Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Roll D20 Plus Level for Stunt - Possible House Rule?

Here's a random house rule I just thought up for Lamentations of the Flame Princess. It might work, or it might be complete crap - I don't know. I might as well see what the internet thinks.

You know how in some versions of D&D and related games, fighters can have certain abilities like attacking all enemies within melee range if they're under a certain number of hit dice, or attacking a second enemy on their turn if their first attack kills an enemy ("Cleave" in 3E parlance), or making multiple attacks per combat round once they reach certain level thresholds? In the Rules As Written, fighters do not have these kinds of multiple attack features. This was a deliberate design choice on the part of the game designer, of course, but some people might want to house-rule some kind of multi-attack feature into the game.

Now, you know how sometimes players ask if they can try to pull off various oddball stunts that either aren't covered or aren't generally allowed within the rules? "Can I time my shot so that it hits both guards when they're lined up?" "Can I boost off the wall and spin kick the enemy for extra damage?" "Can I feint to the right before attacking from the left to throw him off guard?" "Can I drop on top of him from the ledge with my sword pointed down and stab him extra hard and maybe smash him because of the gravity?" "Can I grab his club out of his hand when he swings at me?" As far as I can tell, whether or not these kind of actions are allowed is meant to be decided by the referee, as is the way of adjudicating such actions if they are allowed. Someone going strictly by the law of  R.A.W. would probably disallow them, as they aren't covered by the rules, and the rules in D&D and OSR games tend to be stricter and more codified in combat than outside of it, for a variety of reasons. Since I would bet that most referees don't play strictly in the R.A.W., I would imagine that a lot of them (myself included) would generally allow these kinds of stunts or ones like them in certain conditions.

Both of these types of combat actions - multiple attacks and complicated/unusual/acrobatic stunts - generally seem to me like things that an experienced combatant could probably pull off with more consistency than an inexperienced combatant. They also seem like the kinds of things that someone specializing in combat - a member of the "fighter" class - would be vastly more likely to achieve than others. So let's base this house rule on level and class.

The rule: If a fighter attempts a combat maneuver (including but not limited to making multiple attacks in one combat round, hitting multiple characters with one attack, or moving and attacking at the same time) which is not covered by the rules or generally not permitted by the rules, and the referee permits the fighter a chance at success, the fighter rolls a d20 and adds their own level. If the sum is 21 or higher, the fighter can attempt the maneuver. Fighters of level 20 and higher still only add 19 to this roll, so that a roll of 1 is always a failure. Non-fighter PCs can also attempt such combat maneuvers, but they are always treated as level 1 fighters for such purposes. If any other roll (to-hit, saving throw, etc.) would normally be needed for success (e.g. with multiple attacks), the fighter must still make that roll as well.

TL;DR If the fighter wants to do some crazy move in battle, they roll a d20 and add their level. 21 or better to succeed. Caps at level 19. Referee might make you roll some other dice, too. Other classes can do it, but only as a level 1 fighter.

Alternatively, you could probably come up with something that uses the character's base attack bonus (which only improves beyond +1 for fighters in LotFP, making it a de-facto fighter class ability), or that uses some kind of saving throw. You could also try to come up with a formula in which the ability maxes out much sooner than the nigh-mythical level 19. Hence that whole "it might be complete crap" thing I typed earlier; this isn't a very elegant house rule as I've written it.

You could also codify what kinds of things are or are not permitted as "combat maneuvers" in the game, but to some extent this violates the spirit of this house rule. The reason I came up with it was to make a simple and unified way of adjudicating whatever crazy schemes the players come up with, and thus allow or encourage creative, OSR-style shenanigans that inflexible board game-style or video game-style rules couldn't cover due to the sheer number and variety of possibilities. You could easily modify this rule to give magic-users a level-dependent chance to spontaneously alter their spells, or to give clerics a level-depended chance to successfully pray for divine intervention.

In a game that already does allow multiple attacks or cleaving or whatever (i.e. not LotFP), you could still probably use this house rule for other weird things that players try, like suplexing a naga onto a bed of nails (which might also require a grapple check at the very least) or screaming directly into a morlock's ear while gut-punching him or catching the giant turtle's shell just right with your sword to make it do some sweet flips.

I don't think this house rule is covering new ground at all. I've heard of similar ideas before. Honestly, this is probably Baby's First Game Design-level stuff, and most D&D/OSR referees are already way ahead of me on this count. Mostly, I'm just looking for input on whether or not this might be a good way to give fighters more mechanical options and creativity in combat, and what some better methods of achieving this might be. If the fighter says "I run up the wall and back-flip, then slice the monster on the way down," and for whatever reason you want to allow it, what comes next? As the referee, how do you determine whether or not the fighter succeeds, and how well?

Monday, March 13, 2017

LotFP Pre-Gens of the Eternal Sun

I recently got my hands on a copy of Dungeons & Dragons: Warriors of the Eternal Sun for the Sega Genesis. I made some characters, as one does, and since I ended up naming them after the mascot characters from Lamentations of the Flame Princess, I thought it might be fun to turn them into pre-gen LotFP characters.

The ability scores generated by the video game are much higher than you'd be likely to roll at the table doing the whole 3d6-in-order thing, and the starting HP is at maximum, but if you're running a one-shot or if you just want to go slightly easier on your players, I suppose the high numbers aren't necessarily a bad thing. I should also note that I swapped a single pair of ability scores for all but two of these characters, as the default LotFP rules allow. (*=swapped)

I gave each pre-gen character the maximum starting money of 180 silver pieces, minus the cost of their equipment. Even though I gave some of these characters firearms, I still used the default armor rules instead of the Early Modern armor rules in the Firearms section in the back of the Rules & Magic book, just because I didn't feel like making the way armor works any more complicated. In the spirit of fairness, I did increase the cost of armor and shields by 50%, as per the note on page 162 of Rules & Magic.

