Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Spirit of '77 Double Feature #3 is Available!

In the latest episode of the Happy Jacks RPG Podcast, it was mentioned that the latest set of adventures for Spirit of '77 are available on RPGNow/DriveThruRPG.

Double Feature #3 - The Guns of Brixton and Nine Lives in the Fast Lane contains the two adventures, plus rules for the fixer.  

It's good news if you blow away the kid in your backseat and need to call on The Wolf.

All for the action packed price of $7.77 for the pdf.

#RPGaDay 2016 Day #31 Best Advice You Were Given

We conclude with this year's RPGaDay, with a bit of controversy:  "Best advice you were given for your system of choice."

One of the many quotable lines from the Knights of the Dinner Table comic, and subsequent Hackmaster RPG is "Let the dice fall where they may,"  and every year that advice is looking truer and truer. 

I can hear the roars of protest from gamers claiming "It's about the story/characters."  "Don't you want them to succeed and have a good time? 

If was worried about concocting a feel-good story, I can play a fairy RPG that I run for my girls, and guess what?  They still fail 200% more often than your min-maxed "story-driven" PC.

With every campaign I fudge my dice less and less until I'm at the point now where changing the dice results would be an insult to my players.  Sure, there are the decapitations of a hero by a one-armed kobold that have the statistical probability of a crazed Pokémon Go player crashing through my office window... on the fifth floor, but if you know the odds, you must accept a certain degree of risk. 

On the Happy Jacks RPG Podcast, there was a listener email which blew my mind.  He had played in a Rolemaster game where the PCs started at 20th level.  He created a Paladin with a "smite evil, ask questions later mentality."  In his first encounter, he met a giant, leveled his lance, charged, and was summarily obliterated by the creature on one critical die roll. 

The hosts blamed the GM, blamed the mechanics, blame everything but the player.

The player had a moronic character concept, acted stupidly, and whined like a spoiled brat when a decent statistical possibly actually occurred. 

Sometimes the House gets Blackjack, no matter what the odds.

You know what type of reunion isn't well attended?  The "blindly charge into combat " Paladin class that started at first level.  The fact that such a person could get through nineteen previous levels and wasn't mangled, battlescarred, or had such tremendous defensives to improve survivability is a severe failure as a player, and a minor GM failure for not bringing up a tremendous design flaw.   If the giant still managed to kill the Paladin with appropriate changes in tactics and character stats, then by all means, make him a main plot point in the campaign. 

I don't fudge NPCs successes because I don't fudge ridiculous NPC failures either.    My Cthulhu players have thrived in an environment of repeated cultist incompetence, so I felt no unease when the cultists in Jackson Elias' room started rolling impales. 

Investigator Hans became Hans-less and the others remembered the gravity of the situation.   

After a far-easier than anticipated trip to Shanghai in Masks of Nylarathotep, the group is planning for the finale in the bad guy's lair and they know the luck needs a massive swing back to average out. 

(Edit: SPOILERS As I typed this up a wee bit before our Masks finale, that has since been completed and I still let the dice determine the outcome, including the bad guy not being in his secret volcano lair, and a shoggoth failing on a 100% skill roll.  Of course, the Imperial Japanese Government is in possession of mystical aerospace technology, and thousands are dying from radioactive fallout in 1925 Shanghai

Good Times...) 

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

(Hackmaster) Burning Trogs Rule! #52: The End of Arms

3rd of UnDec, 1136
On the dawn of the 3rd of UnDec, peace reigned across Barthey.  The humanoid armies of the Master either scattered back into Yarbay or into the nearby hills.  Human forces maintained their weapons and marched back to either Yarbay or Parthia.

22nd of Undec, 1136 - Barthey City, Empire of Barthey
It took the Burning Trogs a few weeks to finally return to Barthey City to file their final report.    Military mobilization in Marakeikos and Stronghome, and unconfirmed chaos in Hermetus and Vlachia made most land and sea travel unbearable.   Throw in over 450-plus heavy cavalrymen from another country, and it turns into a quagmire.

Once they finally arrived in Barthey City, they were given audience in the Imperial Palace by General Winters and the Emperor's Chief Advisor, Theodosius Marcin.   Upon hearing the Trogs' oral report, the pair filled them in on the activities of the Imperial Army. 

While the Master's forces had moved in swiftly and secretly into Akorros, the armies had great difficulties breaching the defenses of most other towns and cities.  Certainly villages were no match against their evil, and many interior towns finally succumbed after long sieges, the coastal towns, with support from the Imperial Navy, not only toughed it out, but many times broke out of the walls to break the siege.  Yarbay's navy was a mismatch of pirates and privateers in their hire.  Not much of a match against a well-armed convoys bringing relief. 

Although the Master's armies reached the city of Urstanbakka, 200 miles of the capital, its supply lines were stretched thin and subject to Barthey raids from the north and south. 
The new units from Marakeikos and Danaan had just arrived and were performing well against the nearest fronts before the truce was called.

The Trogs' efforts in actively forming alliances with Danaan, Marakeikos, and Stronghome have strengthened the safety and defenses of the Western Mer Kasp for years to come.  In secret communiques with the Queen of Marakeikos, she has admitted that a trade alliance with her country and the gnomes and halflings was more advantageous, but after years of in-fighting by her own subjects, Marakeikos was more than willing to support and aid her neighbor in any just cause. 

In appreciation for all there efforts, there was to be a formal ceremony with the Emperor himself.  Up until this point, only successful generals had been given such an honor. 

24th of UnDec, The Imperial Palace, Barthey City, The Empire of Barthey
After enough time to get clothing fitting of an audience with his magnificence, Emperor Koprostes X the Constant, the Trogs were fully decked out with every military award previously given (and a few Gnome Titan ribbons Fonzy found in the bazaar.  A little spit and polish and it would be befitting of a General!)

Koprostes was elderly man, struggling under the pomp and circumstance of robes, armor, and crown to find the imposing frame he had as youth.  He did little speaking, relying on his Chief Advisor to do so in his stead.

First the officers of the 1st Barthey Expeditionary Force were brought forward.

