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!