As far as I can tell, Alice is depicted using a matchlock musket in the official artwork, but I gave her a flintlock arquebus here instead. I don't see the point of paying for the extra cost of a musket when it doesn't seem to have any advantages over the arquebus (although I may have overlooked something), and since I intend to actually use these pre-gens in a game at some point, I decided to make all of the firearms flintlocks so I don't have to worry about timing the burn-rate of match cords. It sounds like kind of a headache, and I'd probably forget about it anyway.
UPDATE: Dismaster FraNe kindly pointed out over on Google+ that the musket does indeed have an advantage over the arquebus that I missed. Most firearms ignore 5 points of armor only at short range, but the musket ignores 5 points of armor at all ranges. Thank you for pointing that out, Dismaster FraNe! I'm keeping the arquebus for the Alice pre-gen for now just for the sake of saving her silver pieces and encumbrance (and my time), but if someone wants to play Alice true to her implied characterization in the artwork, they should probably either upgrade to a musket as soon as it's affordable, or see about just starting with one instead.

Equipment is definitely the part of character creation I struggle with the most, and a lot of people I play with seem to agree. If you notice any poor equipment choices, broken rules, bad math, etc. please feel free to let me know. I should note that I treated powder horns as being bought empty, like quivers, with the powder needing to be bought separately (like arrows or bolts). I treated shot bags as coming with bullets, though, since there wasn't a separate price listed for ammunition.

Flame Princess, Level 1 Lawful Fighter
Female, Needs 2,000 XP for Level 2 (Player can choose different alignment if desired)
CHA 16 (+2) CON 18 (+3) DEX 17 (+2)
INT 12 (+0) STR 14 (+1) WIS 11 (+0)
Saving Throws: Paralyze 14, Poison 12, Breath 15, Device 13, Magic 16
HP 11, BAB +2, Melee AB +3, Ranged AB +4
Melee AC 17, Ranged AC 18, Without Shield AC 16, Surprised AC 12
Open Doors 2
Has Fighter Combat Options.
Lightly Encumbered (2 points)
Equipment: Rapier, Dagger (Minor Weapon), Flintlock Pistol, Shot Bag (100 shots), Powder Horn x2 (both full, 100 shots of powder), Tinderbox, Lantern, Flask of Lantern Oil x2, 50' Rope, Waterskin, Shield, Leather Armor, Backpack, Sack x5, Steel Mirror, Candle, Ink, Paper, Chalk, Whistle, Soap, Iron Spike, 10 silver pieces and 5 copper pieces

Alice, Level 1 Lawful Cleric
Female, Needs 1,750 XP for Level 2
CHA 13 (+1) CON 18 (+3) DEX 17 (+2)
INT 11 (+0)* STR 14 (+1)* WIS 18 (+3)
Saving Throws: Paralyze 14, Poison 11, Breath 16, Device 12, Magic 15
(+3 Bonus for Non-Magic Saves)
HP 9, BAB +1, Melee AB +2, Ranged AB +3
Melee AC 14, Ranged AC 14, Without Shield AC 14, Surprised AC 10
Open Doors 2
Knows all standard first-level Cleric spells.
Unencumbered (1 point)
Equipment: Rapier, Mace (Medium Weapon), Flintlock Arquebus, Shot Bag (100 shots), Powder Horn x2 (both full, 100 shots of powder), Tinderbox, Torch x10, Waterskin, Backpack, Sack x5, Steel Mirror, Candle, Ink, Paper, Chalk, Whistle, Soap, Wooden Spike x3, Wooden Holy Symbol, 6 silver pieces and 4 copper pieces

Melissa, Level 1 Chaotic Magic-User
Female, Needs 2,250 XP for Level 2
CHA 16 (+2) CON 13 (+1)* DEX 17 (+2)
INT 18 (+3) STR 11 (+0)* WIS 10 (+0)
Saving Throws: Paralyze 13, Poison 13, Breath 16, Device 13, Magic 14
(+3 Bonus for Magic Saves)
HP 7, BAB +1, Melee AB +1, Ranged AB +3
Melee AC 16, Ranged AC 16, Without Shield AC 16, Surprised AC 12
Languages 4
Spells Known: Read Magic, Magic Missile, Shield, Sleep (Or roll randomly)
Unencumbered (1 point)
Equipment: Spellbook, Dagger (Minor Weapon), Flintlock Pistol, Shot Bag (100 shots), Powder Horn x2 (both full, 100 shots of powder), Tinderbox, Lantern, Flask of Lantern Oil x2, Waterskin, Leather Armor, Backpack, Sack x5, Steel Mirror, Candle, Ink, Paper, Chalk, Whistle, Soap, Iron Spike, Bottle x2, 42 silver pieces and 5 copper pieces

Étaín, Level 1 Chaotic Magic-User
Female, Needs 2,250 XP for Level 2
CHA 14 (+1) CON 17 (+2) DEX 18 (+3)*
INT 18 (+3) STR 12 (+0) WIS 12 (+0)*
Saving Throws: Paralyze 13, Poison 13, Breath 16, Device 13, Magic 14
(+3 Bonus for Magic Saves)
HP 8, BAB +1, Melee AB +1, Ranged AB +4
Melee AC 17, Ranged AC 17, Without Shield AC 17, Surprised AC 12
Languages 4
Spells Known: Read Magic, Charm Person, Summon, Spider Climb (Or roll randomly)
Unencumbered (1 point)
Equipment: Spellbook, Dagger (Minor Weapon), Flintlock Pistol, Shot Bag (100 shots), Powder Horn x2 (both full, 100 shots of powder), Tinderbox, Torch x10, Waterskin, Leather Armor, Backpack, Sack x5, Steel Mirror, Candle, Ink, Paper, Chalk, Whistle, Soap, Wooden Spike x3, Bottle x2, 45 silver pieces and 5 copper pieces

