Friday, May 26, 2017

No Humans Allowed: LotFP House Rules for a Demi-Human-Only Game

I've seen people cut the demi-human classes (Dwarf, Elf, and Halfling) out of Lamentations of the Flame Princess, I've seen people separate the concepts of race and class in the style of AD&D (I've written about that, myself), and I've seen people reskin the demi-human classes as human ones. What I haven't seen, outside of the always-inspiring blog Goblin Punch, is the elimination of the human classes.

Let's say you want to run a campaign in a world where the human race went extinct, or never existed in the first place, or has yet to properly develop, or whatever. Something with the Tolkien Dial and the Fairy Tale Meter cranked up to 11 (but probably still super weird and horrifying, because this is LotFP we're talking about). If you stick with the concept of race-as-class, I would take that to mean dropping the Fighter, Specialist, Cleric, and Magic-User. Here's how I might change the three basic demi-human classes so that the big smelly oafs aren't missed.

Everything is the same as in Rules & Magic unless stated otherwise.

  • Starts with a Base Attack Bonus of +2, which increases by 1 per level to a maximum of +10, like the Fighter.
  • No longer applies CON Bonus to maximum HP gained beyond Level 9.
  • Begins with 2 points in Climb and 2 points in Tinker at Level 1. These increase to 3 points at Level 4, 4 points at Level 7, 5 points at Level 10, and 6 points at Level 13.
  • Now uses the Magic-User chart for Spells per Day.
  • Begins with 3 random First-Level Spells and Read Magic, like the Magic-User.
  • Begins with 3 points in Languages at Level 1. This increases to 4 points at Level 4, 5 points at Level 7, and 6 points at Level 10.
  • Begins with 2 points in Sleight of Hand at Level 1. This increases to 3 points at Level 4, 4 points at Level 7, 5 points at Level 10, and 6 points at Level 13.
  • Now has the same Combat Options (Press, Defensive Fighting, Parry) as the Fighter, Dwarf, and Elf.
  • Stealth skill can now be used indoors as well as outdoors. Begins with 5 points in Stealth at Level 1. This increases to 6 at Level 10.
  • Begins with 2 points in Climb, 2 points in Sleight of Hand, and 2 points in Sneak Attack at Level 1. These increase to 3 points at Level 4, 4 points at Level 7, 5 points at Level 10, and 6 points at Level 13.
Skill Summary: The Dwarf gets Architecture, Climb, and Tinker. The Elf gets Languages, Search, and Sleight of Hand. The Halfling gets Bushcraft, Climb, Sleight of Hand, Sneak Attack, and Stealth.

But What About Cleric Spells and Healing?
You can handle the removal of Clerics in a few different ways:
  1. HP is regained through rest only. Demi-humans have long lifespans, so maybe lying around healing isn't as big of a deal to them. You could perhaps loosen the restrictions on what the PCs can do while resting, so that the players have more to do (shopping, research, playing politics, etc.) while healing up.
  2. Add Cleric spells to the Elf's spell list.
  3. Allow potions of certain Cleric spells (mainly healing ones) to be bought in town as part of the standard equipment list (and/or scatter them somewhat liberally throughout adventuring locations). You could reskin the potions as special herbs or magic berries or whatever if you so desire. Maybe these are sold by a specific race/class of NPCs who hold the secrets of making or harvesting them?
  4. Create a new PC race/class which can cast Cleric spells. Fairies? Gnomes? Bee People?

Monday, May 22, 2017

Metapost 2: Post Harder

A.K.A. Metapost 2.0: You Can (Not) Post
A.K.A. Metapost II: The Slowening
A.K.A. Metapost 2: Electric Postaloo

A series of bullshit events that occurred in late 2016 and early 2017, along with my own personal faults and struggles, have left me demotivated in the ol' blogging department, as you can see by my decreased output as of late. However, things have improved for Jess and I in the last two or three months, and I'm back from a fantastic belated honeymoon, so it's time to get back on the horse!

I still have plenty of things to check off my list from the original Metapost, but there are some other tasks that take precedence at the moment. Here's what's on my mind.

