

The reason I ask is because in time -- probably several years from now -- I plan to release the Lands of Ara Gazetteer, which will include a great many region-specific encounter tables. Yet I happen to strongly favor d30 encounter tables for my home game, and therefore most of my own Arandish encounter tables use that die. So I started wondering whether I would need to convert those tables to d20 rolls, or else suggest a d30 conversion technique somewhere early in the Gazetteer? Or maybe include multiple versions of each table -- though the latter option seems like a big hassle.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Compendium Release Moved to End of March

Artwork copyright 2012 Kelvin Green

Well, this week is the time by which Spawn of Endra and I had planned to be releasing the Lands of Ara Compendium 2011, but a few factors have influenced our decision to slide that release date back to the end of March.  Those factors include:

- Both of us got busy with other stuff.  I have had a full teaching semester thus far, and the past couple of weeks have been particularly intense as we headed for and plowed through midterm exams last week.  Meanwhile, Spawn has been finishing the final revisions of his doctoral dissertation manuscript, submitted as of today, I believe.

- Our principal interior artist, Kelvin Green, has delivered all his artwork on time, being the professional that he is. Yet there have been some wholly new developments on the artwork front over this past weekend. You see, Peter Regan, editor of Oubliette, got in touch late last week and offered to run a feature on the Lands of Ara in the forthcoming (Spring 2012) issue of his fine magazine.  Of course I said "Yes!" Peter agreed that we should use a few of Kelvin's Compendium pieces in the Oubliette spread, but he also set his in-house artist, The Marg, to the task of generating a few Arandish Troll images as well. As you might imagine, The Marg's illustrations are totally awesome, so Spawn and I want an extra week or two in order to incorporate her work into the Compendium's pages as well.      

So please bear with us.  The Lands of Ara Compendium 2011 is coming (for free download!) by the end of March.  And just to hold you over for the additional time we need, I have provided a sneak peek at some of the forthcoming Compendium artwork: a snippet of Kelvin Green's rendering of a swamp troll (at top of post) and The Marg's take on the fearsome tree troll (below).  Enjoy!

Artwork copyright 2012 The Marg

Sunday, March 11, 2012

One-Offs vs. Campaigns vs. the Real World

Most of the people I game with (locally and on Skype) are working people with complex family / social lives.  What this means is that there are many opportunities for "life to get in the way" when planning game sessions, especially when conceived as a regular group of players participating in a coherent ongoing campaign.

This phenomenon was made super-clear earlier today, when our Brockport-based RPG'ing group's referee took ill at the last minute.  None of the rest of us were prepared to take up the mantle and run anything, so we simply canceled the session outright.  However, due to a communications foible, one of the players showed up at my house anyway, and he and I got into a discussion about how to protect our group in the future from the ravages of (perfectly understandable) last-minute cancellations like this.

The player in question happens to be a longtime RPG'er and referee himself, and he came up with a brilliant, elegant solution to our conundrum: abandon the concept of a continuous campaign altogether, in favor a of a series of one-off adventures.  That is, each time we meet every two weeks, we simply decide on the spot which game / adventure to play.  One or two referees come prepared with a one-session adventure concept (I have a purchased module I already plan to run as my first one-off session) and some pregen PCs, and off we go!  One session = one game = one adventure!  We choose between whoever is ready to run something each week.

This more flexible, modular approach will potentially solve two longstanding problems we've had in the Brockport RPG'ing group:

(1)  We have a somewhat rotating cast of players; one-offs should make it easier for players to jump in and out, hence encouraging the sporadic players to actually show up, and

(2)  Even the three or four of us who show up every single time have not been able to get one consistent campaign going because of referee illness (like today) or lack or preparedness (as I was exhibiting for awhile when running The Lost City, hence my hiatus until summer).  A rotating series of one-offs frees any one person from constant preparation duties, and really should take less overall preparation for whomever does step up to the plate; it is a smaller commitment.

