Saturday, December 15, 2012

I Failed

Well, this past Friday’s game was another GM-ing failure from my perspective.  I am really having difficulty getting the CSIO to come alive like it did about eight years ago when I ran it for another group.  Somehow, I’m just not able to get on my feet and get running with it. 

Here’s a quick write-up: the group started in Tonto’s (the thief) hovel.  Heading out first thing in the morning, the group is struck by how quiet it is in the street.  Looking around, the short street is deserted with only the body of a human about 2/3 of a block away lying in the street in a pool of blood.  The elven mage/fighter fires an arrow into the body to determine if he’s alive…while the rest of the group is moving up to check on the guy.  The Mycretian cleric immediately is checking for vital signs and trying to stop any bleeding, even the newer bleeding from elven arrows.  Tonto and the Altanian fighter begins rifling through the guys clothes, looking for identification and valuables.  He’s cleaned out.  And then arrows start to rain down upon the group.  On the rooftops are five guys in leather with short bows obviously aiming at the group.  A short fight ensues which includes the thief and the cleric running up the stairs of one of the tenement buildings in an attempt to get to the roof.  The ambushers are quickly reduced down to one, who then turns tail and runs…straight into the cleric and thief.  They subdue him and question him.   Now, this took almost 30 minutes because there was constant interruptions and lots of side punning, sexual innuendos, and rock song lyrics sung.  (Don’t ask.)

The group then takes the guy to meet his contact and (in an absolute failure of intelligence on my part) sit there while I talk to myself to present the argument between the contact and the ambusher.  In disgust at myself for what I have slipped to, I hand over two direct bits of information and hire the group to find a missing box (a third box because working things in three’s allows for interesting situations…usually).  From this, the group decides to set up the Valonian sorcerer and this wizard (the contact) to meet in such a way that things will reduce to chaos.  It does.  I then determine to have some of the magic items each wizard had on him to fail/interfere in such as to teleport the bystanders into the Plain of Cairns, almost 100 miles away.

And I feel like a failure because I lost it as a GM and essentially did a “rocks fall, everyone dies” stunt but without killing the characters.  So, I’m going to sit down and work on my dungeon that I had planned for a little later in this campaign and present it in the next session.  I’m also going to try to spend some time brainstorming through all the situations I had planned and see if I can salvage anything.  While my pride wants to blame others, I know….I KNOW….this is entirely my fault because I was not prepared as I should have been and I had not done my job of making the city come alive.

I think I’ll close the comments on this one.  While I appreciate my friends trying to convince me that I’m too hard on myself, I still believe that it is the duty of the GM to set the tone of the game and I failed to do that.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

AD&D/OSRIC Freeport, Game 3

After nearly a month of cancelled games due to no one being able to meet or having half the group with obligations elsewhere, we finally almost all got together this past Friday for part 3 of the excursion into my version of Freeport.  Two players were still unable to meet due to various job related problems.  Hopefully the next game will have everyone present.

I didn't get the prep time I had hoped for this game because I managed to get the bug that most of the 7th grade was sharing at school.  Ugh...never like being that sick.  Then, I had promised to do a Christmas show in our planetarium and suddenly found that looming.  So, as the group gathered I had two hooks ready.  And they promptly squished both of them.

Well, fine then.  I pulled out a resource I had forgotten I had: Vornheim.  What a great urban resource!  I rolled a random encounter for the group: Ice, all movement at -4.  So, I said, "well, you get up this morning and open the front door to find the entire street caked in ice.  A layer of ice stretches in both directions about a block, though it stretches further to your right than your left."

Immediately, they were hooked.  "Wait, isn't it fall?"  "It's not due to ice at this time of year and it never ices this bad."  "Did we hear anything?"  "Can we find the epicenter?"  "How is everyone else reacting?"  The group decided to find the epicenter and then try to track the creator of the large ice patch.  This involved trying to break into a business (a woman engineer), talking with folks on the street, and lastly interviewing 25 kids.  They learned the "wizard" was wearing red & green robes, running from something, and disappearing in a "hole in the sky".

Searching for the hole, they found an invisible opening about 8 feet in the air and just above the location where the mage's footprints stopped.  (1st ed Rangers are ridiculous trackers.  65% to track in a city.  Wow...)  So, the group climbed up into the opening to find a 30 x 30 room.  The opening was in the wall and bordered by an oval frame, being roughly 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide.  One door exited the room, locked.  Opening the door, they forgot to try to track him anymore....(snicker....) and found a hallway stretching left and right.  Going left, they found a barracks room, a partially worked cavern and lastly a strange door with 2 buttons to the right.  Pushing a button, they heard and felt a hum.  In a few moments, a "ding" was heard and the door parted in the middle to show a small room (about 10' x 10') with a broken mirror opposite the door, no other doors...and no floor.  Looking down and dropping a torch, they figured it was 8 feet deep since it took the torch 8 seconds to hit bottom.  (Remember, this is the half-orc group....)