"Current" projects I need to get on with:
  1. I need to write out my interview questions for [REDACTED] and send 'em over, because he's graciously put up with my slow ass for a while now, and his work is really good (and if you ask me, tragically overlooked).
  2. I haven't forgotten about the A to Z VG RPG Inspiration series - I'm like a third of the way done with the C entry. I knew I was going to take my sweet time on this one, but geez, I'm sorry my time is THIS sickly sweet, folks.
  3. I also haven't forgotten that I was planning to do a read-through of Carcosa in the style of my Holmes Basic series of posts. I want to start that at some point.
  4. I've made no tangible progress this year on writing my first published adventure, as per my New Year's resolution. I'm not sure what I'd rather take a swing at first. I'll list some possibilities below.
  5. On Google+ I recently discussed the idea of using Prestige Classes as something to spice up the Fighter class in LotFP. I got some helpful feedback and cool ideas from +James Young and +Perttu Vedenoja, so I'd like to write a post on the topic.
  6. In The Magnificent Joop van Ooms, Raggi mentions the possibility of using Joop and his associates as PCs. I can think of some other NPCs in various adventures that might make for interesting PCs - so that's something to write about.
  7. More class tinkering: what if you wanted to run LotFP with demihumans only? I have some house rules for that. They could use some testing. EDIT: DONE
  8. In Green Devil Face #4, James Raggi's wrote a system for using spell points, and it's caught my attention. I want to take a look at how this system might interact with the LotFP spell list. I wrote down how many points each spell in the Rules & Magic book would cost, and that could be a handy reference for anyone who wants to try these rules out.
Adventure Ideas:
  1. A sugar-and-candy-themed dungeon that some friends and I were sketching out a while back. I joking called this one "Death Frosting Doom," but I doubt I'd use that as the title of the finished product. Considering the ill effects of the over-consumption of sugar (both real and alleged), as well as the historical role of slavery in the European/West Indies sugar trade, there's plenty of room for horror in this topic, unfortunately. I probably have the most actual written notes on this one, but I haven't touched it in a while, plus I'm on the fence about how much historical tragedy I really want to incorporate in a fun fantasy adventure for use with elf games (albeit horror-tinged elf games). I think Lamentations of the Flame Princess adventures tend to pull of this kind of historically-grounded horror in a tasteful manner - they tend to be delightfully tasteless in other ways, but I think the historical stuff is generally done in a sufficiently respectful manner. I'm not sure everyone would agree, though, and I don't know if I'm up to the task of matching those standards yet. Anyway, even if I leave out the slavery and imperialism, there's still plenty to work with in terms of body horror when it comes to sugar.
  2. A haunted forest/haunted cabin adventure in which some cruel supernatural force turns nature against those who intrude on the wilderness, a force of ambiguous origin which could be interpreted as anything from cosmic to satanic. Inspired by stuff like "The Great God Pan" and "The White People" by Arthur Machen, "The Events at Poroth Farm" by T. E. D. Klein, "The Willows" and "The Wendigo" by Algernon Blackwood, "Sticks" by Karl Edward Wagner, the illustrations of Lee Brown Coye, the illustrations of John Kenn Mortensen (A.K.A. Don Kenn), the Evil Dead series, Antichrist, Resolution, Valhalla Rising, The Witch, Marble Hornets, the Slender Man Mythos, and a whole heaping helping of awesome and terrifying posts over at Goblin Punch. Chaos Reigns.
  3. A mash-up of The Keep on the Borderland and The House on the Borderland. I'm in love with this idea, but I don't quite know how to go about using it yet. Do I want to actually re-write B2 itself into a new thing, or just make a sort of homage to it, or what?
Games I want to run:
  1. The Hateful Place one-shot or mini-campaign based on The Shining.
  2. Stay Frosty campaign based on Aliens and/or Doom.
  3. A new LotFP campaign with my home group. We just played our 60th session of our Lamentations of the Fallen Lords campaign (well, depending on how you count them), and I think this campaign may be drawing to a close soon, at least for a while. The next campaign is probably going to either take place on Earth in the 1600s, on Carcosa, or in the world of The Driftwood Verses (once it's released).
  4. An online LotFP campaign with some friends who no longer live near me. It'll probably take place on Earth and focus on supernatural investigations and haunted houses. The PCs will probably be members of a club which exists at roughly the halfway point between occult detectives and traditional D&D adventurers. Think of it like a thieves' guild whose members are all amateur occultists and ghost hunters on the weekends - a heavily-armed Scooby Gang with sticky fingers and loose morals. I'm tentatively calling this one Mansions & Mindfucks.
  5. A campaign using BLUEHOLME and/or a mix of OD&D and Holmes Basic, starting with The Keep on the Borderlands and expanding into a wilderness hex map (from Avalon Hill's Outdoor Survival) chock-full of other classic D&D adventure modules.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Pocketmod Pre-Gens of the Eternal Sun

This is partly a follow-up to these posts.

