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....