Colonels Cassilius, Leonidas, and Bright were promoted to Thematon Agens Vice Legati and given commands of armies protecting the eastern border with Yarbay and Parthia.  Traditionally, commands of the armies protecting duchies, city-states, and minor kingdoms were appointed by the local ruler.  Obviously, this had failed horribly along the border, and the inland provinces, so generals with direct guidance from the Emperor himself, and above the desires of the greedy locals should work better. 

General Backares was the only general in the Empire not to fight against the Master (even General Winters).  He was granted the honorific Backares Marakeikus Invictus and granted a post as Thematon Agens Vice Legati of the garrison of his hometown of Dorylimos.

Almost all of the Trogs, including sidekicks, protégés, and Coreena were called forth and Emperor shuffled over to award them and the military officers a Phalera Tetracross,  a giant disk of the Barthey coat of arms meant to be either inserted into a suit of armor, or worn as a medallion. 

Mutumbo, for his limited action helping the Trogs, was ecstatic.

The Kropostes sat down and the advisor asked everyone, save the Ambassadors Spectacular and Extraordinary who had originally been appointed by General Winters to step down. 

  • Zorin
  • Gwen
  • Fonzie
  • Cecelia
  • Gwen
  • Terval
  • Janus

  • First, by Imperial Decree, the Ambassadors were awarded a special Civic Crown, the highest order given to a civilian.  A gilded wreath of olive branches was placed on each of their heads. 

    They were then awarded Obsidian Medals, for their work evacuating the city during the Siege of Akorros. 

    The Imperial Treasury bequeathed each member an additional 20,000 gold for their efforts.

    Finally, the Emperor granted them each a coastal estate in the autonomous region known as Treibezond.  Treibezond had taken the brunt of the Master's attacks, but these were seaside estates that escaped most of the carnage.  Each estate was a large, self-supported community which generated at least 10,000 gp annually, largely from hazelnut harvests, hardwood lumbering, some mining, and some rental payments from the local residents.    All government services, militia, army, etc where conducted by the Duchy of Sarboria.  The Trogs there were simply feudal landowners with the local title Eparch Patricia (Local Lord or Father)

    While there was no requirement to permanently reside there, any appearance of abandonment, or, any appointment to the landed nobility of another land essentially forfeited ownership.  The Emperor giveth, and the Emperor can taketh away just as easy.

    The Estate Names Given to the Trogs:
  • Zorin - Demurli
  • Gwen - Bacali
  • Fonzie - Yomra
  • Cecelia - Aiden Teppe
  • Terval - Cowbun
  • Janus - Balzmaca

  • .... and with that, the Campaign of the Burning Trogs comes to a close.

    Next: #53 Campaign Epilogue

    #RPGaDay 2016 Day #30 Describe the Ideal Game Room, if the Budget Were Unlimited

    Describe the Ideal Game Room, if the Budget Were Unlimited?

    Back on Day 9, I covered my Ideal Gaming Session, which largely covered utility over frivolity.  Keep me away from "Living Room Gaming" with couches, comfy chairs and end tables and coffee tables to roll dice on and I would be fine. 

    I also quickly covered this in RPGaDay 2015 Day 22 Perfect Gaming Environment.

    To go crazy, money no-object, I would take flood-proof basement.  Heavily waxed old school black and white institutional tile,  a chair rail and wainscoting in a nice walnut. 

    Dominating the floor would be an over-sized turn of the 20th Century pool table, for when the mundanes come over.  Many of these did come with a fashionable, yet rigid cover to use it for other purposes, but I would have a second additional board constructed, with braces to hold it in place, that could withstand the rigors and spillage of role-playing, as well as miniature wargaming.  Height-appropriate stools (possibly low-backs) would be used to sit. 

    I would keep my reference books upstairs in the library (if I can afford this room, I can afford a freaking library), but there would be display cases to show off miniatures, with room behind them for general miniature/terrain storage.  

    Besides the display cases would be the bar...  fully stocked, four or five beers on tap (Yuengling products would be the minimum quality.)    I did say on Day 9 I would institute a 1 drink minimum/2 drink max during an RPG session (when plausible)...

     I think that would do nicely....

    Monday, August 29, 2016

    (Kickstarter) Base Boss by Reaper

    As Reaper waits for the final pieces to finish production in China, they have launched a new campaign for items being produced closer to home.

    Reaper is using their Base Boss Kickstarter to expand production of High Impact Plastic Styrene (HIPS) bases in their factory in Texas.

    I can see the attraction that this Kickstarter offers.   The average FLGS either stocks GW bases, which are god-awful expensive, or some poor quality third-party replacement.   To have Reaper producing bases, both slotted and otherwise, of various shapes and sizes, to a market that has had these issues since the first fantasy mini was cast, is great news.

    On the Con-side, I already have a metric ton of mdf bases, as I always grab a Chinese takeout container of them in the dealer's hall at most HMGS cons.  I may jump in just to support the effort, and restock on some round and square slotted bases, but I prefer my mdf.

    #RPGaDay 2016 Day #29 You Can Game Anywhere on Earth, Where Would You Choose?

    You Can Game Anywhere on Earth, Where Would You Choose?

    On previous days I've essentially said I could game like Tommy Lee Jones in the Fugitive, be it a gas station, residence, warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse, or dog house in that area.
    I've seen games in castles transform a mediocre game into... a mediocre game in a castle.  I've seen tremendous games played in hotel conference rooms with glow sticks and cargo netting as accoutrements.  Location doesn't really matter.

    But I constantly think about a gaming cruise, with sufficient sea days.

    I've mentioned this on the blog ad nauseum, but if I ever hit the lottery, I would take my old Hackmaster group on a 10-day cruise and restart he campaign after a 12 year hiatus, both real-time and in-game. 

    A cruise offers a ton of options.  There's a variety of locations on board to play.  No real-life interruptions (never said I'd take the spouses and kids...although I probably should).  A variety of food and beverages are available within a few hundred feet.  It's a like a floating college dorm of gaming opportunities.

    Now, if you did leave a book at home, or a die bounced off the deck, you're screwed.  And let's not talk about wi-fi costs for most cruise lines if you did need it for your laptop.   Of course, the cruises of the South Pacific have their own issues.
    I'm on a boat...
    I would force my players to take full advantage of port days.   I personally enjoy most of the ports of call, and anyway, that whole wives and kids options need a release valve so no one gets divorced post-cruise.    Proper dining in the dining rooms would also be mandatory.

