Thursday 27 June 2013

An Interesting Conundrum

So I accidentally gave my players at-will breath weapons.

I'll cover the rune system I made in some later post, but suffice to say that anybody can draw and activate these runes, but you get AC and move speed penalties while they're active.

In this case my players created what they termed a "super laser rune" which shoots out a deadly fan of fire and lightning.
Upon seeing its success in wiping out a wave of ghouls in the countryside, the fighter immediately carved the rune onto his breastplate.

I treated it as a breath weapon when he first used it, 2d6 damage and save vs. breath for half.
But now I'm in a tricky position where every single person in the party can draw and use this thing within a couple of rounds, making a mockery of a lot of fights.

And the worst part is that it's working entirely as intended.

How powerful is too powerful for my guys? Should I feel bad that they can barbeque a room full of mooks with their chest lasers? What about when they work out how to create a laser gun?

But really I'm not too worried. I'm stoked that they're really interested in exploiting a system I designed to be heavily exploitable, and a 2d6 breath weapon isn't particularly game breaking.

The fact that there's already a built in AC penalty thing gives an intrinsic penalty to their use, and I'm happy with that.

The impact on the world will be very interesting to see. It's a low magic setting and of course the populace is terrified of magic, but runes bring magic to the common man.
If they keep using runes in plain sight like they've been doing, the secret will be out. My low magic setting will start to transition to a high magic setting, and the impact of that could be great fun in a first-empire-to-get-gunpowder kind of way. Especially now that they've got them carved onto breastplates and stuff for anyone to see.

They've unleashed a lot of apocalypses in their time, but a technological revolution? This could get good!

Wednesday 19 June 2013

So I Ran Death Love Doom

So I ran Death Love Doom.

Some choice quotes from my players:
  • "I'd like to buy 5 rumours please!"
  • "Uh guys I think we found where the horse's head went."
  • "Oh there's a picture of her? Ew gross."
  • "Sure whatever I'll go in first fuck it."
  • "Am I the only one who's going to stab this fucking baby!?!"
  • "Oh great something's moving in there. I wonder what's wrong with its vagina this time."
  • "Dude fuck you I've gone into all the rooms first it's your turn."
  • "What the fuck man. Did you pay actual money for this? Who the fuck wrote this."
  • "I told you we should have fucking left as soon as we saw that shit with the baby."
  • "Don't you dare fucking touch that fucking necklace."

All in all, a good time!

I've always thought that James Raggi's "Way too fucking dark man your players will flip shit gonna slap an 18+ on here" stuff is way more playable and far less your-players-will-never-play-in-your-game-again than he gives himself credit for.

But then this one's a bit different.
I first read this on the train and was going "oh shit ok, turning my back to the window now".
To put this in context I once watched the naked-chicks-and-copious-blood first episode of Elfen Lied on a train and didn't bother.
It's chock full of Really Awful Stuff of the body horror variety, and I'd be doing it a disservice to summarise it all here.

But my guys pretty much won this shit.

They overheard thieves going over their plans to rob the Bloodworth Estate, tipped the bartender a bunch for rumours.
They twigged onto what was going on as soon as the chandelier girl did her spiel, and decided to be worried about the guy, his mistress, and the granny.
From then on, it was kill first, kill again endeavour.

Remember kids, run away from Granny when she's got a demon in her!

 As luck would have it though, the first "creature" they fought was the undead-miscarried-baby-dragging-its-mother-via-its-umbilical-cord.
It was a nice introduction to the rest of this place. They were suitably freaked out.
Plus they were really remarkably lucky. The room with the tongue and cock-grub should have gone so much worse, but they passed their paltry paralyze saves without a scratch.

Rooms were explored, players were creeped out further, peals of nervous laughter were laughed when they found a statue of McIver.

A couple of giant-bug-possessed people were quickly dispatched with only a "that was way too easy" to their names...

And then Grandma Penelope shuffled up the steps.
She'd had a lot of leadup in the form of snip-snipping sounds, occasional cackles, and heavy footsteps. And now she was here.
They freaked a little when I asked them to pick a number between 1 and 8 to be their "lucky" number where Granny got to make some Adjustments.
It's probably the first time I've heard someone say "7? 7 damage? Oh thank god".

But menacing as she was, though, it turns out that when people really want to use the Big Purple d30 Rule they really use the Big Purple d30 Rule.
Big Bad Granny Penny went down like a sack of shit in the face of four seperate d30 damage rolls.
Poor old granny.

So hostiles despatched and top floor reached, they decided to grab whatever loot they could find and get the hell out of dodge. Clever fellows that they are, my players even grabbed the box of ominous necklace rather than let it fall into the hands of any robbers who would come after.

