Sunday, December 22, 2013

A New Class for My OD&D Game

I owe special thanks to James Mishler, for the “Vancian Adventurer” he described at his blog, Adventures in Gaming v2.

Since I mentioned his article to my players, I’ve been asked several times when it would be available to them… and I told them it would be ready for our 22 Dec 13 game.  I’ve taken the Vancian Adventurer he created, and modified it to fit better with OD&D and my own house rules.  This is really just a first draft, and will likely be changed as I see how it works out during our games.

Here it is!

The Adventurer

The adventurer class is an alternative to the standard classes, and allows a player to run a character best described as a “jack of all trades, master of none.”  The adventurer will not be the best at fighting, nor at spellcasting, nor at thievery, but he will have abilities in all these areas!

Prime Requisite: None.

Minimum Ability Scores: None.

Racial Level Limits: Human Unlimited.

Hit Dice: Adventurers gain one hit die per level up to and including 9th level. Two hit points are gained per level after 9th, with Constitution modifiers no longer applicable

Armor: Any, however, armor use can cause issues when using magic spells or thieving abilities.

Fight As: Thief

Adventuring Abilities: An adventurer begins play at 1st level with the following abilities:

  • All standard thief skills, but each is 5 points lower than the thief
  • The ability to cast spells, along with a first level spell book containing four spells, and a Casting Rank of 1.

Saving Throws: An adventurer begins at 1st level with a base saving throw of 16 in all five categories. At 1st level he divides 8 points among the five to lower the scores; he may spend no more than 4 points on any one saving throw in this fashion. Every level thereafter the adventurer lowers two saving throw scores by 1 point each. Once a saving throw reaches 7, it can only be improved 1 point by applying both points for that level to that saving throw. No saving throw may be improved to better than 3.

Spell Casting: An adventurer can cast spells. Spells are cast at a level equal to the adventurer’s level.

If an adventurer has a low Intelligence score, he has a base chance of spell failure with each spell as follows:
  • Int 3 = 10% chance of spell failure
  • Int 4-6 = 5% chance of spell failure

If the adventurer casts a spell while wearing armor, there is a chance of spell failure. The chance is equal to any base spell failure chance plus 10% per point of defense the armor provides (not including magical bonuses) plus 5% per level of the spell, less 5% per adventurer level, less 5% per point of Intelligence bonus.
The adventurer begins play at 1st level with a spell book, containing Read Magic and three randomly chosen spells.  To determine the spells known, roll a d10 and consult the1st level spell table. If you re-roll a spell it means you were stiffed by your master and were taught one less spell.

The adventurer can only learn spells that are of a spell level equal to half his level rounded up. An adventurer must have a minimum Intelligence of 18 to learn 9th level spells, a minimum Intelligence of 17 to learn 8th level spells, and a minimum Intelligence of 16 to learn 7th level spells.

While Read Magic is not needed to determine an unknown spell contained within a spell book, its use is required in order to read and attempt to learn the new spell.  The adventurer must spend the usual time and gold to learn the spell, roll a Learn Spell check based on his Intelligence score, and if he learns it, he can thereafter memorize it. He can only learn spells by acquiring other spell books or by researching and recreating a spell (i.e., the bonus spell gained by choice at each level).

If an adventurer fails to learn a spell, he may attempt to learn that spell from another spell book after he has gained a level. Note that the Intelligence-based minimum and maximum spells known is not applicable to adventurers.

The adventurer does not need to memorize spells in order to cast them, but he must spend 5 minutes per spell level per spell studying his entire spell book each day in order to cast any spells that day.  This study enables the adventurer to cast any spell he knows as needed.  The adventurer can cast a total number of spell levels per day equal to his level plus his Intelligence bonus plus his Wisdom bonus plus his Casting Rank

An adventurer can attempt to cast a spell from a spell book.  If it is not the adventurer’s spell book, a Read Magic is required.  This requires one full round per level of the spell. The chance to successfully cast the spell is equal to the adventurer’s chance to learn a spell, plus 5% per level, minus 5% per spell level.  Casting a spell this way does not count against the adventurer’s daily total, but does erase the spell from the book as though it were a scroll.

Thieves Abilities: Adventurers possess all the basic thieving abilities at 1st level (but at 5 points lower each), and may advance in them as they gain levels.  The Adventurer does not gain the backstab ability.  An adventurer may wear armor while attempting thieving abilities, but suffers the usual penalties for doing so.

Advancement:   An adventurer chooses which of his abilities to improve upon as he gains experience.  Upon reaching a new level, the gained the adventurer may choose one of the following:
  • Advance thief skills by 35 points total (for example, add 5 points to each of the seven thief skills); or
  • Advance thief skills by 18 points total and learn one new spell of his choice of any level he can cast (provided he can find and hire a teacher); or
  • Advance thief skills by 18 points total and increase his Cast Rank by 1; or
  • Increase Cast Rank by 1 and gain one new spell of his choice of any level he can cast (provided he can find and hire a teacher); or
  • Automatically learn two new spells of his choice of any level he can cast (provided he can find and hire a teacher); or
  • Provided he can find a cleric to train him (usually requiring training, tithes, and certain spell casting knowledge, if not also adherence to dogma), he can gain the cleric’s turn and/or control undead ability as if he were a first level cleric; or
  • Advance his clerical turn or control ability one rank and learn one new spell of his choice of any level he can cast (from among those taught by his temple)

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Environmental Effects to Help the Players Immerse...

In my OD&D campaign, all my players are teens... my son and his friends, and some of their friends.  The game doesn't always run smoothly, as I've mentioned here before, but it's usually fun.  One of the things I've always wanted to do when running a game is to set environmental clues to help the players get into the game... I've tried lighting changes, which don't work all that well for me, since my poor old eyes need bright light to read.  I've tried music, which works fairly well, but I never have time to create a playlist, which would be tough anyway, since I never really know for sure where they're going to go.  I've also found music can be distracting, since the majority of my players are band kids.

The last two times we play OD&D, though, I got it right.  The party was exploring southward from Milburn Hall, their home base, and came to a 300' cliff overlooking what they thought was a forest.  They worked their way down the cliff, and about 200 feet down from the top, passed through a glowing green layer in the air that extended as far as they could see, from the cliff outward.  As they passed through it, I told them the air temperature when from the mid-70s to the high 90s, and the humidity from the mid 40s to a hundred percent.  As the continued downward, they realized the cliff was higher than they'd thought...the three hundred feet got them to the top of the jungle canopy.  They were able make it all the way to the floor, though, and I switched on recorded jungle noise I found online:  Exotic Deep Jungle Sounds.

The entire time they were in the jungle, a total of about 8 hours between two different sessions, I kept the sounds running.  The first time they encountered something large and carnivorous, I turned off the sound... and told them all the jungle noises died away.  The creatures don't matter, nor does the battle itself for this discussion, but the sudden silence in the room brought everyone's attention to me!  As I've mentioned previously, for this game, we usually have between 9 and 11 teens at the table, and keeping everyone focused isn't always easy.  After the battle had ended, I turned the sound back on, quietly at first, then turned it up again.  The next time something large and carnivorous appeared, I rolled for surprise, and they were... so I turned off the sound, and we fought the battle.

After that, each time there was a significant encounter, I'd check for surprise, then turn off the noises.  If they were surprised, I'd roll the creatures' attacks; if they weren't, I'd give them time to tell me what they were doing.  The effect was truly awesome from my side of the table... turning off the sound and then seeing the "oh shit" looks on the players' faces was great!

Whether the encounters harmed them or not, the sound dying away was a wonderful cue for them to be on guard, and I really need to look for other sound-scapes for use in my games!  Anyone else have any luck with sounds or any other environmental cues?  Let me know!

Friday, December 6, 2013


Thanks to Charles Akins for listing this blog in "The Great Blog Roll Call" on his blog, Dyvers.  Here's what he had to say about me:

"The Concierge A relatively new blog that seems to be searching for its focus. The author has some amazing ideas about the game he plays and the blog is decidedly in the OSR vein, but there's a lot of potential here. Updates: Currently dark since September of this year."