    Since the people operating Mega-Millions and Powerball are keen on me actually purchasing tickets to win the jackpot, I believe it will be much  quicker and easier to simply get the Burning Trogs back together at a dining room table, real life be damned.

    Sunday, August 28, 2016

    #RPGaDay 2016 Day #28 Thing You'd Be Most Surprised a Friend Had Not Seen or Read

    Thing You'd Be Most Surprised a Friend Had Not Seen or Read

    Personally, I'd be that one friend who hasn't read or watched any Harry Potter.  Never got the appeal.  And a few pages into Game of Thrones and about twenty minutes of the show gave me little hope for more than a Fantasy version of Paranoia where everyone is on their last clone.

    To my friends, I would be saddened if any of them didn't have the basic canon of the original trilogy of Star Wars down pat. .

    As years pass by and movies are added to the catalog, I'll be less surprised to have friends who haven't watched all the movies. 

    Saturday, August 27, 2016

    #RPGaDay 2016 Day #27 Most Unusual Circumstance or Location in Which You've Gamed

    I'm a traditional gamer who's quite comfortable at the dining room table, basement, attic, garage, back deck, or even in the car on a road trip. The craziest I usually get is some Risus: IOU around the firepit after our Day of Sloth picnic. Sorry, no impromptu games in crack houses,  hospital ER waiting rooms, or on a submarine (and the kids were too young for a real RPG on the last cruise).

    If that's the case then the only option I can offer is kicking off my friend Hoyce's bachelor party weekend with a rousing Call of Cthulhu game.   

    The idea of renting a house in the Poconos to play games, grill meat, and watch The Big Lebowski was a fantastic idea.   

    I don't wish divorce on Hoyce, but I would repeat that weekend in a heartbeat. 

    Friday, August 26, 2016

    The Apathy of New Releases (Sep '16)

    Gen Con is over... and the solicitations for this month show it. 

    My "Must Have" Want List
    Osprey Publishing
    French Foreign Legion 1831-71 (OSP MAA 509) ............................................ $18.00

    My "Money is No Object" Want List
    Osprey Publishing
    Cthulhu Wars:  Ancient Rome............................................................................ $18.00
    It's not written by Kenneth Hite, but it might be a good companion book for Cthulhu Invictus.

    My Imaginary Store (The Pegleg Gnome) List

    Alderac Entertainment Group
    Love Letter Deluxe Edition ..................................................................................... $29.99
    Love Letter: Archer Once You Go Blackmail ........................................................ $11.99
    Valley of the Kings:  Last Rites .............................................................................. $19.99
    Yeti .......................................................................................................................... $29.99

    The Army Painter
    Army Painter Kings of War Paint Sets ................................................................... $29.99
    Ten paints for $30 isn't bad.  Sets: Dwarf, Greenskins, Ogres, Undead

    Bloomsbury USA
    Empire of Imagination:  Gary Gygax & the Birth of Dungeons & Dragons ......... $17.00

    Cheapass Games
    Tak ......................................................................................................................... $55.00

    Fantasy Flight Games
    Arkham Horror: The Card Game .......................................................................... $39.95
    Star Wars Imperial Assault: Skirmish Maps
    Star Wars RPG:  Force and Destiny Endless Vigil HC ........................................ $29.95
    With all the RPG decks and Expansion packs for FFG games available at cons and online at half-off or more, I think it was a smart decision to stock listing most of them (aka I'm not ordering them for the store unless a special order.)

    Games Workshop
    Another huge month of catch-up solicitations on Alliance's part, and as the kids say, I can't even.  Way to much stuff, way to overpriced.   Stormcloud Attack looks interesting, and at $100 for two 40k Flyers plus rules, etc, it might be the first new 40k game that's close to being worth the money!   The rest just makes me sad.

    Goodman Games
    Dungeon Crawl Classics #83.2 Death Among the Pines .................................... $9.99
    Dungeon Crawl Classics #91.1 The Lost City of Barako ................................... $9.99
    Dungeon Crawl Classics: Grimtooth's Tomb of the Warhammer ...................... $9.99
    Gen Con 2016 Program Guide ............................................................................ $30.00

    XCrawl - AnaheimCrawl ..................................................................................... $9.99
    Separate printings in DCC and Pathfinder .

    Hawk Wargames
    Dropzone Commander  Reconquest Phase 2 Rulebook ..................................... $23.00

    Konami Digital Entertainment
    Yu-Gi-Oh! Invasion-Vengeance Boosters
    Yu-Gi-Oh! Yugi and Kaiba Structure Decks

    Mantic Entertainment
    Dungeon Saga:  The Tyrant of Halpi Expansion Box Set .............................. $49.99

    Mayfair Games
    1844/54 Switzerland ....................................................................................... $95.00
    It might actually be cheaper to buy an Amtrack ticket than play a train game! Yeesh!

    Achtung! Cthulhu RPG:  Skirmish Game Rules ............................................ $20.99
    Skirmish Rules for a Cthulhu game set in WW2?  Smart.   Releasing all the Mutant Chronicles books like the splatbooks of the 90s at 21st Century pricing, not the wisest choice.  $30-50 a book for a veritable library of books for a game no one might be playing?  Disastrous.

    Monte Cook Games
    Monte Cook's Numenera RPG Starter Set ..................................................... $29.99

    Osprey Publishing
    Bolt Action: Armies of Germany, 2nd Edition .............................................. $30.00
    Chosen Men:  Military Skirmish Games in the Age of Napoleon ................. $19.00
    Frostgrave:  Forgotten Pacts .......................................................................... $18.00

    Paizo Publishing
    Pathfinder Adv Card Game: Mummy's Mask Adv Deck 2 - Empty Graves .... $19.99
    Pathfinder RPG Flip Mat - Asylum ................................................................... $14.99
    Pathfinder RPG AP Strange Aeons Part 4- Whisper Out of Time .................... $24.99
    Pathfinder RPG Campaign Setting - The First World Realm of the Fey .......... $22.99
    Pathfinder RPG Pawns Curse of the Crimson Throne Pawn collection ............ $24.99
    Pathfinder RPG Villan Codex HC ..................................................................... $44.99
    Pathfinder RPG Player Companion - Paths of the Righteous ............................ $14.99

    Pokémon USA
    Pokémon TCG:  Battle Arena Decks:  Rayquaza vs Keldeo
    Pokémon TCG: Battle Heart Tin Box
    Pokémon TCG: Mythical Pokémon Keldeo Collection Box
    Pokémon TCG:  Super Premium Mew and Mewtwo Collection Box

    Battletech House d6 Dice Sets
    Q-Workshop is usually horribly overpriced for fancy schmancy dice, but it is Battletech.  All Five Houses available, 6d6 per set. No price listed

    Reaper Miniatures
    Reaper's conversion of their CAV mech line into their BONES material has finally gotten through to the Kickstarter process is available NOW through distribution channels.  The idea of $6 'mechs is extremely tempting, although I would aim at armor, air support, and infantry. 

