Friday, July 26, 2013

Save vs Computer Crash

Laptop died last week in the middle of my PhD writing. Luckily, all important information was backed up, and my wife installed a new harddrive for my impractical ass. All my post ideas were lost, so when I finish sending out job apps tomorrow I'll start churning out some new content.

I actually feel quite free from the weight of all the unfinished ideas and unread material I had accumulated over the past few years. Hopefully this will translate into some scintillating posts.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Blog Disclaimer - Don't Believe Half of What I Say

I’m quite happy to be getting some feedback on this blog recently. Posters have been intelligent and courteous.

Which is all you can ask for.

Still, I’d like to put out a disclaimer about this blog:

Don’t believe half of what I write. I know I don’t.

I’m not here to fight, I’m here to articulate my version of the game, just as everyone else articulates theirs. Blogging is a pseudo-creative way to be pseudo-social and keep my spirit alive as I slog through a bottleneck of RealLife ™.

So don’t take anything herein too seriously. I don’t.

D&D Humanoids as Gangs from The Warriors (1979)

I watched a couple of scenes from that hoary old classic The Warriors today, and the way gangs acted and interacted inspired a lot of insights about how demihumans might act in a scenario like The Caves of Chaos.

1) Truces are made and broken. The New York of The Warriors is a disputed landscape where a semblance of peace is kept only by truces among gangs, but straying into alien territory without permission will still get you roughed up or killed. Also, when a leader dies and a power vacuum is created, all bets are off until authority is restored. Adventuring parties in populated dungeons should find a map of relations and territories just as useful as a map of the dungeon itself.

2) Leaders should stand out. Many of the gangs from The Warriors exhibit leaders who stand out from their group. The leader of the Boyle Avenue Runners sports a decorated vest; Gramercy Riff chiefs and subchiefs wear silken robes to differentiate themselves from the rough judogis worn by the initiates; and the head of the Rogues is armed with a gun while his henchmen sport melee weapons. Let your leaders stand out, give them facepaints and headdresses, but as these will draw fire, also let them have superior weapons and armor, or even some magic to compensate for wearing a bull’s-eye.

3) Each group has a way of collecting information. When searching for the Warriors, other gangs listen to the radio station on boomboxes carried with them, and some members serve as runners or messengers in case of emergency. Having Quicklings or Brownies serve as dungeon runners, and groups carrying Scrying crystals or Orbs tuned into one dungeon channel would be a cool way to make sure demihumans work together to prepare against invaders to their realm.

4) Gangs are self-serving, untrustworthy, manipulative, and divided by schisms. The leader of the Rogues kills Cyrus and frames the Warriors basically for kicks; the Warriors are rocked by Fox’s challenge of Snow’s authority; the Lizzies lure the Warriors with a promise of sanctuary then try to capture and kill them. Group motivations should always be inscrutable to outsiders. Choose a motivation for the group but include deception and false friendliness as ways they use to achieve their goals.

5) Gangs have different sizes and fit into different niches. The Riffs are the largest gang and so their leader, Cyrus, also speaks for all the other gangs. The much smaller Warriors are stuck out on Coney Island, while the Jones Street Boys and Saracens constantly fight over Bensonhurst. The Riffs do martial arts, while Satans Mothers are a motorcycle gang. Having kobolds and gnomes fight it out on the margins as spies while gnolls and ogres dominate the center as bodyguards or enforcers would add to both the depth and attraction of a dungeon.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Food for thought

Interesting comment to an article about WotC reprints on

"Basically they're saying that in 2013 WoTC commissioned the creation of an entirely new AD&D 1E module that's never existed before. Just soak that in for a second."