I'll see if I can't start blogging regularly, and live up to some o'that potential!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Draft Mechanic for "Growing" Magic Items

I've been thinking further on the idea of making the majority of magic items in my OD&D campaign unique.  Here’s a draft mechanic I’ll be testing out in my game for weapons and armor.

Arms and armor, if finely crafted by an expert, MAY have a +1 bonus based purely on the extraordinary nature of the craftsmanship that went into their forging.  (This will depend on the cost of the item… such work requires the full attention of the smith and will cost no less than ten times the usual amount for the item.)  When a character begins to use such an item (whether or not it has a bonus), I'll keep track of the combat experience gained during its use, with the item earning an amount equal to 1/4 of that earned by the character.  (If the item is intelligent, such as a magical sword, it will gain experience at 1/2 the rate of its wielder, like an NPC, including experience earned for treasure.)  The trigger events can take place any time AFTER the requisite amount of experience has been earned.  Magical Attacks are “survived” only if both the item and the wielder make their save.  Heroic Actions must be combat-related, appropriate to the level of the wielder, and played out in game.

These charts show how these items can level up:

Arms Table:

Armor Table:

In addition, these items CAN earn experience from treasure in one way:  the treasure in question must be spent specifically to non-magically enhance the item in question.  For example, decorating the item with gems or precious metals would count, but treasure spent to pay for further enchantments would not!

It should also be noted that magic arms and armor found as treasure must also become attuned to their wielders.  Those powers that work by default (for example combat bonuses) will become available one at a time for every 100 experience the item earns with the wielder, while those that require a command word will have to be discovered through character research and action!  Magical items found can be improved over time through experience using the above tables, but experience earned must be great enough to have “created” the item in the first place (so raising a found +2 sword to +3 would require it to first earn 200 to fully attune to the wielder, and then 3000 more experience and a Heroic Action .

Final thoughts:  This method will be very slow, since the item earns experience far more slowly than a player character would.  This is NOT meant to replace the usual magic item research and creation process by spell-casters, but to provide an in-game alternate method based on the actions of the characters!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

I'm so far behind...

Where did July and the first part of August go?  I have so much to do and my time keeps disappearing!  I'm one play report behind on my Star Clans blog, and two play reports behind on my Exploring the Outside Inn blog.  We played an all night game in my son's world on Friday night, and we're playing in my OD&D game in a little more than an hour from now...

In the meantime, I received my copy of "The Manor #4" and am VERY happy with it.  Great adventure detailed therein, and several new monsters that I'll be making use of in the near future!

I also helped proof-read a draft adventure called "Three Sad Wizards"... can't wait to see the final product and I'll be using it as well.  It's designed for inclusion in a sandbox setting and includes new magic items, new spells, some encounter tables for the area surrounding the town, interesting NPCs and more.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

A Great Week of Gaming!

Last week was a great week of gaming for our group!  On Monday, I ran my Star Clans Traveller game at V's house.  This was the first time at other than my house for this campaign.  V's older sister, L3, is home for the summer, and joined us as a new player.  V's Dad is around my age, and would have joined us, but he felt the table was too full.  Instead, he stood by commenting (both to me privately and to the players) and generally having a good time with us.  He was a big player of Traveller in college, so maybe next time, M2?

On Tuesday, I ran my OD&D game at my house.  For that game, I made two rule changes.  Since I recently found and downloaded a .pdf of Supplement I (Greyhawk), I converted the thieves to those rules.  I had been using Jimm Johnson's house rules for the thief class from his Planet Eris.  Of course, we've only had thieves for a few sessions, since it took most players far longer than I expected to level up from zero!  The other change I made was to do away with the OD&D experience awards in favor of trying out Alexis Smolensk's experience system from his "The Tao of D&D."  I liked it a lot, and several players commented in favor of it as well.  You can read about it in Alexis' own words here, but the short take is that you get 10 xp for every point of damage you cause, and 20 xp for every point of damage you take; and the party as a whole gets an equal share of another 20 xp per for all the damage the party suffered as a whole.  I'll use this system for a few more games and see how it goes, but at first blush I think it'll be a keeper for my OD&D campaign.

On Wednesday, we went to S's house (she normally Skypes in from college but she, too, is home for the summer), and my son ran his 2nd edition AD&D game.  M's game is the only one I play in, and I'm having lots of fun playing my rogue, Corrin Aledrinker.  We had no luck getting S's Dad to play (he's also right around my age), even though he played years ago... but we'll keep trying!

All-in-all, lots of fun last week!

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Ratter's Blade

In a city as old and powerful as Cittá  it often takes extraordinary circumstances to change the balance of power.  Four centuries ago, during Lord Belleroth's reign as local representative of the Emperor, a terrible famine struck, which lasted several years.  A group of foragers, who made their living scavenging in the ruins under Cittá  called upon Belleroth and offered to ensure a supply of meat to outlast the famine.  They were led by a shady rogue named Throck, and his stated price was Guild status for his foragers.  Belleroth put him off again and again, but as the famine stretched on into a seventh year, he finally agreed to Throck's terms, for the foragers seemed better fed than even the local nobility.

Within a few days, the foragers began delivering cuts of meat to Belleroth... 20 pounds the first day, 40 the next, 100 on the third day, and within a month, 1000 pounds of meat a day!  Belleroth happily made use of the new supply, feeding first his family, then the local nobles who most supported him, and gradually providing rations for the masses.  It was then that Throck's foragers stopped delivering cuts of meat, and started delivering entire corpses of giant rats. Belleroth was outraged, but cornered... he couldn't go back on his word, and didn't want to appear the fool, so he had his butchers and cooks continue to use the rat, as though it were the most normal thing in the world.  As the famine stretched on, Throck demanded recognition for his guild, but Belleroth put him off, saying that until the famine had ended, the meat supply must continue, or Throck would be hanged for breaking their contract, and his foragers all imprisoned.  For two more years, the foragers provided for Belleroth and the nobility, and finally the famine ended.
Belleroth, though, continued to make excuses to avoid granting the foragers their status.  Finally, Throck and the foragers had had enough, and six months after the famine ended they cut off the supply of rat meat, and disappeared into the undercity, where Belleroth's men had no chance of finding them.

A year to the day after the famine ended, Belleroth awoke to find a giant rat perched upon his chest... and not just his household, but several square miles of the city were infested with the foul vermin.  For weeks, no matter how many were killed, the rats just kept coming... and finally Belleroth was forced to announce publicly that he needed the help of the foragers.

Throck made his appearance later that day, in Belleroth's very own bedchamber, a supposedly secure room.  Spying a finely crafted dagger mounted on the wall above Belleroth's bed, Throck added it to his demand.  "Grant us guild status today, and give me that dagger as my symbol, and the rats will be gone in a week!"  Belleroth reluctantly agreed, and before nightfall, on behalf of the Emperor, signed the charter granting official guild status to the foragers.

Lord Belleroth fancied himself a witty man, and being less than enamored of the new Guildmaster, and hoping to embarass him, designated the new Guild "The Faithful Order of Ratters and Guild of Exterminators," or Foragers.  The promised dagger had been in Belleroth's family for several generations, and he was loathe to make the gift, but such was his rank and position that he had no choice.  Throck laughed at the joke, not at all upset, and took Belleroth's dagger as his own.

For almost three hundred years, the blade served as the symbol of the Guild, worn by every Guildmaster, and used repeatedly to dispatch not only giant rats and sewer vermin but many of the smaller humanoids that lived under Citta as well.  The Foragers were an open Guild, admitting anyone willing to enter the undercity, and several Guildmasters were accomplished mages who sought to weave powerful enchantments into the blade.  A little over a century ago, a group of Foragers, led by their Guildmaster, were exploring deep below Citta when the floor collapsed, sending the Guildmaster and half the party down into inky blackness.  When a rescue party finally reached the lower level a few days later, the gnawed-upon corpses of the Guildmaster and the rest of the party were found... surrounded by hundreds of dead rats.  The dagger was not found, and hasn't been seen since.