    Steve Jackson Games
    Batman: The Animated Series Dice Game ......................................................... $14.95
    Munchkin 12 Days of Christmas Coloring Book ............................................... $ 6.95
    GURPS: Discworld RPG 2nd Edition (Stand Alone) ......................................... $39.95

    Wizards of the Coast
    Dungeons & Dragons:  Volo's Guide to Monsters ............................................. $49.95

    Wiz Kids
    Heroclix: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Shredder's Return
    Heroclix: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Shredder's Return Fast Forces ........... $16.99
    DC Dice Masters:  Batman Gravity Fed.
    D&D Fantasy Minis:  Icons of the Realms:  Monster Menagerie Bricks


    #RPGaDay 2016 Day #26 What Hobbies Go Well with RPGs

    #RPGaDay 2016 Day #26 What Hobbies Go Well with RPGs?

    Outside of deep solo mediation, a Magic the Gathering addiction, or cooking meth, I'm not quite sure what hobbies DON'T go well with RPGs!

    My two other active hobbies easily intertwine with RPGS, and each other. 

    Miniature Wargaming:  Historicals mainly, but I certainly painted some old Grenadiers, and new Reaper mouslings this year.    This one evolved out of Green Army Men and Britains, but years of fiddling around with Battlesystem back in the D&D days didn't hurt either.  Sometimes your miniature-less game needs a scene that just won't do on a erasable hexmat. 

    History:  Any good gamemaster should have a basic knowledge of history, especially if they're looking into resolving campaign issues in a realistic manner.  It doesn't matter if you've got dragons, cyborgs, or My Little Ponies, some version of your story has been done before.

    Thursday, August 25, 2016

    Victorian Space Ship Crew Available from Artizan Designs

    Artizan Designs has announced the release of The Crew of the Hesperus, a Victorian space ship crew. 

    They look like a fine crew of naval characters... with goggles.    They should be available at all distributors of Artizan as soon as possible.

    MSRP:  £27.00

    #RPGaDay 2016 Day #25 What Makes for a Good Character

    Day #25 What Makes for a Good Character

    You don't need an "interesting" character with elaborate backstories and maxed feats out the ying-yang.   A character can be more in-depth with a well written paragraph than a 15-page novella detailing their Kindergarten teacher's ancestors. 

    A good character needs two almost opposite traits:  Consistency and growth. 

    Playing the character the same way each session, no matter how plain or how exotic their story is, is important.  Whether it's a simple street urchin or a Spaniard in search of the six-figured man who killed his father, it's good for both the player and GM to know how a character should act in certain situations.

    Likewise, a cookie cutter approach when the circumstances change isn't going to cut it, either.  A character who keeps getting swindled by thieves will change his approach while still keeping to his (non-naïve) persona.

    Wednesday, August 24, 2016

    Ding Dong, Nylarathotep is Dea.... Really Ticked Off

    With new Kickstarters out of the way, I finally have time to cover the weekend.

    To clear the air, not everyone died in Sunday's finale of Masks of Nylarathotep.   The grand plot to unfurl the chaos when the stars were right had been foiled, although just about every antagonist was allowed to get away and regroup for the next time.

    Unless of course your yacht was the epicenter of a small atomic blast in 1925 Shanghai. 

    Yeah, it went down like that. 

    I'm in the process of doing three separate write-ups for actual play.  Episode #17 of Masks (#37 of the campaign) will cover the raid on Grey Dragon Island.  Episode #18/38 will clean up the story with a healthy dose of GM fiat.  Finally, I do have a tally of the dead cultists, insane investigators, and stolen rickshaws that occurred during Masks.  You may be able to find it on some forums already.  


    At home, we're halfway through the 1st Annual Family Game Decathlon.    Ten separate games, 10 points for 1st,  7 for 2nd, 4 for 3rd, and 1 for 4th.   My wife was sick most of the past week and declined playing, so the kids are doing a good job joining forces and beating me up.  I still have a strong lead, but I am more than three times the age of the other players combined.  Chupacabra Dice and Car War: The Card Game are on slate for tonight (hopefully).

    To add to the Decathlon, my copy of Travis Hanson's No Mercy arrived.  I like the modifier cards, although in a 2-player game, I wish there were more cards so we weren't constantly reshuffling.
    No Mercy
    And finally, with Masks done, and the first face-to-face discussions as to "what's next" completed,  I've sent out four different campaign proposals to the group at large to vote for.  Unless we get an overwhelming winner, the plan is to take the top two games, and run vignettes at the next RPG session. 

    Oh yeah, we also will be making an effort to play more wargames (thanks Bob!)

    #RPGaDay 2016 Day #24 What is the Game You are Most Likely to Give to Others

    What is the Game You are Most Likely to Give to Others

    Seriously?  Second easiest question to Day One's Dice, Digital, or Diceless?

    Anyone in need of a system would get: Risus: The Anything RPG by S.John Ross.


    It's easy. Characters are built from clichés. The better the number value your cliché is, the more dice to roll to reach your target number. 

    It's easy to complicate things.  There are plenty of optional rules (that I never use) to help flesh things out, treat special abilities differently, but they are optional.

    You can play this seriously, but who would want to?  Risus is meant for beer-and-pretzel, light-hearted play, goals.  There are plenty of hardcore games to suit a particular genre.  Risus isn't and shouldn't be one of those games, but that doesn't mean you can't get use out of it for long-term campaign play.