I'm back from my belated honeymoon, so I should probably stop neglecting my blog now. I think I'll do another one of those "Metapost," er, posts soon to get the lay of the land, then hopefully pick a few projects at a time and actually stick with them.

Anyway, the other day I read this interesting post at Methods & Madness, and I rediscovered this awesome Pocketmod character sheet for LotFP over at MRAAKTAGON. And on top of that, I remembered a suggestion that I read a while ago about just letting players choose whatever ability scores they want instead of rolling randomly and winding up with scores that don't match what they want to do, character-creation-wise - which is probably not something I'd allow all the time, since rolling random stuff and working with the hand that fate deals you is often a fun feature of old-school play, but it's still an intriguing enough idea that I'd certainly consider it for some campaigns.* I absolutely do not remember where I read this idea, unfortunately, so if anyone has a source for that I'd really appreciate it.

So, I decided to mash these ideas together. I printed up some of the MRAAKTAGON Pocketmod character sheets, took some of my pre-gen characters (based loosely on the LotFP mascots) from here and here, changed some ability scores so that they all had a minimum of +10 in total bonuses and better matched how I imagined the characters would be as seasoned and successful adventurers/Early Modern supervillains, and boosted them all to level 3, with max HP and starting money. Why? Because I was curious what that would look like, and I was inspired by the posts above, and I think these might be fun to use in a one-shot or something, and also Because Fuck You, That's Why.

Some pictures:

And the actual stats and equipment, in case you're morbidly curious:

Flame Princess, Level 3 Lawful Fighter
Female, Needs 8,000 XP for Level 4
CHA 16 (+2) CON 18 (+3) DEX 14 (+1)
INT 13 (+1) STR 17 (+2) WIS 13 (+1)
Saving Throws: Paralyze 14, Poison 12, Breath 15, Device 13, Magic 16
(+1 Bonus for Magic Saves and +1 Bonus for Non-Magic Saves)
HP 33, BAB +4, Melee AB +6, Ranged AB +5
Melee AC 18, Ranged AC 19, Without Shield AC 17, Surprised AC 14
Open Doors 3
Has Fighter Combat Options.
Heavily Encumbered (3 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, Chain Armor, Backpack, Sack x5, Steel Mirror, Candle, Ink, Paper, Chalk, Whistle, Soap, Iron Spike, 258 silver pieces

Alice, Level 3 Lawful Cleric
Female, Needs 7,000 XP for Level 4
CHA 11 (+0) CON 18 (+3) DEX 17 (+2)
INT 11 (+0) STR 16 (+2) WIS 18 (+3)
Saving Throws: Paralyze 14, Poison 11, Breath 16, Device 12, Magic 15
(+3 Bonus for Non-Magic Saves)
HP 27, BAB +1, Melee AB +3, Ranged AB +3
Melee AC 16, Ranged AC 16, Without Shield AC 16, Surprised AC 12
Open Doors 3
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, Leather Armor, Backpack, Sack x5, Steel Mirror, Candle, Ink, Paper, Chalk, Whistle, Soap, Wooden Spike x3, Wooden Holy Symbol, 328 silver pieces and 9 copper pieces

Étaín, Level 3 Chaotic Magic-User
Female, Needs 9,000 XP for Level 4
CHA 14 (+1) CON 18 (+3) 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 23, 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, Magic Missile, Sleep, Summon, Locate Object
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, 405 silver pieces and 5 copper pieces

Kendra, Level 3 Neutral Specialist
Female, Needs 6,000 XP for Level 4
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 24, 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 3, Sneak Attack 3, Stealth 3, Tinker 3
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, 411 silver pieces and 5 copper pieces.

Selena, Level 3 Chaotic Elf
Female, Needs 12,000 XP for Level 4
CHA 13 (+1) CON 18 (+3) DEX 14 (+1)
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 27, BAB +1, Melee AB +3, Ranged AB +2
Melee AC 18, Ranged AC 19, Without Shield AC 17, Surprised AC 14
Languages 4, Open Doors 3, Search 2
Has Fighter Combat Options. Only surprised on a roll of 1.
Spells Known: Read Magic, Identify, Speak with Animals
Heavily Encumbered (3 points)
Equipment: Spellbook, Sword (Medium Weapon), Dagger (Minor Weapon), Sling Bullet x20, Tinderbox, Torch x10, Waterskin, 50' Rope, Grappling Hook, Shield, Chain Armor, Backpack, Sack x5, Steel Mirror, Candle, Ink, Paper, Chalk, Whistle, Soap, Iron Spike x4, Bottle x2, Nails, Sling, 328 silver pieces and 5 copper pieces.