 So, they pushed a few buttons on the interior wall on the left and let the doors close.  Then they forced open the doors and saw the top of the room sinking away.  To the right though, they found a ladder that went up and down, and was recessed far enough to not get hit by the moving room.  Looking up, they saw 2 doors above them, one at about 10 feet and another at about 25 feet.  Looking down, they noticed at least 6 more doors.  Going up, they opened the door 10 feet up. The hallway that stretched off had gray very smooth walls and a floor of a white granite like material but the slabs must have been huge.  There were odd torch sconces on the walls that produced light and heat but no smoke.  The cleric went to pull one off the wall and there was smoke and sparks, and the torch went out.  A little panicky, they dropped the "torch" on the floor and opted to go up another floor.

Opening up this door, the light was everywhere but there were no obvious torches.  Moving into the hallway and walking down it looking for doors, a section of the wall opened up with a "shushing" sound.  Inside, they found a room with an odd shelf opposite the door, 5 tables each with 4 to 6 chairs, and more of the strange lighting from the ceiling with no flickering, heat or smoke.  The right wall had 16 small concealed doors which presented plates of hot food as each was opened (different food for each door, but the same food as the same door was opened).  The left wall had a concealed door with odd handleless mugs that were very light, translucent, but apparently unbreakable.  Also, there were 7 small round openings, facing down with small levers behind them.  Pushing a lever caused fluid to disperse from the opening.  The favorite fluid was a warm brown liquid that, though bitter, was rejuvenating and invigorating.  On the tables were 2 small cylinders, one black and one white, and three tall cylinders with pointed tops: one yellow, one red, and one brownish.  They grabbed the "mugs", the cylinders, and as much of the brown liquid as they could.

Continuing down the hallway, the walls didn't open up until they got to an intersection.  The room beyond the wall as dark and there was snoring as well as bunks.  It looked to be about 40' x 40' with several human sized creatures in it.  After a few moments, one shouted something angrily toward the group.  When there was no response, he at up and looked at the group and let out a yell.  He grabbed an odd stick like device and started throwing magic missiles toward the group. One hit the ranger and one hit the cleric.  Then several other sat up and did the same.  One of the fighters threw a handaxe at the first "mage" and apparently killed him.  The ranger fired two arrows into the room, hitting and apparently killing another.  A short melee followed as the mages started trying to put on white plate mail while shooting magic missiles.  However, three failed to react well and ended up shooting their compatriots.  Eventually, the thief and the other fighter threw lamp oil in the doorway and followed that with a torch.  The ensuing blaze caused a raucous sound to start coming from everywhere and the hallway light changed to red which then flickered in a pattern moving toward the fire.  The group hightailed it back to the vertical shaft and went back down one level.

Exiting into the gray hallway again, they found the broken torch still sitting one the floor where they left it.  They didn't hear or see smoke, so they continued exploring.  The hallway had several doors before branching off left and right.  The first door opened upon a temple like place with tables and chairs all facing away from the door but toward a large altar like object opposite the door.  The room was 40' by 60' and sloped gently down.  The far wall was all white. Moving down the slope, the discovered concealed doors in the white wall.  Opening one door displayed a wall which had odd knobs and buttons.  Pushing one caused it to light up green, then an image appeared on the white wall.  It was animated and a voice speaking an unknown language was loudly coming from everywhere.  Pushing other buttons caused other images to appear, or the sound to get louder or softer, or the lights in the room to change from brighter to dimmer.    Opening the other door showed a bookshelf with odd items (none sharp) and several pieces of paper, some with odd writing and some blank. 

Continuing down the hallway, they opened one door to find a group of adolescent humans scattered in small groups at tables.  Walking amongst them were 2 human adults who were looking on at what the adolescents were doing.  Everyone was speaking some odd language and focused upon the tasks at the desks.  No one was wearing armor or carrying weapons.  Soon, one adolescent female saw the group....which had opened the door with weapons drawn...and in a terrified manner nudged her group to look at the door.  Pretty soon, everyone was looking at the group.  The adult female was carefully walking back toward a small box on the wall while the adult male was making calming sounds and motioning the adolescents behind him.  The cleric and the ranger tried telling everyone they weren't in danger, but no one responded.  However, one female which had been at the back of the room moved forward.  She called out in Pixie, "What are you doing here?  How did you get into this area?"  The only one who could speak Pixie was the ranger.  A discussion ensued, with lots of confused looks between the humans and the girl as well as amongst the group and the girl & ranger.  Finally, they agreed to go back to the room with the portal and to meet the girl there.

Going back to the portal room, the girl met them after a few moments but she was enshrouded.  Some threats moved back and forth, which she finally quelled by having a small snake peek out from behind the veil at them.  The group learned that the red & green mage was an escaped criminal.  The medusa (yep, another steal from Vornheim) was one of a group of Guardians who watch over the different dimensions.  The mage had apparently killed or incapacitated a Guardian and stolen the key to open the portal to and from the group's dimension/plane.  The medusa was willing to give them the rights to sell this brown liquid to sell in their dimension in return for them finding this rogue mage and either bringing him back to justice or bringing proof of his demise.  The key is a greenish blue gemstone fashioned like a teardrop, hanging as a pendant on a necklace.  She also gave the cleric a bracelet that would allow them to communicate with her in case they needed questions answered.  All she could provide is information, not help.

And that's where we ended it for the evening.  Now to work out more about this character....