    It's FREE!   I'm not made of money!  The basic rules are free (and in a ton of formats) and there's a boatload of free downloads.    If the recipient loves the rules, they're welcome to join the International Order of Risus for $10 and receive the Risus Companion.  Yes, you can pay $10 to get a 64-page pdf supplement to a 6-page set of free rules.

    There are stick-figure characters!


    Tuesday, August 23, 2016

    (Kickstarter) Villains and Vigilantes 3.0 Mighty Protectors RPG

    Jeff Dee and Monkey House Games announce the launch of the latest Kickstarter for Villains and Vigiliantes 3.0:  The Might Protectors RPG.

    After years of legal issues, everything is resolved, and the new third edition will include streamlined rules, an intro into the Mighty Protectors Multiverse, and brand new artwork.

    Huge plus:  It appears to offer free shipping to the US.

    Equally huge plus:  The add-ons and stretch goals are reasonable.  Sorry, you're not getting gilded vellum pages just for the campaign hitting a certain number.  Stretch goals are for add-ons that cost just a couple of dollars.  If enough people tack $10 of miscellaneous add-ons to their pledge, the $15 pdf level becomes $25, $30 softcover to $40, and $55 hardcover up to $65, all negligible increases for material the person wants.    Free stuff is great, but I have a folder full of articles, supplements, and lists that were free with Kickstarters that I've never looked at.  If I want character sheets programmed into Excel, paying a dollar or two or three ensures that I actively want it and will not toss it aside, never to view again.

    #RPGaDay 2016 Day #23 Share One of Your "Worst Luck" Stories

    Day #23: Share One of Your "Worst Luck" Stories.

    A run of bad luck is something I find more memorable in wargaming or other games.

    I've already told the tale of my DBA Debacle at Lehicon IV.

    Even back in the early days (twenty years ago) of Magic, I had a highly-tuned tournament deck that fared well most weekends.  Yet, despite all the statistical probabilities, one weekend I ran into an eight year old kid with a 120 card goblin deck and he hosed me in two straight games in the first round.  I'm quite well aware that strings of bad luck happen.

    But truth be told, I don't have any role-playing stories with 27 consecutive failed rolls followed by death by tripping from an invisible turtle. 

    Have I had characters die by poor die rolls?  Sure, but in most cases, the chance of success was getting slimmer and slimmer each round.  No first round head shots. 

    Have I lost key characters in my game because I let the "dice fall where they may?" Sure, but like a wargame where the General gets shot turn one, the rallying of the forces in the face of such a predicament sometimes makes for an even better story that the one you were working with.

    Have my NPCs turned physically and mentally disabled in the course of a few round?  Sure!  One of the main reasons some of the investigators in my Call of Cthulhu campaign survived as long as they have has been the incompetence of the cultists.   Yet even in this absurdity of die rolls, I managed to chop off a few hands and cause general chaos throughout the game.


    Monday, August 22, 2016

    (Kickstarter) Gnomi Relaunch!

    Poppy Jasper games has relaunched its Kickstarter for its play-anywhere card game, Gnomi.

    The initial campaign goal has been lowered, options streamlined, but they still have a number of stretch goals to improve the quality of game materials...

    #RPGaDay 2016 Day #22 Supposedly Random Game Events That Keep Recurring

    Supposedly Random Game Events That Keep Recurring

    One of the greatest tools I've ever owned for random results was the Hackmaster GameMaster's Shield.  (See this article on the Kenzer & Company site for a few more details).

    Under the City/NPC flaps was a Tavern Name Generator that I used religiously as the Trogs visited a new town. 

    Three random rolls to generate a different name. (ex. Alcor's Fighting Lion Tavern)  The only problem was no matter what my first two rolls were, the third result was always "Keg."  It came to the point, that when the Burning Trogs formally established their charter as an adventuring company, they put in a clause that if they travelled by group, they must stay at an Inn/Tavern with the word Keg in it, no matter what.  

    Lucky for them, most of the "Keg" establishments were in lower-middle-class neighborhoods, their kind of people.    However, there are a vast swath of these named establishment well across the continent. 

    Someone should start a franchise.

    Sunday, August 21, 2016

    CoC #36: Masks of Nyarlathotep #16 "We're in the Warehouse Now"

    June 7, 1925, NCA Warehouse, Shanghai, China
    Outside of a few armed New China Army (NCA) recruits who won't let the investigators out of their sights, the morning was quiet.    Mu Chien didn't arrive until late in the afternoon, and would only provide his guests with another cryptic message, "All things done.  Meet Great Brady tomorrow."

    As the day progressed, more recruits appeared.  Around midnight a number of the soldiers could be seen preparing for something.  They left around three in the morning, in black uniforms and armed to the teeth.

    June 8, 1925, NCA Warehouse, Shanghai, China
    For lunch, the investigators were granted an audience with Jack Brady.  He apologized for the accommodations, stressing that someone completely unrelated to the Bloated Woman discovered the investigator's peripheral involvement. The fact that is was probably the crime family that he stole the Seven Books of Hsan from was not lost on them.

    The great news was that Mu Hsien had completed the difficult translation of those cryptic books and now had the knowledge to stop whatever Penhew was doing on Gray Dragon Island. 

    At that moment, Brady explained, two teams from the New China Army were busy at work.  One was scouting Gray Dragon Island  for the inevitable assault, the other was helping Mu Hsien construct a seal.  "The recon team should have survivors. Once we get their intell, we can formulate our assault on the island."  Brady's face turns ashen, "The team working on the seal won't be so lucky."   

    Brady had no issue with outside communication to their other contacts, so long as the runners were NCA.  Most followers barely spoke, much less read English.  While they were guests of NCA and were permitted to leave the safety of their headquarters (re: warehouse), they were required have a disguise retinue of soldiers escort them.

    Brady also recommended some nearby "safe spots"  that had minimal cult activity, were relatively public, yet would allow the NCA tails to blend in as well as they can and attempt to scope out any other agents.  For the sake of simplicity and closeness, The Mandarin Hotel in the "Little Tokyo" section of  the International Settlement was not only secure, but surprisingly nearby to the NCA warehouse. 