Kendra, Level 1 Neutral Specialist
Female, Needs 1,500 XP for Level 2 (Player can choose different alignment if desired)
CHA 16 (+2) CON 16 (+2) DEX 18 (+3)
INT 17 (+2)* STR 15 (+1) WIS 11 (+0)*
Saving Throws: Paralyze 14, Poison 16, Breath 15, Device 14, Magic 14
(+2 Bonus for Magic Saves)
HP 8, BAB +1, Melee AB +2, Ranged AB +4
Melee AC 17, Ranged AC 17, Without Shield AC 17, Surprised AC 12
Languages 3, Open Doors 2, Search 2, Sneak Attack 2, Stealth 2, Tinker 2 (Or let the player distribute 4 skill points)
Unencumbered (1 point)
Equipment: Specialist's Tools, Rapier, Dagger (Minor Weapon), Tinderbox, Lantern, Flask of Lantern Oil x2, Waterskin, 50' Rope, Crowbar, Shovel, Leather Armor, Backpack, Sack x5, Steel Mirror, Candle, Ink, Paper, Chalk, Whistle, Soap, Wooden Spike x3, Iron Spike x3, Bottle x2, Nails, Air Bladder, 51 silver pieces and 5 copper pieces.

Selena, Level 1 Chaotic Elf
Female, Needs 3,000 XP for Level 2
CHA 13 (+1) CON 14 (+1)* DEX 18 (+3)
INT 18 (+3) STR 16 (+2) WIS 12 (+0)*
Saving Throws: Paralyze 13, Poison 12, Breath 15, Device 13, Magic 15
(+3 Bonus for Magic Saves)
HP 7, BAB +1, Melee AB +3, Ranged AB +4
Melee AC 18, Ranged AC 19, Without Shield AC 17, Surprised AC 12
Languages 4, Open Doors 3, Search 2
Has Fighter Combat Options. Only surprised on a roll of 1.
Spells Known: Read Magic
Lightly Encumbered (2 points)
Equipment: Spellbook, Sword (Medium Weapon), Dagger (Minor Weapon), Sling Bullet x20, Tinderbox, Torch x10, Waterskin, 50' Rope, Grappling Hook, Shield, Leather Armor, Backpack, Sack x5, Steel Mirror, Candle, Ink, Paper, Chalk, Whistle, Soap, Iron Spike x4, Bottle x2, Nails, Sling, 81 silver pieces.

Rhona, Level 1 Neutral Dwarf
Female, Needs 2,200 XP for Level 2 (Player can choose different alignment if desired)
CHA 12 (+0) CON 18 (+4) DEX 15 (+1)
INT 12 (+0) STR 17 (+2) WIS 11 (+0)
Saving Throws: Paralyze 10, Poison 8, Breath 13, Device 9, Magic 12
HP 14, BAB +1, Melee AB +3, Ranged AB +2
Melee AC 15, Ranged AC 15, Without Shield AC 15, Surprised AC 12
Architecture 3, Open Doors 3
Has Fighter Combat Options. It takes 5 additional items to gain the first point of encumbrance.
Lightly Encumbered (2 points)
Equipment: Sword (Medium Weapon), Hatchet (Minor Weapon), Quiver with 20 Bolts, Sling Bullet x20, Tinderbox, Lantern, Flask of Lantern Oil x2, Waterskin, 10' Chain, Mallet, Heavy Crossbow, 10' Pole, Leather Armor, Backpack, Sack x5, Steel Mirror, Candle, Ink, Paper, Chalk, Whistle, Soap, Iron Spike, Wooden Spike x6, Nails, Bottle x2, Wolvesbane x5, Sling, 45 silver pieces.

James, Level 1 Chaotic Halfling
Male, Needs 2,000 XP for Level 2 (Player can choose different alignment if desired)
CHA 10 (+0)* CON 18 (+3) DEX 16 (+3)
INT 14 (+1)* STR 13 (+1) WIS 13 (+1)
Saving Throws: Paralyze 10, Poison 8, Breath 13, Device 9, Magic 12
(+1 Bonus for Magic Saves, +1 Bonus for Non-Magic Saves)
HP 9, BAB +1, Melee AB +2, Ranged AB +4
Melee AC 17, Ranged AC 17, Without Shield AC 17, Surprised AC 12
Bushcraft 3, Languages 2, Open Doors 2, Stealth 5 (Outdoors)
Cannot use Large Weapons, and can only use Medium Weapons two-handed.
Unencumbered (1 point)
Equipment: Short Bow, Quiver with 20 Arrows, Sling Bullet x20, Battleaxe (Medium Weapon), Dagger (Minor Weapon), Tinderbox, Torch x10, Waterskin, Manacles, Leather Armor, Backpack, Sack x5, Steel Mirror, Candle, Ink, Paper, Chalk, Whistle, Soap, Iron Spike x3, Wooden Spike x3, Nails, Bottle x2, Garlic x5, Sling, 53 silver pieces and 5 copper pieces.

Other issues of artwork accuracy: I don't think the Flame Princess is depicted using a handheld firearm in any official artwork, but it seemed appropriate to at least give a pistol to the character James Raggi describes as the female Solomon Kane; besides, I wanted her to have some kind of decent ranged weapon, and it might be hard for her to use a bow with four fingers missing. Alice is depicted with at least two pistols and a lantern on a pole in one picture, but a Level 1 character just doesn't have the money for all that plus her other gun (assuming my math is correct), plus encumbrance is an issue for a character who can't yet afford to foist excess items off onto a hireling, vehicle, or beast of burden. Heck, she's the only character here who couldn't afford leather armor!

