Wednesday, August 31, 2011

RPG Chopshop V: PDQ Exalted

Exalted is a game I desperately love but have never really played beyond the occasional game that dies before the second session comes round. Despite that I've got a heaping collection of Exalted books and I've always enjoyed the setting and characters. However, one of the biggest stumbling blocks for me was the system which always seemed a bit clunky and easily unbalanced. 

So a few years ago I basically recreated Exalted for the PDQ system. Now, let me preface this with saying that this was written quite a while ago and I don't think I'd actually use this system to run Exalted if I were to play a game right now. I'd still use PDQ but I'd probably try and develop a more flexible, free-form charm system rather than going through the books and converting every single charm out there.

But I put a lot of work into these, so hopefully some people get some use out of it and I think it's still far better than the core system for Exalted.

Solars and Lunars

Monday, August 29, 2011

Improving the World's Largest Dungeon

Today I had a very fun session with the Order. I have been running them through a published adventure (with some changes) for Eberron "The Grasp of the Emerald Claw" and they may soon be reaching the adventure's conclusion. During tonight's game I noticed a few rather glaring mistakes in the adventure which had to be corrected on the fly.

This reminded me of another adventure I own that contains quite a few errors: The World's Largest Dungeon. I purchases the WLD purely on impulse shortly after the book was published (I had planned to split the cost with my current gaming group. That sadly never happened) and although I've read through quite a lot of the adventure and used parts for inspirational material I've never managed to get any groups far into the dungeon proper.

As I've said before I'm a game collector so I'm no stranger to plunking down cash for books that will do nothing more than decorate my shelves so that doesn't sting too much. But the WLD is pricey by any standards and it's a lot of money to put down on a book you've basically never used. The biggest problem (aside from the daunting challenge of running the WLD in the first place) is the fact that the dungeon is sadly not put together very well in the first place. The place is riddled with poorly balanced encounters, confusingly random rooms and traps, minimal creativity and general errors (my biggest pet peeve is what the WLD does with the's just sad). 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Adventure Material: Re-Return to the Keep on the Plaplands

I'm currently running a game at the forums for the Questers of the Middle Realms rpg. It's loosely based on the (extremely) old school D+D module "The Keep on the Borderlands". It's not a direct adaptation of the original module but it's intended to take the idea of "isolated fortress as the base for a sandbox-style game" and adapt it to the tongue-in-cheek attitude of the Questers setting. I figured, since there's not a lot of adventures out there for PDQ, I'd post the adventure material here as it gets created (needless to say, if anyone from my game stumbles across this, please do not read). 

This is the initial premise for the adventure, posted in the recruitment thread: 

The Plains of Plap is one of the strangest and most mysterious places in Ludor: a large expanse of mostly empty grassland where things and sometimes creatures fall from the sky at random intervals. For the most part it's harmless (if annoying) but occasionally something dangerous lands here and survives to make trouble or someone comes across some unstable magic object and blows up an inn. Thus it was decided to build the Border Keep on edge of the plains, placed along a pass through the hills that surround Plap. The keep serves to keep watch should anything deadly try and make its way out of the plains and also as a trading post where scavengers can sell interesting things that have fallen from the sky.

After changing hands quite a few times no one is sure exactly which nation owns the Keep anymore and no one is willing to send their own troops to keep it manned. Thus the armed forces of the keep mostly consist of a few locals and questers who come by looking for work. You've been here once before...but it was boring and you left. Then you came back...but someone had to get drunk and cause a fuss and get everyone else kicked out. Now you're low on cash and you're back...again...hopefully things will go better this time. 

And here's a map of the region around the Keep. This map is a player handout so it doesn't include secret or unknown things (such as the main dungeon, the Caverns of Whatever). 

Part of the original adventure was a random table of different rumors that players might have heard about the Keep and of course I adapted that as well.

