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January 24, 2010

Physical Spells

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — inky @ 9:10 pm

I realize there’s virtually no demand on this blog for system hacks for pre-4e D&D, but I didn’t let that stop me before, so I don’t see why not to proceed now. Plus I still see people talking about this on enworld when I go there, since they are basically permanently stuck in a 4e-vs-3.5e turf war, so I’m still thinking about it. Right, then.

One of the main things that strikes me about magic in Conan (and other sword & sorcery properties like Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser) that isn’t represented well in most role-playing games is how physical it all is.
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May 24, 2009

Return of the Golden Parrot: GM Wrapup

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — inky @ 2:10 pm

Ok, the game ran two sessions and seems to have hit a good stopping point, so perhaps I will write a little about it. As usual the original GM notes didn’t end up having more than a vague resemblance to the final product, but that is pretty much par for the course so I didn’t have too much invested in them. Anyway, let me talk about this in a couple of different ways.
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May 11, 2009

Return of the Golden Parrot: GM Notes

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — inky @ 6:04 pm

Ok, what you need in this kind of improv setup is a vague idea of what’s going on, a list of names, and some power groups to interact with and start trouble. I’m going to try to get a little more tactical here so I also intend to make some zone maps.

So what’s going on is up for change as the game goes on, but the working hypothesis is going to be that Captain Danvers is a bad guy, that he intended all along to cheat his crew and keep the gem for himself and, furthermore, he is now up to something nefarious with this party. But that could change: he could have lost his memory, been replaced by a doppelganger, or just genuinely believe his crew is dead (but this last seems a little uninteresting unless then he turns out to be in trouble and need their help or something — clearly he can’t just hand the gem back to them).

Anyway, power groups. I figure I want at least a half-dozen and ideally more like nine, and obviously they should be linked to each other. Thus:

  • Captain Danvers:
    • Map: his estate
    • Minions: estate employees (guards with swords, etc)
    • Wants/plans: not clear; likely candidates including turnaround robbery on the guests, or doing some weird sorcery with the gem and the house and the guests’ souls
    • Notes: has the Sea’s Blood; estate has five guarding aspects of various types (dogs, guards who are watchful and loyal, voodoo spirits (?), exposed (and hence hard to sneak across))
  • Seven Blades (out-of-town thugs):
    • Map: warehouse by the docks
    • Minions: thugs with daggers, fists, and crossbows
    • Wants/plans: Perhaps Danvers stole money from them and they want it back; or perhaps they’re muscling in on the local smuggling trade; or both (maybe they don’t know who Danvers is — that might be why he stays at home)
    • Notes: Probably from Vodacce; named like Orio and Pipo and Lara and Gino and Isa
  • Local smugglers:
    • Map: smugglers’ caves? tavern?
    • Minions: smugglers (not very tough, but might set up (non-lethal?) traps)
    • Wants/plans: Worried about getting busted, worried about outsiders muscling in; don’t really care about Danvers (or does he have a deal with them to bring him in stuff? or is his estate on the smugglers’ tunnel, perhaps unknowingly? Or perhaps he knows about the tunnels and intends to use it to escape down to meet somebody?)
    • Notes: Are sort of good guys; smuggle to Vesten (“it’s an old family tradition!”); Tom and Ned and Sal and Meg
  • Pirates:
    • Map: pirate ship
    • Minions: pirates with cutlasses and hook hands and belaying pins
    • Wants/plans: Why are pirates in this area, anyway? Are they chasing someone? Or desperate?
    • Notes: Perhaps their ship is called the Golden Parrot. Wouldn’t that be enticing? Named like Bloody Dave and Pete the Peg and No-nose (he’s got a nose, but he’s a biter!) and Perkins
  • Old Money:
    • Map: ball (social map)
    • Minions: various nobles, old and young, who are arrogant, drunk, hot-tempered, bored, giggly, stone-faced, or hoity-toity
    • Wants/plans: Irritated by new-money folks like Danvers coming in and buying up the estates, but with land prices falling and blah blah; anyway, they want him gone, probably; but some probably also want to buy the gem if it’s awesome
    • Notes: Hoity-toity! Lord Roderick wants to buy the gem at the urging of his daughter Madeline; Colonel Williams leads the want-him-gone movement; Lady Genevieve is conciliatory but her son Arthur is hot-blooded and gets into trouble; Lady Samantha is young and cute and bored and dangerous (perhaps she knows thugs?)
  • Merchants:
    • Map: ball (social map), auction (social map)
    • Minions: various merchants, avaricious, ingratiating, sharp, friendly, drunk, social-climbing, eavesdroppy, sensible
    • Wants/plans: Want to make trade deals, want to buy the gem if it’s a reasonable price, don’t want to offend the nobility who they need to buy the wool from
    • Notes: Rachel is the top trader looking to buy the gem; Johannes is looking to bump her off his pedestal — they don’t get along (perhaps Johannes doesn’t even want the gem, he’ll just bid it up); Dominic is working with the smugglers
  • Local Farmers and Shepherds:
    • Map: tavern (social/combat map)
    • Minions: semi-rustic folk but come into the city a fair amount, dumb, quiet, watchful, quick to anger, get drunk easily, looking for a sharp deal, willing to cheat strangers, honest, clannish
    • Wants/plans: Think they’re being overcharged by the nobility, want someone to ask Queen Elaine to get rent prices dropped
    • Notes: Jim and Hank and Emma and Zeena and Nate; probably working with the smugglers