Speaking of armor, I gave leather armor to everyone who could afford it, even if they're not depicted wearing it in any artwork. The Flame Princess and Selena are sometimes shown wearing what looks like plate armor, but Level 1 characters can't afford that, of course. If you don't like the image of a fancy dresser like Melissa or Kendra wearing armor, you could either pretend they're wearing it under their nice outer clothes, or you could erase the armor from their character sheets and adjust their AC accordingly. I'm betting most players would prefer to keep the armor, though. Leather armor just seems too darn convenient not to use.

Melissa is sometimes shown wearing a set of 12 apostles, so I assume she's not opposed to using a gun. Alice is also shown with a set of 12 apostles, but I just gave everyone with a firearm some powder horns instead for the sake of...simplicity, I guess. Money was tight for the gun owners, even with the maximum starting amount.

Selena seems to have some kind of bola, which isn't on the equipment list. I suppose I could have given her a blowgun, since a blowgun could presumably incapacitate people non-lethally like a bola, but I settled on a sling instead.

There's not a lot of information on Rhona yet, so I had to guess what kind of crossbow and ax she was supposed to have. I gave her more weapons because hey, she had the cash and the inventory space for them.

This post has gotten a lot longer than I expected. I could write a whole separate post about why I chose the classes I did. I don't expect too many people to agree with these class choices, actually, but I have my reasons for them, good or not. For now, let's just say that
  1. the information on the mascots' classes seems to be somewhat scant/contradictory/up for debate, and
  2. my options were somewhat restricted when I was originally trying to make these characters in a semi-obscure Sega Genesis game, and
  3. I wanted to represent all of the available classes from the Rules & Magic book.
If anyone has any questions, suggestions, objections, or speculation they'd like to share, please feel free.

My secret and terrible hope is that James Raggi reads this and tells me how horribly fucking wrong I got everything, and thus lets slip some secrets about the weird story going on in his head with these characters.

Friday, March 10, 2017

My Weird Taste in Movies, or Not Exactly Appendix N

Partly inspired by this Google+ thread. Partly inspired by the way Kiel Chenier took Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and turned it into something very different with Blood in the Chocolate. Can't promise you'll think all these movies are "good," but at least they all contain some element I like or find interesting. (Disclaimer: Opinions are subject to change. No refunds.)

Favorite dungeons in cinema (may not be a comprehensive list): Big Trouble in Little China; As Above, So Below; The Raid: Redemption; Dredd; The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring; Cube; House; House II: The Second Story; Raiders of the Lost Ark; Krull; Star Wars; Hellraiser; Hellbound: Hellraiser II; Silent Hill; Alien; Aliens; Alien: ResurrectionPrometheus; Dark City; Event Horizon; Escape from New York; Labyrinth; Dawn of the Dead; Die Hard

Favorite wilderness adventures/hexcrawls/pointcrawls in cinema (definitely not a comprehensive list): Pitch Black; Riddick; Conquest; The Lord of the Rings (all three); Dead Man; Valhalla Rising; Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior; Mad Max: Fury Road; Conan the Barbarian; Conan the Destroyer; Krull; Pathfinder; Army of Darkness; Monty Python and the Holy Grail; The Burrowers; The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly; Flesh+Blood; Cyborg; The Revenant; The Wizard of Oz; The Road; Undead; Predator; Predators; Apocalypse Now; Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at the River Styx

Movies with characters I would love to play in D&D or some other fantasy adventure RPG some day (not comprehensive): House II: The Second StoryBig Trouble in Little ChinaDreddEscape from New YorkTotal RecallDead Man

Movies with characters I would love to play in Call of Cthulhu some day (not comprehensive): Drive; Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans; They LiveEscape from New York; Evil Dead II; John Dies at the EndReturn of the Living DeadRe-Animator; Reservoir DogsPulp Fiction; Brick; The Legend of Hell House

Favorite zombies in cinema: Return of the Living DeadDead Alive/BraindeadRe-AnimatorCemetery Man/Dellamorte Dellamore

Favorite romance movie: Drive

Favorite superhero-movie-disguised-as-film-noir: Sin City

Favorite film-noir-disguised-as-superhero-movie: The Dark Knight

Favorite depiction of retired 20th-level fighters: Kill Bill

Favorite cinematic depiction of Mars/favorite extraterrestrial colony: Total Recall

Favorite vampire movie most in need of being turned into a survival horror game: 30 Days of Night

Favorite accidental low-budget movie adaptation of The Legend of Zelda on LSD (before the video game series even existed): Conquest

Favorite point-and-click adventure game disguised as a movie: 10 Cloverfield Lane

Favorite PSA about the dangers of unsterilized body modification and inattentive driving: Tetsuo: The Iron Man

Favorite H. P. Lovecraft adaptation that isn't actual adapted from any particular H. P. Lovecraft story: In the Mouth of Madness

Favorite film adaptation that purposefully serves as a giant middle finger to its source material: Starship Troopers

Favorite cinematic depiction of murder by broken bicycle: Prince of Darkness

Favorite cinematic depiction of a guy shooting at a bat: Black Sunday

Favorite killer vehicle movie based on a Stephen King story, and yes I know the other one you're thinking of is directed by John Carpenter, and yes I will fight you over this: Maximum Overdrive