And so that was that!

Of course, the best part about running a LotFP adventure is the long term impact on your campaign world and players.
Now they've got an evil, cursed, incredibly valuable necklace that actively wants to be found.

I also had the psychic body-controlling insect things go ghostly and disappear through the floorboards when their tortured hosts were killed.

Will they be back for those who foiled the amulet's plans? You bet!

Monday 17 June 2013

Being a Player

Hot damn, I was able to actually play DnD for the first time in forever these last couple of weeks.
And it's really fucking different.

First off, since I'm usually the DM, I had insights into the whole dungeon mastering shebang that nobody else really had.
Second off, the DM I was playing under kept looking at me to make sure he was doing good.
Third off, my game is the only game he's played in so he came pre-indoctrinated into the OSR cult. Plus I gave him the LotFP referee book and thus am I able to play in the sort of game I like to run.The perfect ploy.

It's been a pretty great couple of weeks all round, compounded by the fact that I overheard one of my players selling some random guy on my game at a party.

But anyway, after months and years of holding all the cards, it's super weird to be a player. But also super fun!

A play by play -

First session I lose 3 characters in +James Raggi's Tower of the Stargazer, which I had purposefully avoided reading, before surviving and hightailing with much loot with a fourth. I died a lot because I know Raggi's stuff pretty well at this point and knew that Fun-With-An-Ominous-Capital-F would ensue if I messed with all of the things.

Deaths included:
  • Trapped inside one of five magic mirrors, mimed bringing the mirror that previously made an evil mirror-clone come out of it and place it in front of my own, hoping to step out into the real world. Instead, cause infinite clones come out of infinite mirrors and shattered all of them... and myself.
  • Licked salt from the magic circle which kept an insane wizard from escaping.
  • Did all the steps to utilise a super space telescope and got beamed across space and eaten by the doopy dancing slime-natives of the planet I arrived on. I don't know what I was expecting to happen, but it wasn't this!
So anyway, kind of a character funnel in it's own way. I had a blast!
The guy who escaped with treasure was a throwaway halfling with middling stats known as Wuggles Bungo.

Next session it's just me and another guy who show up. We're in Generic Not Even Named Fantasy Medieval Township and so Wuggles Bungo, halfling party master, decides to spend the shit out of his loot and make a name for himself with his arms crossed in a douchey manner the entire time.
His motto: "The party don't start til I walk in"
Something I learnt - dicking around in town spending all your money and being a top bloke is actually a lot of fun. No longer will I be worried about people's enjoyment when my players are on one of their frequent shopping trips!

So shopping trip over, plate armour on and my two new intensely loyal men-at-arms in tow, we decide to look for some adventure! Conveniently placed guards tell us there's a place called Goblin Gully just across the way.

I've seen this one page dungeon before, but I don't let on due to my newly discovered drive to be a filthy metagamer.
Things I could remember included a tree with goblins in it, a bridge, a ceiling with a hole for goblins to chill in, and an evil slime in the depths.

Half the dungeon and several goblin corpses later I send my injured henchmen home with a hefty cash bonus since I am a good guy hobbit and I know a funeral isn't much of a party.
We cross a fairly rickety bridge, meet a goblin, and I bluff hard by saying I'm an albino goblin and a friend. We murder him. His friend calls out to him from above, we wave his arm out into his vision like Woody with Buzz's arm in Toy Story. I climb the rope, the goblin boss sees through my "amazing" disguise, and after running deeper into the dungeon we end up trapped in the lowest level of the dungeon ever-so-close to a giant slime.

"Shit, well, I've got ten days of rations, I'm sure our henchmen will be back to find us when we don't return in a few days."
"Why would they come back?"
"Uh we worked out some protocols with them in the bar before we left, this is Omega Protocol B5 - if we are missing come find us or we won't be able to pay your wages."
"... fine"

Credit where it really is due, newbie DM did a bang up job of letting us play as my henchmen in their thrilling rescue mission. They distracted the goblins, while our "real" characters used barely plausible thief kit instruments to knock the bar off the door and barge it down.
Of course, we broke the door off the hinges, leading to a dead sprint out of Goblin Gully with an enormous, potentially town-destroying slime on our tail.

All in all, it went pretty well!

Monday 3 June 2013

Char Gen is Super Boring

Ramble time!
One Choice. That's all my players get at char gen.

Admittedly for most of them this is the first tabletop rpg they've ever played, so that's all they need.
But it's also all I'd want if I was rolling a new character.