That is the thinking anyway.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Review: Oubliette Issues #6 and #7

This has been a long time coming, but here, at long last, is my review of Oubliette Magazine Issues #6 and #7.

I am a big supporter of Oubliette and have written largely positive reviews of the magazine and its content in the past -- see my review of Issues #1-4 and review of Issue #5.  In the latter review I stated that "Oubliette is a model for concise, user-friendly fanzine presentation" and I still feel that way.

Oubliette has the advantage of springing from the pen of a relatively small group of contributors, mainly Peter Regan (the magazine's Editor) and his wife and chief illustrator, The Marg. The small size of the Oubliette team -- everything in Issues #6 and #7 is generated by Peter R. and The Marg EXCEPT the "Petty Gods Preview" in Issue #6 -- leads the 'zine to possess a remarkable consistency of feel and quality. Every issue delivers good, gameable, Labyrinth Lord-compatible stuff, an a format I have come to feel familiar with. I like that. Not only am I in favor of the "look" of Oubliette in general -- unpretentious, well-organized, easy to use at the gaming table -- its consistency gives its content a kind of "brand recognition" that (IMO) breeds reader loyalty. I look forward to certain features -- the adventure scenarios, "Monster Club," Regan's short but inspirational editorials, The Marg's artwork -- every time. And Regan and Co. do a great job of continuing certain threads and themes across multiple issues, as in the MonsterMark-inspired Encounter Tables offered in these two issues under review.

So what's in these Issues?

Oubliette #6

Regular features in Oubliette #6 include two Monster Club entries, one of which details a Skeleton Lord, the second being a series of three Random Encounter Tables (for Dungeon Levels 1-3) based upon the MonsterMark system presented in Oubliette #5.  As a person who is marginally interested in balancing monster capabilities and party strength, yet who is unwilling to do even the minimal amount of math required to use MonsterMark properly, I am thrilled to have some preformed Encounter Tables placed at my disposal.  At the very least, I can cherry pick these tables for monsters of certain power levels.  MonsterMark-based encounter tables for Dungeon Levels 4-6 are included in Oubliette #7.

Another consistency producing feature included in issue #6 is the introduction to the Newland Campaign Setting, which is presented "to provide a backdrop to the next few adventures that will be published in Oubliette" (p. 8).  Now I do not myself strictly need a campaign setting; but as with so much of what comes out in Oubliette, Regan does a fine job here of keeping things brief and modular, so that bits and bobs from the setting could be easily borrowed or ported into other scenarios and campaigns.  What we get this time around is a short (less than one page) history of the Newland setting, a small map, two pages of bullet-pointed location notes, and one page of character generation guidelines for rolling up Newland Campaign PCs.  That's it!  But it is enough to get one started and to convey the basic flavor of the game-world.

Most importantly -- and this is one of the great strengths of Oubliette overall -- the Newland setting and its parameters have clearly emerged out of Regan's home group's game play: as he states at one point in the explanatory text, "Detail [. . .] is purposefully kept brief so that it can be developed through play" and "as a group, [my players and I] wanted the new campaign to use the Labyrinth Lord Advanced Edition Companion so all the adventures in this series may include AEC content" (p. 8).  In other words, Regan writes this stuff because he is literally playing it in his home campaign.  As James Maliszewski has written, this is the absolute best way for gameable material to emerge, and I commend Regan for honoring this Old-School process and for sharing the fruits of his labor with the Oubliette-reading public.

Other features in this number include Shame of the Shaman, the first Newland-based Adventure; a feature on "Whips in Labyrinth Lord," which I like very much; a writeup of a Raven Familiar; and one of my perennial favorite columns, "What's In The Oubliette?" wherein a wide array of FRPG-related products and programs are reviewed.  