    June 9, 1925, NCA Warehouse, Shanghai, China
    A message was sent to Taro to arrange a meeting in the afternoon.  Before that meeting, the recon team returned from Grey Dragon Island and reported back  There were no physical casualties, although from the group's limited Chinese and translation, things went wrong.   A rough map was provided, as well as the actual coordinates for the island.   The island itself was surrounded by atoll with only one truly navigable channel.  A small village was located near the single dock.  A few villagers carried rifles, but the greatest worry of the recon team was the horrible deformities each villager had.  Everyone's bodies were terribly contorted with strange humps, deformed heads, and arms and legs of different lengths.  No location of the actual activities were found. 

    The plan was to land three parties onto the island in the pre-dawn hours.  One on the low rocky cliffs, one on the far eastern beach (led by Brady), and a third to assault the possible watchtower (Led by Mu Chien).  The investigators were invited to join one team, or use the facilities of their mysterious allies.    The goal for the NCA was to find where the base of operations is, and install the mystical seal on sight.

    Brady:  "Hopefully this completely stops whatever these groups want to accomplish.  At worst, it should slow them down until they you all have grandkids."

    Outside of NCA ears, Brady was willing to go into some detail in the ritual to install the seal.  It required "The Blood of Innocents."  

    "Good news, fellas, none of us are innocent enough to aid in the ritual, although the person running the she-bang can be questionable," as he meekly raises his hand.   

    The repetitive chant needed to continue unabated for some time, maybe minutes, maybe an hour, maybe a whole day.   The first part of the ritual to make the seal took over eight hours. 

    "You guys can fill if I fall, but I'd much rather you cover our backs.  If the ritual doesn't work, we're bring some TNT to blow the sucker to Kingdom Come, but not too much.  I don't want us blowing up twenty foot onto the beach."

    At the Mandarin, Taro was aware of the Investigators involvement with the New China Army.  "They were my first suspects of possessing the alleged weapon.   We will keep an arm's length from the operations.  You and your compatriots will be allowed passage and safety on our vessels, provided you stay true to our agreement.  No member of the Imperial Navy will assist the terrorists in any way that could be considered aid."
    Taro refused to put the lives of his marines and sailors at risk, particularly working alongside the terrorist NCA.  He was willing to his own landing party to escort the investigators to another location on the island, but it must be safe, and his men would not advance further unless the island has been secured.

    "When you have the weapon, let us know, we'll take it from here...."

    Taro was incredibly sketchy with the specific aid he would be rendering, nor a timetable. 

    "Tell your friends to have their vessels ready at a moments notice,   The moment shall be obvious and for their own safety, they should embark immediately.  We will follow suit and be able to catch up."

    Returning with the deal, the investigators informed Brady and he agreed.  

    June 14, 1925, Shanghai, China
    The residents of Shanghai were awoken to chaos as three Japanese warships entered Shanghai harbor.  Two ships docked, and Japanese marines poured into the city.  The Japanese would later claim they were protecting Japanese (and British) commercial interests that were being affected by the constant rioting by Chinese students and labor agitators. 

    The NCA quickly assembled, reached their ships in the harbor and departed before lunch.

    The investigators, figuring that the Japanese would at least honorably stab them in the back, took a tender towards the cruiser sitting in the middle of the Whangpoo River, and, after a few tense minutes, were allowed on board. 

    #RPGaDay 2016 Day #21 Funniest Misinterpretation of a Rule in Your Group?

    Day #21 Funniest Misinterpretation of a Rule in Your Group?

    This is the first official fail for the month.    No amusing anecdote, no "Mead was cheaper than feed for the animals."

    The closest thing is a facepalm moment when we discovered that Call Lightning had a casting time in turns, not rounds.  We were wondering why druids weren't used as the mobile artillery platform that they should be...  Seems like something like storm to generate the lightning takes a little time to assemble.


    Saturday, August 20, 2016

    (Kickstarter) Science Fiction Space Dwarfs (Dweorg)

    The folks over at Grydran Miniatures have launched a Kickstarter to expand their line of Science Fiction Space Dwarfs (Dweorg)

    The figures look a little small, somewhere between Hasslefree Grymns and some "rogue trading" dwarfs of old, but the finished sculpts look clean, add-ons to their existing line are available at a decent discount. 

    Biggest issue, as always, is shipping from the UK, but they're nice enough to provide a S&H chart based on weight. 

    C'mon, any thing with ARMOURED BEARS and actual female space dwarfs is worth a look.

    #RPGaDAy 2016 Day #20: Most Challenging But Rewarding System Have You Learned

    Day #20:  Most Challenging But Rewarding System Have You Learned

    I'm a middle-aged married man with two kids in grade school...  A challenge for me is finding the bed before midnight... or getting out of it in the morning. 

    Savage Worlds isn't necessarily challenging.  The system itself is pretty simple, it's the exceptions that everyone has to memorize. 

    The last challenging system that I got the most benefit out of?

    Hackmaster 4th Edition (2001)

    Ripped from the pages of Knights of the Dinner Table, and a parody-demanding licensing agreement with Wizards of the Coast, Hackmaster took everything I loved about D&D, turned it up to 11 and multiplied it by infinity +1. 

    Outside of the idea that you could be killed by gazebos and gummi fiends, things like all ability scores having percentiles, a huge honor system that benefitted the Lawful Good and the Chaotic Evil in different ways, plus a d10,000 critical hit chart made a game I already love even better.

    Despite that love for every facet of the system, I was forced to scale back rules for fatigue and thresholds of pain to keep combat flowing.  Combat wasn't D&D 3e-4e long, heavens forbid.  Our regular combat per session was more than most d20 games for a month and a half, and we still got plenty of role-playing in!

    And those Gummi Fiends?  Drop the cutesy name and rainbow like candy appearance and they will wreck your party.  Guaranteed.


    Friday, August 19, 2016

    Rogue One Sabotage

    So this appeared on the internet (and in all likelihood, shall be taken down in short notice).

    The Rogue One Trailer down to the stylings of the Beastie Boys' "Sabotage"

    Sabotage makes anything better... except a Star Trek trailer, apparently.

    One comment I read disappointedly likened it to "intergalactic GI Joe." Essentially that was the angle the movie was going for (with some spy thriller mixed in). More importantly, that was the style of play when my Star Wars action figures teamed up with GI Joe, back in the day (or last night), and it was AWESOME!