The Ratter's Blade

+1/+2 vs. Smaller than Man-size Creatures/+3 vs. giant rats (plusses apply both to hit and damage rolls)

In an underground setting the blade glows a very dim bluish white light.  In the presence of vermin, the blade brightens with an angry reddish glow.  The latter is evidenced whenever any creatures of animal intelligence or below (rats and mice, giant rats, wererats, cockroaches, beetles of all sorts, etc.) come within 60 feet.  The Blade grants its wielder multiple attacks against creatures of less than one hit die, granting one attack per level as if the wielder were a fighting man.  In addition, the Blade calls out to vermin within a half mile, and any small creatures within 30 feet may be charmed and will obey the spoken commands of the wielder for 2d4 rounds, even if they otherwise could not understand the spoken words; those that make their save vs. magic instead fall asleep for 1d6 rounds.  NOTE:  Smaller than man-size humanoids (kobolds, goblins, etc.,) save vs magic at +2; those who fail their save are charmed for 1d4 rounds, those who succeed are unaffected, and do NOT fall asleep.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Magic Items in my Campaign

When I first started playing, we used the LBBs... but in short order the 1st edition AD&D books started coming out, and pretty much our entire group bought them.  This meant that everyone knew everything; all the monsters, the magic items, etc.  At the time, I started thinking how much cooler it would be if there were magic items that fit my campaign world, or that had properties unknown to the players because they were not standard items.

My first attempt at creating such magic was a matched set of five polymorph potions, which happened to have long term effects we (unfortunately) never got to play through because the majority of us graduated from high school and moved away.  The idea of corrupting magic was one I very much liked, and these potions had it.

The potions only allowed the imbiber to become an ogre.  They were cursed though, with each potion having a cumulative 20% chance of effect.  Our bard, Eisbrandfahrer, chose the potions, and after three uses, the curse hit him.  Here's how it worked:  Each time he took more than a certain amount of damage, he would turn into an ogre until he had a chance to de-stress (relax after combat or get out of danger).  The transition healed him a few points, but upon reverting to human form, he was a little more ogre-like.  I'd written out a transition page (and probably still have it somewhere) that showed, over time, increases in height and weight, increases in strength, decreases in intelligence and charisma, changes in appearance, etc., so that after a while he would BE an ogre.

As I said, we never got to play it through, but following it to it's logical end, I would have had an ogre bard in my campaign.  Although I've never written them up, I've had in mind for three decades a race of ogres, more intelligent than normal and certainly wittier, who serve as bards and minstrels for other fell races.

But back to the magic, I have other items I created years ago that I'll bring up later.  For now, let me point out two interesting columns at other blogs:  Fr. Dave's tables for random history for magic items and Rick Stump's article about magic items that "grow" with the characters.  The two mesh very well, and have me convinced (whether or not that was their combined intent) that every permanent magic item in my OD&D campaign should be unique.  Of course, potions and scrolls and such won't necessarily be so, but every weapon, piece of armor or miscellaneous magic item will have a history of their own, which points to their powers.

In my son's game Friday night, my thief, Corrin Aledrinker, found a magical dagger... from the book it's a standard "+1, +2 vs. smaller than man-sized creatures" dagger.  Tomorrow I'll tell you about "Ratter," a magical dagger based on this one, but with a history in my campaign world that will probably show up there at some point.

BTW, Happy Fathers' Day!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Countless deaths...

May and June of 2013 saw countless deaths in O-Town due to torrential rains and the accompanying flooding of the citizens' burrows.  The great paved surfaces were covered; bodies were strewn about, stranded far from shelter, drying and dying in the heat of the sun.

When the details were later recorded in the Annals of the Annelids, the period came to be known as The Wormpacalypse.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Back to OD&D

We played in my son's game a few times, and then in my Traveller game a few times, and now I've been asked to run my OD&D again for this Friday night... Not too big a deal, I've been running the Milburn Hall campaign with the dice leading the way.  Encountered orcs on the road to Kemper Village?  Guess what, their village is just a few miles away, and they see you as easy marks:  instant recurring encounter with orcs manning a new toll-gate.  Encountered a roc a little further north on the same journey to Kemper Village?  Well, I now know they inhabit the mountains to the east of the road.  Shot and killed a centaur in Kemper village?  Hmmm... wonder what THAT might lead to... Oh, and those kobolds in the underground lair near Milburn Hall?  You never finished them off...

Yeah, there's LOTS to keep us busy this Friday night, but I'll put in a few hours prep this week leading up to the game, just so I can be ready for whatever the players OR the dice throw at me!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Afternoon Commute Revelation

Driving home from work at midday on the 18th of April, when my area had just had 5.3 inches of rain in the past 8 hours, I ended up behind a Kia Soul...

A green Kia Soul...

And my first thought was, "Did Enik help design that thing?"

Maybe it was the overcast sky, or maybe it was the rain on the windshield, but that car looked suspiciously familiar to my work-addled brain:

And why was it staring at me?

Sadly, this picture doesn't do it justice...

The Metamorphica, and Rule 0

Back in early March, I was looking for some random mutation tables online, and came across a free .pdf of The Metamorphica by Johnstone Metzger on  I downloaded it immediately, but didn't get around to doing anything with it until recently.  The manual is a masterpiece!  It is system agnostic, so I can use it with my OD&D campaign as well as my Traveller campaign, and any other games I choose to run.  The .pdf is 154 pages long, most of which are full of charts for rolling up mutations, and descriptions of said mutations.  Also included are several appendices.  I especially like Appendix 3, Characters by Campaign, and Appendix 4, Characters by Type.  The former lists different campaign styles, and provides still more tables and information about how to generate specific mutant types for specific campaign styles; the latter assists with the creation of specific character types, such as mutant hordes and mutant plants.  The last three pages are a bibliography; a veritable Appendix N of resources that influenced the creation of the book.

The night I downloaded this, we were playing in my son's AD&D 2e world... and I was one of those distracted players we DMs gripe about.  I kept oohing and ahhing as I perused the file and several players asked about it, and wanted copies.  Turns out, at least two of them have written up campaigns using this book as a character creation manual.  At first I was perplexed; there is no system in this book... it's not a ruleset!  Speaking further to them, I found out that the two of them, and my son, worked out initial game rules of their own, and they'll update them as needed.  All they have now are a simple character generation method and stats, and basic combat.  No longer perplexed... proud instead!  They started with D&D 4e; then after playing in my Traveller campaign and my OD&D (3 LBBs) campaign, decided 4e was way too crunchy and dropped back to AD&D 2e.  Now they've gone further, implementing Rule 0 in the strongest way possible!  Huzzah!

By the way, I'll be using The Metamorphica as well.  The Melashravishim of my Star Clans Traveller Campaign will be partially generated using some of the tables in this book.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Traveller game last night...

We played Traveller last night... first game since the first of March!  Rather than our usual 9+ players, we only had 7, and I think that made a huge difference!  While I could probably run 15 in my OD&D game, Traveller is a MUCH bigger sandbox.  With travel times between even the closest two stars of a week, it becomes far too difficult to run if the group splinters:  OK, you stay on planet X to look for a patron, while you book a high passage to planet Y to do the same.  That week in hyperspace is a single die roll (to check for drive problems), while that week on planet X could be daily activities, appropriate encounters, success of search, etc.  I don't like to have players sit at the table when they're not involved, for several reasons:  in-game, they learn things their characters shouldn't or wouldn't know, and out-of-game, they tend to get bored and become distracting to either me or the active players.  Even with just 7, this happened, but it was easier to deal with than when the group is bigger.

In my Star Clans campaign, I have them working directly for the O'er King (leader of the interstellar govt) but they're given wide latitude in terms of timing and specific actions, so I don't feel like I'm railroading them.  I use random events (the tables from the old AD&D Oriental Adventures are great!) to plan my "future history," and player actions directly affect the flow, so I'm as often surprised by the direction things go as they are.  Keeps it fresh for me as well.  