Oubliette #7

Monster Club #11 presents a fiendish trap that I like a great deal; I generally appreciate the wide berth Regan gives himself in creating stuff for this regular column.  Monsters, monster-related traps, new takes on old monsters, undead conversion rules, MonsterMark -- hell, a collected omnibus of Monster Club features alone would see heavy use at my gaming table.  Another equally practical and informative feature in this issue is the one-page commentary about the history and uses of the Ten Foot Pole, an insightful piece I hope might set a precedent -- maybe a "dungeoneering equipment series" is in order?

One of the most noteworthy components of Oubliette #7 is its interview with Richard Scott of Otherworld Miniatures.  As I have noted before, I do not collect, paint, or use miniatures, and never have; yet I LOVE reading interviews with industry insiders, even in areas of the hobby not directly pertinent to me.  I like hearing about what inspires creative people, and it is fun to hear about the inner workings of the business side of our hobby.  I only hope that Oubliette interviews more game creators and industry figures in the future.

The middle part of Oubliette #7 integrates three different features in order to present more background on the Newland Campaign Setting: there is Part II of the Newland writeup itself, Monster Club #13: Newland Bestiary Part I (the "Tree Demon" is a standout), and the next adventure in the Newland series, Tomb of the Snake King, which also includes three new monsters!  Particularly when we consider that all this is the work of one writer, the sheer amount of game-ready content one gets in each issue of Oubliette is most impressive.

I haven't mentioned the ongoing fiction work, The Song of Sithakk, nor the three regular comics featured in Oubliette, Mouse Watch, Tales from Hell, and Goblin Quest, largely because I do not typically read them. I am sorry to confess this, yet to be fair, I almost never read the comics or fiction in Dragon Magazine all those years either.  I am very glad they exist; I think gaming magazines should include fantasy fiction and comics, even if I am an undeserving ingrate who does not appreciate them.

That said, I do pay attention to the artwork, so let me single out a few favorite pieces from these two issues. First there is the dwarf on the cover of Issue #6, which is quite literally one of my all-time favorite illustrations by The Marg.  That eyepatch is a sweet touch, and there is just something about that guy . . . his beard is just great, the look on his face says it all about his intentions, and I like that he is just reaching to draw his sword.  Hell, the fact that he uses a sword (rather than the more "typical" dwarven axe or hammer) is a breath of fresh air.  Great pic!

Other standout illos in Issue #6 include both images on p. 4 (but especially the cleric and cityscape on the bottom of the page), the ruined temple on p. 15, the wonderfully captioned piece on p. 22, and the raven pecking out the skull's eye on p. 30.  And even though I haven't (yet) read the fiction, the picture of the arrow-ridden horseman accompanying Sithakk on p. 38 is another standout.

The harpy on the cover of Issue #7 freaks me out; I can't say that I "like" it in the usual sense of that word, but it is a very effective drawing because it scares me a little, especially those hind claws.  Creepy!  I also very much like the noir-ish illustrations accompanying the Tomb of the Snake King adventure (pp. 18-23) and the superb toad on p. 27.  Kudos to The Marg!

So what, if anything, is wrong with Oubliette?  What are its limitations?  Well, its biggest limitation is also its greatest strength, which is that it is primarily aimed at the "vanilla" player of Labyrinth Lord and similar old-school high fantasy role playing games.  That happens to be my demographic, which is why I love this fanzine so much; but players of darker, more swords-and-sorcery type campaigns or fans of whacked-out, "gonzo" type materials will not find as much to use here as I do.  So far anyway, Regan and Co. do not push very hard at the generic boundaries of Gygaxian D&D -- which is just fine with me.  But that could be considered a weakness to those who prefer stuff like Patrick Wetmore's (excellent but weird) Anomalous Subsurface Environment, for example.

But if you play more-or-less Gygaxian-style D&D, you really cannot go wrong with Oubliette.  The 'zine continues to deliver lots of usable game content in an appealing, usable format that is well worth the extremely reasonable cover price of $4.63 per print issue, or a mere $2.50 per pdf.

