Wednesday, December 18, 2013

In Stock at the Fantasy Shop

First up, I have to thank Charles Akins over at Dyvers for diving into the vast sea of OSR blogs to give a short review/overview of what's out there. It really was an honor just to be nominated.

Now, on to the content. A while back I wrote a post about using DIY tokens to track item consumption in D&D games. Even though there's a serviceable Avery template for printing the tokens out ahead of time, I still needed a way to print out "blank" tokens on which to swiftly write things like "severed bear's head" on the fly at the game table. Hence, this:
I settled on a 1.5 x 1.7 size so that the tokens would be a little taller, which makes them poke out of the top of the page for easier retrieval. 

Then, I thought, "might as well stock up the local town merchant while I'm at it." At first, I was using text-only tokens (because my artistic abilities are limited to remarkably lewd stick figures), but then I decided that they needed a little visual panache. Fortunately, the tremendous Telecanter of and the rip-roaring Roger of  have both made some nifty Creative Commons/Free Use artwork available. I also ganked a particularly saucy picture of a potion from by Hakan. Don't worry, I printed a link to Hakan's site on the token card. I'm a helper.
Open these in a new tab to marvel at the delicious fruits of my labor. Or just, y'know, download them. If they prove useful, I'd love to hear about how you used them in your campaign.

I'm a long way from being done with the basic set of dungeon-delving equipment, but this seems like a decent start. I hit a snag when the best source of equipment images I've found turned out to be a bunch of scans from the 3.5 Edition Player's Guide. So, does anyone know of a great source for free-use images of dungeony gear?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Your "Identical" Duplicate is Really...

"You're a goody-two-shoes!"

1.) Your mystical Nemesis, birthed from the cursed, Unseelie mirror-pools of Faerie. It is identical to you in every way, save for always being the equivalent of one experience level higher than you. It is intent upon your complete and total destruction. It will, inevitably, take its sweet time making your life miserable before deigning to end your worthless existence.

2.) Your worst enemy, polymorphed to look like you, with psionic impressions of all of your memories to complete the package. Speaking of "package", wanna guess who's going to be spending some quality time with your significant other tonight?

3.) The clone abortion that's gone completely fucking sideways. Like, this thing has P R O B L E M S. Think Bizarro, if Bizarro was three shades more retarded, had extra genitals in odd places, and was prone to shitting himself in the middle of violent outbursts.

4.) It really is you, but worse. This duplicate is from an alternate universe in which you are a completely worthless shit-heel. It has -1 to all of your attributes, and is functionally one level of experience lower than you are. It might not be evil, per se, but it definitely rains douchebaggery down in heavy torrents everywhere it goes. I'm sure that won't cause you any problems.

5.) A very convincing hallucination. This good-lookin' devil is one heck of a charmer. You can't, for the life of you, understand why no one else will admit to seeing them...

6.) A Shapeshifter or Master of Disguise who's running a loooooooooong con.

7.) A random person who, for reasons unbeknownst to either you or them, just looks remarkably similar to you. Perhaps there are some family secrets which need to be aired out.

8.) A perfect illusion/hologram of your current appearance, which mimics your every action. It's offset by a distance of about 5 feet. Enemies who want to do you physical harm are going to have to take their chances, 50% chance of hitting the insubstantial copy instead of you. Dinner party conversations are likely to become very confusing, however.

9.) A perfect clone, created from a sample of your DNA . It gestates for 12 Turns before being deposited in the very same spot where you stood. It's a blank slate who will imprint on the first sentient creature it sees, like a little duckling, following them around and learning everything it needs to know about life from them.

10.) Teleporter Malfunction: You're instantly transported 10 feet to the left of where you were standing. In other news, there's another you standing 10 feet to the right of where the "accident" happened. Both characters are identical, and neither knows which one is the original.

11.) It's you from the future! This duplicate can't (or won't) reveal important details about your future escapades, or those all-important winning lotto numbers. They are, however, two levels of experience higher than you, and more than willing to help you on your current adventure. In fact, it seems like they expected to be tapped for this. The GM should keep very detailed notes about what difficulties befall this dupe, since your character will undoubtedly be called upon to endure those same problems at some point in two levels' time.

12.)  It really is you, but better! This duplicate was transported from an alternate universe in which you're just a little bit more awesome. It has +1 to all of your attributes, and is a level higher than you, but is otherwise just like you, and shares all of your goals. High-five, identi-bro!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

GM Screen of the Gods

Easel 3-Ring Binders
Great GM screen, or GREATEST GM Screen?

Seriously, just load up the side of the pockets that will face the GM with useful info, and fill the sides that will face the players with pictures of female fighters in unreasonable armor. I guess you could put in boring rules reminders and shit instead. I dunno. Whatevs.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Encumbrance vs. Inventory

Who doesn't love the simple encumbrance system that James Raggi gave us in Lamentations of the Flame Princess?

Dickheads, that's who.