Rhona, Level 3 Neutral Dwarf
Female, Needs 8,800 XP for Level 4
CHA 12 (+0) CON 18 (+4) DEX 18 (+3)
INT 12 (+0) STR 18 (+3) WIS 13 (+1)
Saving Throws: Paralyze 10, Poison 8, Breath 13, Device 9, Magic 12
(+1 Bonus for Non-Magic Saves)
HP 42, BAB +1, Melee AB +4, Ranged AB +4
Melee AC 17, Ranged AC 17, Without Shield AC 17, Surprised AC 12
Architecture 3, Open Doors 4
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, 405 silver pieces.

And here's a Pre-Gen package (or wagon-load) of extra stuff they should be able to afford if they pool their sweet, sweet level 3 money together:
  • One Coach (Would that have 2 axles? See Encumbrance rules for Mounts, Rules & Magic p.39)
  • 2 Mules to pull the Coach
  • Riding Gear x2
  • Iron Ration x126 (3 weeks of food for 6 people)
  • Animal Feed x44 (22 days of food for 2 Mules)
  • Garlic x10 (to occasionally flavor the rations and keep vampires away)
  • Fishing Gear
  • Bedroll x6
  • Regular Tent x3
  • Silver Holy Symbol (for Alice)
  • Sword (Medium Weapon) x3 (for the Flame Princess and Selena)
  • Spear x2
  • Halberd (Polearm)
  • Garrote
  • Whip
  • Blowgun (currently out of darts)
  • Great Club (Great Weapon) (for Rhona)
  • Mancatcher
  • Cestus
  • Flintlock Pistol x3 (2 for Alice, 1 for Selena)
  • Shot Bag x3 (300 shots)
  • Powder Horn x6, containing 300 shots of Gunpowder
  • 12 Apostles x4 (for the Flame Princess, Alice, Étaín, and Selena)
  • Quiver containing 20 Bolts
  • Sling Bullet x40
  • Lantern
  • Flask of Lantern Oil x50
  • Torch x100
  • Wooden Spike x100
  • 10' Pole x2
  • 50' Rope x3
  • Grappling Hook
  • Manacles
  • Fancy Clothes x2 (one set for Étaín and one for Kendra)
Total cost=1,365 silver pieces. If you pool the remaining money from all six characters, you get 2,137 silver pieces and 4 copper pieces, which more than covers it. That should leave 128 silver pieces for each character, plus 4 silver pieces and 4 copper pieces left over. (This is all assuming my math is right, as usual.)

I highly recommend checking out this Pocketmod character sheet at MRAAKTAGON. It's handy, well-organized, and fun to flip through, and I bet your players would be impressed if you whipped out some of these bad boys at a convention game.

*As a digression, here's a post in which I rant about nerds being judgmental to each other about what games they like and/or how they prefer to play the same games. I stuck it in a separate post because it got too long. You've been warned.

A Digression on the "Stop Having Fun" Guys and Similar Phenomena

This isn't directed at anyone in particular. I suspect I'm preaching to the choir, here, but I wanted to make my position clear on this subject. (The post title is from TV Tropes.)

Just because I love old-school and OSR-type games doesn't mean I don't also like a lot of new-school stuff, too. There are all kinds of awesome games and gaming styles out there. To quote myself from a few posts in the LotFP fan group on Facebook:

"OLD TSR FAN: How about we admit that older versions of D&D had a lot of good ideas that worked just fine, but that don't get enough credit for it and don't get used anymore even though they work just fine?
NEW SCHOOL D&D FAN: How about we admit that the older versions weren't perfect and the newer editions have introduced some stuff that is easier to use or that makes more sense?

Also, I've seen a lot of OSR folks admit that so-called "storygames" are just fine, and if you want to play those, good for you. I personally don't see why someone who plays Chess can't also play Mancala. Lately, I've been in the mood to either run or play LotFP, a mix of Holmes Basic and OD&D, Stay Frosty, The Hateful Place, Call of Cthulhu, Paranoia, and Kult. And I'm a video game fanatic. So I don't like hearing this one-true-way crap that some people spout.

[...] I've been glancing through old TSR modules a bit lately and finding a lot to like. (The layout could be more convenient, but there are lots of cool ideas, and I think I'd enjoy running a lot of the ones I've seen.) But when someone is then like 'And that's why nothing released after 1995 (or whatever) is ever worth playing, period,' I'm all like 'Actually, I used to have a blast with 3.5, and in hindsight we actually did play in a pretty old-school fashion in many ways without even realizing it, so how about you shut your mouth before you say something else stupid?' The elitism is what really gets to me, I suppose."