May 8, 2009

Return of the Golden Parrot: Rules

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — inky @ 8:45 pm

I wrote up a summary of the rules earlier but here is a more up-to-date version of some things to know.

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May 6, 2009

Return of the Golden Parrot: Intro

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — inky @ 10:30 pm

Ok, shuffling around everyone’s preferences, it looks like we’re going to be playing on Saturdays from 12-5 mud time (ie, eastern), starting May 16th and running 3 or 4 weeks. Here’s the premise:

Four years ago, the Golden Parrot, under the command of Captain Danvers, set out on a dangerous mission to find an enormous emerald, known as The Sea’s Blood. Danvers put together the crew on the promise of sharing the wealth equally should the jewel be found, and after various dangers and troubles, it was. But the gem was never sold: on the night before the crew was to arrive back at port, a huge storm came up and the ship sank. Most of the crew survived, but not Captain Danvers. Or so they thought.

A few weeks ago, one of the former crew heard the news of a newly-arrived stranger in town, a man with a priceless jewel he intended to display at a fabulous ball and then auction off at the ball’s conclusion. The jewel was the Sea’s Blood. The man was Captain Danvers. It was time for justice.

The remnants of the crew gathered back together, intent on piecing together what really happened, and getting their own back from Danvers — one way or another.

Interested? Awesome. Let’s talk characters:
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May 3, 2009

Summer Swashbuckling Extravaganza

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — inky @ 7:51 pm

Summer movie season has started, and you know what that means: we all play swashbuckling rpgs on the mud. Well, ok, it doesn’t mean that, but it should, and it’s starting with me. Starting in a couple weeks, probably the weekend of May 16th or 23rd, I’m going to run a 3-4 session swashbuckling-type game: you can expect duels, jewels and fools; swinging and singing; drinking and thinking; broochies and smoochies. System-wise it’s going to be my Spirit of the Century/7th Sea conversion or some variant thereof — if you are familiar with either system you should have no problem.

If you’re interested, please let me know your preference for scenario and time. I’ve got the following slots available:

  • Saturday afternoon: noon to five, eastern
  • Saturday evening: three to eight, eastern
  • Sunday afternoon: noon to five, eastern
  • Sunday evening: three to eight, eastern

(Note that the Saturday ones overlap with ClubFloyd, which is lame, but the swashbuckling must go on)

And here are some scenarios, though I am open to other proposals:

  • In Search of the Golden Parrot: The PCs are crew or passengers on a ship, which might be explore-y or pirate-y. They come into possession of a treasure map and race to track down the treasure before their rivals do.
  • For the Honor of the Queen: The PCs are guards in Montaigne, and find themselves involved in politics, war, and romance (probably a similar vibe to the game I ran way back when)
  • Balls and Back Alleys: The PCs are members of the court of one of the Vodacce princes, and have to move between high and low society to carry out the prince’s affairs.
  • The Big Score: Some kind of heist game, swashbuckling-style. Probably set in Vesten or Montaigne.
  • Who Was That Masked Man?: Zorro-type action in Castille. Probably involving raids on horseback. (lpsmith has dibs on El Vago but I figure there’s room for more without stepping on toes.)