Rumor Table (1d20)
  1. The frogmen in the marsh often kidnap travelers for cooking (sort of true).
  2. Beneath a giant tree lives a hermit, a powerful wizard. (false)
  3. Beneath a giant tree lives a crazed old man and his pet giant cat.
  4. There is a cache of valuable objects hidden in the Accursed Heap (false).
  5. A tribe of beastmen have moved into the plains recently.
  6. The really big skull can speak if you address it just after sunset (false).
  7. Recently an unknown idol fell from the sky.
  8. Valuable objects tend to fall more commonly in the Thicket. (false)
  9. A huge giant wanders the plains. No one knows exactly where they came from.
  10. There were some particularly large impacts in the last couple of weeks.
  11. There's been a sudden influx of dangerous humaniods in the past week or two.
  12. One of the scavengers witnessed a dragon fly across the plains (false).
  13. There's a series of caverns running under the plains.
  14. There's an evil cult hiding among the inhabitants of the Keep. (false)
  15. The local jeweler will offer small gemstones in exchange for books
  16. Travelers in the plains have recently seen one of Arrganarr's Night Riders
  17. There's a underground tribe of kobolds in the hills near the Keep.
  18. One of the most dangerous threats on the plain are herds of Dread Sheep.
  19. A talking suit of armor can be found at the Accursed Heap (false)
  20. A band of thieves stays in the Keep, fencing dangerous and illegal goods from the plains (false)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Things I Think About Things: The Fall of Silent Hill

Was just puttering around the internet when I noticed that the latest Silent Hill game Downpour might be released in the next couple of months. This will be the first Silent Hill game that I don't plan on ordering. Silent Hill has been (and I suppose still is) my favorite video game franchise. It provided me with some of the best electronic entertainment I've ever had which has made it extremely painful to see how far the franchise keeps falling. After the first few games each one has been progressively worse and it finally reached its nadir with Silent Hill: Shattered Memories which ended up nearly driving me to physical violence against my playstation. Sadly I don't expect the latest version, Downpour, to be an improvement. Lets look over Silent Hill and mourn a series that has died but lives on as a twisted horror. An appropriate, if tragic, fate. 

The Good Ones: I think pretty much any Silent Hill fan will agree that the first three Silent Hill titles were by far the best of the lot. Silent Hill 2 is generally held to be the top dog in the pack and it's hard to disagree with that. It was an incredibly well-told and intriguing horror story that quite literally had me sleeping with the lights on the first time I played it. However, I actually believe the first Silent Hill was the best of the group. True it's not nearly as inspired in terms of story, dialogue or design but it was scary. And when you consider that it was a PS1 game with incredibly poor controls and chunky graphics, managing to actually create horror is pretty impressive. It's easy to be frightening when you have Pyramid Head. What's truly impressive is creating horror when your graphics look like this: 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

RPG Chopshop IV: How I'd Run Star Wars

Inspired by a recent thread on the RPGnet forum regarding what system would work best for handling lightsaber duels I decided to see what I could hack to make a decent system for Star Wars. I own both d20 versions of Star Wars, never tried the d6 version (although I'm told it's excellent) and I am only really familiar with the series through the movies and the Knights of the Old Republic video games. So, if I abuse some obscure cannon you'll have to forgive me (or not I suppose). 

As far as the core system, I'll go with my most recent acquisition: Swashbucklers of the Seven Skies. Or, more specifically, I'll go with the core rules it's based around since they are all you really need and are totally free right here. Although if you're looking for a fun and imaginative fantasy setting you should definitely think about checking out the full version of Swashbucklers.

Anyway, so I'll go through the system and switch the dials to Star Wars...

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Podcast of Magnitude: part 1

So here's part of the recording from the game last Sunday. I'm splitting the audio into chunks to help speed things up. This is the first part of the game where we wait for everyone to show up and then battle a giant rust monster in the jungles of Xendrik. By the way if you want to skip straight to the gameplay that starts about 20 minutes in. 

I've made some effort to bleep the dialogue but it's always possible some profanity slipped through so be warned if that's something you find offensive. I also apologize for the fan noise in the background. In future I'll try and make sure we don't have that in the same room as we are. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Preview pictures

Here's some very quick illustrations I drew of highlights from the Order's last game. The recording of that game came out very well and I'm in the process of editing the tape now. It'll shine more light on the pictures but for now you can consider them previews of what is to come. 

The first is their fight with the world's largest rust monster, the second is magnus riding a hill giant. You can click both for the full sized version.

month old birthday picture

Just some art I made for NJ for her birthday about a month and a half ago. Other than NJ herself all the characters are from her comic Emergency Exit. As always click for the full sized picture.

My Greatest Failure. Beyond Reality .01

I talk a fair amount about my current group, mostly because I'm the forgetful sort and my memories of older groups tend to be fuzzy when it comes to specifics, but I figured tonight I'd make a post about possibly the worst game I've ever run. Well, I say worst. It was actually a lot of fun but objectively it was a horrible mass of mistakes and a near endless arms race between me and the PCs.