And that's my rant about that. The OSR is my favorite thing going on in RPGs, and I've come to love old-school gaming, but it's okay to like other stuff, too, and even to pull ideas from other sources and try them out in games that are otherwise old-school. The constant experimentation is, after all, one of the best things about the OSR, if you ask me. It's one of the best things about RPGs in general, really.

I think the key to changing the rules of, and pulling outside content into, one's RPG campaign successfully is to do so with intent, and then to test the results of the alterations against what you intended to accomplish. If you don't get the desired effect (or get undesirable side-effects), you could tweak things, or try something else entirely, or even decide that what you accidentally created is interesting enough on its own merits to just go with it, even though it didn't match your intent.

But the reason for a change should be kept in mind. Even a silly reason is a reason. I just think that a little thoughtfulness goes a long way if there's any particular kind of mood or spirit or tone or je ne sais quoi or whatever that you and your players are reaching for.

Anyway, I'd generally be up for some D&D 3E or 4E if someone else wanted to be DM. I just don't think I'd personally want to run the former anytime soon, or the latter at all. D&D 5E also sounds pretty cool, but I haven't read the rules yet. And there are so many RPGs out there besides D&D and the games it has inspired, and I want to play more of them.

Or at least read some of the books.

Monday, April 24, 2017

My Appendix SF (Stay Frosty)

In the back of the rulebook for the cool new space marine-themed RPG Stay Frosty, author Casey Garske lists some excellent inspirational material for the game, like a particularly, uh, trooperiffic take on Gary Gygax's classic Appendix N. I thought I might suggests a few more series that I think might serve as decent inspiration.

Aliens have invaded the Earth. Hey gun-toting body-builders, what should we do?
BILL: It's time for revenge.
LANCE: Let's attack aggressively!
ME: Up, up, down, down...

Earth Defense Force
Let's take Starship Troopers and set it on Earth. Oh, and let's make the bugs bigger. Maybe give the bugs some giant robots as allies.

Fade to Black
Shape-shifting, biotech-wielding lizard aliens controlled by psychic brains took over the solar system. You and a handful of others operate the Resistance out of a secret space station. The soundtrack is really creepy. "This is our struggle."

High-tech urban warfare against an army of psychic clones. Also, spooky ghosts.

The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman
I haven't read this one in a long time, but I loved this novel as a kid. I actually met Joe Haldeman at the only SF/Fantasy convention I've ever been to, and he was super cool. As far as gameable material for Stay Frosty goes, this book has cool power armor (complete with finger lasers), weird aliens (who are just as confused about why they're at war as the humans are), horrific violence, and most notably, an in-depth look at the perils of relativistic space travel and time dilation, and the difficulty of maintaining any kind of social or love life when you're constantly jumping forward in time at a different rate than almost everyone else.

Gantz, by Hiroya Oku
You're dead, except you're not. A big black ball has drafted you in a war/reality TV show against bizarre aliens. Kill aliens to earn enough points to leave (or bring someone back to life, or get bigger guns). That's the theory, anyway.

The Guardian Legend
I'll just quote the back of the box: "Long ago, in a distant galaxy, an alien race sent a huge world - called Naju - hurtling toward Earth, loaded with a cargo of mysterious lifeforms. During the long journey, these creatures have multiplied and become increasingly evil - and now Naju teems with evil. However, deep within this complex globe are self-destruct mechanisms that can be activated to destroy it before it reaches Earth. Now, you must battle your way deep within Naju's labyrinths to destroy it. You are the guardian of Earth and your saga will become The Guardian Legend."

Now is that a great premise or what? This premise raises some interesting questions, too, like "Why was Naju sent to Earth?" and "Why did the lifeforms on Naju turn evil, and what exactly does that mean?" and "How about we make up rules for playing a squad of 'highly sophisticated aerobot transformers?'" and "How many Enemy Erasers does it take to get to the center of an Optomon?"

The first game has all those soldiers trying to cover up the Black Mesa incident as loudly as possible, and the second game has that whole Combine vs. Resistance thing going on, so there's probably plenty of material to work with here. Wake up and smell the ashes. Half-Life 3 confirmed.

The spiritual (and perhaps literal) sequel series to Pathways Into Darkness, and the spiritual (but not literal) predecessor to Halo, the Marathon trilogy is a series of first-person shooters which were ahead of their time gameplay-wise, and which had a surprisingly intricate and mysterious story told primarily through text displayed on computer terminals spread throughout the levels. The games are freeware and have been ported to various modern systems, but if you don't want to play them yourself you can read the terminal text and some fascinating fan-made notes on the story HERE.