So let’s hear it! (And if you’re not convinced, watch this.)

March 2, 2009

Helvetica post-mortem

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — inky @ 12:07 am

Recently our group finished the Helvetica campaign that I was a player in. Overall it was pretty awesome — there was plenty of fighting and disguising and lying to NPCs and burning stuff down and crashing through the gates at the last minute (there was a good bit right at the end where we’re fighting over a book on the second floor of a building, and finally one guy grabs it and tears out of the room, and everyone else jumps out the window and we’re wrestling over it in the streets and then my guy rolls up in a carriage and we make tracks out of the city).

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February 14, 2009

My sources say yes

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — inky @ 11:32 am

Going by the principle that anything with dice you can build an rpg around (with fuzzy dice, for instance, you could play a rousing game of Desert Bus), how about using a Magic 8-Ball as a resolution mechanic?

Looking at the standard 8-ball answers, they have a couple useful properties. One is that you succeed about half the time, which is nice, and another is that some portion of the non-succeeding time it’s not a failure either (“Ask again later”). In addition, although they break down roughly into 10 successes, 5 failures, and 5 neutrals, the actual wording is different enough you could do some amusing arguing about them with the GM, or throw in some “yes, but” and “no, but” partial successes/failures. Like “Yes – definitely” is clearly a total success, whereas “You may rely on it” means you get the intent of what you asked for, but the other person can throw in a little something extra. The neutrals could mean a variety of things depending on the situation: a tie, or the situation changes such that the contest is no longer important, or even a cue to cut dramatically to another player’s scene and ask again about this one later.

I’m not sure how you’d handle skills in this system. Perhaps something new where skills define how much you can attempt to resolve and the mechanic tells you whether you get it or not. Like, a novice fighter can ask the 8-ball “do I wound the orc with my sword?” and if it says no, well, then, I guess not (though you could perhaps still stun the orc or something). But the expert is allowed to ask “do I behead this entire legion of orcs with one sweep of my broadsword?” and if it says no, then they have to fall back on some more minor effect, but they have more room for a partial success: “I guess not, but I can do it in a few sweeps, it just takes longer” or “I guess not, but I do behead half the orcs”

And, of course, the major advantage of using the magic 8-ball for an rpg is that arbitrating divination spells becomes extremely easy.

February 10, 2009

Making titles mean something

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — inky @ 8:23 pm

One of the memorable things about earlier versions of D&D is that every level has an associated title — first-level wizards are Prestidigitators, fifth-level fighters are Swashbucklers, third-level assassins are Waghalters (not really all that intimidating). But with the exception of “name level”, when you top out the title system and (in 1e, at least) can build a stronghold and start accumulating followers, none of the titles mean anything: just because you’re a Swashbuckler doesn’t mean you’re actually swashbuckly in any way.

So why not fix that? Earlier editions don’t have much of a skill system, so you generally end up using ability or skill checks if someone wants to do something. Well, take that, and then if the character’s doing something related to their title, give them a +4 to the roll: fifth-level Swashbucklers get a bonus if they’re trying to make the ladies swoon or disarm a troop of guardsmen,  but once they hit sixth level and become a Myrmidon, then they get bonuses for bodyguarding and military formations.

Note that this plays well with the old-school tradition of characters dying frequently and starting off again at first level: now there’s actually a reason for you to want a second-level magic user around even though the rest of the party is fifth level, because the second-level guy is an expert Evoker and that might be just what you need. This also helps compensate some for weak fighters, another common complaint: they’ve got titles like Hero and Champion that can be applied to a lot of different situations.

This is pretty simple but I imagine there are a lot of other interesting things you could do with level titles. I haven’t even mentioned cleric titles, for instance, which clearly imply steady advancement up a religious hierarchy and the wealth and power and politics that leads to..

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