Thursday, 19 April 2018

OSR at War (In my Eyes)



  I practice martial arts. (I'm going somewhere related to RPGs with this, bear with me.) I'm certainly no expert and while I'm in better shape than I was in my old videos I'm still no athlete, but I know enough about striking and grappling that whenever I hear some bullshit about martial arts that just doesn't make sense, I am quick to passionately jump in and correct that misconception.

  If a girl tells me she knows how to defend herself because she took "Like, three self-defense classes two years ago" I am quick to explain to her that none of it will come back to her if she's actually being attacked. In an actual fight you're not gonna recall the complex moves unless you've practiced them into muscle memory. And I don't do this to take someone's confidence away, but so they're actually educated on the realities of physical confrontations. I've been in a few actual dangeorus fights and shit does not go as planned and you have to be used to fighting enough to adapt, no one will take the specific positions you learned and no one will wait for you to do it on them while they remain still and their buddy will try to sneak up behind you in the meantime...  Anyway, if you want to learn how to defend yourself, well go actually practice a martial art that works, just don't delude yourself into thinking that practicing a few sketchy aikido moves in your yoga pants will actually teach you how to deal with a guy throwing punches at you. Lots of women way smaller than me can choke the hell out of me in Brazilian Jiujitsu. And arm-bar me. And plenty of other uncomfortable nasty things. And they put the time and effort required to be able to do that to a stronger guy and they will be more efficient in an actual fight than miss 'self-defense weekend in yoga pants'. Clearly someone is doing it right and the other is doing it wrong, or not even trying at all yet claiming to know what they're doing. (I'm getting to my point.) 

  I once got into a respectful but long-winded argument on Facebook with a trans friend, where I argued one isn't automatically a transphobe for being against the notion of a woman who used to be in a man's body fighting other women who were always so. I argued that there is a huge advantage in the male physique when it comes to fighting. (Yes we're still friends.) 

The cynical side of me is almost expecting a comment about how I'm talking about this to brag or something, so I'll reiterate that I am no fighting genius nor am I even in great shape. Fighting just happens to be one of my hobbies that I'm passionate about, the same way some people who read comic-books and greatly enjoy them aren't necessarily great writers or artists but can still analyze a story and determine which comics are good or not.

  What I mean to bring up with this is that when it comes to martial arts, I will get into long-winded arguments and yes even extremely touchy subjects with friends. Because someone getting it wrong, to me, means someone might potentially get hurt. Someone might have an unrealistic expectations of their skill in an actual confrontation, try some weak-ass bullshido move and then get the shit beat out of them (sometimes even by non-fighters who are just throwing their arms around windmill-style) because they wasted time on something that doesn't actually work. To me, getting it wrong in that specific hobby (or sport, or whatever you want to call it) means something could potentially go REALLY wrong. It has consequences and I would consider it wrong to not try to help someone with the wrong ideas stuck in their head.

  O.k, and now to RPGs, and more specifically the OSR. If someone thinks they're an awesome Game Master and their blog is full of what you'd personally consider bad ideas, are people getting hurt by it? I'll elaborate. I follow many blogs, I obviously post my own opinions on stuff. There's only one time that I got really angry online about our hobby where someone was outright showing signs of  intolerance, in my opinion. But at that point what angered me wasn't how to approach the game as much as the fact that someone was basically complaining about gay people wanting equal rights. I called bull. In a later post I did regret having insulted the guy instead of simply counterargueing him because you don't change people's minds by insulting them, but what's done is done and unlike him I won't edit the post to sweep it under the rug. (He went further and deleted the post I was replying to after the backlash.)