As for the premise of the first game:
<Message to All Marathon Terminals>

Marathon Emergency Systems BroadcastToday at 0820 hours, the Marathon came under surprise attack
from unknown hostile forces.  The Marathon has sustained
serious damage.
At 0830 hours, alien forces boarded the Marathon.  The currentsituation is dire.  All personnel are required to arm
themselves and fight for their lives.
<Posted 2794.>
***INCOMING MESSAGE FROM LEELA***Welcome to the Marathon.  I am Leela, one of the two surviving
Artificial Intelligences aboard the Marathon.  I have been
severely damaged, and am working to understand the current
Find the teleport terminal located in the Hangar's controlroom.  By that time, I should have a better idea of what is
going on.



Sorry to give you the bad news, but you've been kidnapped.
You aren't where Leela wanted you to go, and you surely won't
get there any time soon.

I was watching what Leela was having you do: 'save the ship,
save humanity!' And just what or who are you saving them
from? And to what end?

How clich�.  You'll find this little visit much more exciting.

I have dev@``~~C#mon#`~ Tyc~~B``ou to play: If you win, you
go free, and we continue our relationship on friendlier terms.
If you lose, you die.

Good luck in our little game.  Unlike Leela, I give no hints.
Do it on your own, or die trying...

Insanely yours,


P.S. If things around here aren't working, it's because I'm laughing so hard.

Pathways Into Darkness
On behalf of President Bill Clinton, your squad has been ordered to descend to the bottom of a mysterious pyramid in the Yucatán Peninsula and plant a nuclear bomb so that we can blast the dreaming Great Old One down there into a deeper sleep. The labyrinth is filled with the hostile living nightmares of the alien god, so stay frosty and use short, controlled bursts. Also, keep your eyes peeled for a magic crystal that basically lets you cast "Speak with Dead." Sure, the Nazi corpses left over from a failed investigation during WWII don't make for great conversation, but you might learn some valuable intel by interrogating them. (This game has a story page, too, although it unfortunately hasn't been ported to modern computers as far as I know.)

Quake (the first one)
Instead of fighting monsters in space, maybe we could fight monsters in another dimension? Like Quantum Leap Marines. What kind of monsters? Cthulhu-style eldritch abominations, demons, ogres sporting chainsaws and grenade launchers...the whole kit and caboodle. Don't worry about how coherent the universe is, we've got Trent Reznor on the soundtrack and Sandy Petersen on the level design team. Just make sure everything is gothic/industrial/eldritch as hell, and you're fine. Let's hope that rocket-jumping is covered in basic training.

To quote myself from a conversation on G+ with Beloch Shrike: "I've actually been thinking about repurposing a fiction series I was working on (sort of half parody of Quake and some other old FPS games and half bizarre slice-of-life abandoned-on-an-alien-world SF/Fantasy comedy-horror thing) as a setting for Stay Frosty. But I need to actually PLAY Stay Frosty first to get familiar with it, and that's probably on the backburner because [of] some stuff I want to do with The Hateful Place, plus I have my regular game to run and another I've been trying to start with some friends online...There aren't enough hours in the day, you know?"

Anyway, Beloch Shrike writes awesome OSR gun rules.

Quake II (and IV)
These games are basically Space Marines vs. (a particularly gruesome take on) the Borg.

The SCP Foundation
My clearance level only allows me to share the following words with you: Mobile Task Force.

The Shadow Over Innsmouth, by H. P. Lovecraft (and Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth, perhaps even more so)
You know that whole "F.B.I. raid on Innsmouth" thing? That might be interesting to play out. A mashup of Stay Frosty and Delta Green could be cool, too.

Siren series, especially Siren 2 (a.k.a. Forbidden Siren 2)
Okay, so your squad is trapped in a Silent Hill-style Otherworld based on a mash-up of Japanese folklore and the Cthulhu Mythos, and it's filled with zombies, and the zombies are smart enough to use tools and follow patrol routs and try to flank you, and they absolutely will not stay dead so the best you can do is to either avoid them or temporarily put them out of action, and they are SUPER HAPPY about being zombies and just want to share their happiness with you by making you a zombie, too. Oh, and if you concentrate really hard, you can see through the zombies' eyes, which is as useful as it is troubling.

I don't think I need to elaborate on this one.

I haven't seen the movie or the TV show in a long time, but from what I remember the movie is basically the U.S. Military vs. Space Egypt, and SG-1 is kind of like that plus Star Trek-style "exploring the universe" shenanigans plus X-Files-style government cover-ups but with the secret government organization being the good guys. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong. Anyway, any of that sounds like a good backdrop for some Space Marines vs. Aliens Disguised as Egyptian Gods action.