Need inspiration for your next adventure or gaming session? Roll on this table for a movie from which to borrow elements. (The first 73 of these were listed above. The next 18 are pulled from that G+ thread I mentioned earlier; I've only included movies that I've already seen. The last 9 are just movies I pulled out of my ass because I like them, and I apparently keep movies I like in my ass.)
  1. 10 Cloverfield Lane
  2. 30 Days of Night
  3. Alien
  4. Alien: Resurrection
  5. Aliens
  6. Apocalypse Now
  7. Army of Darkness
  8. As Above, So Below
  9. Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans
  10. Big Trouble in Little China
  11. Black Sunday
  12. Brick
  13. Cemetery Man/Dellamorte Dellamore
  14. Conan the Barbarian
  15. Conan the Destroyer
  16. Conquest
  17. Cube
  18. Cyborg
  19. Dark City
  20. Dawn of the Dead
  21. Dead Alive/Braindead
  22. Dead Man
  23. Die Hard
  24. Dredd
  25. Drive
  26. Escape from New York
  27. Event Horizon
  28. Evil Dead II
  29. Flesh+Blood
  30. Hellbound: Hellraiser II
  31. Hellraiser
  32. House
  33. House II: The Second Story
  34. In the Mouth of Madness
  35. John Dies at the End
  36. Kill Bill
  37. Krull
  38. Labyrinth
  39. Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at the River Styx
  40. Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior
  41. Mad Max: Fury Road
  42. Maximum Overdrive
  43. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
  44. Pathfinder
  45. Pitch Black
  46. Predator
  47. Predators
  48. Prince of Darkness
  49. Prometheus
  50. Pulp Fiction
  51. Raiders of the Lost Ark
  52. Re-Animator
  53. Reservoir Dogs
  54. Return of the Living Dead
  55. Riddick
  56. Silent Hill
  57. Sin City
  58. Star Wars
  59. Starship Troopers
  60. Tetsuo: The Iron Man
  61. The Burrowers
  62. The Dark Knight
  63. The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
  64. The Legend of Hell House
  65. The Lord of the Rings
  66. The Raid: Redemption
  67. The Revenant
  68. The Road
  69. The Wizard of Oz
  70. They Live
  71. Total Recall
  72. Undead
  73. Valhalla Rising
  74. 2001: A Space Odyssey
  75. Black Death
  76. C.H.U.D.
  77. Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters
  78. Live and Let Die
  79. Oculus
  80. Ravenous
  81. Sauna
  82. Season of the Witch
  83. Sleepy Hollow
  84. The Brothers Grimm
  85. The Fountain
  86. The Mist
  87. The Prestige
  88. The Thing
  89. The Witch
  90. They're Watching
  91. Triangle
  92. Blade Runner
  93. Desperado
  94. Dune
  95. First Blood
  96. Johnny Mnemonic
  97. Return of the Killer Tomatoes!
  98. The Beyond
  99. The Stuff
  100. Videodrome

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Counting D&D Editions

How do you count and categorize the different editions of D&D? I'm specifically talking about "official" (i.e. published by TSR or Wizards of the Coast) editions, rather than spin-offs, retroclones, and such.

Personally, I count 7 distinct editions (with sub-editions in parentheses):

-OD&D or 0E (Some might consider OD&D + Supplements to be "0.5E". Holmes Basic is hard to classify, but I sort of think of it as "0.75E" since it mostly seems to me like a clarified and abridged collection of OD&D rules, even if it was "intended" as a lead-in to AD&D or Basic D&D)

-Basic D&D...or, uh, "BE" or "BXE", I guess (I think of BECMI as "B.5E" and the Rules Cyclopedia as "B.75E")

-AD&D 1E (Some might consider AD&D + Unearthed Arcana to be "1.5E")

-AD&D 2E (I don't know enough about 2E to know if there's something that could be considered "2.5E", but I bet there is.)

-(A)D&D 3E (With 3.5E being a sub-edition and not a whole separate one on its own. If Pathfinder was an official D&D series published by Wizards of the Coast, it would probably be "3.75E".)

-(A)D&D 4E (With 4E Essentials perhaps serving as "4.5E".)

-D&D Next or (A)D&D 5E

So, to me, there are 7 versions of D&D that are different enough to be counted as "distinct," but I could see someone breaking things down much more particularly than that if they wanted to. For example, I don't see any point in considering 3.5 truly separate from 3E, but maybe some people would. If you wanted to get absolutely pedantic, you could even start splitting different printings of the "same" edition (e.g. the earliest and last printings of Holmes Basic) into different "editions" based on the smallest of fixes and changes, although I doubt anyone is really going to consider two extremely similar printings of the "same" book to be totally different editions or games or whatever.

I could also see someone grouping things much more loosely based on ease of conversion or other factors; OD&D, Basic, and 1E are all very compatible, and I think 2E is probably largely compatible as well, so you could argue that there wasn't a truly distinct, second edition of D&D until the "third" edition. You could say that pre-3E, 3E, 4E, and 5E are the only editions that are fundamentally different enough to be considered separate editions, or even separate games entirely.

So while I count 7 versions of D&D, I could see other people counting as few as 4 or as many as...geez, I don't even know. And of course, maybe none of this matters and it's all just hairsplitting, but I think that making some kind of distinctions could be useful (so players know what they're getting into when the DM says "Let's play Basic D&D," or "Let's play Fifth Edition,") as well as philosophically interesting to people like me who like to ask questions like "What is a game?" and "How many rules do you have to change before you are no longer playing the original game?" and "What separates a 'supplement' from an 'edition,' and what separates both of those from a different game?" If those kinds of questions bore you, that's fine, but I think the way we separate things, both linguistically and mentally, is pretty weird and confusing, and thus worthy of curiosity.

What do you think is the most useful and/or correct way to group or separate the various versions of D&D?