  Anyway, so the OSR was initially born of contrarians. I think anyone denying that is deluding themselves, but that's just my opinion. It wasn't born of people tired of spending their money on RPG books who just wanted to use the ones they already had, because if that was the case they wouldn't buy the new OSR stuff. No, it was born of contrarians who looked at the official D&D establishment and thanks to the efforts of Ryan Dancey and the OGL, had the tools to go "You know what, I don't like what you're doing, I'll do it myself!" And that's awesome. And a lot of them were fair to the official game and returned when 5e was more like it. With all the choices they had out there, they didn't have to, but they recognized the game they loved once more and encouraged it again. (I stuck with my house-ruled Castles & Crusades but if I didn't already have that I would have made the switch to 5e too.) The contrarians won.

  And maybe that explains my observation. A lot of OSR people online are passionate about our hobby, to a fault. Too many of them, even those creating material I greatly enjoy, seem to take it personal and attack others as soon as someone disagrees on how to handle their games. Like there's a fear if someone gets it wrong, things will go back to being 4th edition. (A bad thing for most people in the OSR, but if you like the game I have nothing against that.) But unlike martial arts where things either work or don't work, and where mistakes and delusions can mean actual physical danger, if someone is playing the game 'wrong' and they're still having fun... Who the fuck cares? Yes it's important to debate the things we're passionate about but why take it PERSONAL? Sometimes I read some of the comments and I can tell some commenters were angry at each other (and sometimes at me). It's like the whole community has a lingering trauma from when D&D betrayed them and they'll never let it happen again and they know what this hobby and everyone else in it needs to do.

  For example, I personally hate the notion of dismissing the use of XP and leveling up players per amount of games played or when GMs "think it's time" because it removes a certain amount of agency from the players, but that is my personal opinion and I will debate someone over it online because it's fun to exchange ideas, I would never post my opinion as an attack. I would never write something like "Oh sure, if you enjoy making lazy decisions where your players have less choices, go ahead." 

  Holy crap do I see the rumor mills and personal attacks between one blogger and the next, even indie authors. I'm really not interested at all in those aspects of the hobby's blogging sphere and yet it seems unavoidable. When I try to get clarifications about people's claims about this person or that other because the other option would be willing ignorance on what goes on in the hobby, it's rarely as cut and clear as they would love it to be, and this is coming from someone who hates staying neutral for the sake of it and will take sides once informed. But I also like my battles to be worth it, you know?

 Sure if someone did something truly WRONG in real life then I'll pay attention, but when it comes to stuff like rules, how people roleplay or rollplay (do you describe what you do to the trap or just roll a die???) their expectations of how a campaign would work or even just their general way of being or living... Chill, there's no reason to get carried away, no one's getting hurt. The contrast between two of my hobbies is day and night to me regarding its consequences if applied improperly, and even then I realize that my 'right way' to roleplay is not everyone's. Fighting is not a matter of opinion, it's a matter of results. In its own way, so are RPGs, and in both cases you cannot debate results. For RPGs, the question is simply; are you guys having fun with it? 

  If they're having fun, no they're not doing it wrong or at the very least they're not your personal enemy.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Playing with Saving Throws in 'Machinations of the Space Princess'

  When playing any type of OSR/OGL game I pay close attention to Saving Throws. They're not a casual thing in my games, players often need to roll them and failing them can mean something really bad happens to a player character.



  I do think low-level characters should struggle somewhat with saving throws but as they level up they should get to feel a bit more confident about them overall.

  I think 'Machinations of the Space Princess' is a good OGL game but I have an issue with the saving throws. The way they work is that you take the related Ability Score, divide it by two... and that's the target number you have to roll under.



  That means that someone with a Strength of 18 (!) would have to roll a 9 or under to succeed a Saving Throw. Yeah, dudes who are as strong as a beginning Human character with no cybernetics can get... have a less than 50% chance at succeeding on an unmodified Saving Throw. Not the end of the world for a low-level I suppose, but those numbers stay the same as you level up unless you put skill points into them. Skill points in Machinations are skills, feats, class abilities, saving throw advancement and ability score advancement all rolled into one, and some classes get very few of them. That's just a bit too harsh in my opinion.



