Saturday, June 27, 2020

Let Me Tell You About My Character: Gyre

In our current DnD 5th Edition game, I'm playing an Eladrin Kensei Monk who is 8th level. The player of our party's Dwarven Evoker Wizard has been on vacation for the last few weeks and I played the character last session because my Monk had been turned to glass by an undead medusa. I thoroughly enjoyed my time playing the character--even more so than my Monk. I immediately had a full-blown personality for the Wizard, where I've been having trouble figuring out who my Monk is over 8 level and that has really bothered me. 

We played tonight and I was back to my Monk. We had a great time, but the whole session I was trying to figure out who Gyre is? It really is irksome knowing that I could so quickly get into someone else's character but I can't get into my own.

But I think that might be who Gyre is -- a blank slate struggling to decide who he is. His alignment is currently Neutral, and he was raised on a merchant ship by his Aunt, Yasmeen, who taught him the Tsimytar Path. However, he decided to leave that life behind when bambling debts led his Aunt to take up piracy. He left the only life he knew behind because he was frightened by his lack of remorse at the violence he was capable of.  In his heart, he wants to be like the sea that his Aunt taught him to love, calm and gentle, but his gifts often find him angry and merciless. He doesn't like that part of himself, but he is worried that perhaps that is truly who he is. After several years of wandering about, he came upon the group he currently works with.

Three situations have defined Gyre in the course of play: First, was when an enemy Wizard teleported into the midst of his party and began trying to threaten them so that he could press them into his service. Gyre got lucky and went first when we rolled initiative and between Stunning Strike, his weapons, and Flurry of Blows he single-handedly slaughtered the Wizard then and there. That was the moment, looking back where I began to see the conflict within the Eladrin.

Next, his group came across a wight wandering around Saltmarsh with a sign around its next saying it was owned by another local Wizard. They took the wight to him and found out that he brought the undead from a nearby island and that it was the poor man's only friend. Gyre has no love for undead due to the fact that Vengmar Nash, the owner of the Shimmering Isle Casino who his Aunt is indebted to, keeps a pack of ghouls that eat his enemies. Gyre helped convince his allies to destroy the wight, but afterward, the Wizard lashed out with a spell and tried to kill him out of grief. After threatening the Wizard he and his cohorts left for the island with the wights to clear it out.

Finally, his group had been dealing with a Tieling Quartermaster and after several successful transactions, discovered she served Iuz the Evil. Gyre and one of his comrades decided to ask about service to the Old One and she intimated that their talent for battle would be welcome in her religion. The sole aspect holding them back was committing their souls to Iuz. 

Those events have made me realize that Gyre is trying to decide if he can be Good or if he will simply take the easy road and embrace his talent for violence. Part of the reason I don't know who Gyre is yet is that I still need to figure that out -- that is his arc.

It was cool to immediately know who the Wizard I played for a session was, but I think Gyre's journey is longer and more complex. He is hiding from who he is even from himself to see if he can be Good or if his talent for violence and his lack of guilt will lead him to embrace Evil. 

Friday, June 26, 2020

9th AGE: Foci Stunts for Bears A Halo Of Fire & Murders (Numenera x AGE System)

In my previous post I talked about using Green Ronin's Fantasy AGE with Monte Cook Games' Numenera which is known as the 9th World. Today, I'm working up Stunt Tables to represent the Cypher System's  Foci which includes things like Bears a Halo of Fire or Murders. The traditional Stunt Tables for Combat, Exploring, Role Playing, and Spellcasting are still used, though I am looking at making them Glaive/Warrior, Jack/Rogue, and Nano/Adept specific.

Foci in the Cypher System have six levels which is wonderfully synergistic with the AGE system.

Bears a Halo of Fire Stunt Chart
1 Stunt Point: At your command, your entire body becomes shrouded in flames and inflicts 1d3 damage to anyone who strikes you in melee combat and you take 1/2 damage from fire until the end of your next turn.
2 Stunt Points: You can reach into your halo and hurl a handful of fire as a ranged attack at a target within 60 yards that deals 2d6 damage.