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

How to "Drakkhen" Up Your Next Adventure

I thought it might be fun to take what I did HERE and try it with other video games. This time we've got the 1989 gibberish-em-up Drakkhen. I played through the SNES version years ago because the game's incomprehensible freakishness intrigued me. I now pass some of that freakishness on to you, dear reader, in the form of a d30 table. As before, roll for something to add to your next adventure, or just pick something that fits.
  1. A long strip of ground covered in eternally glowing triangles. Actually a landing strip for dragons. If you step too close to any of these triangles, a dragon will abruptly fall from the sky with a crash (harming neither the dragon nor the landing strip, somehow) and start talking to you in an imperious but confusing fashion. It will claim to be some kind of elemental dragon god/royalty, and will probably want to send you on a quest and/or impart a dire warning. Assuming you avoid calling down the dragon's wrath or otherwise getting it to stick around, it will shoot straight back up into the wild blue yonder after a few minutes. (It might be more fun if a different dragon is summoned every time this happens.)
  2. A tombstone that turns into a giant black dog head if you touch it. Well, it might be a giant cat head; it's hard to tell. At any rate, it shoots lasers and it wants you dead. If you can either kill it or run far enough away, it will turn back into a tombstone, but that's easier said than done. If it is not disenchanted, the tombstone will still turn into a giant head every time it is touched, even if the head is "killed."
  3. A shark that lives in a castle moat. It loves to jump over the drawbridge and devour passersby in one gulp. It is unreasonably fast. Like, blink-and-you-miss-it fast.
  4. A constellation in the night sky wiggles maniacally before descending to the earth as a bizarre airborne monster to eviscerate anybody caught out in the open.
  5. A temple with a big sign on the front that says "ANAK." No one working or worshiping at the temple seems to be able to tell you why - at least not comprehensibly. Maybe it has something to do with the local rumors of a dragon-worshiping mystery cult. Maybe it's related to the giants who supposedly lived here long ago. Maybe it's an acronym. Maybe part of the sign broke off. Maybe it's a waste of time.
  6. The Shade of Doom. This shadowy figure (which looks like Icarus from the Henri Matisse picture) pulls itself out of the shadows on the ground like a swimmer emerging from an invisible pool. It shoots disintegration beams out of the red spot on its chest; getting hit might not kill you the first time, but it will certainly damage your armor at the very least. The creature's movements seem to be silent, but a clanking industrial beat can be mysteriously heard in its presence.
  7. "Normal" monsters that make uncanny sounds. A fire elemental that sounds like a person taking really loud, deep breathes. A giant spider whose every step sounds like a heavy boot on a hardwood floor, no matter what surface it walks on. Soon, you catch them moving in off-putting ways, too. A rock golem slides around as if on ice skates and sounds like clanking pans. A mummy does that undercranked head twitching thing from Jacob's Ladder and coos like a pigeon.
  8. A castle with staff members consisting entirely of dragon-human hybrids. They are servile to anyone who enters their master's castle unless their master explicitly orders otherwise (or at least that's how it seems at first). Most notable is the pudgy dragon-man in a loincloth offering free massages.
  9. A desert palace that can only be entered at dawn.
  10. A perfectly rectangular island, divided into four perfectly rectangular regions, each with a different climate.
  11. Wizards playing with antimatter.
  12. An elderly travelling merchant who regards jade as the only real currency. He'll trade and barter, sure, but he doesn't want any coins or cash unless it's jade. He also knows where the brand new inn/tavern is. If you go there, it's strangely crowded even though it's in the middle of nowhere, it only accepts jade currency, and it's so brand new that it's not on any maps and there aren't any signs up on the roads yet.
  13. The Shade of Love. Maybe someone tried to make some kind of love elemental or sex homunculus and it went horribly wrong. Maybe this is just what a succubus is actually like. Maybe some wizard, as powerful as he was pathetically misogynistic, pulled his own delusions about women and romantic love from his forehead, like Athena from Zeus, and cast them into the world in the form of this monstrosity. Maybe murderous ghosts have needs, too, you know? Whatever this thing actually is, it appears to be a giant silhouette-like womanly figure, bright pink instead of black, sticking out of the ground from the waist up. It constantly shakes and gyrates, and while its movements themselves are silent, it says "I love you!" over and over in a deafening voice (at all different speeds and pitches) and moans in ecstasy. Anyone who comes too close to it risks being overcome with a supernatural mixture of desire, awe, revulsion, and primal terror. Those who cannot fight these emotions find themselves acting against their own will in grotesque ways: spontaneously engaging in rituals of self-mutilation and self-abasement, attempting to embrace the Shade of Love (a bad idea), swearing to "protect" the shade and following it until death, flying into a jealous and indiscriminately murderous rage, killing themselves so that the Shade is the last and most beautiful thing they ever see, forming impromptu orgies/congregations, etc. Having no legs (or at least no visible ones), it glides along the ground, chasing one specific target at a time (seemingly chosen at random). When it catches its prey...well, have you seen the movie It Follows? The only time it does not pursue one specific person (other than when it is forced to defend itself from multiple attackers, which it only does if absolutely necessary) is right after it catches its latest "suitor" - it will spend some time "sated" and simply park itself in the middle of the biggest crowd it can find nearby, dancing and moaning and driving everyone lustfully mad, until it picks another target somewhere in the world to "court."
  14. A perfectly flat field punctuated by stalagmite-like formations of ice or rock. Polygons of ancient cement can sometimes be found sunken into the ground.
  15. Two doors, one labeled "Sn" and the other "Sc." The "Sn" door leads to a room with a green and yellow checkboard floor - any organic matter left in here for more than a minute will slowly begin to turn into tin. The "Sc" door leads to some kind of laboratory in which the entire floor is buried under at least a foot of clayey sand which looks to have poured from some hidden aperture in the wall - careful searching will reveal detailed notes regarding geological experiments which could be useful to scientist and sorcerer alike.
  16. A sandworm with a bad stomach flu.
  17. Unidentifiable lumps of quivering flesh trapped inside pots. Dozens of them are lined up inside huge stoves. Immune to fire and heat. Make horrible sounds.
  18. Doors blocked by "force fields" of red and blue lightning.
  19. Wireframe knight. Very pointy sword.
  20. A teleporter trap leading to a flooded oubliette containing a murderous water elemental. If you escape, other water elementals will occasionally attack you in the future, but strangely enough, only on dry land.
  21. A land full of people with names that are all extremely long, hard to pronounce, and spelled almost the same.
  22. A tiny kingdom with less than thirty buildings, but eight of those buildings are castles.
  23. A lake that magically increases your weight and saps your strength if you submerge even part of you body in it, making it extra easy to sink and drown.
  24. A palace covered in jagged ice with hot springs inside.
  25. Dragon-men and she-devils prancing around naked as jaybirds.
  26. A bloody sacrifice to a dragon in the middle of Stonehenge.
  27. Esoteric clues and riddles that probably don't mean anything, like "The color of hope is not always the sign of goodness." Red herrings, mystic mumbo-jumbo, passwords, or hints? Who knows?
  28. Bouncing segmented monsters that look like they belong in Space Harrier.
  29. Dragons who try to get you caught up in their "politics" and "courtly intrigue." Which is to say, their personal soap opera. A bunch of fancy-pants (or fancy-ceremonial-dragon-sized-armor) dragon princes and princesses aren't getting along, and what better way is there to work out family issues than by involving a bunch of primates as messengers and spies? The worst part is that between the unpronounceable dragon names, the way they all look alike to untrained human eyes, the constantly-shifting alliances, the rampant treachery, and the tendency of dragons to needlessly complicate things, it's hard to keep track of which faction is which. Unfortunately, a misstep can result in wholesale slaughter, since dragons take sibling rivalry a bit too seriously. Eh, what are you gonna do? Dragons gonna drag.
  30. A quest that, if failed, would result in the world getting taken over by dragons and almost everybody getting burninated. A veritable dragon apocalypse.
Some possible future entries in this series: Faxanadu, The Sword of Hope, Phantasy Star, Rygar, The Immortal, Crystalis, Final Fantasy Legend, Shadow of the Beast, and The Guardian Legend.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