To paraphrase Regan himself from the opening editorial to Oubliette #6:

"I hope Oubliette fanzine leaves you entertained, informed -- inspired even -- and not too bogged down in number crunching."

Hear, hear!

Creativity and inspiration-value: 4 out of 5.  Not much boundary pushing going on here, but Oubliette is an ideal source of inspiration for those of us who stick to a fairly Gygaxian model of world-building and game play.  And The Marg's gritty illos should serve as inspiration to players across various fantasy RPG genres.

Use-value to Referees: Varies, depending upon the type of campaign you are running. High Fantasy = 5 out of 5.  Pulp fantasy = 3 out of 5. Weird fantasy, post-apocalyptic, or sci-fi = 2 out of 5 at best. Oubliette is ostensibly geared toward the Labyrinth Lord ruleset, though its content would be easily adaptable to other similar systems.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Campaign Updates and Fudge Dice

I have been falling rather behind on my campaign play reports.  My Skype-based "Arandish Campaign" group, whose Session 49 report posted yesterday, just played their Session 53 a few nights ago!  So my reports are lagging four sessions behind at this point for that group.

My Brockport-based Lost City group has played four sessions, which brought them to the gates of the Underground City. However, following that fourth session about a month back, I declared a temporary hiatus from that campaign until the end of my current academic semester in early May.  My work schedule right now is just too intense for me to successfully referee two different campaigns simultaneously; I will be able to shoulder that responsibility come summertime.  The Brockport group will resume its adventures then, once my schedule lightens up a little.

Meanwhile, Cid, one of the players in my Brockport Campaign, has introduced me to the FudgeRPG system by starting up a game of Diaspora.  Not only am I thrilled to have the chance to be a player in an RPG campaign, which really is a necessary relief for those of us who referee a lot, I am doubly excited to be playing in a hard sci-fi type campaign setting using the Fudge system.

Science fiction-wise, I have a long history with Traveller, have played West End's Star Wars RPG before and even played Shadowrun for awhile in college.  But I have rarely participated in an ongoing hard-sci-fi RPG campaign.  Luckily, Cid is a great referee, and he is doing a great job walking me and three other players through the intricacies of the Fudge system, which I am coming to appreciate and rather enjoy.

In fact, so taken have I become with basic mechanics of FudgeRPG that I ordered my own set of those cool Fudge dice, pictured here:

My new Fudge dice.

I love the simplicity of the Fudge system, the way it kind of sidesteps/minimizes the number crunching aspect yet still allows for exciting (and very easily comprehensible) die rolls. I like its unique take on die-rolling mechanics -- easily emulated with standard six-siders, but more fun with the real thing -- and I am becoming curious about how I might find more uses for these dice.

Are there any Fudge-system aficionados out there who would like to comment about the system, point me toward resources/blogs, and/or share experiences?  Anybody found any cool uses for these interesting dice in the old-school D&D context?

Anyway, those are my updates. 

Charlie the cat inspects my new Fudge dice.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Don't Miss Dwimmermount!

As James Maliszewski just announced, the Kickstarter Campaign for Dwimmermount Megadungeon is underway! Make sure to get in there by April 14 and make a pledge to ensure that this much-anticipated, Labyrinth Lord-compatible megadungeon gets published!

Thanks for your support.

Session 49: Ghost Hunters

This session took place Thursday 12/15/11 and featured PCs Innominus (Clr-6), Yor (Dwf-6), Uncle Junkal (Rodian Bard-5), Vivuli (Assassin-5 / MU-4) and Hazel (Ftr-4 / MU-4).* NPC Gorgo (Dwf-4, Innominus' follower) was along for the adventure as well.

The group began the session in the early evening of Day 169 of their Arandish adventures, having just killed three phase tigers and captured a fourth on the mountainous slopes above the Frigglestone Brothers' Mine, newly acquired by the party.