Believe it or not this game was actually tied pretty strongly to my webcomic Beyond Reality. At the time I had just come up with the idea for the comic and I wanted to try running the concept as an RPG before starting the comic itself. Essentially a game where the players hop from world to world in an effort to find their way home. 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

RPG Chopshop III: Savage Worlds Powers

In my time running Savage Worlds and working on the material for The Savage World of Athas I've come up with several custom trappings for various Savage Worlds powers and I figured there's no reason not to share.

Wind Wall (Barrier)
Rank: Seasoned
Power Points: 1/section
Range: Smarts
Duration: 3 (1 per section per round)

Unlike a normal barrier a wind wall is not solid, but is composed of swirling air. The wind is powerful enough to deflect normal projectiles (such as arrows, spears, or rocks), subtracting 6 from all Shooting or Throwing rolls that must pass through the barrier. Extremely fast (bullets) or massive (hurled boulders) pass through with less interference, inflicting only a -2 penalty. 

Since the wall is not solid people may attempt to leap or run through it but the wall automatically inflicts 2d6 damage on anyone trying to run through. This damage cannot inflict Wounds but anyone Shaken by the damage is tossed 1d4" back from the wall.

Greater Elemental Mastery (elemental Mastery)
Rank: Veteran
Power Points: 3
Range: special
Duration: Special
Trappings: Gestures and chants

Like the normal elemental mastery each element is selected as its own unique power.

Air: The caster may manipulate major air currents, raising wind, changing its direction, or reducing its intensity (this can add or subtract 2 from Driving or Boating rolls for wind powered vehicles). This could also create a small dust storm (Smarts x 10 in diameter) creating the 'dim' condition. These effects have a duration of 1 hour (2/hour). This spell can also be used to instantly negate a non-magical wind-related effect (such as dissapating a sandstorm or tornado). The range of these effects is Smarts x 100".

Earth: Shape stone and earth at will, up to Smarts x 2 cubic feet of material (Smarts x3 for soft earth), for instance a spellcaster with smarts 1d6 could open a 6' hole in a stone wall up to two feet thick. This can also be used to repair stone materials structures and items or shape stone into new forms (a statue, a weapon, spikes, etc.). The effect is instantaneous and has a range of Smarts x2

Fire: With a wave of the hand a torch sized flame can be created which can be held without damage to the caster (duration: 10 minutes (1/10 minutes)). Existing fires can be extinguished, doubled in size and intensity (spotfire becomes a campire, campfire becomes a bonfire, etc.), or even moved at a rate of 2" a round. By concentrating objects can also be heated until they ignite, melt, or shatter (inflicting 1d10 fire damage every round). Both these effects have a duration of 3 rounds (1/round) and a range of Smarts x2.

Water: The caster may create a raincloud, cause an existing cloud to give rain, or increase the intensity of an existing rainstorm. Water can also be made to move at the caster's will, forming into shapes and flowing at a rate of 3" per round. A full pool or pond of water may be purified and made safe for drinking. Duration: 5 minutes (1/minute)

Fireworks (Bolt)
Rank: Novice
Power Points: 1-6
Range: 12/24/48
Duration: instant

This power functions like Bolt, firing sparking, fizzing missiles that burst upon impact. Each Bolt damages all targets in a Small Burst Radius for 2d4 (or 3d4 for 2 pp per bolt) damage. 

Phantasmal Cannon (Bolt)
Rank: Heroic
Power Points: 3-15
Range: 50/100/200
Duration: instant

One of Max's spells from the Deadlands campaign. The caster conjures several phantom cannons and lets loose with a volley of sparkling mystic shells. Each shot costs 3 Power Points (up to 9 PP for 3 shots) and inflicts 3d6 damage with AP 4. This counts as a Heavy Weapon. For 2 additional power points per shot the damage increases to 3d8.

Friday, August 12, 2011

DICE the RPG: defining terms.

Still mulling over thoughts for DICE. I think I've gotten the bare bones of the core rules set in my mind, although I'm sure they'll need extensive polishing. For now I'll think a bit about each Dice Class and what they can do. First and foremost I'll try and nail down some terminology:

Dice Class: The number of sides your Dice has.
Skills: A skill is a narrow, usually player-defined ability where the Dice is exceptionally talented (i.e. they can take Skilled actions and effectively defend against Skilled actions). Examples: Willpower, Toxin Resistance, Perception, Stealth.
Profession: A Profession basically a big Skill, covering a large number of different Skills at once. Examples: Pirate, Ninja, Doctor, Alchemist.
Traits: While Skills and Professions are player-defined Traits are usually pre-defined. They may be provided by equipment or situation, but usually they'll be selected from a list available to your Dice Class. There are also a few generic Traits available to everyone.