Star Wars
"Wars" is right there in the title. It can't be all jedi, all the time, you know? Sometimes the best way to overcome the Dark Side of the Force is to show up with overwhelming firepower and Star War the hell out of it.

Because what your Stay Frosty game really needs is strict adherence to proper civilian rules of engagement and careful evidence collection. SWAT teams occupy a weird place somewhere between police and soldiers (at least in fiction - I can't really speak for real SWAT teams), and you could probably get some interesting gaming out of exploring that. Plus, hostage situations and no-knock warrants and organized crime and the blurry line between protecting yourself and protecting/serving the public could all make for tense and interesting situations.

EDIT: Of course, this kind of subject matter might hit a little too close to home for some people, so please make sure your whole group is comfortable with this kind of game before running it, and if anyone isn't comfortable with it, please do something else instead.

When you're a super-soldier employed by a megacorp to conquer the world, cyberpunk means never having to say you're sorry.

Warhammer 40,000; especially the Space Hulk sub-series
As with Starcraft, this one probably needs no explanation.

X-COM (a.k.a. UFO: Enemy Unknown)
Save the world from aliens, but on a budget. Learn to stop worrying and love friendly fire. You have a 95% percent chance to hit these memes, so you're definitely going to miss.

Full disclosure: When it comes to the video games on this list, some of these I haven't played myself, but only watched other people play or otherwise experienced second-hand through "let's plays," online analyses, etc. I've only played one Earth Defense Force game - I think it was Insect Armageddon. I haven't played Pathways Into Darkness or SWAT 4 myself. I think I played the first computer version of Space Hulk once and the first X-COM game once or twice, but otherwise I haven't personally played these series. I haven't played every single game in the Contra, F.E.A.R., Starcraft, and Syndicate series, and that goes at least double when it comes to Star Wars games just because there are so darn many of them. Still, I'm pretty confident that the games I've listed have decent potential as fuel for at least a session of Stay Frosty.

Here are a few more series I was on the fence about including:
Dead Space
Dune, by Frank Herbert (and maybe some of the related video games)
Resident Evil
System Shock and its sequel
The Thing
Universal Soldier

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Guest Post: Which Dice Do You Trust?

Justin's Note: In my post about Gen Con, I mentioned that Jess wanted to write a guest article for my blog about Louis Zocchi. I mean, I greatly enjoyed Mr. Zocchi's panel at Gen Con, but Jess? Considering how obsessed she is with dice, she was absolutely blown away. I swear to God that Mr. Zocchi didn't pay her to write this or anything. She just loves GameScience that much.

As an aside, Jess makes these awesome pieces of jewelry out of dice with a little electric drill. She does earrings, necklaces, bracelets, and keychains, and they must be pretty fashionable, because people keep asking her to make them some. She says the d4 is the hardest to drill, in case you were wondering.

Anyway, I'm glad she's here to share her enthusiasm with us. Without further ado, here's some cool stuff written by my best friend and favorite person.

Which Dice Do You Trust?

Before I go answering that question for you, let me tell you a little bit about myself. Growing up I never knew much of what I was into. I knew that I loved math in school and I always looked up to my brother. He is 7 years older than me and was a kind of cool guy, to me anyway. He loved video games and loved playing D&D. He had friends over from time to time and I got to sit in and watch them all throw those nifty little dice around and tell awesome stories. With my math skills I could add, subtract, and keep track of things fairly easily. I ended up being a mini human calculator for certain situations, so I became useful from time to time. It was fun and sometimes challenging to me. However, I didn’t have many friends of my own who knew about D&D, let alone how to DM. Heck, I didn’t even know what a “DM” was or have any books or knowledge myself. So, when my brother moved out, that part of my life disappeared.

But a few years later, I met my friend (now husband), Justin. We have been together for almost 12 years and married for 2. During the beginning of those years we learned a lot about each other. We hung out for hours, sometimes days. And when you do that, you need stuff to do. We were always at his house so his belongings were the things we had on hand to use. After hours of video games, some time for lunch and dinner, out came the D&D supplies. I was so excited when he showed me he had the supplies AND knowledge to bring back the awesome story time that, my brother and his friends used to be able to entertain me with! And its moments like these that let you know, you have the right guy. (Mental note- NEVER LET HIM GO!) Anyway, after years of playing and bringing in a variety of friends and stories, I started to gain an interest in those little colorful things that we threw around, dice.