3 Stunt Points: You can produce a hand made of animated flame that is twice the size of a human’s hand for 1 minute. The hand acts as you direct, floating in the air. Directing the hand is an action. Without a command, the hand does nothing. It can move 15 yards in a round, but it never moves farther away from you than 30 yards. The hand can grab, move, and carry things, but anything it touches takes 1d6 points of damage per round from the heat. You can also make a ranged attack with the hand. It has Strength +0, Defense 10, 5 Hit Points, and deals 1d6+1 damage.

4 Stunt Points: You extend your halo of fire to cover a weapon you wield in flames. The flame-covered weapon deals an additional 2d6 damage.

5 Stunt Points: Fiery tendrils sprout from your aura affecting three targets. First, pick secondary and tertiary targets. Both targets must be adjacent to you if you are using a melee weapon or within 6 yards of your primary target if you are using a missile weapon. Apply the test result of your original attack roll to the secondary and tertiary targets (in other words, you only make one attack roll and apply it to all three opponents). If any of the three targets are hit, you deal an additional 1d6 damage.

6  Stunt Points: You reach into your halo and summon a fire elemental that is your general shape and size. It acts as you direct each round. Directing the servant is an action, and you can command it only when you are within 60 yards of it. Without a command, the servant continues to follow your previous command. You can also give it a simple programmed action, such as “Wait here, and attack anyone who comes within 10 yards until they’re dead.” The servant lasts for 1 minute, has 20 Hit Points, a Defense of 12, Fight of +1, all other Characteristics of +0, Speed of 12, and deals 2d6+2 damage.

Murders Stunt Chart

1 Stunt Point: You inflict an additional 1d6 damage.

2 Stunt Points: You move to the top of the Initiative order.

3 Stunt Points: You inflict an additional 2d6 damage.

4 Stunt Points: You gain +3 Defense until the beginning of your next turn.

5 Stunt Points: You ignore Armor and inflict an additional 4d6 damage.

6 Stunt Points: After you reduce a creature to 0 Hit Points you can immediately Move up to your Speed and if possible make a Steath check to Hide.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

GameDreaming: Fantasy AGE + Numenera's 9th World

As much as I want to love the Cypher System that powers Numenera I simply feel it's approach is counter to my expectations. At the same time, I own most of Green Ronin's supplements for the Adventure Game Engine that was created for the Dragon AGE TTRPG and evolved into Fantasy AGE, Modern AGE, Blue Rose, and the Expanse and haven't gotten much out of them.

While contemplating the AGE system tonight it dawned on me that the Fantasy AGE classes of Warrior, Mage, Rogue mapped pretty well to Glaive, Nano, and Jack (yeah, I know two other Roles were introduced, but I'm ignoring them) for Numenera.

That also let me begin to think about importing Descriptors (which I love) and having specific stunts for them. That part could be a lot of work, but I think it would be damn cool.

Sadly, I won't ever get a chance to run every idea I have, but this could be a good way to use my many Numenera books and my many AGE book and that is what I call a win-win.

At the same time, my mind also flashed to using Modern AGE for the next Storm Trooper one-shot, not that I have one on the horizon. So may ideas so little time.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Character Building: Making a Pathfinder 2E Dwarven Rogue

Looking at the development of Pathfinder 2nd Edition I didn't feel that it would replace Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition for me, but I kept up to date on it since I sell RPGs for a living. Since its release...has it almost been two years...I've had several customers pick it up and enjoy it so I figured I should acquaint myself with it more and possibly prepare to run some demos in-store.

Add to that fact that Dr. Futurity has been writing about it on his blog, Realms of Chirak and I've been a fan of his stuff for years and feel we have many common interests.

That has led me to make a character for it.

Full disclosure: I'm not a huge fan of Feats and I loved that in 5E they were optional and covered more ground than in previous editions. Obviously, this could be a big miss because from what I understand PF2 leans into Feats pretty hard.

Each Ability Score starts at 10.