    #RPGaDay 2016 Day #19 Best Way to Learn a New Game?

    The Best Way to Learn a New Game?

    Baby steps.
    No, not that kind of baby steps!
    The path to RPG enlightenment is fraught with those dishonorable people who claim one must cram every nuance of a system into your brain in order to completely experience a game.   

    Learning a system piecemeal is the best way to go, particularly with a small rotating group of players.   Learn character creation, then move on to basic combat/magic/psionics/vehicles/starship combat, and on and on and on...  That's how our group learned Hackmaster, all the while determining what few mechanics we decided to ignore.  

    For a more recent example, I've been running my daughters (ages 4 and 6) through a Pulp game.  I had been running games for them through my homebrew system, TIARA, and decided to shift the miniatures-centric game to Savage Showdown.  TIARA had three stats, Agility, Strength, and Heart.  With Savage Showdown, I stripped the ability scores down to a similar three (Heart = Vigor) and added not only Shooting, Fighting, and Throwing skills, plus Toughness, Pace, and Parry, but exploding dice as well.

    Another session or two and I finally added the wild die, and made adjustments to rules I misinterpreted until I realized they were rock solid).  The kids are now 5 and 7, and I gave my eldest, Maja, the honor of fleshing out a long-time character from basic Savage Showdown stats onto a full-blown Savage Worlds Character Sheet. 

    We've gone from the TIARA version:
    Maja Millie, Treasure Hunter
    Agility d6 Strength d4 Heart d8

    to Savage Worlds:

    Maja Millie, Archaeologist and Treasure Hunter
    Agility d8  Smarts d6  Spirit d4 Strength d6 Vigor d8
    Pace 8  Parry 5  Toughness 6 Charisma 0

    Edge: Luck, Fleet Footed
    Hindrances: Code of Honor: No Hand Guns 
    Skills: Fighting d6 Shooting d4  Stealth d4 Swimming d4 Throwing d4  Investigation d8 Streetwise d4 Survival d6  Climbing d4
    Equipment:  Knife
    16 xp
    Maja Millie, some zombies, and a handy dandy cannon....
    In a little over a year we went from basic mechanics to a ready to go characters for two little girls over eight sessions.  I have faith that the largely adult population reading this can do the same with any system, with fewer sessions, and in much less time.    Whether or not you will as much fun as my girls is completely up to you. 

    Thursday, August 18, 2016

    (Kickstarter) Halfling Skeletons

    I usually quickly gloss over fantasy miniatures on Kickstarter.  I have little need for the finely sculpted, overpriced minis that dominant the site. 

    However, every once in awhile, the right combination of factors piques my interest and I must write about it. 

    28mm Halfling Skeleton Archers caught my attention.

    "Sculpted by the illustrious Bob Olley"  raised my eyebrows.

    A Bob Olley-related Kickstarter based in the US?  With US Shipping included?  Tell me more!

    Definitely too small for Gnome Wars, but the option of fielding full units of undead halflings might entice a number of people.  The pledge levels seem to reflect that, as the lower pledges have a prohibitive per figure cost, but if you hit the $80 level, you 40 figures ($2/per) which would be perfect for two large units of archers.

    And any campaign that offers a stretch goal of a free undead chicken with each pledge has to be considered.

    #RPGaDay 2016 Day #18 What Innovation Could RPG Groups Benefit Most From?

    Day #18: What Innovation Could RPG Groups Benefit Most From?

    Outside of a few ridiculous ideas, the main innovation that could help most groups is the use of online tools. 

    Despite the increase in technology, there are still thousands of old-school 1st Edition players whose closest link to the online world is the email chain to confirm whose bringing the snacks Saturday night. 

    Sure, plenty of groups now have an official website for reference and communication, but I think those might be more to please the GM than anyone else. 

    The idea of using online play to supplement in-person gaming seems incredibly convenient.  Whether it's a little solo role-playing or an administrative session to clear up bookkeeping when almost everyone is available, I would love to see the Skypes, roll20s, and Google Hangouts used more with face-to-face groups. 

    Wednesday, August 17, 2016

    CoC #35: Masks of Nyarlathotep #15 "Washing the Dishes"

    June 4, 1925 - Shanghai, China
    Starting in the Japanese settlement in late May, demonstrations and full-out riots by Chinese students and workers, had spread to the four corners of the city. Over the next two days the increasing violence in the street made it harder and harder for anyone to leave their hotel.  Many Europeans were fleeing their homes or other hotels for the safety of the Hotel des Colonies, where the Investigators were staying. Many patrons were staying in their rooms, using room service for meals, and answered the doors with firearms at the ready.  
    June 5, 1925 - Shanghai, China
    With the riots worsening, and the window closing for contacting their Japanese Imperial Navy contacted Captain Isoge Taro,  reporter David Kavida and big-game hunter RJ Cunninghame pushed the rest of the group to send the group's interpreter, Li-Weng Chen over to the American Settlement to make contact with the officer at the Stumbling Tiger Bar. 

    In the note hidden on Chen, they covered only what they knew for sure.
    • Another group has uncovered the site of the weapon, an island off the coast of China
    • They are not only interested in the group developing the weapon, and lay no claim to the technology
    • The help of the Imperial Japanese Navy would be most appreciative
    Chen didn't arrive back at the Hotel des Colonies until after dinner.  He carried one note in his hand the other note shoved into the back of his pants.

    Letter #1:
    • More specifics on this other entity is required, but he could acquire two naval vessels for support purposes in less than four days.
    • If the other group is that dedicated for revenge, no Japanese sailor will participate in an illegal slaughter, on possible foreign soil.  He task the investigators to ensure no parts of the weapon are damaged by the other group's bloodlust.
    Letter #2
    • All future correspondence, or requests to attend face to face meetings should be done through a mailbox located on the far side of the city.  The Stumbling Tiger is not safe for ANYONE anymore.
    June 6, 1925 - Shanghai, China
    At breakfast, Dr Bob Wintermute received a message under his coffee cup.