Seriously. Calculating encumbrance was an exercise in tedium even for the slide-rule carrying dungeoneers in the early 80's. Besides, what RPG enthusiast isn't already well-acquainted with the first cousin of Raggi's system, the video game Inventory.
We grok this shit at the cellular level.

This elegant solution still suffers from a common problem at the game table, though. People forget to write crap down. A lot. Plus, brace yourselves for this, some buttface players will occasionally lie about what their character is carrying.

Others have attempted to tackle this problem before, notably Faster Monkey Games with their Tracker Tokens product. 

It's a good idea, but a little too static for my gaming needs. Players can't be counted on to carry exclusively predetermined items. I mean, they're tooling around a dungeon with backpacks full of goblin heads, blocks of demon-cheese, and pretty much any other frightening garbage that seemed like a good idea to pick up at the time.

Never fear, three-ring binders are here. More specifically, you can print out whatever inventory items you want on this free template from Avery, and have each player store those suckers in one of these inexpensive 30-pocket binder pages
What's that, you say? "Doesn't the LotFP encumbrance system have exactly 30 slots?" That's right, and you're welcome.

= easier organization than an OCD hooker.

The pockets and the template items are all exactly 1.5"x1.5", which is also conveniently the perfect size to hold poker chips. I'm having my players use poker chips to track the number of arrows left in their quivers. How many arrows fit in a quiver? Twenty. Do they make another binder page that holds exactly 20 chips? You're damn straight they do

I recommend printing tokens out on cardstock to make them more durable than mere paper. I still need to kludge together a blank template that just has a dark border around the edges of each token so that I can print out a bunch of blanks before the game. That way, I can just write random item descriptions directly on tokens mid-game, rather than having to type them up and print them out.

I have to say that I really enjoy the tactile element of handing a token or chip to a player when they purchase gear, and having them hand it back to me when it's been used up. You can even get cutesy with the players by using inventory items printed with custom templates, like this one that looks like it's dripping with blood.

Plus, there's a certain dark glee to be had when the party is five levels deep in the dungeon, and the players look down at their inventory sheets to discover that they're dangerously low on torches.
Good times, good times.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

My RPG Person Profile

I'm currently running (in person):
D&D (a bastard child of OD&D, LotFP and Swords & Wizardry)

Tabletop RPGs I'm currently playing (in person) include:
Lamentations of the Flame Princess, Dungeon World

I would especially like to play/run:
Night's Black Agents

...but would also try:
Trail of Cthulhu, Numenera, Everything Ever

I live in:
The San Francisco Bay Area

2 or 3 well-known RPG products other people made that I like:
Vornheim; An Echo, Resounding;  The Metamorphica; Better Than Any Man

2 or 3 novels I like:
The Once and Future King, Red Dwarf, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

2 or 3 movies I like:
The Princess Bride, Casablanca, Labyrinth

Best place to find me on-line:
Right the hell here

I will read almost anything on tabletop RPGs if it's:

I really do not want to hear about:
Who you think is playing games the "right" or "wrong" way. Watch some kids play games on a playground, and gaze into the heart of Order out of Chaos.

I think dead orc babies are:
Weak sauce, because my players have to deal with the moral greyness of killing other humans, not inherently evil humanoid races like Orcs.

Games that I'm in are like:

Free RPG Content I made for D&D and whatnot is available here:

If you know anything about the most common predatory species in each terrain type it'd help me with a project I'm working on

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

D6 Damage for All Weapons... Until You're a Badass

I have been, at one time or another, on both sides of the "d6 damage for all weapons" debate. Over time, I've come down on the side of  "it's a good idea because it shuts up the rules-lawyers and munchkins so we can put the lists of weapon stats away, and finally play the damn game." I don't know about you guys, but the majority of time that I see wasted during sessions is spent on all the shopping. It's an RPG book, not fucking SkyMall.

A rules-lawyer, in his native environment

I still understand the players' need for something more, though. That's why I have a (very) light skill system in my home game which allows players to increase the value of their damage die based on their character's skill with a particular weapon, rather than just what type of weapon it is. That seems to scratch the itch of players wanting to murderize things harder, while still maintaining the abstract combat of OD&D. It's not that the character only scored one hit that did more damage because they have a Two-Handed BonerShank sword, it's that they've become skillful enough with whatever weapon they're using to make every hit during their action count just a little bit more. 

Character creation flies by, and the first game session still gets off the ground quickly, because all beginning characters start out at a set damage level, regardless of what kind of weapon they want to use. Nobody gets to increase their skill (or damage) until they've leveled up. Simple.

How to decide on what that starting damage should be? Just use their starting hit die. Clerics and Thieves start the game doing d6 damage. Fighters start at d8. Magic-users can sling whatever weapons they want in my game, but they're only going to do d4 damage with'em. Why? Because "Warriors are fuckin' METAL!, and Wizards are degenerate reprobates.