Probably going to have a couple of free Traits at level 1, with an additional Trait earned every level. Skills and Professions will be earned at level 1 based on Dice Class.

d12s receive a single pre-defined skill (Courage)
d10s can select a single Skill of their choice.
d8s can select a single Profession.
d6's can select both a profession and 2-3 skills.
d4's will be able to select 1-2 skills (they get Esoteric abilities automatically however).

I'll probably want to start thinking of some good Traits for the various Dice Classes. We'll see what I come up with.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

DICE the RPG: random thoughts

So it's been a bit over 24 hours since random inspiration struck and I came up with the idea for DICE the RPG. Let's see what actual concrete ideas have congealed since then...

So, the system basics would be based around a character's Core Dice, essentially a number of dice equal to your level, of the appropriate Dice Class. So for instance a 4th level d6 is a 4d6 and that's also his Core Dice. While a 1st level d12 would use 1d12 for her Core Dice. 

Actions would involve a simple Target Number system, probably in units of 5, starting with 5 as the most basic and simple. Actions are resolved by rolling 1d20 and adding your Core Dice. So the 1st level d12 above would roll 1d20+1d12 when resolving most actions. 

There are roughly 3 types of Actions: Brute, Skilled, and Esoteric. Brute actions are those that anyone can attempt without any training (although obviously skill makes success more likely). Skilled and Esoteric actions represent actions with significantly greater complexity. Dice making Skilled actions against unskilled targets (say sneaking past a guard, or using judo to flip an enemy over your shoulder) the target is denied their Core Dice on defense. So a 4d6 attempting a Skilled action against an unskilled 4d10 (say...sneaking past him) would roll 1d20+4d6 vs the d10's straight 1d20 roll. Likewise anyone attempting a Skilled action when unskilled (say if that same d10 wanted to sneak by someone) they only get to roll 1d20 to give it a try. Esoteric actions occupy a third tier that's even more exclusive. No one can attempt them at all without the appropriate Esoteric ability. Like Skilled Vs Unskilled actions, those attempting to defend against Esoteric Actions roll a straight d20. 

Balance between different Dice will depend on the balance of skill vs unskilled vs esoteric actions. 
-d12s can only perform Brute actions.
-d10s can select a single Talent at character creation representing a narrow area where they are Skilled (such as Perceptive or Sneaky). 
-d8s can select a range of Talents (say 2-3) giving them several narrow or related areas of skill. 
-d6s can select a broadly defined Profession (say Ninja or Con Artist) which defines a large area where they are skilled, as well as a small selection of Talents. 
-d4s have automatic access to Esoteric abilities, allowing them to attempt a very broad range of actions (via magic, weird science, etc). 

Each Dice Class may also has at least one automatic Skill. (say courage for d12s, Weapon mastery for d10s, willpower for d8s...etc). 

Finally characters can be further customized through Knacks (or Edges or Feats or Advantages. Whatever you like) that provide individual special abilities or new Skilled or Esoteric abilities.

Obviously hideously rough and probably quite unbalanced so far. But certainly interesting.

Gallery of Rejection 3

The newest entry into the gallery was submitted to Somethingawful's Next Top Module contest. Sadly I did not win, but looking at some of those who did win I completely understand. There were some amazing entries. Since they still seem to be planning to merge all the submissions into a single "megadungeon" style adventure I'll just post the art I submitted for now and I'll update it later with the room I submitted. Click the picture for the full sized version.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Dice as characters

So, this is the result of a pretty random train of thought that started when I was thinking about how closely linked certain dice were to certain character classes in D&D and Pathfinder. This led to the desire to draw some very silly things.

D12s The Dice of Rage: D12s are big, chunky dice for big, chunky heroes. They give the barbarian their Hit Dice and damage from their trusty greataxes (barbarians who don't use greataxes are really just grumpy fighters). Like the barbarian the d12 is an outsider, rarely used and only barely tolerated in civilized dice bags. 

D10s The Warrior Dice: Lean, mean and pointy. No dice epitomizes the fighter class better. It gives them their hit points and decorates the damage section when they wield their shiny bastard swords and waraxes alongside their shields. 

D8's The Dice of the Faithful: Although everyone likes the d8 it really shines in the hands of divine classes, those who spend their time contemplating the mysteries of ∞. clerics use the d8 for their hit points while both clerics and paladins use it for the majority of their healing and damage spells, and their trusty heavy maces and longswords. The d8 is also the die of nature. Druids use it almost as often as clerics while rangers use their longbows to pepper their enemies with d8s. Both also use it to give their animal companions their Hit Dice. 