First I will pick my Ancestry, and I choose Dwarf. Dwarves get a boost or +2 to CON, WIS, and STR (my choice). Additionally, they gain a Flaw or a -2 to CHA and their Hit Points start at 10.  Their start with a number of languages equal to their INT modifier + Dwarf and Common, they have Darkvision and they have the Traits of Dwarf and Humanoid.

I'm choosing Death-Warden Dwarf which turns a Success against a Necromancy Spell's Saving Throw into a Critical Success.

I'm already a bit reticent, I'm seeing "Circumstance" bonuses and one of the Dwarf options has an ability that reminds of DnD 4E's Powers. I didn't mind those Powers at low levels but it was hard, for my group at least, not to have decision paralysis at higher levels during 4E combats.

You gain 1 Ancestry Feat at 1st Level and I choose Rock Runner which lets me ignore difficult terrain caused by rubble and uneven ground made up of rock and earth. Additionally, when I uses Acrobatics to balance on narrow surfaces or uneven ground a Success becomes a Critical Success

There are some really flavorful options, but I felt that this bonus would be useful in most circumstances.

As a Background, I choose Guard which Boosts CHA and STR (my choice) as well as Training in the Intimidation and Warfare Lore Skills and Quick Coercion Feat.

For Class, I'm choosing Rogue which gives me 8 Hit Points at 1st level and every level, I envision Rogar as a someone who has had enough of war and thinks he got screwed over to the point that he feels he is owed something, and he is willing to coerce and steal to achieve those goal. Further, I'm choosing the Ruffian Racket that allows me to use Simple Weapons with my Sneak Attack and when I Critically Hit with a Simple Weapon I also and the target is Flat-Footed I also apply the weapon's Critical Specialization Effect.

Additionally, I gain Sneak Attack at 1d6, Surprise Attack which allows me to roll Deception or Stealth for Initiative, and any enemies that haven't acted in that first round are Flat-Footed. 

Finally, I get Skill Feats every level and a Rogue Feat at level 1.
I choose You're Next as my Rogue Feat which allows me to Frighten (apply a -1 to all Checks) an enemy if I reduce another enemy that they can see to 0 Hit Points and Assurance as my Skill Feat which lets me Take 10 with any Skill I'm Trained in.

I'm intrigued by character creation and more interested in PF2 than I thought I would be, I am dubious about all of the Keywords but I hope to give it a try someday.

Rogar Forgeheart, 1st Level Rogue (Ruffian)

STR    14  (+2) Key Ability per Ruffian
DEX   10  (+0)
CON   12  (+1)
INT     10  (+0)
WIS    12   (+1)
CHA   10   (+0)

Hit Points 18
Speed 25 ft
AC 14 (+2 from Chain Shirt +2 from Training in Light Armor +10)

Class DC
Trained 14 (10 + Proficiency or 2 + Rogue's key Ability Mod or 2)

Trained (Rank is Level +2)
Warfare Lore

Expert (Rank is Level +4)

Saving Throws
Trained (Rank is Level +2)

Expert (Rank is Level +4)

Trained (Rank is Level +2)
Simple Weapons
Unarmed Attacks

Defenses (Paizo spells it like this)
Light Armor
Medium Armor
Unarmored Defense

Assurance (Skill)
Rock Runner (Ancestry)
You're Next (Rogue)

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Loving D&D Enough to Hate It

Today, after several weeks of people clamoring for changes on Twitter, such as dropping the word "race" or angry that orcs and drow are portrayed as purely "evil", Wizards of the Coast's Jeremy Crawford issued a statement that addressed recent changes that had occurred and would continue to occur to address the issue.

You can find it here

I'm not going to lie and say this is anything my group and I have ever had trouble with, while some games we've played used orcs and drow as purely evil, I seriously doubt that any long-running groups are completely static in their approach.

The Monster Manual for ADnD 1st Edition was the first RPG book I ever read through. I had loved Clash of the Titans and therefore mythology and when I discovered a book full of monsters at my local B. Daltons I was blown away. It felt like I read through it for hours while my parents shopped the Mall the store was located in. Before we left the Mall, I asked my parents if I could buy the book and they offered to take me to a nearby toy store and I promptly forgot about it. The next time I was in B. Daltons the huge display at the front of the store for ADnD was gone and I didn't couldn't find them, maybe the Satanic Panic had it or maybe I was a kid and just fairly lazy.