Their current "mission" is to expand the Ardeni Kingdoms... and they've done very well.  Each time they visit a system, I let them make their arguments with the local leaders.  If their argument rings true to the locals (given what I know of the govt type and my notes on the leaders), I give them a bonus on the reaction roll... if not, they either get a straight roll or even a negative modifier if they misjudge the locals.  

Of course, they could tell they O'er King they're done with that, and move on to something else, and I actually expected them to... Overall, the game did NOT go where I expected last night, but that's fantastic for me!  They opted to continue their diplomatic & trade mission, and were very successful.  And they all seemed to have a good time.  

Now, if only the larger group would believe me when I tell them they can opt out of one game (Traveller) and still be included in the others (OD&D, AD&D 2e, etc.)... Yeah, I know, it's the equivalent of a "First World Problem!"  We have TOO MANY players to run a single group!  (More on that later...)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Inspiration, move me brightly...

Got busy a few months ago and paused in my blogging... only to fall off the wagon completely.  I'm running Star Clans tomorrow night, and prepping for it is just what I've needed... Hearing Terrapin Station the other day helped too!

"Terrapin Station"
Words by Robert Hunter; music by Jerry Garcia
Copyright Ice Nine Publishing


Let my inspiration flow
in token lines suggesting rhythm
that will not forsake me
till my tale is told and done

While the firelight's aglow
strange shadows in the flames will grow
till things we've never seen
will seem familiar

Shadows of a sailor forming
winds both foul and fair all swarm
down in Carlisle he loved a lady
many years ago

Here beside him stands a man
a soldier by the looks of him
who came through many fights
but lost at love

While the storyteller speaks
a door within the fire creaks
suddenly flies open
and a girl is standing there

Eyes alight with glowing hair
all that fancy paints as fair
she takes her fan and throws it
in the lion's den

"Which of you to gain me, tell
will risk uncertain pains of Hell?
I will not forgive you
if you will not take the chance"

The sailor gave at least a try
the soldier being much too wise
strategy was his strength
and not disaster

The sailor coming out again
the lady fairly lept at him
that's how it stands today
you decide if he was wise

The storyteller makes no choice
soon you will not hear his voice
his job is to shed light
and not to master

Since the end is never told
we pay the teller off in gold
in hopes he will come back
but he cannot be bought or sold


Inspiration, move me brightly
light the song with sense and color,
hold away despair
More than this I will not ask
faced with mysteries dark and vast
statements just seem vain at last
some rise, some fall, some climb
to get to Terrapin

Counting stars by candlelight
all are dim but one is bright:
the spiral light of Venus
rising first and shining best,
From the northwest corner
of a brand-new crescent moon
crickets and cicadas sing
a rare and different tune

Terrapin Station
in the shadow of the moon
Terrapin Station
and I know we'll be there soon

Terrapin - I can't figure out
Terrapin - if it's an end or the beginning
Terrapin - but the train's got its brakes on
and the whistle is screaming: TERRAPIN


While you were gone
these spaces filled with darkness
The obvious was hidden
With nothing to believe in
the compass always points to Terrapin
The sullen wings of fortune beat like rain
You're back in Terrapin for good or ill again
For good or ill again

Saturday, March 2, 2013

I Was Pleasantly Surprised!

I thought last night's game got off to a rocky start... once again, side conversations, people wanting to peruse the rule books rather than play, a bunch of "Hey, Mr. Kristof, can I...?" in the middle of other action, etc.

As I mentioned before, I run my games from the kitchen island, looking across it to the dining room table where all my players sit.  (We have an open floorplan with kitchen, dining room and living room just one long room.)  When I'd had enough of trying to track all the different threads, I straightened up, looked at the group, and said something like, "OK... I'm going to leave the room for a few minutes.  While I'm gone, you guys need to figure out what you're going to do as a group.  I can't keep running multiple threads for you because none of you can agree on a way forward.  We can do whatever you want, but you all have to be involved."  Well, it was something like that, anyway.  Then I left.  Went into the front room, then upstairs, then back through the kitchen to the garage for a beer.

When I came back into the kitchen, beer in hand, they started to tell me what was up, but I ignored them and poured my beer into a frosty glass from the freezer.  Only then did I turn to them, and say, "OK, I'm back.  What's the plan?"

They surprised me.  They really did!  They kept each other quiet and on task... they asked each other (in character) for advice and kept each other engaged.  The side-conversations shrunk to almost nothing.  And I was then able to run the game as I enjoy... actually pulling ALL the players into the action at appropriate times.  For instance, while negotiating with the Council of Seven on Tralnor, the Kearnayan pirate Chidi simply acted as bodyguard for Tiernan, the group's prime negotiator at one point. One of the Councilmen, Milos, was short and fat, thought rather highly of himself, and wasn't too sure of what benefits Tralnor would receive if they signed a pact with the Ardeni Kingdoms.  Then he saw that Chidi was armed, asked about the weapon, and for a demonstration.  Afterwards, they were able to convince Milos of the value of the negotiations by reminding him he'd be able to purchase weapons like the hand cannon he'd been so intrigued by!

We'd scheduled to play from 1900 to 2200, and although I told them we couldn't, everyone wanted to continue playing... everyone seemed to have a good time, and I definitely had a good time!

Now I've got more work to do... finally got around to looking over the Stars Without Numbers rules for Factions, and they'll be perfect for the work I still need to do on the clans (hence Star Clans).  Also have to detail a few more nearby worlds, since it looks like they've got plans already written on what they want to do next time we play!  Oh, and of course, I've got to write up the Play Report for the Star Clans blog!

Friday, March 1, 2013

I Have a Bad Feeling...

about tonight's Traveller game.  And I also found (via Facebook), a site called PULP-O-MIZER you should check out!

This image was optimized for Facebook (hence the black square around it).  I fear half my players are going to revolt, and screw over the other half... we shall see.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Barely Controlled Chaos

Last night, we played in my OD&D campaign (I'll try to get the play report up later today over on Exploring the Outside Inn) and it was again an exercise in controlled chaos.  I think it ran a little smoother than my son's game last week (earlier rant here), not because of my DM-style vs. his, rather because there was less character in-fighting and several players stepped up to control the group and keeps things moving.

It was more than a little crazy though.  We were scheduled to play from 1900 to 2200.  I'd asked for RSVPs but gotten none, although M had some idea who could NOT make it.  By 1900, I think we had three players.  D hasn't been able to make a game in several months so hadn't played in this campaign yet.  S again skyped in from college.  I think she lives about 500 miles away, but thanks to Skype, she makes more games than half the group!  My son, M, was here of course, and I enlisted him to help D create his characters.

By 1945, we were up to twelve players physically present, and one laptop with a Skype window showing player thirteen.  We had one new player, D2, who we expected, and G, who missed the last session or two in this campaign.  In addition, although we thought she wasn't coming, H showed up, and brought S, who we haven't seen before.

D2 and S each opted to leave some of their characters in Milburn Hall, so all told, the 13 players ran a total of 45 characters.  We finally got started about 2005, when I lowered my voice and started bringing them up to date on events.  The players closest to me leaned in, and then turned and yelled at everyone to shut up.  They spent at least 30 minutes planning what to do both at the strategic level and tactically, and I was annoyed at first, but then realized they were finally starting to play like old school players rather than computer gamers!  Once they'd figured out how they wanted to proceed, they went into kobold caves, exploring and carefully mapping a new section.  They ended up in two battles, neither with kobolds, and then headed back to Milburn Hall to end play for the night.