  When I house rule something, I like to not have to change what appears on the page. That is to mean, I don't want to have to recalculate NPC stats because my house rule is different from the official book, I prefer if possible to do it in a way that doesn't give me extra work when reading material and using it at the table.

  My solution in the end was to use modifiers to the existing target numbers and then roll under those modified results, that way I can still use the same numbers as the book and fix my nitpick with the rules as they are. I made it so someone with a target number of 5 to roll under would have a 50% chance at a Normal roll. (So it's 5+5= Roll 10 or under.)

Very Easy: +15
Easy: +10
Normal: +5
Difficult: +0
Very Difficult: -5
Inhumanly Difficult: -10
God-like: -15


  Thoughts are welcome.


Saturday, 14 April 2018

What Happens to Joe the Farmer Now? You Tell Me


  So I made a post about a simple farmer finding a Vorpal Sword in the woods the other day. It was to discuss certain aspects of magic items in a campaign world and how different people would react to them. Discussions were had that I thought were interesting and people elaborated on what they think should actually happen to such a simple farmer finding such an item. 
  The original idea itself wasn't what I'd call interesting, nor was it meant to be since it was all tongue-in-cheek. But if anyone wanted to elaborate and tell their version of what happens next, here's the place; Simply leave a comment as long or short as you want with your version of the following events in Joe's life. Anything goes, you can add details to how the sword works or behaves (if you decide it should be sentient), you can choose what happens with the cousin, add characters, etc. 

  The story's beginning itself as presented in the original post is extremely simple, here it is: Joe the Farmer is a Level 0 Commoner with 4 HP. While walking in the woods yesterday, Joe has found himself a +4 Vorpal Sword!  Joe knows it's magic because he's swung it around a few times for fun and he notices that with the magical bonus granted by the sword he somehow seems to know what the fuck he's doing with it. His stance is good, the swings are aimed right. When he tries the same with a tree branch just to see if he somehow picked up fighting skills thanks to his daydreamings, it doesn't work. 'Tis a magic sword alright!Joe is very lucky in that he has a nephew in the city who trades and sells things to adventurers and criminals in the black market. Joe could sell this magic sword, even with the cut his nephew would take it would certainly be enough to retire!

  Since previous posts were about discussing everyone's personal views of how such a thing would take place and counterargue each other, I want to clarify that this post is rather for the fun of sharing exactly how YOU would see it go down. Feel free to use gaming terms like I did if you want or to go into full fictional writing mode.

  I hope some of you will participate, as the previous quick comments on what would happen to Joe (wether for or against my own arguments) were fun and I would like to read more and see how different people have different expectations for this sort of thing. 



Thursday, 12 April 2018

In defense of Magic Shops and Vorpal Swords

   So from the comments in my previous post, it would seem that some players snob the Magic Shop and the Vorpal Sword. The latter has been accused of being 'boring'.

This is my rebuttal of those two attitudes when it comes to my own personal preferences and what I think is a world's internal logic. I think in the end it's a matter of personal taste and there is no wrong way to do it; either magic shops fit in your campaign world or they don't, either you and your players think Vorpal Swords are cool or you don't. I'm just explaining my point of view.

  When it comes to magic shops, I agree it is kind of weird to expect shops to carry more than mere potions when it comes to my sensibilities, but let's apply logic here; if in your games you have NPC Magic-Users pop up at least once every five sessions (excluding monsters and the like), they are not a rare thing in your campaign world. (Unless in your story players happen to interact with the very few Magic-Users who are all in the same place for a story-specific reason, I dunno.) And everything has a price.
  It is NOT far-fetched that some of them would choose to gain LOTS of gold from their skills in big cities or in small towns that see a lot of traffic from warriors, nobility, mercenaries and adventurers. It even makes lots of sense that they would be high-level, as much as some might scoff even more at the notion. A high-level Magic-User with a magic shop has found an easy way to make money without endangering oneself in dungeons all the while being able to deal with most (if not outright anyone) who might try to rob them. Many might claim a high-level Magic-User might have better things to do like study arcane research or take over kingdoms. Well, I'm sure evil Wizards try to take over stuff, that's why adventurers have to go stab them and then loot their Tower of Evil. And what better way to fund your research than by having a business that brings in lots of money? Commoners won't be able to afford what's in there so they might get only a few visits per week, if not per month, but when those visits happen they made countless gold already by selling potions and yes, magic items. (Even if I myself might have trouble coming to terms with it I cannot deny the internal logic of such a situation.) Plenty of time left for research.