I did get quite a few of the DnD bendy monsters and action figures and loyally watched the cartoon though. I wouldn't play my first game of ADnD until I was a Sophomore in College and that's when I found out my Mom was worried bout it because of the Satanic Panic craze (yes, I watched Mazes and Monsters and didn't really think much of it) and didn't want me to own that book so many years before.

When I began to DM ADnD 2E many of my adventures started with me flipping through the new Monstrous Manual hardcover and choosing a monster I thought was cool. I happened to love wyverns, hook horrors, and ogre magi and they appeared in my games quite a bit.

I've never assumed drow were evil because they were a matriarchy or orcs were evil because they might be inspired by the Mongels. I assumed they were monsters in DnD and were the "bad guys" that my players, the "good guys", would kill them to take their stuff. At the same time, if the players wanted to use diplomacy that was fine too. Drow might be evil, but they weren't stupid, in fact, one of the games I'm running right now has had the player's negotiate their way through a version of the Keep on the Borderlands.

My personal feeling is that if you look at a fictional creation and see within it a certain Human ethnicity then you have some serious problems and might be a racist. 

Since that is out of the way I'm going to drop some DnD publishing history. I think many of those who have voiced their displeasure with WotC's portrayals might not have been around for DnD 4th Edition. 4E's designers were willing to slaughter every sacred cow that didn't work and when a lot of us heard that we cheered as we geared up for its release.

One of those sacred cows was Alignment and another was expectations. Creatures might be known for a certain Alignment but that wasn't a hard rule at all. Gold Dragons could be Evil, Drow could be Good, Orcs could be Lawful Good. 4E wanted you to tread upon the established lore and tried to modernize DnD's tropes.

Drow might not worship Lolth, the world wasn't necessarily filled with magic item vendors, and Fighters got cool Powers too.

The Designers of 4E didn't want anyone to assume anything and that philosophy was reflected in R.A. Salvatore's novels from that period where Drizz't contemplated the fact that Race and Alignment were not linked after all and there might be plenty of other drow that wanted more out of life than to serve the Spider Queen and dwell in the Underdark. An Orc King united his people in the North and Drizz't didn't kill him. And do you want to know why? Because DnD 4E did not succeed.

Read that again, DnD 4th Edition and 4th Edition Essentials did not succeed and the plug was pulled on that edition and everyone who had either dispised or grew to despise 4E moved on to Pathfinder 1st Edition which did not choose to alter DnD's classic tropes.

I am certain that Alignment and Race were areas the 5th Edition Designers made sure to walk back as they developed the game. DnD 5E is a massive success and a cultural juggernaut right now, but during DnD Next that wasn't guaranteed. The development team was reduced to a skeleton crew and it very much felt like a last gasp effort that hit at just the right time. People loved that it was DnD again and embraced its roots.

What you need to understand is that Wizards of the Coast tried to be innovative and the fanbase left them high and dry. And now, as Nerd Culture always does, we have to persecute the thing we love to prove that we love something enough to hate it and we will not allow anyone who thinks otherwise to share that thing with us.

This is a game of make-believe with math and dice and if you lose sight of that then shame on you.

Spotlight on Soldiers of Fortune for Shadow of the Demon Lord

If you've read much of this blog you know that my favorite RPG is Shadow of the Demon Lord and it was created by the extremely talented Robert Schwalb.

Rob has released dozens upon dozens of support products for SotDL and Soldiers of Fortune is the newest and features 3 Expert classes for martial characters and can be purchased for $1.49.

In SotDL you can start at 0 or 1st level. If you start at 0 level you pick an Ancestry (think DnD Races) while at 1st level your character also picks from Warrior, Magician, Rogue, or Priest. At 3rd level you pick an Expert Path which allows you to choose from options such as Assassin, Druid, Oracle, or Witch. There is no restriction on what direction you can go and you can be as diverse or as focused as you want in leveling your character.