A Perfectly-Timed Package from Meatlandia

My wife and I have had a terrible week. Two loved ones passed away, another has been battling illness (thankfully, he's doing a lot better at the moment), I came down with some kind of terrible stomach plague from outer space, Jessica's birthday party got postponed, some other annoying bullshit happened, and I was in a minor car crash.

But today has finally been a really good day. A lot of incredible people have helped turn things around for us. One gesture specifically stood out to me as something I should note here, since it's OSR-related.

Remember The Chaos Gods Come to Meatlandia? I had bought it as a PDF, but I didn't have a paper copy. Recently, I found myself lamenting this fact to Ahimsa Kerp, one of the book's authors, on Google+. I wanted to buy a physical copy, but I've been perpetually strapped for cash lately and distracted by various things, so I wasn't sure if and when I would get around to it.

So the aforementioned shitty week happened, and today I was feeling kind of depressed and scared and embarrassed and still just a little bit nauseous, and then I got a package in the mail. Was it the new issue of Vacant Ritual Assembly? No, that arrived last week. Didn't I back a few kickstarters last year? Yeah, but I don't think they've come out yet. What about that Vaginas are Magic book? Nope, that doesn't ship until at least June. Wait, there's no return address. That's weird. So I opened that sucker up and hey, wow, it's Meatlandia!

So yeah, I don't absolutely know for sure who sent it, but I have a pretty strong and overwhelmingly obvious guess. Then again, my prescient cosmic vision isn't foolproof, so I could be wrong. I need to start hitting the worm honeydew a bit more seriously, maybe undergo a sensory metamorphosis next time I stop at the All-Nite Transmute-U-Mart. At any rate, whoever you are, Mysterious Stranger, thank you so much! This came at the best possible time to help cheer me up. Little things like that really do make a big difference, cliche or no. So I'm really grateful, not only for the physical present, but also for the kindness of it, the perfect timing, and the morale boost. Seriously, thanks!

Ahimsa Kerp is the co-author of The Chaos Gods Come to Meatlandia, available at DriveThruRPG and at Lulu HERE and HERE. He's also the co-author of Edgar Rice Burroughs Adventures and (if I'm not mistaken) the Trancers RPG. Knight Owl Games is definitely worth checking out in general. He's also a pretty prolific fiction author, and I've barely begun to dig into his work. He's got a free collection of short stories on Kindle that opens on a neat sort of meta-story about RPGs and video games. Basically, he's doing the kind of stuff I should get off my ass to try to do aspire to do. So if any of that sounds interesting, please check out his stuff.

UPDATE: It turns out my mysterious benefactor is Wind Lothamer, co-author of The Chaos Gods Come to Meatlandia! Thank you so much!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Separate Race and Class in LotFP VERSION 2.0

Since I'm not entirely happy with how it turned out the first time, I decided to try again.

At character creation, the player chooses both a race and a class. Available races are Humans, Dwarves, Elves, and Halflings. Available classes are the Fighter, the Cleric, and the Magic-User.