Monday, December 3, 2012

CSIO, Game 3

The third game started with two players coming in through G+ hangout.  The PCs were flush from the victory of discovering the reason for the disappearances of goblins and were looking for the next mystery to solve.  They settled on trying to discover the story behind the frozen beggar found outside the Pig & Whistle.  A preliminary hunt through the Beggars Guild had presented them with the information that the beggar was working on a few different projects.  One of the projects was information gathering for Torvald One-Hand, a minor noble in town. 

Heading over to the Pig & Whistle, the group learned that the place was a real dive.  So, after talking with the owner and the barkeep, they managed to convince the owner to hire the Goblin Quartet to sing and be spitting targets for a 20% cut of the gambling proceeds.  While talking with the owner, the rest of the group began asking the crowd if anyone knew of the frozen beggar event.  One drunk regular passed on the information that a Valonian wearing a crimson cloak had met the beggar that evening.  The beggar had handed over a package and left.  The Valonian opened the package, grew irate, and followed the beggar outside.  There was a scream, cut short, and then everyone found the frozen beggar.  Further questioning revealed the Valonians liked to hang out at the Cup & Dragon, a short walk away. 

Entering the Cup & Dragon, the group saw the place was a halfling establishment with orc female staff which the Valonians enjoyed teasing.  The group then got quite silly with lots of puns about short people which drew raucous laughter from the Valonians but angry glares from the halflings.  Soon, the group found itself ejected from the place without gaining any information from the halflings.  However, the Valonians were quite talkative.  They told the group about the crimson cloaked individual and where to find him.  He was shortly found in the southwestern part of town making plans to sail within a week.  He initially was annoyed by their questions until they implied that they could find the package he was looking for. 

Going back to the sage, the group discovered that the goblin they had delivered to him was supposed to have delivered a package to a certain minor noble.  However, he instead delivered it to a man in a gold mask wearing black robes.  Further investigation uncovered that this man is known to be a Black Lotus operative.

After some discussion, the general consensus appeared to be that the group really needs a dungeon crawl instead of a set of urban mysteries to solve.  So, I think I'll work on the group of crypts I had started on and place them out in the Plain of Cairns for a future adventure.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

2nd Game in the CSIO

Most of the group gathered again for a deeper foray into the machinations of entities in the City State of the Invincible Overlord.  I tried to be a little more open and forthright with information this time to help the game flow a little better.  Thus, many of the NPCs were a little more talkative than I probably would have run them, but that's okay.  The group managed to solve a few problems and find more questions.  Two of the group were sick, so Oola the female mage/stripper wandered off in search of greener pastures and the ranger was preoccupied with something else going on in town.  IRL, one player was ill and the other had work & family obligations.

So, for a few days the group sat around the hovel of Tonto (the thief) while Tonto went out to meet with contacts around town, in the Thieves Guild and in the Beggars Guild.  He came back and reported that the nobleman, whom the group was initially interested in robbing, had paid his dues to the Guild to prevent any thieving taking place.  Also, the emerald which was the target of the potential hit was rumored to be cursed.  The group learned that the gnome wandering around was actually hired by the Overlord because the gnome claimed to have a new divination device he had discovered in some ruins.  The group figured that this problem will sort itself out since some believe the device being built summons things instead of scrying on things.  Lastly, they learned that the goblin slave they bought was grateful for his new masters as they didn't beat him or do cruel things to him.  To show his gratitude, he started singing and they were all very surprised by his voice.  (The image and sound I used to convey their surprise was to imagine Jim Nabors, aka Gomer Pyle.)  So, Tonto decided that they needed to start a goblin barbershop quartet and sent Patsy (the goblin) into the Goblin Reservation to find 3 more singers.  He returned with 10, only one was worth keeping.  Patsy was sent back to find more.

Following up on the secretive & fearful actions of the goblins as night fell, the group learned that goblins with a facial scar were the ones being targeted.  So, the group hired a beggar to lead them to the location where the last goblin had been taken.  As they walked around down there, they avoided an encounter with shriekers due to the keen nose of the beggar.  Taking a side passage, Tonto discovered a gas trap which he disarmed and put in his belt pouch.  Continuing on, they found a group of goblins hurrying through the sewers on business of some kind and followed them.  The goblins were ambushed by a group of human mercenaries, the same group as Oola had charmed/befriended earlier.  The mercs grabbed one goblin and chased the others off.  As the mercs were tying up and questioning the goblin, Tonto lobbed the gas canister at them.  They all failed their saves and were blinded.  Tonto slipped in and killed one outright.  The group attacked and the mercs didn't stand a chance.  One got a lucky hit in on Marshal's character (sorry, don't have my notes nearby to look up his name) and that was all.  The goblin not only had a facial scar but was also missing a piece of his ear, making him the prime suspect for the sage to interrogate.

The sage had asked the mercs initially to find this goblin, but the group "found him first" and so got the reward.  They got 100 gp and the 3 items they found identified: a bag of dust of appearance, a suit of chainmail +1 and a shield +2.  The group then decided to go back to the hovel, count their loot, and decide on the next action to take.