So what can I take from last night's game?  Well, first, for the games I run, I'll be pushing the idea of RSVPs... since apparently that's not common knowledge among high schoolers.  I think I can do a better job as a DM if I know in advance who and how many players will be there, especially since the group is so diverse in terms of play styles.  Second, I was again forced to set up two tables, which I thought had contributed to massive chaos in a prior game, but this time, didn't seem to hurt.  The characters broke into two groups, one to explore while the other guarded the entrance they'd used, so they couldn't be ambushed.  This actually worked well, and the only change I may try is to pre-determine physical seating so experienced players and new players are interspersed a little more.  I'm sure I'll think of other ways to improve the gaming experience, but I've got to get to work both on the actual play report, and on prep for tomorrow's Star Clans game.  Oh, and I just realized I didn't give experience for the 2 fire beetles they fought, so I gotta take care of that as well!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

I can't run three games at once...

and I'm already running my Star Clans and OD&D campaigns.  But if I could handle a third, I'd go with this mashup:

Gamma-RIFT-Critical-Future Crawl Classics

It sounds incredible!

The the list of resources Jeremy provided is pretty awesome as well... I'll be collecting some of them for future use.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Article About Gaming (Story-Telling Style)

There's a very interesting article here at The Tao of D&D that, to me, has great explanatory power regarding gaming styles... Check it out!

As an old-school gamer, I found Alexis' commentary to be right on the money, and I'll be the first to admit I'd never looked at the change in gaming styles in quite that way.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

How Do YOU Handle "Problem" Players?

Friday night, my son ran his D&D game.  I play with them, and I think we had nine players this time.  Two of the players had come up with a back story since our last session in my son's world... and it involved mayhem and destruction.  Apparently, one of the characters had raped the dwarven king's daughter, and the other had shot an arrow at the king, accidentally castrating him.  Then they fled the kingdom, and somehow ended up joining our party.

Of the two, one player is new to the group, the other has a history of seeming to believe that, since we're playing a game, there won't be consequences to his actions.  (If you look at my Star Clans blog, you'll find that one of the characters ended up sentenced to fifteen years hard labor in the mines of Tralnor.  Same player.  If you go to my Exploring the Outside Inn blog, you'll find a character that made first level, chose to be a mage, and then attempted to join an orc tribe... only to die in the "trial by combat" they put him through.  Same player again.)  Now I've got nothing against the player... he seems to be a good kid (16 year old, I believe,) and he was playing really well in my game with his mage, until he got himself killed in hand-to-hand combat with an orc.

Back to Friday night:  our very first encounter was with a band of dwarves.  These two characters hid their faces behind their shields, while we spoke to the dwarves... and of course they were on the look-out for two fugitives, believed to have fled here.  Of note is that the majority of our characters had performed a service for the dwarven king several months ago in a prior session, and we'd been named "Friends of the Dwarves," a pretty big deal for us.  After much discussion, both with the dwarves, and amongst ourselves, we decided we wanted to retain that status... so we swarmed the two characters, knocked them out, and turned them over to the dwarves.

Ugly.  Ugly as hell.  I didn't like doing it.  Not only do I seriously dislike PC-on-PC fighting, it wasted a good hour of our time, AND as homeowner and host, I don't like shitting on my guests!  And while the new guy didn't seemed too phased, the kid who's been playing for a long time with us was understandably upset.  He figured we could just remain silent and send the dwarves on their way.  That sent me into "Dad" mode rather than player mode.  I told them that the game wasn't about the two of them alone, it was about all nine players and the DM.  The rest of us wanted to fight monsters, find treasure and live large... and we didn't want to have to hide out from the law because they wanted to kill peasants or attack town guards, or anything else like that... we weren't going to let them ruin our fun.  Then I walked over to my son, and asked if I could see him in the other room... and once there, I told him, "Either they roll up new characters and join the group, or they need to go home for the night.  I won't have them sitting there NOT playing, 'cause the group has enough distractions without two bored teens screwing around."  He looked at me, and agreed.

In front of everyone else, he told them pretty much that:  "Roll up new characters and play WITH the group, or go home now."  Luckily, they rolled up new characters, and we were able to get back to the game.  I acted as caller for the evening (Yeah, I'm THAT old school) and did my darnedest to keep the two of them engaged... and I think it worked out OK in the end.  We'll see what happens next time my son runs his game.

Saturday evening, I apologized to my son for jumping in and telling both him (the DM) and the two players how it had to be.  I also mentioned that I was a little shocked at how blunt he was with them:  "Roll or Go," but he simply said, "Sometimes that's what it takes with (player)."

Now, back in high school, I don't recall us EVER having problems like this... and when I played during my first assignment in the AF, we didn't let new players in without a trial period, to be sure they would get along with the group dynamic we already had.  So this was seriously uncomfortable for me.  It was especially tough since I wasn't even the DM, but I lost control of myself and lectured.

So here are my questions:  Have YOU had to deal with situations like this?  How did you handle them?  Did you remove players?  Change games or gaming styles?  Split the group up and play separately?  I want to do a better job of staying in player mode, and I want to equip my son to handle it on his own next time it happens... what do you suggest?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Weeping Mel

(As told by a grizzled human Belter.)

For as long as we've been in this system, there have been a handful of Melashravishim on The Rock, their home in the Outer Belt.  None ever left The Rock, or traveled anywhere.  Got no idea how they've survived out there.

"The Weeping Mel" was the first exception, though other Mel have since been spotted elsewhere... rumor has it there's even one in residence on the Starbrite!  Anyway, "The Weeping Mel" was the first.  About 45 years ago, it appeared in a public square in Tethorn, a city on Hub.  No one saw it leave a ship, and nobody saw it "appear," it just came walking out of an alleyway, and took a seat in the middle of the square.

The thing was repulsive.  It wasn't more'n a meter and a half tall, but it had to mass 300 kg, and it wore a robe of the shiny grey material they always seem to wear.  It sat down, threw back it's hood, and looked around.  It wouldn't make eye contact with anyone, and then it began to cry.  It sat there, crying, for 14 years.  Nobody ever saw it eat, or excrete, or sleep... it just looked around and cried.  For fourteen blasted years!

At first, it wouldn't talk, it didn't seem to understand GalTrade at all, but people kept trying.  A cult grew up around it for a few years, with people pouring out their hearts to it... Over time, it seemed to learn t he language, and then it would sometimes, very rarely comment on what people were telling it, and even more rarely it would answer questions between sobs.

Finally, after it had been crying there for 14 years, it stood up  It had lost most of it's mass while sitting there, and looked emaciated now.  Still sobbing, it slowly spun in a circle, then it spoke:

"People of The Hub, hear me.  You have asked why I weep, and I would tell you now, before I depart!"

Camera crews arrived within moments, although the personal recordings are far more numerous.  The Mel continued to sob throughout it's speech.

"I weep for what was, and for what is no longer.  I weep for the Firstborn of the Lifegivers, we whose purpose it was to guide our younger siblings to Union.  I weep for the lost glory of the Melashravishim, we whose purpose it was to reap what They had sown.  I weep, for in our hearts we grew jealous of the Younger, and turned from our purpose.  In our hubris we sought to leap beyond ourselves to Union, but we were not ready.  We sought to perfect ourselves, and yet still we were deemed unready, and denied Union.  As our hope turned to despair, we grew bitter, and ignored the Younger, and sought perfection and immortality for ourselves... and finally we found, not perfection, but immortality."

"We travelled from world to world, offering the Gift of Immortality to all Melashravishim, and to the Younger... but it did not work on the Younger, and many of our people repented and refused to accept it, knowing the Younger still needed guidance.  Finally came the day when all our people, everywhere, had made their choice... many accepting the Gift, the majority rejecting it.

And on that Terrible Day, the voice of the Lifegivers rang out everywhere, to all Melashravishim, saying, "You have turned from your path, and so your 'Gift' shall be your Curse.  As you desire, you shall live.  You shall live until ALL of the Younger find Union, until you are the Last of our Children, and then you shall be shown what you have rejected."

I weep, because since that Terrible Day, no Melashravishim have been born.  Those who repented are long since turned to dust, but we who were cursed are still here, still watching, still waiting.

I weep for the Undying, the Cursed, the Melashravishim."

It grew silent then, but continued to sob.  Many minutes passed, and when it was clear the Mel wasn't going to speak again, and that it wasn't answering questions, most of the crowd that had grown around it dispersed.  Sometime during that night, it stood, and pulled it's hood back up, and walked off into the heart of the city.  It wasn't seen in Tethorn again, and no other Mel has ever spoken of this!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Khorred / The Starbrite

The Khorred seem hardwired for music and for mathematics, and you'll find as many Khorred physicists, astronomers and professors as you will Khorred musicians.