Human

  • Hit Dice: d8 (+3 HP per level after Level 9)
  • Minimum First-Level HP: 6
  • Saving Throw Table: As chosen class
  • Experience Table: As chosen class
  • A Human receives a +1 bonus to their Charisma modifier.
  • A Human gains and distributes skill points as a Specialist
Dwarf

  • Hit Dice: d10 (+4 HP per level after Level 9)
  • Minimum First-Level HP: 8
  • Saving Throw Table: As original Dwarf class
  • Experience Table: As original Dwarf class or chosen class, whichever is higher/worse
  • A Dwarf receives a +1 bonus to their Constitution modifier.
  • A Dwarf gains points in the Architecture skill as the original Dwarf class.
  • It takes 5 additional items for a Dwarf to gain the first encumbrance point.
  • At character creation, a Dwarf must roll on the Dwarven Curses table. Each time the Dwarf gains a level, they may choose to either keep their current curse or risk rolling on the table again for a replacement curse.
Elf

  • Hit Dice: d6 (+2 HP per level after Level 9)
  • Minimum First-Level HP: 4
  • Saving Throw Table: As original Elf class
  • Experience Table: As original Elf class or chosen class, whichever is higher/worse
  • An Elf receives a +1 bonus to their Intelligence modifier.
  • An Elf gains points in the Search skill as the original Elf class.
  • An Elf is surprised in combat only on a roll on 1 on a d6.
  • An Elf reacts differently to certain spells and holy water as per the original Elf class. Magical aging does not affect an Elf, but natural aging does.
  • An Elf Fighter can cast a spell from a wand, staff, or scroll as if they were a Magic-User of half their level (round down), but only if they first make a successful saving throw vs. device; if the saving throw is failed, the spell is not cast, but the appropriate charge (if it is a wand or staff) or spell (if it is a scroll) is lost as if it were cast. An Elf Fighter can cast spells in this way when up to Heavily encumbered.
  • An Elf Magic-User can cast spells one-handed as per the original Elf class.
  • An Elf Magic-User has the same number of starting spells and the same spell progression table as the original Magic-User class (as do Magic-Users of other races).
Halfling

  • Hit Dice: d6 (+2 HP per level after Level 9)
  • Minimum First-Level HP: 4
  • Saving Throw Table: As original Halfling class
  • Experience Table: As original Halfling class or chosen class, whichever is higher/worse
  • A Halfling receives a +1 bonus to their Dexterity modifier.
  • A Halfling gains points in the Bushcraft skill as the original Halfling class.
  • A Halfling starts with 5 points in the Stealth skill, and this increases to 6 points at Level 10.
  • A Halfling is physically small; they can generally fit into smaller places than Humans, Dwarves, or Elves, and they add less encumbrance to riding animals (see Rules & Magic p. 39). However, they cannot use large weapons, and must use medium weapons two-handed.
  • Generally, a Halfling must eat twice as much food per day as a Human, Dwarf, or Elf in order to avoid suffering the effects of starvation (e.g. 2 "days' worth" of rations per day). However, if a Halfling sleeps for at least 8 hours in a 24-hour period (instead of the minimum 4 hours needed to merely avoid sleep deprivation), the Halfling only needs to eat the normal amount of food the next day (i.e. the remainder of that 24-hour period) in order to avoid the effects of starvation.
Global Changes

  • The spell Read Magic is removed from the game, and is no longer needed in order to use spellbooks or scrolls. If you want to keep Read Magic, then Elf Fighters should probably start with the spell and be able to cast it so that they can still use wands, staves, and scrolls.
  • Alignment is not officially restricted by race, only class, although based on the different ways that certain spells and holy water affect them, Elves are arguably still treated as Chaotic for the purposes of spell effects regardless of class. If you want to use racial alignment restrictions, then it might make sense to limit Dwarves to Lawful alignment and Elves to Chaotic alignment while allowing Humans and Halflings to choose any alignment. But honestly, you could probably ditch alignment entirely, as is my preference.
  • All races age at the same rate, namely that of Humans. If you don't like this, you can use the original aging chart (see Rules & Magic p. 35) or make up your own rules.
  • Magic-Users of all races can cast from a wand, staff, or scroll when up to Heavily encumbered, but otherwise can only cast spells when up to Lightly encumbered.
Notable Changes from the Last Version and Other Notes
  • Elf Magic-Users can no longer cast while up to Heavily encumbered, but only up to Lightly encumbered, unless they are casting from a wand, staff, or scroll.
  • Dwarf characters no longer continue to add their Constitution modifier to their hit points after Level 9. Their 10-sided HD, Consitution modifier bonus, and excellent saving throws already make them really hard to kill, so this additional trait seems like overkill to me, especially since I'm now giving them +4 HP per level after ninth and I've bumped their minimum starting HP to 8. I also dropped this trait because I don't like how it's a race-based (or originally, class-based) feature that doesn't actually benefit all members of that race - just ones who already have a positive Constitution bonus. I don't care for Intelligence-based spell limits or ability score-based XP bonuses and penalties in certain editions of D&D for a similar reason. I admit this is probably at least as much a matter of personal preference for me than a matter of gameplay balance or anything else.
  • Human characters are greatly simplified compared to what I originally wrote, and are now basically in line with the optional version I added to the last post on January 2.
  • I don't see the need to note that "Halflings receive a 1-point bonus to AC when not surprised," since as far as I can tell that would be the natural result of having a +1 bonus to their Dexterity modifier anyway. Please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.
  • In order to make Halflings feel a little less under-powered in terms of skills, I decided to make their Stealth skill work as well indoors as outdoors (which I also did in the last version), and I decided to let them eventually reach a total of 6 points in Stealth.
  • Since I don't like the Search skill, I'm inclined to give Elves a different skill specialty instead. I'm not sure what the replacement should be, though.