D6's The Dice of Secrets: No other dice is so involved in mysterious hidden worlds as the d6. In the mundane world it is a sneaky bastard: working alongside rogues to give them their hit points and take away those of their enemies with trusty short-swords and sneak attacks. In the world of the mystical the d6 is even more powerful. Wizards would hardly be seen dead without a trusty quarterstaff and their spells usually involve several handfuls of them at once!

D20's The Party Dice: Everyone loves the d20. From attack rolls to skill checks to saving throws the d20 is always there for you. However, if there's one class that the d20 loves best it's the Bard. The bard may flirt wildly with every other dice out there (except the d12, ugh) but in the end they always come crawling back to the d20. Not only do they use the d20 for their many, many skill checks but their primary use in the party is to make the d20 work well with everyone else.

The Humble D4: The d4 sees little use for anyone other than the commoner for both hit points and the damage of their puny slings and daggers. Sure, some adventurers flirt with the d4 in their lower levels but as time goes on they move away towards mightier dice, leaving the d4 to go back to working the fields. 

The Dread D3: The d3 is a dice that Was Never Meant To Be. A horrific, non-euclidean sin against proper geometry the d3 has no place in any proper game. However it somehow manages to always creep its way in to the dark corners and shadowy edges of the rules. Beware the d3 for it plots against all higher dice values waiting till the stars are right and it can finally break into our realm. If one day you find a d3 in your dice bag you will know true madness. 

The Divine d100: If any one die can truly represent the power of the Game Master it is the d100. Wandering monsters and treasure hordes all bow before it's mighty roll. With the right table the d100 can be used to create anything: monsters, cities, countries...even entire worlds. This is truly the dice of creation itself!

Very silly. However, the longer I worked on this stuff the more it began to inspire me in very odd ways. I don't know if I'm fully in my right mind at the moment but I have conceived of perhaps the most generic role-playing game ever: DICE the RPG! Your class is your die type, representing not only combat effectiveness but also your hit points. You may call it mad, but I say it is genius! I shall create this game and no one will stop me!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Swashbucklers of the Seven Skies

Just picked up swashbucklers of the seven skies recently. It's pretty odd that it took me so long. Not only is PDQ one of my personal favorite systems but I'm working to make my own PDQ game as well. So why did it take so long to get a hold of this one? Basically I'm forgetful. When it first came out I would have loved to have picked it up but money was tight and I was fully involved with other games. As time went on it slipped my mind and those times I remembered I never had the spare cash to plop down on a book that, unfortunately, I wouldn't likely be able to play with anytime in the near future. So on and so forth.

Well, I finally changed that and I've been absorbing it busily. Lots of great material both in terms of the fantastic setting and the small mechanical upgrades or polishes they add to PDQ. I'm actually considering surgically grafting So7S's airship combat system into Pathfinder for the Eberron game I'm currently running. It's great!

The only thing that would keep me from giving it a perfect score is the magic system. Normally I wouldn't worry too much about that sort of thing, it's a swashbuckling game and wizards and sorcerers are hardly the most iconic heroes of that genre. The rules for Gifts are also definitely evocative and interesting but at the same time there's no restrictions or downsides to purchasing Gifts (or at least not any significant ones) despite the fact that they're more powerful than most other qualities. For example, if you're playing a combat focused character there's very little reason not to take the Griffin gift. Even if you aren't going for a combat focus it's pretty appealing. Kuldons (the setting's "wizards" who can take multiple gifts) are even more powerful.

Fortunately for me the solution is pretty simple. All I need to do is look to another great PDQ fantasy game: Questers of the Middle Realms. Essentially just limiting magical Fortes like Gifts and Kuldoon by dropping the starting Rank of the Quality to Average [0] rather than Good [+2] and using Quester's magical intensity chart as a guideline for the difficulty of various magical feats. That's all it takes for it to click into place for me. That's one of the great things about PDQ, it's a robust little system that's very tough to break. You can flex it pretty far in whatever direction you need until it suits you.

Monday, August 8, 2011


Some quick, simple doodles of the Order. Should I ever feel the urge to illustrate any of their adventures I'll probably use this style of art.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

[Pathfinder] Fun With Templates

In my recent eberron-based games with the Order I played around with the templates available to produce one of the most dangerous and annoying critters they've faced so far. They've managed to deal with them so far when just fighting just one along with some mook backup but in tonight's game I'm going to be throwing about 5 of them at the Order at once. 