This is a picture of Ga'a'atak, playing his usual weekly gig at the Starbrite, a bar/refueling station that regularly travels from Hub out to the belts and back in a six-month circuit.

The Starbrite is a large station, built into a rocky asteroid, which serves as an R&R destination for weary belters.  It features casinos, night clubs, restaurants and various pleasure centers, as well as low cost accommodations for the down-on-their-luck.  Some use it to make the trip from Hub out to the belts, others, like the aforementioned Ga'a'atak, hone their craft in front of station visitors, hoping to make it big later back at Hub.  The Starbrite sells refined fuel, and has a docking bay capable of holding 50 100-ton craft simultaneously.  Humans, Vargr, and Khorred will always be found onboard the Starbrite, while Bwaps (Newts) are almost never seen.  There is always at least one of the Melashravishim to be found somewhere on board, usually in one of the dark, smoky bars, buying drinks for belters in return for their stories.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Ten Second Art

After spending an hour trying to find the correct pictures to use as models for my Khorred, then swapping parts to rough out the look I was going for, I printed the draft, then began sketching... I had forgotten that I have absolutely NO skill drawing realistic arms, legs or hands.  This took place early today.

After church this evening, I showed my son the sketch... he was as appalled as I was.  He decided to work on some drawings of his own.  At one point, he told me he was having trouble drawing a squirrel, so I grabbed a pencil, drew a quick circle with a wobbly potato-shape attached to it, and scribbled a tail on the back. (2 seconds work).

Then I realized what it was really supposed to be, and erased the tail, added golden arches, legs and a face.  (MAYBE 8 more seconds).

Here he is:  One-Eye, the patch-wearing goateed butterfly.  BTW, he's NOT happy that you're staring at him!

I will do my darnedest tomorrow to update the sketch of the Khorred and post it... but we'll see.

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Khorred


Intelligent minor race native to Khorrek/Chaynu.

The Khorred average 1 meter in height and mass 25 kg.  They are upright, bipedal, homoeothermic and bisexual, with an internal skeleton and a closed circulatory system.  Khorred have a light layer of hair covering most of their bodies, though their chest, neck and face are usually hairless.  Body hair ranges from white to dirty blond, while the shock of hair sprouting from the top of their heads is usually much darker.  Khorred of both genders have beards sprouting from the bottom of their chins, which typically match the color of their head hair.  Khorred have horns that curve back from their foreheads, and which average about a centimeter in length for every four years they've lived.  Khorred are two toed unguligrades.

Much like the Vargr, who first made contact with them, the Khorred show clear signs of having been genetically manipulated, in this case from small goat-like creatures on Khorrek.  The most obvious modifications are their hands, their heads, and their upright stance.  Their hands, unlike their cloven hooved-feet, have two fingers and two opposing thumbs each.  They can handle standard equipment, but prefer to have items made specifically for them.  Changes to the head include larger braincases, shorter snouts and more forward looking eyes.  In addition, their pelvises and spinal cords have been modified to allow them to walk upright.

Much like their animal forebears, the Khorred are highly susceptible to trancelike states provoked by music.  Although they come to immediately when the music is stopped, they will dance, leap or simply sway in time to music for hours at a time.  A Khor playing a musical instrument will continue to do so for hours, and thus, many are accomplished musicians.  Non-Khorreds listening to Khorred musicians often fall into the same dance-trances that Khorred do.  The Khorred are a very curious race, and strong in mathematics, and tend to go into fields such as music, physics and astronomy.

The Vargr found the Khorred on seven widely separated worlds in Chaynu Subsector:  Narrnnh, Tenn, Krarus, Leeon, Tokala, Nouwyr and Khorrek.  Each of these worlds holds Alien Ruins of a mysterious race of giants identified by the Khorred as the Tana.  The Khorred themselves were clearly not native to six of the worlds, and were just as clearly not the builders of the ruins.  The seventh world, Khorrek, was identified as their homeworld via genetic sampling of other species.

Khorred subtract four from Endurance, but add two to Dexterity and Education.  Enlistment DMs are -3 for the armed forces, +2 for Other, Rogues, and Doctors, and +3 for Scientists.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

More Lame Excuses... or Excellent Ones, Dude!

Today we hit the gym after work/school, then came home and checked grades online.   I mentioned yesterday that my son was studying for an algebra quiz last night.  The quiz was today... his last quiz was a C-... today's was an A+!  Happy that he finally believes he CAN do math, which I've been trying to tell him for a while.  So after checking grades, we made dinner, then sat down and watched a movie he'd never seen before... Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure!  Only Keanu Reeves movie where he actually emotes... Don't get me wrong, I think I've liked every one of his movies that I've seen... I just think he's got a great agent who gets him great roles.  I don't think much of his acting.  But B&TEA was a lot of fun... and one of the few  flicks in my favorite science fiction sub-genre (time travel) that actually made intelligent use of the power:


Bill: How'd it go?
Ted: Bad. Our historical figures are all locked up and my dad won't let them out. 
Bill: Can we get your dad's keys? 
Ted: Could steal them but he lost them two days ago. 
Bill: If only we could go back in time to when he had them and steal them then. 
Ted: Well, why can't we? 
Bill: Cause we don't got time. 
Ted: We could do it after the report. 
Bill: Ted, good thinking dude. After the report we'll time travel back to two days ago, steal your dad's keys, and leave them here. 
Ted: Where? 
Bill: I don't know. How about behind that sign? That way when we get here now, they'll be waiting for us. (bends down and picks up the keys) See? 
Ted: Whoa! Yeah! So after the report we can't forget to do this, or else it won't happen. But it did happen! Hey, it was me who stole my dad's keys! 
Bill: Exactly, Ted. Come on. 

After that we indulged in our little "Reality TV" weakness... No, I don't watch any shows where people get up and sing.  We watch Faceoff on SyFy and we just started DVR'ing Total Blackout as well.  The first is about makeup artists competing against each other, and is very cool.  The second pits people (or teams) against the clock in a series of challenges that take place in total darkness.  It's downright hilarious.

And now it's time to walk the dog, and then I'm off to bed... so again, nothing written about the Khorred.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A man is not idle...

"A man is not idle because he is absorbed in thought. There is a visible labor and there is an invisible labor."
- Victor Hugo 

A long day at work, followed by a 3 hour fundraiser for our boy scout troop, followed by 30 minutes of going over algebra with my son to help him study for a quiz, along with 30 minutes of browsing for pictures to inspire my sketches of the Khorred, mean I've had zero time to actually write about them. I'll stick by the Hugo quote though, and say that both the Khorred and the Melashravishim continue to become more clear to me... both as NPC races and as possible PC races.  I'm too wiped out to do either justice tonight, so I won't even try. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Star Clans Teaser

As I suspected, a whole lot more about the new planet came to light overnight.  Humaniti, Newts and Vargr are definitely the home galaxy races found here.  As for the new races, the Khorred and the Melashravishim both jumped into my head fully formed... I just need time to write down what I know of them.  The Khorred are a seemingly genengineered minor race found by the Vargr while the Philosopher Kings still ruled, and long since spread to many worlds with the Vargr and Humaniti.  They average a meter in height and 25 kilograms, and are excellent mathematicians, scientists and musicians.  The Melashravishim are an ancient dying race, given to philosophy and mysticism.  More about both in the coming days.

I didn't want a "Ferengi" feel to this system, so the planetary nation run by Newts is the center of civilization.  With the standard Newt desire for order and law, they are the keepers of the Trade Accords, which govern everything about contracts, from legally creating them, to fulfilling them, or breaking them off.  Newt bureaucrats and administrators will be found in every nation, and most of the Habitats, providing a stabilizing influence.  Humaniti, Vargr and Khorred will likewise be found in most nations and Habitats, while the Melashravishim will usually be isolated in monastery-like conditions.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Star Clans - Next Stop

Been thinking about my Star Clans campaign, but not writing anything down.  The other night I figured out where the party will drop out of hyperspace at the end of their misjump.  Tonight I looked at what I had for the world:  BA69774-A, no original native life before The Blight, and the world tags:  Psionics Academy and Trade Hub.