The party stashed their captured phase tiger in a cage deep in the mine, while Vivuli dragged one of the phase tiger corpses back to the mine compound for eventual vivisection. Meanwhile, Yor dispatched his dwarven assistant Darvey on a week-long mission to:

(a) stop by Prince Arkus' camp near Farn Junction to inform the Minochian Prince Regent that the party was here at Frigglestone Pass,

(b) retrieve Garvey from his farm near Fortinbras and bring him back to the mine,


(c) travel out into the mountains adjoining the Frigglestone Mine to wrangle up some new dwarven staff for its operations.

The party slept the night in the mine office, then descended into the mine on the morning of Day 170. Their intent was to seek and destroy the ghosts rumored to be haunting the place.

Vivuli cast conjure vermin, summoning a giant fire beetle to his aid. Viv sent his beetle ahead of the party into the north tunnel of the mine, where it was soon attacked by a ghostly being that looked vaguely like a dwarf! The beetle survived the ghost attack, though, and the ghostly dwarf-thing flew away, passing through a tunnel wall.  Viv then ordered the fire beetle to continue creeping northward, toward the North Tunnel.

Innominus searched the southwest areas of the mine -- Walt #1 and Walt #3 -- detecting magic all the while.  He found an apparently mundane scroll case tucked away in the north corner of Walt #3, cast detect evil, and got a negative reading with that as well.  He tucked the scroll case into his robe and led his compatriots northward, in the direction Viv's fire beetle had already headed.

[Note: At this point Hazel's player departed.]

At the terminus of the north tunnel, which was unfinished, Innominus' detect spells revealed yet another set of "Ghost Tribunal" pips --

-- and that was all that could be found or divinely detected in the area.

The party decided to leave the mine and spend the rest of the day above ground, with a plan to return and camp that night in the mine tunnels, lying in wait for the return of the dwarf-ghost.  Vivuli instructed his fire beetle and rats to patrol the mine in their absence, and the PCs ascended.

That afternoon, Vivuli skinned one of the deceased phase tigers, and Yor took a few of the mine's current employees -- Ulek, Mulek, Ron Donald, and Jar-Jar -- down into the mine and set them to work excavating the latest silver lode (near Walt #2) with pickaxes.

The night of Day 170 of their Arandish adventures, the party descended the mine shaft and encamped near Walt #2. They were soon confronted by a dwarvish-looking ghost-creature, which swooped into the tunnel straight out of the tunnel wall and attacked Innominus with a ghostly axe.  It hit, and the Cleric of Endra instantly aged 40 years!

Yor then attacked the ghost, only to get counterattacked and unnaturally aged 10 years himself!

The party fled above-ground.  They spent the rest of the night making plans and resting.

The morning of Day 171 of their Arandish adventures, the party set off across the mountains to the northeast, heading off toward the mountain cave of Warren the Black, a wizard the PCs first met back in Session 36. Their hope was that the eccentric but knowledgable old arcanist might be able to help them develop a way to vanquish the deadly mine-ghosts.

Session 49 Map.  The Frigglestone Mine sits in hex 1815, and Warren the Black's cave is in hex 1814.

They traveled most of the day in peace, pulling the War Wagon along established yet treacherous mountain roads.  In the late afternoon, as they journeyed northward, they were suddenly ambushed by multiple squads of throghrin commandoes!  The vile quasi-undead hobgoblin-things shot crossbows and hurled oil flasks down upon the party, and Dak drove the wagon even faster, attempting to run the gauntlet.  The throghrin were relentless: the War Wagon's canopy was burned clean off by flaming oil, and poor Uncle Junkal was burned to death!  The party was eventually able to neutralize their throghrin assailants, largely due to Innominus casting hold person and rolling his nightly d30 -- a "30" -- to see how many beings were affected.

That is where the session ended.
* Hazel's player leaves the session midway through.