It sounds like a short game but the sewer trek was a dungeon crawl of sorts and there were often side comments about Pinterest, beer, Thanksgiving, gaming, D&D Next, 1e module reprints, the history of Judges Guild, and other stuff.  Now, back to work on the next Freeport session and the next CSIO game.

Oh, and if any of you follow Stan Shinn's G+ stuff, he has pics of the maps.  Worth a look!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Botched Game Night

Well, another game night fell through.  This one was entirely my fault because I was called upon to be an Astronomer for a fund raiser as well as an authority on Planetaria.  So, we couldn't meet Friday night and tried to regroup on Saturday.  However, half of the group had either work related issues or family demands which prevented all but 2 from showing up.  Instead, we had a nice relaxing dinner, discussed movies, and then played two games of Star Wars Miniatures game.  In the first, an X-wing and a Y-wing took on two TIE fighters and a TIE Advanced.  The Rebels wiped the Imperials off the board.  In the next game, we upgraded almost all the pilots and ships and played 2 X-wings & a Y-wing against 4 TIE fighters and a TIE advanced.  The Empire got its revenge and the Galaxy is now safe from some Rebel scum.

So, the next game will be the day after Thanksgiving if we can all get together then.  I foresee 3 not being able to make it already.  And since my dad will be in town, I may have to cancel that game as well.  We'll see. 

Anyway, back to working on the CSIO game, I guess.  Or grading lab reports...ugh...

Monday, November 5, 2012

CSIO First Game Report

Well, things didn't quite go as I thought they would.  In short, I expected a lot of investigation and roleplay while they expected a lot of action and combat.   From the feedback I got, I gave them too many options and not enough guidance.   And I accept full responsibility for the gaming not going anywhere, because I failed as a DM to encourage the good ideas and to discourage the bad ones.  I think we're going to do a little bit of "do over" at the next game.  Since we hadn't seen each other in a while, we all vented about the things that had kept the group apart and then started to feel giddy about being together.  This led to a High Elf character suddenly having the personality of Snooki....and then things went south from there.

Starting at the beginning....everyone arrived within 30 minutes of each other, which is just amazing in and of itself.  Most had an idea of the character they wanted.  Characters were rolled up and we had an Altanian fighter, a human ranger, a human thief, a Mycretian cleric, and a High Elf magic-user.  Since I couldn't think of a good reason for why they were together in the first place, and the players didn't seem to care enough to offer suggestions, we just started with the idea that they just know each other.

Looking over the 10 rumors, the first one which looked interesting was the search for bronze "brassieres" and the gnome associated with that search.  So, at the urging of the most Chaotic Neutral player (yes, player..not character) the group headed over to the Plaza of Profuse Pleasures.  The Mycretian was horrified and started handing out little "Mycr scrolls" warning the heathens about damnation and such.  The High Elf had a fit and suddenly was Snooki.  At the urging of the thief character, the High Elf was going around nude and trying on all the exotic bronze "clothing".  After a batch of silliness there, the group then bought a goblin at the Slave Market in the hopes of using it as bait for another Rumor.  However, the idea also popped up to disguise the goblin as a gnome to continue following the original Rumor. 

Basically, traipsing all over the City State, asking off the wall questions and not following up too closely on the answers, the group finally threw up their hands and admitted defeat.  They eliminated a couple of rumors as frivolous, two others as "not level appropriate", and then started asking for a dungeon nearby to raid.  So, by next time I'll have a couple of dungeons ready as well. 

Now, looking back on this, I really do not mean to portray the group as at fault.  It really was me.  I was not listening to them as well as I should have.  I did not give them enough to work with in the rumors.  And I did not respond well when they tried to run off on their own interests.  So, I'm going to redo the Rumor List with more detail and I'll put together a few dungeons, and I'll have a better group of encounters to make the city more lively.  That was a huge failing on my part.  The city felt empty and dead.  I'll work on that.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Creative Juices Flowing

I know I should be doing something job-related & productive in that arena....but my mind's on the game for Friday.  Here's something I had been working on.

Wilderlands Astronomy

The planet of the Wilderlands is known just as Tandok, an old word which meant “ground, dirt, or soil” in ancient Kelnorian.  It circles a yellow star, larger than Sol.  There are 3 inner planets and 2 outer planets as well as 2 moons.  Klivven is the closest planet to the sun, and is known as “The Weak One” or “The Little One” or “The Child”.  Next is Halgrem, The Flame.  It appears as a dark red star in the morning or evening sky and is sacred to the Harmakhians.  Teva is the 3rd planet and is known for its beautiful golden glow.  It’s common names include “The Lady” and “The Maiden”.  Beyond Tandok is Sota, The Mid-wife.  Usually appearing as a dull greenish star, it works its way slowly through the 15 zodiacal constellations.  Lastly is Tuvel, the Watcher (or the Old Man).  It is difficult to see on most nights because of its bluish purple color.

The zodiac of the Wilderlands varies with the culture, but the one most used by the Alryans and the Tharbrians consists of the following elements: The Crocodile, The Otter, The Hammer, The Stork, The Ravens, The Archer, The Dragon, The Scales, The Eagle, The Scarab, The River Lily, The Snow Leopard, The Cart, the Hunter, and The Shepherd.   Thus, the months reflect the names of these constellations: Modan, Felvos, Thorsen, Tauthen, Wotan, Dian, Ostaran, Mitran, Sekran, Armakran, Neftan, Gidibis, Etsan, Kutan, and Zeenar.