A class B starport is capable of producing non-starships, so even though the tech level is A, I decided they haven't, so far, been able to recreate the jump drive.  With a balkanized system and the world tags I rolled, I've decided the system had been a trade hub before the collapse, especially given it's location in the sector and the worlds around it.  The entire system will be inhabited, with colonies in orbit around the gas giants, belters mining the asteroid belts, and a home world of several nations.  I'm also going to include not just humans, but two other races from the home galaxy (to be determined, but I'm leaning toward Vargr and Newt) and two native races as well, which I'll have to create.

After I settle on the home galaxy races, and design the two local races, I'll figure out a rough culture based on their past as a trade hub... but I think I'll include some sort of accords that determine what information is shared (raw stellar data, for instance) and which is jealously guarded (technology and engineering) which will help to explain why they've made tech level A without developing the jump drive.

This will percolate overnight, and by tomorrow evening I should know much more about this system.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Ancient Aliens

So last night, when I should have been working on Star Clans and posting something here, I got pulled into watching TV with my son.  He had H2 (History Channel 2) on, and an entire marathon of Ancient Aliens... a show that probably doesn't need to be described.  Anyone my age ought to remember hearing about the Barney and Betty Hill case during the 1970s, when UFOs seemed to be all the rage, and the name Erich von Däniken should be familiar as well.

All I can say is, here's a TV series to add to my Appendix N for Star Clans!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Working on Traveller

We ended the most recent game in my Star Clans Traveller campaign with the party split.  The characters of the players who couldn't attend had remained in Star City, on their homeworld, Arden.  One character was in prison, awaiting transport to the mines of Tralnor for fifteen years of hard labor.  The rest of the party was in their starship, newly christened the "Arianwyn," in the middle of a jump from Tralnor to Arden.  I make the player who is piloting roll to see what happens, and this time it indicated a misjump.  As they entered hyperspace, I told them the engines didn't sound right, and at the end of the week, when they should have dropped out of hyperspace into the Ardeni system, nothing happened... they remained in hyperspace.  That was the last thing I told them as we ended the session.

During our next game, they'll have to determine where they are, and plot a course home.  Well, that's what they'll do if they want to regroup with the other player characters.

I rolled the dice for the misjump, and they got lucky, when they drop out of hyperspace, they'll actually be in a star system rather than an empty hex!  I have some work to do now, since the misjump takes them beyond the few worlds they've explored, and in fact out of their subsector altogether!  Luckily for me, I had started jotting down the history of the sector (the entire campaign, actually) over a year ago, before we started playing.  Between these initial thoughts, and the random world tags I can generate using the Stars Without Numbers rules for all the worlds between their new location and home, I can be ready to ad lib a game in just three or four hours.  Of course, that work will just add to the Rasu Sector Encyclopedia I'm compiling, and make future games even easier to plan for.

I had originally used a small database to record sector data, including system locations, universal planetary profile data, and my notes.  More recently, I just used a text file and the Star Clans blog itself.  It occurred to me that I could use the database again, keeping my own notes in one data field, and Ardeni Information Services (AIS) library data in another.  This would let me show both data fields on one form so I could cross reference them, and it would allow me to generate reports based on either the AIS library data, or my own notes.  I'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Delay, but WOTC...

Still haven't gotten to writing and posting the Star Clans game report from Sunday's game... Monday I worked on news items for the campaign, and posted that.  Last night, as I sat down to read blogs then write,  I saw that two of the blogs I follow both mentioned that WOTC has released a bunch of older stuff as .pdfs on RPGnow.  I saw this over at Blood of Prokopius, and over at Raven Crowking's Nest, I read this.

Need I mention that I jumped to RPGNow?  Need I point out that I browsed the catalog looking for old school files (starting with WoTC, but moving on...)?  I was disappointed that I couldn't find .pdfs of the LBB supplements (Greyhawk, Blackmoor, etc.) but ended up finding about 12 other files that were free downloads I grabbed.  (I would have paid for the .pdfs of the supplements, but alas...)

Does anyone know if WoTC even owns the copyrights to the original LBB and supplements?  I had assumed so, but I would be thrilled to find they did not and the copyrights had expired.  Anyone?  Bueller?  Bueller?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Another Great Day of Gaming!

We met again today... this time to play in my son's DnD campaign world, then to play in my own Star Clans Traveller campaign.

We spent about an hour revising our characters to handle the move from DnD 4e to AD&D 2nd ed.  Some folks opted to start from scratch, others converted backwards, rebuilding 2nd edition characters as close as possible to the 4e characters we had.  For those who kept their characters, we recalculated experience based on the percentage from current level to next level... one of the kids said, "Wow, we actually CAN use algebra outside of school."

Once we got underway, the game was a lot of fun.  We played for about 4 hours and by sheer luck managed to work our way through the dungeon almost directly to the sceptre we were asked to retrieve by the local Big Wig.  We lost one character... one of the 4e retreads... a dragonborn.  We managed to find a cleric willing to resurrect the character, but a failed resurrection survival  roll meant another quick death... and no more chances to come back.

Afterwards, my son said he was thrilled with how much less time he had to spend on mechanics and how much more on interacting with us players.

In my Star Clans game, the party was asked to attempt to bring two more worlds into alliance with the Ardeni Kingdoms.  Two characters ended up in jail on one of the worlds in the middle of negotiationsr, and the rest of the group told the local government they should try them according to local law to show the Ardeni Kingdoms wouldn't interfere in local politics.  They were asked to head home, then come back a few months later, so headed back to their starship and took off for Arden.  In the meantime, one of the two party members who was in jail used his psionic telportation to jump directly from his cell to his stateroom on the ship before it lifted off... The game ended with the pilot rolling a misjump.  Odd whine from the engine, and after a week, they didn't drop out of hyperspace where they expected... in fact they didn't drop out at all!  We ended for the night at that point, with the party trying to decide if they could shove someone out of the airlock in hyperspace!  I'll post the game report tomorrow after work over on Star Clans.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Rough Night

We played our 4th game of "Exploring the Outside Inn," and I'm wiped... The party split into three groups, which kept me moving around the table all evening, trying to keep track of  who was doing what, to whom, and when.  As everyone walked out, including the two new guys, they all said they had fun.  Oy.

I'll post the game report tomorrow.

In the meantime, what went wrong?

  • During setup, I brought in a second long table, which unfortunately made it harder for the players to remain a unified group... smaller table-space with crowded seating is probably actually better for this particular group
  • I played several monsters foolishly, inadvertently giving the players breaks they shouldn't have gotten after they split up into three groups.
  • I let the game run beyond the planned 10 pm end-time by almost an hour, thus forcing a fast resolution to the final events of all three groups
I'm sure post-game analysis tomorrow will show me more, but as I said, I'm wiped... good night.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Pure Awesometivity!

In a display of pure Awesometivity, the Universe has conspired to affect my Star Clans campaign setting in what we Neo-Anticoincidentalists call a "Well, Duh!" moment.  I mentioned yesterday that the World Tags I randomly generated for 37 of the worlds in Kapu Subsector included this set:  "Zombies, Bubble Cities."

As it turns out, I had a few notes for a several more worlds than I remembered... and when I reviewed them this evening to start work, I saw that one of the worlds had this UPP:  E-100999-7.  The UPP shows a tiny worldlet with no free liquid water or atmosphere, but with a population in the hundreds of millions.

Among my notes about the planet and it's repressive regime, notes written around 14 July 2012, I found mention of "bubble cities"...... Bubble cities?  WAIT!  Check the sector data file... Yep!  "Zombies, Bubble Cities"... same planet!