  If you want a good RPG book that deals in how a D&D medieval society with access to magic would behave, check out THIS ONE.

  Now, on to those BORING Vorpal swords!

*Yawn* So boring... Not exciting at all!

  Look I get it, it's easy to dismiss the notion of a +<insert numerical bonus> weapon. I myself (influenced by Lamentations of the Flame Princess' take on magic items) have often created weapons that do useful stuff but also have an interesting drawback. But that's mostly just because I like to watch my players struggle. But that's just the thing, are you really gonna tell me the Vorpal Sword is boring?

  I mean, sure you can, to each their own. But as a DM with a long-running campaign I can tell you that even to this day, the excitement at the table when a 1 or a 20 comes up is still there. Players still shift in their seats, exclaim something or even stand up for a moment. Now imagine if that 20 means you decapitated a motherfucker. (So it's not just that numerical bonus btw.) How is that boring? Yes, the Vorpal Sword is simple, but to me it will never be boring. I think people mix those two things.

  In many ways I believe it's because the OSR is in such a creative moment in time that we all look to subvert some old standards while also venerating the basics, so we shift from one attitude to the other regarding those standards. These days a lot of people seem to have a dislike for simple magic items, they all need to be really complex. The LotFP players who commented in my last post seemed to be behind magic items that REALLY mess with players as the norm for what magic items should be. (And if I misread your meaning, dear commenters feel free to comment again to debate me.) To which I'd point, from the start The Game had cursed items if you want to make players wary of magic, and even as someone who includes magic items with drawbacks let me tell you, if the items basically just fuck with the players all the time that's not really cooler than one who just does good stuff. 

  It is in my personal opinion extremely valid to have simple magic items and even ones that do just good stuff, the same way you can find cursed items that basically just mess with players. Yes I'm aware of the context of Weird in LotFP and how it has different goals, but even with that context I'd keep those points in mind personally.

  I know this might be different for other groups but in my personal experience players tend to venerate magic items more from the story that's behind them and less so by their magical effects. I've seen them treat a 'boring' +X Weapon like a big deal because it had a cool visual description and they looted it from a Demon who had killed a long-time ally NPC. Killing the demon had been sweet revenge and to this day they call it 'The Demon Sword'. Not the most original name, but it's a name that came naturally between the players as they discussed it. Sure they also keep magic items that do other more interesting stuff effect-wise, but because those items were taken in less memorable ways they don't even give names to the damn things!

  The story effort behind magic items has in my experience a lot more to do with how interesting a magic item ends up being than a lot of people give it credit for. And to be clear, I'm all for weird and original magic items! I just like to combine both the simple and the complex, the overall good with the overall dangerous and I think that approach has more value in the end in making magic mysterious than it being mostly always useful or mostly always fucking with you.

  Another thing that makes a magic item memorable at the table is the story that it ends up telling when all the dice have stopped rolling. And decapitating your enemies is a memorable thing; They made a franchise out of it.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Joe the Farmer and the +4 Vorpal Sword

Say hello to Joe the Farmer, everyone!


  Joe the Farmer is a Level 0 Commoner with 4 HP. While walking in the woods yesterday, Joe has found himself a +4 Vorpal Sword!



Ayup, this seems t'be a magic sword just lost by someone in these here woods!

  Joe knows it's magic because he's swung it around a few times for fun and he notices that with the magical bonus granted by the sword he somehow seems to know what the fuck he's doing with it. His stance is good, the swings are aimed right. When he tries the same with a tree branch just to see if he somehow picked up fighting skills thanks to his daydreamings, it doesn't work. 'Tis a magic sword alright!