The year begins with the Vernal Equinox being the 1st day of Modan.  The year is 461 days long, with a leap year adding one day to the month of Mitran every 15 years.  Each month consists of 30 or 31 days broken down into 8 day weeks.  The break matches the cycles of the closer moon, Sedna, which has a period of 30.45 days.  The further moon, Gorma, has a period of 62.37 days.

Out of Sync

With the demands of parenthood, school, and family, I've been unable to meet with the gaming groups regularly.  It's also caused a problem with trying to get a consistent feel for the campaigns I'm trying to run.  Luckily, as the first trimester comes to a close at school, most of the obligations are coming to an end...just in time for holiday demands.  Grrrr....Gaming is my stress outlet and I really need to have a regular place to blow off steam, grouse about family & coworkers, have a beer, and enjoy some silliness. 

Here's an example of "how bad it is"/"how much I need to relax": a coworker asked a simple question relating to a meeting time.  I snapped at him and caught myself before I launched into a tirade.  I feel horrible about it.  I went back to him and apologized, but that doesn't really make it better.  Maybe I can release some steam tonight scaring kids as they come to trick-or-treat.  We'll see.

So, how about some gaming material?  Well, as I mentioned in a previous post, I'm running a 1st ed AD&D/OSRIC game in Freeport.  Well, with the other group (the old school group), I'm running the same system but set in the City State of the Invincible Overlord.  The Judges Guild version with some small bits taken from Necromancer Games' Player's Guide to the Wilderlands and their version of the CSIO.  I love the gritty feel of the place and the fact that I can smush it around to make it my own.  I know the NG versions are supposed to do that, but I found them to be a little too fleshed out to do that well.  Also, I love that the JG Ready Ref Sheets work so well with the original JG CSIO.  I love all the die rolls to garner rumors and and events.  Wonderful stuff.   Here, let me show you what I was able to put together from those, in addition to some older rumors that I've had for years but no one's really followed up on.

Recent Rumors in the City State
1. Some of the graves in Redoubt of the Dead have been desecrated lately.
2. Goblins have become more secretive and hurry home to the reservation before curfew.
3. Werewolves are roaming the city streets at will on full moon nights.
4. A beggar was found frozen solid outside the Pig & Whistle Pub last night even though the outside temperature was around 70.
5. Two vasthosts are marching toward the City State from Viridistan. The Emperor is upset that the Overlord has not sent this year’s tribute yet.
6. A sea captain has been hiring mercenaries in the Docks District.
7. A gnome wizard has been going from shop to shop inspecting bronze braziers. He claims to represent the Overlord.
8. An ogre passed out in the Balor’s Eye last night and killed 3 goblins in his fall.
9. Four drunk Halflings are in stocks in front of the Constables Quarters and they continue to sing rude songs about the captain.
10. A large group of dwarves were seen leaving the City State in a hurry this morning.

I sent this out to the players last week and told them to let me know which ones interested them the most.  This way I can put together a little more so I'm not winging it as much.  Now, I am in no way a meticulous DM.  In fact, I rarely know what the classes are of each of the players much less anything more detailed.  So, my idea of "fleshing it out a little" is basically to write a few sentences, maybe a paragraph, listing a little more detail about who, when and where.  I prefer to DM in an Improv style rather than write a lot.  Writing is usually boring for me.  And I hate to read to my players.  So...the tough part is to make sure I take good notes during the game.

Oh, and if you're curious, so far there is interest in Rumors #2 and #5....I'll fill you in on what happens next week.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Something a Little Different

Those of us who did not have conflicts with real life events got together this past Friday and played one of the best new miniatures game out there: Fantasy Flight Games Star Wars X Wing.  One of my work colleagues is an avid miniatures gamer.  He loves RPGs and such too, but he really enjoys painting and playing miniatures games.  So, he showed up at work one day with two of the basic boxes of this game.  As he unpacked it, he explained the rules.  The simple system for movement in which you use a cardboard ruler of known length tied with a very simple system for order of battle makes this game the ultimate beer & pretzels game. 

The basic set consists of one X-wing fighter and two Empire TIE fighter miniatures.  They are prepainted and ready to put on their little stands.  There are 4 "pilot" cards to choose from for each miniature.  The cars show graphically the firing arc, the pilot ability score, the amount of armor and the attack ability of the miniature.  At the start of each round, each player chooses a movement by turning a little wheel.  One chosen, the wheel is placed face down by the pilot card in front of the player.  The card just helps keep track of additional special abilities (if present) as well as damage.  Movement starts with the lowest pilot number.  He turns over his wheel, showing his choice of movement.  The common choices are 1 unit ahead, 2 units ahead, 2 units ahead with a soft right turn, or a soft left turn, or a hard right or left turn....all the way up to 5 units ahead.  Each player takes turns moving their ships until all ships have moved. 