Now... I could increase the size of the world, add water and air, and have bubble cities designed purely to prevent the disease-ridden "undead" from infecting the living... or I could go with the original world, and have both active bubble cities and destroyed bubble cities, where the government hides the zombie plague under the guise of dealing with terrorists...

I'll have to steer the players away from this world during Sunday night's game, it deserves a much more in-depth workup than I usually do for first time visits, and unless it all comes to me overnight (which is certainly possible, given the pure Awesometivity of the whole thing!) I won't be ready.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Back to Star Clans

Pulled up my copy of the free .pdf version of Stars Without Number this evening, because I'll be running my Star Clans game Sunday evening, and I wanted to give World Tags a try.  For those not familiar, world tags are simple descriptives of one or two words that can either be chosen or randomly determined and that are used to generate ideas for adventures.  In Kevin Crawford's more eloquent words, "Tags are brief conceptual tropes that set the world off from planets of otherwise similar population and characteristics."  Yeah, what HE said.

Kapu Subsector contains 44 worlds... and I already had notes on 7 of them.  I ended up generating tags for 37 worlds, and will read them over a couple of times before I go to sleep tonight.  Tomorrow, I'll have a pretty good idea how those tags intersect the background story of the sector that I decided on last year, and I'll jot down notes on the 10 or 15 closest to Arden, the player characters' home world.

The recommendation is to note enemies, friends, complications, things and places, and the booklet gives a short paragraph description of each tag, as well as examples of each of the five points for each tag.  Further, it's recommended you choose 2 tags per world; one is two flat, three or more just lead to confusion.  In my case, I stuck with two per world, and I got such gems as, "Restrictive Laws, Freak Weather," "Major Spaceyard, Warlords," "Forbidden Tech, Unbraked AI," "Area 51, Theocracy," and the one my players may like best, "Zombies, Bubble Cities."

Can't wait to see what percolates overnight!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Busy Evenings Ahead...

This evening, before my son went to bed, but after he, my wife and I played 2 games of Settlers of Catan on our Kickstarter produced wooden board, we got around to discussing this upcoming three-day weekend.  The current plan is that I'll run another session of Exploring the Outside Inn on Friday night from 1800 to 2200.

On Sunday afternoon, starting at 1400, he'll spend about an hour "converting" the player characters from The Heroes' Gauntlet from DnD 4e back to AD&D 2nd edition.  After I started running the Outside Inn campaign, I think he realized his difficulties with his 4e campaign were NOT creativity problems on his part, but simply annoyance at the ruleset itself, which is far too ridiculous to be used as anything more than a source of ideas.  But I digress.  From about 1500 to 1900 we'll play in the revised version of his world with our revised characters.  I recreated Corrin Aledrinker in 2nd edition, keeping as close to the 4e version of him as I could, and dropped from 5 sheets of paper to 1 for a character sheet.  I showed my son and his friends, and even those who weren't sure they wanted to switch their characters immediately changed their minds.

Finally, from 1900 to 2300, we'll play in my Star Clans Traveller campaign.  My evenings will be spent prepping for Star Clans, with just a few hours devoted to Outside Inn, since I've got enough material for it to keep them busy for weeks.  I'll also spend some time going over the rules of AD&D 2nd edition with my son, after his homework is done each night, to help ensure he's ready as well.

Gonna be busy... having fun!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Stars Without Number

Back in September, I picked up a copy of the Stars Without Number free edition pdf.  I glanced through it quickly, and found a lot to like.  Then I got busy and didn't open it again until today.  I run a Traveller game, but Kevin Crawford's work here is simply amazing!  With Traveller, I can use random numbers to generate a sector full of defined planets, but I still have a lot of work to do before I can run my game.  Even winging it takes a lot of effort.  SWN not only lets me generate a sector full of defined planets, but I can add tags, adventure hooks, and factions as well, all from wonderful tables that simply require me to roll some dice.  I prefer winging it when running my games:  I pre-define the general themes going on in my settings, then I keep them in mind while reacting to my players... which helps pull them into the setting all the more.

SWN makes my winging it even easier, all the additional tags and snippets of data I can generate at random beforehand simply add fodder to my general themes and really get my creative juices flowing!

It's been months since we played in my Star Clans setting, and my players recently asked about it.  I'll be using SWN tables to fill in some detail on the worlds surrounding the Ardeni Kingdoms, and, I suspect I'll use them in my OD&D Exploring the Outside Inn setting as well!  As I do, I'll discuss here what I'm up to.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Art to Inspire

If you're looking for inspiration for your game through the visual arts, check out Monster Brains.  Aeron Alfrey is both an artist and a docent of online art, and this blog is an amazing resource of art and artists I would probably never find on my own.  Today's entry highlights the work of Murray Tinkelman, and is Lovecraft-inspired.  Of course Aeron includes additional links so the interested viewer can see and learn more...

Give it a look... you won't be disappointed!

Art to Inspire

If you're looking for inspiration for your game through the visual arts, check out Monster Brains.  Aeron Alfrey is both an artist and a docent of online art, and this blog is an amazing resource of art and artists I would probably never find on my own.  Today's entry highlights the work of Murray Tinkelman, and is Lovecraft-inspired.  Of course Aeron includes additional links so the interested viewer can see and learn more...

Give it a look... you won't be disappointed!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Preparing the Sandbox

In getting ready for my OD&D "Exploring the Outside Inn" game, I jotted down lots of little notes, some of which became earlier entries here.  This past Friday, during our initial game, I used several of the ideas to give the world a certain feel.  The main door of Milburn Hall, which opened outward, was blocked by a huge wooden T leaning against the door and partially buried.  Kemper village had smaller T-bars blocking the doors of about half the houses the party explored, while the other half had their door broken and the door frame split.  The Kemper Village Mausoleum not only had a T-bar, but was chained and locked as well.

The party has encountered giant rats, kobolds and orcs, zombies, skeletons, rot grubs, and a roc, but not a single human that didn't come to Milburn Hall from Cittá...

They were very interested in the Mausoleum, so on Saturday I wrote a one sentence description of the main building, and each of the first six levels below ground, including the type of construction and the general feel of each level.  I also decided the orcs they had encountered on the way to Kemper Village would be a bit more civilized than your average orcs.  Finally, I decided the kobolds would become more aggressive, since the party had begun to cut down the brambles that provided cover for all their tunnel entrances.

On Sunday morning, getting ready for our afternoon game, I quickly mapped out the mausoleum's main level and described the contents.  I used the AD&D Random Dungeon Generator at Donjon to build the first six underground levels of the mausoleum, changing the Random Seed and comparing the results in each case to the descriptions I'd written the day before.  Those that didn't match what I had in mind were simply ignored and new levels generated until I liked what I had.  I also used it to generate the first level of the caverns the kobolds inhabit near Milburn Hall.

Finally, I used the AD&D Random Treasure Generator to determine the Kobolds' treasure.

A quick trip to Kinkos, and everything was printed and ready to go!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

House Rules for Exploring the Outside Inn

House Rules for my Exploring the Outside Inn campaign:

  • Players will start off with 5 zero level characters:
          -- Roll on the Occupation Table for occupation, weapon and extra item
          -- Roll 1d6 for gold, 3d6 for silver, and 5d6 for copper coins
          -- Pick a name, and choose alignment (law, neutrality, chaos)
          -- No stats are rolled until needed, then are rolled using 3d6
          -- Zero level hit points will be a d4, with 1s counting as 2s, and modified by constitution
          -- Zero level characters start at -500 experience

  • To reach first level and choose a class, all six of a character's basic stats must be revealed, and he must have earned 500 experience
  • Experience points come from monsters and treasure; additional experience can be earned for spending treasure on non-adventuring activities
  • Hit dice will be rerolled at each new level, and the higher of the prior or new roll taken as the new hit points

Other rules will be added as I modify the LBB rules, or attempt to fill in gaps... but the goal is to maintain an old school feel for the campaign.

My house rules have been influenced by the gaming blogs I read... and when I come across the original posts that prompted me to try a rule, I'll come back here and update this post to give credit where due.  In the meantime, you can check out the "Blogs I Follow" and see for yourself!