Choices at character generation are really fucking boring in general, and completely overwhelming to the newcomer.
They've heard things about this game, filtered down through pop culture and geek references. You roll funny shaped dice! You pretend to be an elf! People wear funny hats when they play it! You play as a dungeon or possibly as a dragon!

Whatever the actual system is, they come to the session and their thought process goes something like "oh god look at all these people I hope they like me" and then probably "I sure hope I'm not bad at this game I don't want to screw up and have them laugh at me".
And then you give them a sheet covered in arcane symbols and notations and boxes and terminology and they go "oh shit this is really complicated I'm gonna fail".

This is where it splits.

You could just say "Look at these classes, pick one that sounds rad. Then I'll get you to roll some dice so we can write down some numbers on your sheet and we'll get going!"
And then if they ask "but how do I know what I can do?" you tell them "Pretty much anything you can do in real life!" and then you're off and running and the newbie is experiencing DnD and having fun and insulting the dice and all that jazz!

Or you could say "Look at these classes, pick one that sounds rad. Then look at these races, pick one that sounds rad, but be careful because some classes are better on certain races. Then take these six numbers and put them in places that complement the kind of guy you want to play as. Then look at this feat list and pick one of fifty options. Then decide which of these skills you want to be good at, although you're already good at some of them because of those six numbers you assigned earlier so you might want to be good at those ones."
And then if they ask "but how do I know what I can do?" you give them yet another mouthful of terminology.
And they're really scared because look at all these numbers. And everyone knows that if something has lots of numbers you can be bad at it.

Plus if you spend a lot of time on the character sheet it makes it seem like the sheet itself is important. Which a fairly important distinction.
4e was pretty balls to run because people used their sheets for everything from skills to attack powers, and so if they were posed with a challenge they'd all look down at their sheets to see what the best way of overcoming the challenge with one of the numbers they had.
My current OSR mashup-thing game is really fun to run because the sheets are only really used to record the stuff they've picked up over time. If they're posed with a challenge they think about it and ask me for descriptions and stuff. This challenges my own improvising skills and creates situations and locations that I never anticipated. Then when they've decided on the plan of action, that's when the sheet comes into play.

And stats? Give me random stats over point buy any day. Point buy is only useful if you've got a balance fetish, and a balance fetish leads to a million rules, each more boring than the last.

Case in point - the spell Command.

Here's the LotFP version:
When a Cleric casts this spell, he may give the
subject a single word command, which it obeys
to the best of its ability. The single word must
make sense as a single command, such as
approach, drop, fall, flee, halt, surrender, sleep,
etc. Although a target could be instructed to die,
this will only make the target take on a coma
tose state for a single round. Note that the
caster must be able to speak the language of the
target. Any intended target who has more than
5 levels or hit dice or an Intelligence of over 12
is entitled to a saving throw. This spell is
ineffective against undead
Here's the Pathfinder version:
You give the subject a single command, which it obeys to the best of its ability at its earliest opportunity. You may select from the following options.
Approach: On its turn, the subject moves toward you as quickly and directly as possible for 1 round. The creature may do nothing but move during its turn, and it provokes attacks of opportunity for this movement as normal.
Drop: On its turn, the subject drops whatever it is holding. It can't pick up any dropped item until its next turn.
Fall: On its turn, the subject falls to the ground and remains prone for 1 round. It may act normally while prone but takes any appropriate penalties.
Flee: On its turn, the subject moves away from you as quickly as possible for 1 round. It may do nothing but move during its turn, and it provokes attacks of opportunity for this movement as normal.
Halt: The subject stands in place for 1 round. It may not take any actions but is not considered helpless.
If the subject can't carry out your command on its next turn, the spell automatically fails.
I love shit that can be exploited cleverly by a player, which is why I love the LotFP version of Command. One word, obeyed to the letter. But! It has to be a single word that encompasses the entirety of the player's intention so they can use some sweet sweet vocabulary skills to great effect.
By contrast, Pathfinder's version is the most fucking boring spell I've ever seen in my life. Pick one of five utterly boring balanced words of mild utility. Urgh.

But anyway I'm not sure where I was going with that one. Swinging back on topic, char gen choices are way boring. I'd prefer a character to be special based on what they've done and how they act in the game, not special because they took Two Handed Fighting over Improved Crotch Grab at level 3.

For myself, I don't even like having a proper character concept in mind when I'm making a character. Hell, nobody ever ends up sticking to their original concept anyway.

So if it's a game I've never tried before just roll me up some random stats, give me a different class to everybody else so as not to step on any toes, and we'll see what happens.

That'd be awesome.