Attacking uses special dice made by FFG with special symbols to reflect hits or dodges.  If the attack is at close range (based upon a given range stick), the attacker gets an extra attack die.  If the attack is long range, the defender gets an extra defense die.  After a certain number of hits, a ship is destroyed and removed from the field.  The attack order is from highest pilot number to lowest. 

The game also comes with scenarios in which you can add asteroids, or protect a Senator's vessel, or avoid mines.  There are advanced rules to increase the challenges.  And FFG is also putting out more models to increase your choice of fleet.  Each additional ship runs about $15 but comes with 4 pilots, a movement wheel, additional damage and specials cards as well as the miniature itself.  Right now, you can add Y-wings for the Rebels or TIE Advanced for the Empire.  They have plans to add B-wings, the Millenium Falcon, Slave 1, and TIE bombers.

We were able to play 2 games in just over 2 hours on Friday.  When I was shown the game, I was hooked and had to have a copy after the first round of combat.  The same was true with the guys on Friday.  This is a game that can be played with anyone, whether they are a gamer or not, as long as they understand a bit about the original Star Wars movies.  I'm looking forward to playing this with my dad at Thanksgiving as well as killing time when waiting for everyone to arrive for the games on Friday.  

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Overwhelmed by Work

Ugh....the past few weeks have been awful.  Somehow, I got behind on my grading and it just kept snowballing.  Well, I either got behind or I'm just inefficient.  I don't know which.  But it sure felt like every free waking moment has been spent grading papers, or preparing tests, or grading tests, or writing college was just daunting.  And I'm trying to run two different AD&D games at the same time.  Okay, one's only had two sessions and the other hasn't started yet because we can't get our schedules to coincide, but I'm still trying to prep them.  Yeah....the game two weeks ago fell through because 4 of the 6 players were busy with other activities, familial and job related.  The same group may have to cancel again this week because I already know 3 of the players are out of town.  It's okay.  I could use the time to either prep or to get all the college recs out of the way. 

So, as for the game last Friday.  Well, it was shorter than usual because I had a family responsibility to maintain.  For those needing the program book to keep track, this is the half-orc group in Freeport.  The cleric's player was out of town on business.  The elven ranger/magic-user player was off doing his monthly weekend warrior duty.  The missing half-orc fighter's player from last time showed up, though.  This made the group consist of three fighters, a thief and a ranger.  No spell casters.  This should be interesting.

I had prepared two possible scenarios for them (the left shoe bandit and the continuation of the temple search).  I had a few other items I could throw out there, but nothing very fleshed out.  However, this group needs more direction and tends to prefer to have the railroad tracks in sight even if they don't follow them closely.  They ignored the left shoe bandit thread and decided to return to the temple.  At least a week had passed since they were last down there, as they went about trying to sell their finds (books and such) to various individuals.  Thus, returning to the abandoned house, they found the place boarded up and trapped.  They ingeniously used rats to test for poison gases (found one) and then used a torch to burn it off.  Once that was burned away, they had to break down a brick wall to find a batch of zombies waiting for them.  A short battle later, in which one of the fighters rushed through the crowd (as one player said "yay! no AoO's in 1st ed") to attack the back two zombies, he tripped and sent his weapon flying down the hallway.  The zombies took advantage of his condition to deal 13 points of damage to him (dropped him to -4).  The thief rushed up and poured their only healing potion down the fighter's throat (2d4+2, he rolled max).  Those were the only two hits the zombies landed all night.

The group continued to search the area and found the cleared out temple.  However, I had misjudged my players and they were able to attack and kill my snake person wizard before he could use his wand on them.  In fact, before he could do anything.  It was disheartening as a DM.  The group did manage to find Lucius, the missing librarian, who was quite confused after having his mind partially scrambled.  At this point the game had to be stopped because I had to go pick up my boy from the school football game. 

I've been thinking more about the game and about how I need to make it more challenging to the group.  But that's difficult because I don't know if I'll get all 7 players or just a handful every time.  I've also been thinking about how each of the players is approaching this game and the rules.  I think we have basically three types of players at the table.  The first is like me.  I have had my fill of large rulebooks, bookkeeping of skill points and feats and such, and stories which must be played out as close to as written as possible (or the "you're not playing this right" approach).  I like the freedom of minimal rules.  I like the ability to explore different genres as well as different personalities. 

The second player is there to have fun.  The rules are irrelevant at best.  A minimum amount of attention is given to keeping an accurate character sheet.  The most important part of the game is the jokes, laughing, and food.  Everything else is icing.

The third player there is interested in making a distinct character based upon feats and skill sets and alignment and diety and back story and....He is there to take part in a grand adventure the GM has written and expects the GM to have the skeleton of the story already written at the very least.  The gaming table is his stage and he is aware of the edges of the set, staying away from them as best as possible.  He is perfectly fine walking through the game, interjecting his creativity to flesh out the story while absorbing the heroics of it all. 

I am most definitely not saying that one style is better than the other.  I am just noticing the differences and wondering how to make the game work with all three types at the table.  This will take some thought....