Dice are beautiful things. They roll around and give you that tiny bit of excitement while you wait, hoping that they land on the numbers that work in your benefit. It adds some extra thrill to that story being told while you try to figure out your next move. But let’s be honest, you have to wait for that result before you know for sure what to do next. Even for those who don’t play D&D or any other RPG (role playing game), they come in handy for other games and even decoration! Adults will gamble and little kids will play even the simplest board games with them. So, I highly doubt that dice are going to “go out of style” anytime soon. Which make them a good collector’s item. But which ones should you collect and which ones should you actually play with?

I have been collecting dice for roughly 5 years but, I bought my first set to play with about 10 years ago. I have a large variety of “sets” of dice and a ton of individual dice. I make jewelry, magnets, key chains, picture frames, you name it. And of course, I play with dice too. After playing D&D for a long time I would notice that some numbers come up more often than others on certain dice. I loved messing around with numbers and I was good at noticing patterns. I didn’t think much of it and figured it was just an interesting coincidence. I kept playing and using different sets of dice just to see how they roll and learned that I liked certain sets over other ones. Then Gen Con happened and I learned that my pattern noticing wasn’t just a coincidence, it was a very important piece of information that I needed to pay more attention to!

Gen Con is a very large convention that is full of outstanding events and amazing works of art. And I mean a VERY large variety of art! It takes hours to get around and is full of fun and information. There was an event that stuck out to me, so my husband and I decided to go. It was an informative speech about dice. Louis Zocchi was the man speaking and before this, I knew nothing about him. I walked in and sat wondering what exactly he was going to talk about, except maybe how they were made. And that’s what he did. He certainly fascinated me!

Louis Zocchi is a very intelligent man and was able to give me enough information to know that the smallest difference can make the largest change. He invented the 100 sided die, the zocchihedron! Louis Zocchi is a gaming hobbyist, former game distributor and publisher, and maker and seller of polyhedral game dice. He has made dice since 1974 and personally hand inks every die you will ever purchase from him. He also files down every die by hand to help keep them precise. He has run countless tests and experiments to make sure that the dice he creates and invents will roll with precision and chance. He, and other people running experiments (myself included), have shown that his dice roll the best with the closest to even chances of any particular side coming up. He showed how stacking other companies' dice, one on top of the other, will not always come out the same height with the same amount of dice. And with that bit of a difference, you can get one number coming up more than another.

When dice are made, plastic is placed in a mold to create the shape of the dice. When this is done, they are then cleaned and painted. Once that is complete, they are put through a “tumbling” process to polish the dice, round the edges, and take off any spare pieces the mold may have left. (If you want more details on how dice are made, check out this site- The problem with doing it this way and “tumbling” them through a machine is that they don’t get tumbled evenly. One edge or side may get more "sanding" than another. This causes one side to weigh more and be a different size than another. Therefore, the dice are not even. This is why Louis Zocchi will take the time and file down each and every die he makes, by hand, instead of letting a machine do it.

Now, some people have had an issue with a small piece that shows where the dice mold had once held onto the dice. He does file this down as well and as crazy as it might sound, that has less of an effect on changing the amount of chance of a roll than, the amount of the die missing from tumbling in a machine.

This can be proven in another experiment that has been done. This experiment is called the “salt water experiment”. It is done by placing a different amount of salt (depending on the weight of the die) in a cup of water and flicking the die around a bit. If the die comes up on different numbers and doesn’t come up in a pattern every time, it is a good and faithful die. A large variety of people have tried this experiment with different sets of dice, and it seems the only trustworthy company is GameScience, the company owned by Louis Zocchi. There are other companies that will sell GameScience dice as well, but you can buy them directly from Every dice set or individual die he sells is filed and inked by hand and made with care. Even some of the ones that seem like they wouldn't be fair, like the D5, are made to give fair results.

So, when it comes to which dice I trust, I trust Louis Zocchi’s GameScience dice! They are handmade with care, precision, and plenty of math put right into the dice themselves.

If you would like more information, or would like to listen to Louis Zocchi himself, check out the links below. (jump to about 5min)

I would like to thank all of my friends who play D&D with us, my brother James Densmore for introducing me to D&D years ago, and Louis Zocchi for showing me the truth in dice. I especially need to put a HUGE thank you out there to my Honeybee, Justin Stewart. I love you, forever and always.

-Jessica Stewart, April 2017

Monday, April 10, 2017

I Definitely Married the Right Person

ME: Hey, if I run a campaign of Stay Frosty, would you rather play Aliens or Doom?
JESS: Oh, that's a hard one!