Original  article HERE

Saturday, July 6, 2013

World of Darkness, Japan-style

If you think the World of Darkness and Japan would go together like PB and chocolate... THEY DO! Check out my friend's blog:

Kyoto Gaming Inspirations – Mt Kurama

I live just 20 minutes outside of Kyoto, a city brimming with roleplaying inspirations. From its hoary old temples and shrines, to its moss covered stone buddhas on lonely trails, bamboo groves sighing and chiming in the wind, and old stone bridges where samurai once strolled, drank sake, composed poems, or lopped off heads, Kyoto is an inspiring place for an Oriental Adventures/Ruins & Ronin/L5R etc game.

From time to time I’d like to introduce a real Kyoto site that would fit sweetly into a roleplaying campaign. I’ll start today with Mount Kurama.

Mt Kurama (鞍馬), literally ‘Mount Saddle Horse’) is a 30 minute drive in the hills north of Kyoto. Founded originally in 770 AD by the Tendai sect of Buddhism, in 1949 it was bought out by Kurama-Kokyo sect (basically a cult shot off from mainstream Buddhism) and they tend its temple-encrusted and forested peaks now. Their pamphlet tells of Mao-son, a god-king who descended from Venus a million years ago to fight evil and yadda yadda Scientology-sounding BS. Yep, they’re a cult.

But the Kurama-Kokyo pamphlet could also easily serve as a B1- In Search of Adventure style module for Oriental OD&D. The outer side has a numbered woodblock art map on one side with descriptions of all the temples on the other. It is literally begging to be statted out with monsters, traps and treasure.

Look at that map a bit closer. These are not measly 10 x 10 squares! The trip over the mountain took me 3 hours, and was pitch black and treacherous as hell descending.

The inner side contains more woodblock art with descriptions of four major festivals. Although the festivals themselves could be great seeds for adventures, taking the pictures out of context inspires some great adventure antagonists.

Are the two demon-dogs guarding a hoard of coin? Are the bamboo staff wielding berserker monks a force to be reckoned with? Who is this procession of blankly smiling candle holders, and what secrets do they wish to keep from interlopers? Finally, are these henchmen carrying cannons? If so, to what end?

Yes, Mt Kurama is equally inspiring in person, with meditation waterfalls whose icy falling streams will pound the daily worries out of your shoulders, giant trees and gates stretching into the sky at seeming impossible angles that are hard to look into, and mysterious monks wordlessly on their way on secret errands (probably just paying the gas bill…).

So, if you have the chance to visit Mt Kurama in real life, I can heartily recommend it. If not, at least visit it in your gaming. If you do stat up or use Mt Kurama, drop us a line to tell us how it went!


Monday, July 1, 2013

Flipping Alignment

Alignment in traditional D&D is marked by two facts: 1) it is determined before play and 2) it is used as a ‘stick’ for punishing players who don’t stay within the lines of their chosen (or imposed in the cases of classes like the paladin) worldview.

Let’s flip Alignment and see what we get.

First, how about if we determine Alignment after a character is created, through his or her actions? This is more or less what Chaosium’s Stormbringer and Elric! games did, allowing characters to accrue Law, Chaos or Balance points based on their players’ actions. If we define these forces based on the Michael Moorcock conception of opposing entities representing stability and/or stagnation, creativity and/or destruction, and peacefulness and/or passivity, then this isn’t hard to implement. I may write up a treatment of the rules for assigning such points later.

Stormbringer/Elric! also carried the seed of my second flip, namely rewarding PCs with summonings or boons from deities of their patron Alignment based on how many points they had accumulated and were willing to spend. Boons might include spell-like effects, familiars or summonings, and magical gear or companions. Of course, they would still be subject to punishment for transgressing or openly opposing the will of their patron.

There is a final flip contained herein – Alignment only matters if a character 1) has a class defined by its Alignment, such as Priest or Paladin, or 2) the character has sworn themselves to or undertaken a quest for a deity.

As for the advanced Alignment categories of Good, Evil, and Neutral, I would reskin these as Heroic, Villainous, and Neutral, just because they’re easier to wrap my head around.

Anyway, I’d like to try this the next game I run. Just some sleepy thoughts…