The Hounds of Karnath.
Magebred Fiendish Vampiric Worgs (CR 5)
Medium Undead; HD 4d8+12 (30 hp); Speed: 50 feet; AC 26 (+10 natural, +5 dex, +1 dodge); Initiative: +9; Attack: Bite +13 (1d8+12, plus trip plus energy drain); CMB +13 CMD 28 (32 vs trip); SA: Blood Drain, Children of the Night, Create Spawn, Dominate (DC 16), Energy Drain (2 negative levels); Smite Good 1/day SQ: Undead, Change Shape, Gaseous Form, Spider Climb, Fast Healing 5, DR 10/magic and silver, Cold Resistance 10, Electricity Resistance 10, Fire Resistance 5, Turn Resistance +4, SR 10; Saves: Fort +4, Ref+11, Will+4; Str-27, Dex-21, Con--, Int-8, Wis-16, Cha-14
Skills: Perception +22, Stealth +12, Survival +6
Feats: Alertness, Combat Reflexes, Dodge, Improved Initiative, Lightning Reflexes, Toughness, Run, Skill Focus (perception), Improved Natural Attack 

These were created by the Karnathi government for "internal issues", hunting down traitors, spies and anyone else the government or the church of Vol wanted to make an example of. There would be a night full of howling and the next morning corpses with their hamstrings ripped and their blood drained would be found in the dirt. The emerald claw gotten hold of a pack of them as well and has recently sent them after the Order, so far just one at a time with the support of a few Karnathi skeletons or Zombies but tonight they'll face most of the pack.

Now normally a group of CR 5 monsters, even vampires, would not be that big a deal to a 9th level party like the Order. Especially considering they've defeated a vampire before (and boy is that a story for another time). But unfortunately they've got no cleric or paladin, no silver weaponry and only one character has a weapon that's powerful enough to overcome their DR. That, combined with the Hound's constant tripping, energy draining and healing means that it's been a tough fight for them dealing with just one. Hopefully I'll record everything tonight and you can share experience. 

EDIT: Unfortunately, although there was much panicking when the full pack of Hounds descended on the party, the Hounds of Karnath fell victim to the main weakness of monsters with more Templates than Hit Dice: Their saving throws. Jack, the Order's sorcerer, pulled out a scroll of halt undead and managed to lock 3 of the 5 hounds right out of commission. Two escaped via mist form but the rest were staked.

Even more unfortunately the recording of tonight's session was screwed up. However sometime in the next week or so I'll begin recounting the stories of the current incarnation of the Order of Magnitude to get everyone caught up.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Gallery of Rejection 2

The second entry in the Gallery of Rejection comes from an art contest I entered in the forums a few weeks ago. The contest started with 32 artists, pairing them up in "duels" against one another based on a short "inspiration" phrase. After the art is produced there's a vote to see who continues.

This isn't a proper Gallery of Rejection entry because I actually made it to the third round and I'm thrilled about that. There were a lot of great artists in the competition and a lot of people far worthier than I got eliminated in the early rounds. This is more of an excuse to post the art I created.

In order, the inspirations were: It's Good to Be Back, Secret Places, and Regret. Click the images to see the full size versions.

Looking at the final entry it's pretty obvious why I lost. Well, actually I lost because my opponent did really great work, but clearly the last one is not the top of my game. Had far too much on my plate that weekend including finishing up the latest Beyond Reality update and submitting an entry to Somethingawful's Steve's Next Top Module contest (which I'm sure will be showing up in the Gallery once the results for that contest come through).

I Thought of it First III: GPS gaming

I should mention that I've never owned a GPS device. I don't do much driving and I'm too cheap to get any phone other than what's offered free with my telephone plan. However I recently took a trip to Portland with NJ and a friend who did have a GPS on her smartphone and we got oddly excited over the process of "keep the blue dot going along the purple line!"

So it occurred to me, why not make that a game? Have a GPS system that scores you based on not only how far or how often you drive but how well you drive? You earn points every time you don't miss a turn (complete with little fanfare noises). You could even have bonus points every time you visit a place you haven't been to before or points for going farther from your "home" base. The game could even have achievements that you could unlock for different destinations or creating unusual shapes on the GPS map (say doing a figure 8 through several blocks). 
Bizarre little idea I had but I'm sure it'll exist someday.

Savage World of Athas finale

Phew, this is taking longer than I thought but I'm nearly done now. 


Here we're going to be going over the different versions of Arcane Backgrounds for Athas: Elementalism, Magic and Psionics. Templars would qualify as well but seeing as they're meant to be NPCs and their power depends on the favor of the sorcerer kings I'm not going to provide PC stats for them. If you feel the need it's easy enough to give them the Miracles AB from the core SW book. But here's all the rest: 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Order of Magnitude Sound!