You sick fuck

From there, the progression goes:
Fighters - d8, d10, d12
Clerics/Thieves - d6, d8, d10
Magic-Users - d4, d6, d8

I like the way that this maintains the Fighter's badassery over time. Even at their utmost skill level, a Wizard can only do as much damage with a weapon as a 1st level Fighter. Besides, why is a Wizard wasting skill points on weapon proficiencies anyway? Don't they need to be learning more about blood sacrifices and infernal pacts? Even so, a first-level Wizard can still lay enough smack down to potentially snuff out a fellow magic-user with a single strike. That's the kind of lethality that I like to see in a game. The Clerics and Thieves get closer to the Fighter, but they're still not quite there. I might even upgrade the Fighter's d12 level of damage to 2d6 instead, just to give it that little extra bell-curve "oomph!"

If any of this offends the simulationists' sensibilities because they think that knives don't do as much damage as swords, or whatever, then they clearly haven't done an image search on "knife wounds." Seriously, make them Google that shit. It is grim.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Progress on Movement

I love old-school D&D. I effing loathe the retardulous movement rates, though. I know, I know; movement has been done to death. Prepare to watch me whip that dead horse to shit.

Here's the thing; it's not about how slowly the characters move. That's the typical gripe against D&D movement rates, but I'm totally down with the slowness. Those more versed in the ways of the Force than I have played out real-world experiments in this realm before. I can feel the versimilitude of cautiously creeping through dark, enclosed spaces full of monsters and scrotum-rending traps. Scrotum-rending would jack up anybody's day. Slow your roll, and put some ice on that, bro.

No, the thing that bothers me is the idea that everybody wearing the same amount of gear moves at exactly the same speed. Nobody buys that. Somewhere out there is a dude who sent five thousand dollars to a down-on-his-luck, Ethiopian prince based on nothing more than a poorly-spelled email. Even that sucker would call bullshit on identical movement rates. Some people run faster than others. It's a fact.

One of these tools is faster than the other. I'm guessing it's the guy who still has a pair of eyeballs to see where he's going.

I know that there are pursuit rules in some versions of D&D and its various clones/simulacrums. I've just never seen one that put the issue up front and center. Chases happen a LOT in OSR games. We tend to kick hornets' nests on a regular basis, and those encounters are not even remotely "level appropriate." Running away is often your best bet. Sure, the DM can just house-rule something, but that's the case with almost everything in the game.

Generally, DM's just rule that the highest Dexterity wins, but I'm not of the school of thought that being handy with a lockpick makes someone a world-class sprinter. It really seems like Strength, a major indicator of athletic prowess, should be a factor as well.

This fellow would like some clear-cut chase rules. Also, a fresh set of underpants.

Never let it be said that I'm one to complain about a problem without trying to contribute to its solution. My simple solution is this: a 7th attribute by the name of "Speed." You roll it up with 3d6, just like every other attribute, but a character's starting Speed can never be lower than the average of their Strength and Dexterity scores. That way, it's entirely possible for a PC to be randomly faster than either his Dex or Str would indicate. We've all known that stringbean, weakling-looking kid in gym class who can run like a damn gazelle. Still, strong, dextrous characters have the advantage most of the time. Like the man said: "The race doesn't always go to the swiftest, nor the battle to the strongest... but that's the way to bet."

A character's SPD attribute is the number of squares/hexes/whatever that they can move in a given round of combat while still being able to take a regular combat action. If they want to give up their regular attack, then let'em move two times their Speed for that round.

In my games, this works out beautifully. Since I use a 10-second combat round and 10-foot squares on the maps, Speed ends up being exactly how many feet a PC can run in one second. So, multiply SPD by roughly .68, and you've got the speed a character can reasonably move in miles-per-hour. Double that for all-out panicked fleeing (with the requisite Constitution checks and exhaustion that such things result in.) That means that hexcrawl overland travel is already sorted out as well. Factor in whatever system you're using for encumbrance to slow the poor bastards down, and you're all set for pretty much any situation involving movement.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

I Made a Thing!

Hark! I have heeded the decree of Wil Wheaton to "Get Excited and Make Things!" Okay, so he was talking about print-on-demand projects, but the man does love his D&D, so I'm sure he wouldn't object to my conversion of his trope here.

"Things" optional

My caffeine-fueled delirium and I put together an Abulafia generator for the "Creating Campaign Regions" section of Kevin Crawford's insanely useful An Echo, Resounding.

Usefulness + Samurai...   Samurai sold separately

If you're a DM/GM/Ref/Judge/Keeper/whatevs , and you need a quick sandbox (with optional Domain-level actions) for your players to, you know, play in, then you are totally in the luck. The generator is located here: .That page alone should give you plenty of demented ideas, but you'll need the book if you want to understand how the modifiers are used for Domain management. It's well worth it, because Sine Nomine Publishing consistently pisses excellence. This is the easiest system I've found for PC's who want to literally rule (portions of) the world. Well, it's the easiest that doesn't involve rock/paper/scissors anyway.

Credit where credit is due to Zak S. and -C for bringing Abulafia to my attention in the first place. That site is chock full of hella-useful random generators for RPG's and writers. OSR ftw!