From 'Castles & Crusades: Monsters & Treasure' (And many other OGL games):
  Joe is very lucky in that he has a nephew in the city who trades and sells things to adventurers and criminals in the black market. Joe could sell this magic sword, even with the cut his nephew would take it would certainly be enough to retire! (Joe doesn't know this yet but the sword is worth 38 750 GP!)

  I'm sure there are some dangers to face in avoiding being backstabbed or stolen from while selling the sword, but overall if Joe can pull this off, his life is about to be amazing! Right? Well, not according to the Lamentations of the Flame Princess Referee book!


  Let me just add now that this is all in good fun and I love LotFP. Now let's proceed. I know the way Joe stumbled upon the sword already contradicts the style and treatment of magic items in LotFP, but that last sentence specifically is the whole reason why I came up with Joe in the first place. In some ways that last sentence seems like a comdemnation of how other versions of D&D treat magic items. And I suppose this is my reply to that statement.

  What is Joe supposed to do with this sword if not sell it? He's a farmer. He's got 4 HP. Oh sure, some adventurers start with about that amount but my point is that Joe never intended to be an adventurer, it's just not in him. Having the ability to swing a sword like a 3rd or 4th Level Fighter (depending on your ruleset of choice) is not gonna change much when there's stuff like this out there in the dungeons he'd have to go to in order to gain even more gold:


  Besides, by selling the sword he'll already be rich. Why risk his life? Only adventurers remain unhappy after a jackpot of over 35 000 GP! Does having the sword make him one of these guys?:




  Sure, I can see the argument coming that if he did go out there with that sword and survive long enough, he'd eventually BECOME one of those guys. But that sword doesn't make him a god. He's just like any other starting Level 0 or 1 out there. The difference is in the mindset. Joe the Farmer never wanted to go risk his life in dark dungeons. He just wants to not have to farm anymore. And despite what LotFP's Referee book would claim, EVERYTHING has a price! All of the guys above would love to buy that sword and they will very likely be able to amass enough gold to get it too!

  And let's not forget that his relatively amazing skill with the sword comes entirely from that specific sword. What if he comes across a Disenchanter or some other magic-destroying creature?

"Yum, this magic shield tastes like the tears of a Player Character!"

  Hell, let's forget about the high-level adventurers and special monsters, what about just a bunch of goblins?


  Does Joe have 25 GP to spare to buy even the most basic leather armor? I'm sure a bunch of goblins can easily shank him in one round even as he manages to slay a single one of them. Then the goblins can bicker and stab each other over who gets to keep that fancy sword.

  All of this is obviously in good fun, I love LotFP and I get the point it is trying to convey. And yes I know that PCs are (normally) not farmers who just want to avoid danger and retire as soon as possible. But I insist, everything has a price and the reality is that even for PCs there's gonna be magic items they might just not need for their purposes, just like Joe the Farmer does not need a freaking Vorpal Sword, despite it being arguably one of the best weapons you could get. But everyone needs GP!








Saturday, 7 April 2018

Bargain Bin Children's Books: Monster and Adventure Supplements!

  Look at this Monster Book I once got for 3$!:


  I discussed it a few years back in THIS VIDEO about using Dollar stores to find cool stuff for your D&D games. Hell, I even made my whole DM screen from things bought there. And you might tell me "Hey wait now, that's a children's book, that's not a D&D monster book!"
  Well sure, theoretical nay-sayer, you'd be correct... But I'm a big fan of looking for inspiration in unexpected places, as I once also discussed

  To be honest, today I was looking for a children's storybook I could buy for cheap to adapt into an actual playable D&D adventure and share it on the blog. I couldn't find the right book for that specific idea for the time being, but I'm keeping my eyes open. However, one could easily fill a hex map with unlikely inspiration. A lot of monsters from the book seen above interact with the modern world a lot, so they could fit a modern horror game perhaps. But others can work with traditional D&D with very little to no changes to their story and modus operandi.