In preparation for plans to record playtesting for PDQ-Fu I've done some experimental recording with the Order. Although the cheap microphone I purchased for this turned out to be amazingly bad at picking up anything I did find that the tiny, built-in microphone for my mp3 player is actually fairly impressive. 

So, just to share here's a snippet (ran out of memory storage on the player) of our last game session. You'll get to see what I have to put up with. Just a word of warning there's some swearing. This is my first attempt at any audio editing so hopefully I'll learn bit by bit how to make higher quality recordings for the future.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Order of Magnitude V: The final chapter

So this should be the final entry. The entire campaign lasted a bit over a year and a half but unfortunately a lot of the exact details were lost due to my faulty memory. However this part is still fairly fresh.

After fleeing the ruins of Shan Fan (and cursing the fact that their plans to steal the Denarians airship came to nothing) the posse heads south along the edge of the Maze, tracking a rumor that one of the coins was lost somewhere in this area. Unfortunately at this point Nicodemus and co. are in hot pursuit. Normally the posse would probably have stood their ground and fought. However, they've found through several tussles with Nicodemus that he's fairly unkillable, seemingly completely invulnerable to even the most lethal headshots or Max's hexes (those who have read the dresden files know why). With this in mind they decide to high tail it away from the Denarians ASAP.

However, the airship is closing in fast and they're running out of supplies in the california deserts. It's at about this time that they run into a band of native americans. They manage to make peaceful contact and with some decent Persuasion rolls from Jethro they are invited back to the tribe's village. It's about this time that the Denarians appear on the horizon. It looks like a horrific battle in the making but then the Indian shaman who leads the village stops it cold. He calls lightning to turn the airship into torch and when Nicodemus and crew arrive on foot he banishes them from the tribe's lands. It's clear to everyone at this point that they have stumbled upon Plot.

So, spending some time to talk to the indians they learn some important things. First that this tribe does possess the coin they're looking for. It's kept at the bottom of a deep well in the center of the village along with several other nasty artifacts of evil. The shaman is bound by a duty to the spirits to guard any sources of wickedness and evil here, never permitting them to leave. In exchange the spirits grant him gobs of power while he remains in the tribe's territory and the rest of the tribe defends him from physical dangers. What's more he's able to fill them in on some information such as the source of Nicodemus's invulnerability (an artifact called the noose of judas he wears around his neck) and where he's headed next (Death Valley). Since he wasn't able to collect the coin here he'll likely just kill one of his own denarian crew and take their coin to complete the set he needs to forge the Crown of Tears (Plot Device...of EVIL!) and gain the combined powers of the 18 denarians he'd forge into the crown. That's not the only bad news though, which brings us to Max...

The Savage World of Athas part 3: Wild Talents

Now, the final step to complete the conversion: Dark Sun's rather unique take on standard magic systems. Before we get to that though let's talk about wild talents. The original setting allowed you to get just about any psionic ability if you were lucky but later versions, due to very valid balance concerns, limit wild talents to minor 0-level effects. Trying to find a happy balance between the original, game-breaking insanity and the bland, minor talents that replaced it I've come up with the following ideas. 

The first thing you've got to do is decide how you want to distribute wild talents among players. Essentially there are three ways to do it.

First, in the spirit of the old school, there's good old random chance. Each character rolls a d20 to determine exactly what their wild talent is. Characters with AB (Psionics) should not roll, instead they receive an additional Power known when they take the AB Edge. Likewise if a character with a Wild Talent takes the Edge then they lose their Talent but start with an additional Power.

1: No Talent: You have no psionic ability. However you do receive the Psionic Resistance Edge for free.
2-3: Psychokinetic Talent
4-5: Pyrokinetic Talent
6-7: Biofeedback Talent
8-9: Healing Talent
10-11: Mindscream Talent
12-13: Psychocognition Talent
14-15: Telepathic Talent
16-17: Psychoportive Talent
18: Exceptional Talent: Roll again, you have a +2 bonus to Spirit rolls to activate your talent. 
19: Broad Talent: Roll twice, you have two talents but suffer a -2 penalty to Spirit rolls to activate the talent.
20: Mad With Power!: Roll three times, you have three talents but every time you activate a talent roll on the Fear table.

The second option is to give everyone a single Wild Talent of their choice (only for results from 2-17).