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Squishing Freeport into 1st ed. AD&D

This was an interesting experiment.  Well, it's still an on-going experiment, but last night was certainly interesting.  I had expected more resistance from this group about playing something old school.  However, I think my comment about including rudimentary firearms assuaged any arguments.  Since half of the players prefer the newer versions of D&D, and the others just want to roleplay irrespective of the rules in play, I put together a short one page set of starting rules.  Ability scores chosen by arranging the following values (15, 14, 13, 12, 10, and 8) into the 6 characteristics.  These can be modified based upon race chosen.  I dumped the level limits and racial class restrictions but only allowed the classes of Fighter, Ranger, Cleric, Druid, Magic-User, and Thief.  They could choose from any of the races in the PHB.  They all started with the average starting gold for their class.  I dropped weapon speeds and weapon vs. AC adjustments but kept spell casting time limits.  I also went with group initiative based on a d10 where the number is the segment in the round in which you act.  I asked for a Three Sentence Backstory as described here.  Lastly, I added the following house rules, all spelled out so that there would be no confusion:

1.  Magic-users get the same bonuses for high Int that Clerics & Druids get for high Wis.
2.  Weapon proficiency rules apply.
3.  Magic-users may use magical longswords, but not mundane ones.
4.  Clerics may use the preferred weapon of their diety, even if it is edged, with no penalty.
5.  Thief players may choose to use the thieving abilities as spelled out in the 1st ed PHB or may opt to use the 2nd ed point distribution.
6.  No AC adjustments for weapons but size adjustments still in force.
7.  Spell use is modified to the following: spell casters prepare all known spells each day however may only cast the maximum number of spells allowed by their level and ability score modifier per day.  Thus, a first level magic-user with a 16 intelligence can prepare all 7 spells he knows, but is limited to casting only 3 of those spells per day.
8.  After any battle, those injured may choose to down a pint of wine or ale and receive half hit points or 1d6 hit points back, whichever is lower. (I call this my Conan rule.)
9.  When the thief character attempts to use an ability, the player rolls the "one's" die and I will roll the "ten's" die to determine if the ability succeeds or fails.
10.  While the game mat may be used to help draw out rooms and such, the "5 foot square" concept of miniatures movement does not apply.  The original movement in inches does and ignores the grid.

The first one to arrive announced that one of the other players had just texted in to say that he had a job opportunity show up, so he would not be able to play.  However, they had worked together on their character concepts and decided the absent player was going to be a half-orc fighter and the present player would be his half-orc little brother who is a thief.  The older brother is trying to teach the younger brother the respectable trade of being a mercenary and the younger brother just keeps seeing the short cuts.  Next player arrived, heard the half-orc concept and joined in as a half-orc cleric who is helping to shepherd the young one into a better choice of profession.  Next player thought it would be really funny if the entire party ended up being half-orcs and thought the Freeport background helped to encourage that.  So, he made a half-orc fighter who was a childhood friend.  Our video chat player popped in, heard the half-orc pattern developing but had already gotten an idea for a halfling fighter.  He modified it to be a mentally unbalanced halfling who thought he was half halfling and half orc, so he was a quarter orc or a "quorck".  And to compensate for his size, he upped his strength and bought a 2 handed sword.  The last two players arrived shortly after that.  One had zero experience with AD&D so he just opted to copy one of the other fighter's stats and pick different armor.  The other decided to be different by choosing to play an elven ranger/magic-user.  Surprisingly, sort of, he was the one who complained the most about the rules.

Side track for a moment:  I had been reading about the OSRIC rules for a while now.  In fact, I became aware of them a few months before I attended the first North Texas RPG con.  I downloaded them and skimmed through them.  They were initially so similar to the 1st ed stuff that I was happy to say, "at last, a copy of the 1st ed stuff in one place and better laid out".  However, last night as we were doing up characters and the rubber met the road, we found a lot of little nuances which do not match up.  Stuff like XP amounts to go up a level for some classes, proficiency penalties, and little things like that.  It wasn't game changing but it did confuse us until I just mandated that the PHB took precedence.

Back to the story:  So, once all the characters were rolled up and ready to go, I read the opening for the 1st part of the Freeport Trilogy, Death in Freeport.  Since they were mostly half-orcs, I modified it a bit to fit the group.  They had just arrived in Freeport on a ship run by a captain who apparently didn't know much about merchant vessels.  He had hired the group to be sailors on this trip to sell some foodstuffs to the island folk.  However, once the ship arrived, the food was found to be completely rotten and worthless.  Now they are stuck in Freeport, with rumors following them about how poor they performed as sailors.  They decided to hit the first tavern they could find and look for work.  They chose the Heave Ho! Tavern in Scurvytown as it was near where the ship put in (randomly determined).  The place is a dump but they started asking for work after the first round of watered down ale.  The only lead they got was related to the construction of the lighthouse.  A beggar came in to size them up and they promptly threw him out.  Deciding that there was nothing here for them, the set out to look around this area of the city.  They went into a pawnshop a few doors down and asked about work there.  The pawnbroker only told them of his troubles.  He was getting all these folks showing up wanting to buy left shoes because someone in a 4 block area was breaking into houses and stealing all the left shoes of every pair in the house.  Some folks thought they might be pawned so they had come to him looking for them.  For some reason, this intrigued the players who decided at that moment the group was going to become private investigators.