  Don't believe me? There's some legit creepy stuff in there. Let us take a look at the Cry-Alotis:


  O.k sure, he looks a bit gooffy now (and I'll spare you my thoughts on what the front of his body looks like) but look at that thing next to him; That's a tree. This thing is HUGE. It also has a very human-like face, which is sort of disconcerting if you describe it the right way at the table. Here's the full bio on the guy:


  At the beginning of the book in the 'Monster Rules to Follow at all Costs' they mention it's good to always have monster food ready to feed those who may want to eat you. He likes Salty Pretzels so we'll take that into account. O.k then...
  Its body makes me think of a T-Rex in shape and size. A T-Rex has 18 HD in the closest OSR monster book I've at hand! (Castles & Crusades:Monsters & Treasure) Not that its mouth would be as powerful from the looks of it. O.k then...

The Cry-Alotis
18HD
Movement: 40 feet
AC: 15
Attacks: Bite 5d4 + Tail Slam 1d12
Special: Grab: Anyone smaller than the Cry-Alotis who's hit by its Tail Slam must succeed at a Saving Throw v.s Paralysis or be constricted by the tail. Only one person at a time can be held like this. Every round the victim can try a new saving throw to escape, but if it's bitten by the Cry-Alotis while constricted, the victim will be Swallowed Hole. 
Swallow Whole: While Swallowed Whole, a victim will automatically receive 4d6 Acid damage each round from inside the stomach of the creature. The victim can use small edged/cutting weapons to cut their way out, if they manage to cause at least half the creature's normall HP in damage they will have succeeded in cutting through and the creature will be dead even if it normally would have had HP remaining. All attacks from the inside will automatically succeed. Someone Swallowed Whole can attempt to use a bigger edged/cutting weapon but they must succeed at a Saving Throw v.s Paralysis at -4 before every attempt.
Loves Salty Pretzels: If given the choice between eating humanoids and eating salty pretzels, the Cry-Alotis will always choose Salty Pretzels first. (This should be a little known fact without researching the monster first but maybe Bards could have heard tales using Bardic Knowledge or the similar skill/ability from your system of choice. And if your system doesn't have Bards then ignore that last bit.)
Guilt: The Cry-Alotis feels guilt over the fact that it needs to eat humanoids to survive. (He can survive from certain vegetables temporarily but not in the long run and they are very distasteful to him.) If anyone tries to make him feel guilty or sad in any way, the Cry-Alotis must succeed at a saving throw or spend 1 Turn crying without pursuing anyone. This effect will be undone if the monster is attacked while it's crying however. If a DM feels kind, the Cry-Alotis can even hint at this guilt by talking to itself out loud or by apologizing directly to his victims for what it is about to do.
Reduced Chances of Surprise: Depends on your rules of choice for the math but between its size and its constant crying, it's very unlikely that this creature would surprise anyone.


  If anyone uses this guy for their campaign, please let me know!






Superheroes vs Death Frost Doom!



  I recently ordered Amazing Adventures, its Companion, and the Book of Powers. The latter has rules for playing superheroes. Even though I like ICONS as a Superhero RPG, I also like the idea of an OSR-like system for them. (Even if I suspect ICONS will probably run more smoothly for the genre.) 

  Henchman Abuse has some funny play recaps of when he ran Death Frost Doom for his players and it was just cool to see how he converted that adventure to fit his post-ap Sci-Fantasy setting. (Links to part ONE, TWO, THREE and FOUR.)

  The idea of having a team of Supers doing basically dungeon runs appeals to me. After all, what are supervillain lairs if not traditional RPG dungeons? How would an adventure with superheroes go with something like Death Frost Doom, or Fuck for Satan, or The Tomb of Horrors even?

  I'm gonna try it at some point. And I'll be sure to post the results on this blog when I do.