Soldiers of Fortune presents 3 Expert Paths with a Martial bend.

First is the Bloodletter which focuses on melee combat. Its features at Level 3 include Bloodlust that gives you the option of gaining a variable bonus that you can choose to either hit a target or substitute it for your weapon's damage and Sacrifice the Weak which gives you a bonus against targets that are already injured.
   At level 6 Taste Victory allows you another opportunity to generate Bloodlust each round and Surge of Hate give you an opportunity to use your Bloodlust to temporarily heal.
   Finally, at level 9 Spill the Blood increases the amount of damage Bloodlust does to an Injured target and Rising Bloodlust that lets you generate Bloodlust faster.

Second is the Commander which at level 3 grants a bonus to 2 Attributes, adds an additional Profession or Language, and Battle Plan that allows you to create specific Effects when certain Triggers occur. What is cool is that these Effects can be offensive to enhance your allies and defensive to hinder your enemies.
   At level 6 Go With the Flow allows you to grant a Bane to attack rolls against you or your allies within range.
   And at level 9 Master Commander allows you to grant a Boon to allies within range and a Bane to enemies within range.

The final Expert Path is Targeter which focuses on bows and crossbows and at 3rd level, they gain a bonus to 2 attributes, an additional Profession or Language, Arrow Stab that allows you to use arrows and bolts as melee weapons, Pepper With Arrows that grants a bonus to damage, Steady Hands that lowers the number of Banes on an attack roll.
   At level 6 Targeter grants you to Keen Vision which extends the range of your Perception and Bottomless Quiver.
   Finally, at level 9 Collateral Damage grants you the possibility of hitting a separate target on a missed attack roll, Precise Shot that boosts your weapon's damage and Test the Wind which allows you to alter the actual number rolled on an attack's D20.

As a fan of SotDL this is a must buy and I cannot recommend it enough.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Monstrous Monday: Them! for Apes Victorious

Them! for Apes Victorious

No. Enc.: 1d6 (2d6)
Movement: 150' (50')
Intelligence: Low
Psionic Potential: 3d4, inactive
Hits: 2d8
Armor: -2
To Hit: 13
Save: G2
Attacks: 1
Damage: 1d6
Morale: 9
XP: 16

Huge, organized terrors that stalk the Forbidden Zone.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2020

GameDreaming: Champions 4th Edition

For a long time now I've been looking for that "perfect" Supers RPG, which we all know doesn't really exist. But what I'm kind of mad about is that I didn't think to look at my first RPG love, Champions 4th Edition/HERO System, for the answer.

I know Champions 4 & 5 like the back of my hand, it was like a language, my group, & I learned and used for years. However, I've really been looking for a Supers RPG where you don't roll buckets of D6 (and in Champions case have to count them for Stun, Body, and Knockback) and have huge amounts of Resistant Defenses.

I've also had a Super-Powered Agents Campaign in my brain for well over 20 years that for some reason I decided to run using GURPS which just isn't my bag. I liked buying new game systems and I was convinced GURPS was superior because it had the Wild Cards sourcebooks. I was wrong, for me at least, I mean maybe if I'd found GURPS first it would be my first RPG love, but that is not how it happened.

Anyway, I've been driving back and forth to see my Daughter and my brand-new Granddaughter every weekend and it gives me about 90 minutes to "gamedream" (daydreaming about RPGs) while the rubber meets the road.

It made got me thinking about running Champions at a lower point level, maybe even set Speed at a specific level, and cap Defenses, Combat Values, and Damage Dice. I'm not sure why it took nearly 30 years to have that epiphany but it got me thinking about Champions again.

I do need to think about Disadvantages and Skills a bit, but right now things are cooking with gas.

I think the Characters will belong to an Intelligence Agency dealing with Weird Threats, I'm thinking of naming it ECHELON or SPECTRUM. VESPA was the name I chose back in the day, I didn't realize it was a MoPed though so I'm not sure I'm going to stick with it.

I don't know when or if I'll run it, but it's cool to think about. It would also be nice to teach some of my newer players a full-blown point-buy system.