Leaving the pawnshop, they saw the beggar that they had thrown out of the tavern was nearby begging from another group of folks.  They proceeded to grab him and question him roughly about the missing left shoes.  He resisted (of course) and then pointed out that a group of 8 rough looking fellows carrying billy clubs were starting to surround the group.  There was an exchange of threats as the ruffians stated they were a press gang for a large ship.  Our group countered with who they were and their connection with the rotting food.  The ruffians were disgusted and disdainful, and decided that they preferred to grab some others who might be competent.  Once they departed, a middle-aged man in robes asked the group if they would be willing to take on a small job for him.  They readily agreed and the robed man took them into the nearest tavern and bought them a round while relating his story.

He introduced himself as Brother Egin, a monk in the temple of Seker, the God of Knowledge.  He wanted the group to find out what happened to Lucius, the temple's librarian and his friend since childhood.  Lucius had gone missing about 2 weeks ago and Egin was worried that it might be related to the last time he disappeared six years ago.  When Lucius had returned, he acted funny.  He didn't remember all his friends or what his duties were, but he took over the library again and treated it like it was his own personal place.  He was often rude to the other brothers and to visiting monks.  He started asking odd questions about things from the War of the Pious and Philosophers.  Lastly, he started spending the temple's money buying up books and such from that time.  Then he disappeared for a few days.  When returned, he was back to his normal self but very concerned because he could not remember any of the time he was gone.

The group asked to investigate the temple and Egin led them there.  On the way, he pointed out Lucius's home, which caused the group to stop and investigate it.  They found the place messy but not ransacked.  Searching it led to the discovery of Lucius's diary in a hidden compartment of his desk.  The diary mentioned a few names and hinted at something cultish.  The group then resumed their trip to the temple.  They met with a  couple of novices charged with watching over Lucius for the past few months.  They also met with Milo, the assistance of one of the temple's high priests.  He gave a few bits of information but appeared haughty and disdainful to the half-orcs preferring to talk almost exclusively with the elf.

Leaving the temple, the group headed back to Lucius's home which they now claimed as their own.  However, waiting outside the house was a man in chain mail who suggested they stop asking questions about Lucius and mind their own business.  "Okay," they responded in genuine agreement.  Deflated, he leaves and heads off to a tavern in the Docks quarter.  The thief and the halfling follow him.  Chainmail guy meets with a nicely dressed gentleman.  They exchange a few words, gentleman gives a small pouch to chainmail, chainmail exits through back door while gentleman leaves through front door.  Halfling follows gentleman, thief follows chainmail.  Chainmail goes two blocks down, enters tavern, meets with other guys in armor and shares pouch with them.  They stay and drink away money.  Halfling observes gentleman enter dilapidated house with bricked up windows.  No other entrances.  Decides to call in back up.  Gets back to group as thief returns and all head out to house.  Group enters house, finds trap door in floor which leads down to a wine cellar.  One large wine barrel is entrance to underground area, maybe sewers. Going down tunnel, they find a pit trap and two doors.  One door opens into hallway with two doors further down, one on left and one on right then hallway doglegs right to end in double doors of brass.  First door (on left) is locked and thief almost breaks tools trying to open it.  Second door is unlocked and opens into small octagonal room with desk and chair.  Large book with evil writing on desk.  A few smaller books in unknown tongue stacked nearby.  Several reports on building lighthouse as well as letters from a few places on continent again hint at cult intrigue.  Group refuses to try brass doors and goes back to hall way, back to other door by-passed.  This one opens into a large octagonal room painted black with a 10' deep pit in center and stars painted on ceiling.  Opposite of door is altar with stuff on it: silver candelabra, black candles, tongs, silver dagger, black cloth strips.  Pit smells of urine and possibly blood, gives anyone looking into it the creeps.  Group takes books, reports, and cult stuff.

Deciding no one is present, the group returns to the locked door and attempts to break in.  Three tries leads to breaking lock and 20' x 30' room is discovered with 4 large chests, walls hung with gaudy purple curtains, and 6 skeletons rising to deal with intruders.  The cleric steps forward to turn them, realizes he has chosen a Melnibonean god of the sea...who is CE.  So, instead, he takes control of the 6 skeletons and commands them to pull down the curtains.  The thief attempts to unlock the chests, succeeding with two of them.  Just before they can be opened, a secret door which no one had seen opens and 3 snake-men enter.  They attack the group.  The cleric commands the skeletons to attack one.  Everyone else attacked the other two.  Short work, only one fighter injured with a spear thrust.  Investigating chests leads to finding lots of copper, some electrum, and a potion.  The skeletons are dressed in the curtains and commanded to carry the chests back to the house.  On the way out, two more snake men attack, but die with no real effect on group.  Getting to house, group discovers the place was ransacked by someone while they were gone.  Skeletons sent to clean house after putting chests in basement.  Other two chests have more copper and a nice shield.  

So, now the group decides to sell the books to the Temple, getting 600 gp for them.  Tries to find out more about left shoe bandit, but no one has any new info.  They also realize that beggars actively avoid them and everyone gives their purple robed attendants very weird stares.  

Next game picks up from here.  We'll see what happens next.