Finally, the more sane option is to make a Background Edge: Wild Talent (no prerequisites) which grants either a Talent of the player's choice or a roll on the table.

So, how do wild talents work? Essentially when you want to activate a Wild Talent you spend a Benny and make a Spirit roll. A normal failure results in no effect. the results of snake eyes, a success or a raise are detailed below. You can always choose to take the results of a lesser success if it is preferred. If the roll is failed then you can keep the Benny (this doesn't count if you spend another benny to reroll and suceed, and if you reroll and fail then you don't get back the extra benny spent).

Psychokinetic Talent:
  • Snake Eyes: Small objects are ripped up and hurled about wildly and randomly. You and everyone within 2" takes 1d6 damage. 
  • Success: You may hurl an object or opponent. Treat this as the Telekinesis power except that you may only make a single attack or move your opponent only once and you add twice the number of dice to your Spirit as normal for damage (Spirit +2d6 to slam someone into a wall for instance).
  • Raise: You may choose a single unattended object of 20 pounds or less within 10" and cause it to detonate explosively. This inflicts 2d10 damage in a Small Burst Template around the object. Objects made of particularly soft material (fruit for instance) are harmless when detonated and anything harder than stone cannot be detonated.  Each additional raise lets you detonate an additional object.
Pyrokinetic Talent:
  • Snake Eyes: You catch on fire. 
  • Success: A character of your choice within 10" catches on fire. If you choose spend an action to concentrate then the opponent must beat your opposed Spirit roll to attempt to douse the flame. 
  • Raise: You may enlarge and animate any single existing fire source within 10" as a Fire Elemental. The elemental exists only as long as you spend an action to concentrate each round. This is not an actual elemental (it's merely psionically animated fire) so magic specifically designed to affect elemental or extraplanar creatures will fail. Each additional raise increases the elemental's Size by +1 and Strength by a die type. 
 Biofeedback Talent
  • Snake Eyes: Your skin and body deforms horribly. You suffer a point of Fatigue and -2 Charisma. These effects recover in 1d6 hours. 
  • Success: Your armor increases by +1 and you ignore all wound penalties for 6 rounds.
  • Raise: Your Strength, Vigor, and Agility increases by one die type and you gain the Hardy ability. This effect lasts for 3 rounds. Each additional raise increases the duration by 3 rounds. 
Healing Talent:
  • Snake Eyes: Blood spurts from any existing wounds. You take 1d6 damage per Wound level you're suffering from. 
  • Success: You may make a natural Healing roll immediately. 
  • Raise: You gain Fast Regeneration for 2 rounds. Each additional raise increases the duration by 1 round. 
 Mindscream Talent
  • Snake Eyes: You are Shaken for 1d4 rounds. 
  • Success: A single target within 10" must make a Spirit roll at -2 or be Shaken for 1d4 rounds. Mindless or unliving targets are immune. 
  • Raise: Place a large burst template centered on yourself. Everyone within the template (other than you) suffers 2d6 damage from your mental scream. This damage ignores armor, cover, and any other physical barriers. Each additional raise increases the damage by 1d6.
Hypercognition Talent
  • Snake Eyes: You suffer a -4 penalty to any Smarts rolls or skills linked to Smarts for 10 minutes. 
  • Success: Your Smarts increases by one die type and the world seems to slow down, you may draw an additional card for initiative. This lasts for 6 rounds
  • Raise: Your Smarts and Spirit increases by one die type and you may take an additional action without suffering a multi-action penalty. This lasts 3 rounds but each raise increases the duration by 3 rounds.
Telepathic Talent
  •  Snake Eyes: You are overwhelmed by the unintelligible thoughts and feelings of others. You suffer a -1 penalty to all trait rolls for each intelligent creature within 10" of you.
  • Success: You may scan an intelligent beings surface thoughts, allowing you to determine if it's lying and you may make an opposed Spirit roll to learn specific facts close to the surface. This lasts so long as you can concentrate and the victim remains within 2".
  • Raise: You can delve deeply into a victim's thoughts. The target must be within 2" and may make an opposed Spirit roll to resist your probing. You may ask up to 3 questions (each requiring an opposed roll) which the GM must answer based on the target's knowledge. Each additional raise grants an additional 2 questions.
Psychoportive Talent
  • Snake Eyes: Your body flickers in and out of reality briefly and you become Shaken.
  • Success: You may teleport yourself up to 10" 
  • Raise: You may teleport an object or creature within 20" up to 10" from their original location. Living targets receive an opposed Spirit roll to resist the effect. Each additional Raise allows you to teleport an additional target.