Spotlight on Magic World

I remember the first time I encountered an RPG system using percentiles. It was so clear and easy to understand: I have a 60% to Climb, 55% to shoot a Bow, 45% to Dodge. It just made sense.

The first Chaosium game I owned was Stormbringer as it was given to me as a gift and I had never read Moorcock (I grew up on comic books, cartoons, and action movies) and the game grabbed me. Unfortunately, the Demon Summoning magic system wasn't my cup of tea (I'm a mid-western Catholic boy and its hard to let that go when you are a young lad), but it led me to the Eternal Champion and it led me to other Chaosium gems, including Magic World.

While RuneQuest and Glorantha are cool, neither is my cup of tea. I'm not a big fan of Hit Locations and Glorantha just doesn't grab me. However, I'm a huge fan of the Basic Role Playing Big Gold Book and that led me to check out Magic World.

What I like about it is that it is closer to Call of Cthulhu and Stormbringer's version of the BRP and not so close to RuneQuest/Mythras. It's more straight forward in my opinion, yes, it might make sense that Climb defaults to your Dexterity + Strength as a Percentage chance of success, but I'm cool with handwaving it at 40% as the default.

While Magic World isn't Dungeons and Dragons it does take all the cool bits of Stormbringer, RuneQuest, and decades worth of BRP and finely tunes them to heroic fantasy without classes.

Even though you probably know how to play a BRP game most take one or two things here and there and make them their own.

One of the things that caught me about Magic World is that while you can have a pool of points to spend amongst Skills you also have the option of assigning fixed percentages to a fixed number of Skill which helps to make sure that your character is competent in the things they want to do best instead of falling into the trap of a bunch of Skills at 40%. This same idea was used in Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition and I think it's just brilliant.

Another cool idea is that if your Power attribute is 15 or higher you can cast spells and have Power Points to fuel Sorcery. Basically, you ready spells in memory and then you spend the appropriate amount of Power Points and the spell is cast. If the spell can be resisted there is a contest between the Caster and the Target. The spells aren't as destructive as DnD, but they work and fit with the more subtle nature of Magic World. There are also other Magic Systems in the Advanced Sorcery supplement.

I can't say when the next time I run Magic World will be, but I think it could a nice change from the Class and Levels of DnD and other OSR games. Chaosium makes good stuff and Ben Monroe who edited MW did a great job. He took all the various parts from some very talented designers and worked them into a cohesive and appealing whole. Its a shame that Chaosium doesn't have plans to support it as several supplements were in production at one time.

If you are looking for a different fantasy game, please think about giving Magic World a try.

Chaosium hosts a free Quick-Start here.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

D&D Beyond is Selling Dice

DnD Beyond is a tool that I use and enjoy. My whole group works with it and during the Quarantine, it worked great with Roll20, especially if you are using Beyond20 for Chrome and Firefox.

I will admit that I'm disappointed that the App won't allow you to display your character sheet and roll dice, BUT you can do those things with your phone/tablet's web browser.

Since I have a Master Level account I'm able to use the Beta Dice Rolling feature. It is s a little slow to roll in my opinion, but it works just fine (I also hope there will be the option to hear the dice roll).

This week DnD Beyond began selling a digital set of dice to go with the release of Mythic Odysseys of Theros going live there. The dice are cool looking and I'm contemplating buying them.

My main issue is that these digital dice are $14.99 which as a Game Retailer is more than most of Chessex and Q-Workshop's physical dice set. I will add though, that through June 9th half the proceeds will go to Black Lives Matters, which I applaud.

I understand that DnD Beyond needs to make money but I'm not too keen on this price point. I'd be much happier with 5.99 to 9.99 as these are virtual dice. If you want to simply provide options besides black or white that costs you the $7.96

I realize that in 2020 this is a pretty tiny concern but it bothers me and I thought it should be addressed.

I will probably end up buying them, especially with the donation to BLM, but I'm going to be grumpy if that price point continues.

Thundarr the Movie

As a life-long comics fan and a retailer with a quarter century of experience, I was today years old when I discovered that Buzz Dixon and ...