    "The Woman is among the crowds, far too dangerous.  You need to move.   Wash your dishes around 5pm   -B"  
    While Jack Brady had scheduled communication with them within the time frame, it appeared legitimate, but it's cryptic nature confused the group.
    The potential for violence in the street had escalated so much that Westerners were hiring armed non-Chinese thugs to escort them anywhere, and sometimes that tragically didn't work..  Fires  burned off in the distance, and there was no evidence to believe anyone was trying to put them out.
    The hotel had been overbooked, with even the lounges closing a bit early to allow room for more people to sleep.
    Steven O'Hara was able to use his charm and charisma to convince a French family to switch rooms with them.  Convincing them that the recent plaster and minor renovations made it a much better room one the wife over in particular.   He failed to disclose that the rug in the room was covering up a substantial blood stain.

    After lunch, the group continued to debate the meaning and legitimacy of the Brady's note.  Everyone agreed that they needed to vacate the hotel ASAP, however the logistics proved more daunting by the second.
    They decided to order dinner early, so as to have some time to work out what was supposed to happen.  It was a regular service, with no cryptic note, no secret handshake from the hotel staff, no one was poisoned etc...

    As Cunninghame began to wash his dishes in the bathroom sink to set out, Father Dorian Dolan, the Anglican priest made a stunning realization:  They didn't need to wash the dishes, they needed to be WHERE they washed the dishes... which would be towards a back door and a possibly secret escape by Brady or the New Army to a (hopefully) safer location.
    The rest didn't buy this idea at, but the good Father convinced Steven to humor him a bit and back Dolan up on a jaunt to the hotel kitchen.
    The duo worked their way through the busy waitstaff, in the midst of a chaotic dinner service for a packed hotel restaurant, until they reached the dish sinks... right next to a screened over back door.
    Steven peeked out the door to see at least three Chinese who looked like the exact people Brady tried to avoid.   They didn't appear to notice the eye staring through the crack in the door.

    Unfortunately an impatient waiter plowed past Father Dolan, who in turn pushed into Steven's back and him out into the back alley.

    As the three very bad-looking guys turned towards him, with a fourth appearing beyond some boxes, a hand grabbed Steven's and Father Dolan's shoulders, and said, in heavily accented English, "Don't go out.  Not safe.  Friends ready I can take you to Mr Brady.  But not that way. "
    He tried to walk the pair out of the kitchen through a service hallway, and into the freight elevator. Gunfire could be heard from the kitchen.
    As the doors to the freight elevator shut, the fake hotel employee spoke:

    "I am Zhu Quinong of the New China Army. I was to watch you for last few days, but you almost yourself killed!  I can take you to New Army truck to take you to headquarters, but it tree blocks away!  We need to grab your friends and go!"  
    The trio sprinted back to the room, where there was great confusion.  While the group was all packed up and ready to bug out, Wintermute simply refused to believe that the dishwasher was who he said he was, especially after he explained that the safest way to travel to the truck was by roof!  The rest had had enough, grabbed all the bags and guns, and headed up the stairs, leaving Wintermute with his paranoia, a small satchel, and a his rifle. He took a moment to clean off his glasses, and the moment his stepped out of the room, a throwing knife struck the open door, about three inches out from and a foot above his head.
    Emerging out of the elevator were the four men, who looked like they had nothing to do with an earnest dishwasher.   Wintermute raised his rifle and let out one quick shot, which hit the knife thrower in the middle of the forehead . The resulting explosion of skull and brain was enough to distract the men so Wintermute could ash down the hall to the stairs and attempt to catch up with his compatriots.  Before the door to the stairwell closed, Wintermute felt a stinging pain in his upper leg as he was nicked with a throwing knife but he was still faster than his pursuer's and caught up with the group.
    While many of the buildings in Shanghai appeared to be flush against each other, or were connected by the roof, many had a two to three foot gap between them, sometimes larger, and some roofs had a two-plus story difference in height!

    With a group of academics, clergy, and retired men of adventure, the goal of the group was to outdistance the cultists without plunging to their deaths or succumbing to a heart attack for the leaping, running, and jumping required.    It appeared that Zhu had familiarized himself with the rooftops for just this occasion, hopping to and fro, leaping a story down with a roll and a hop.  Steven O'Hara seemed equally at ease, finding the easiest routes to climb and safest ways to jump, and the rest followed suit with some discomfort.  For RJ Cunninghame, some of the gaps proved too much, and he continually landed with a wincing thud.  Yet, the big game hunter showed much resolve and picked himself up and scrambled on, where lesser men should have blacked out from the pain.
    By the end of the second block, their tail had been left in the dust. Zhu continued to stick with his plan, however Cunninghame had other plans.  Climbing up over wall, he lost his grip and fell through the first story roof of a brothel below.  Lucky for him, a collection of pillows couches, and prostitutes broke his fall, but he needed help to escape.   Other cultists had been following the group via street level and sprung at their chance to capture one of the investigators. Steven bounded down the hole to protect his friend, while Kavida found the door from the roof and ran down. Cunnighame, Wintermute, and Francois Guerin fired at the cultists from the rooftops with rifles while Steven and Kavida  retrieved the big game hunter, got him back on the roof.  Despite some numerical superiority inside the brothel, the cultists quickly withdrew after a few pinpoint pistol shots by the rescue team. 
    Back on the roof, group needed to only dodge some wildly errant shots from the cultists on the final third of their journey, finally reaching a small streetfront warehouse with a single large door and a smaller one built inside it.  A few tense second later and someone let Zhu in.  Inside were some crates, marked in Russian, one old  American truck from the Great War...

    It was cramped in the back, especially since Zhu and his contact who let him in forced them to load crates of ammunition in the back before departing.  It was even more disconcerting when they shut and tied the canvas flaps in the back, forcing the investigators into near darkness as they started the was long, hot, and stressful trip to some undisclosed location.   

    By the time the truck stopped for good, it was past sundown.  As they were let you out of the back they realized the truck had entered a far larger, better lit warehouse.  Dozens of Chinese wearing olive drab uniforms and buzz cuts were performing a number of different martial tasks. 

    One man, noticeably older and the only one wearing  a hat,(no star) walked up to the group and in broken English orated a pre-rehearsed speech.

    I... am.... Mu Chien.... of Firm Action New China Army... You guests of Jack...  here safe *points at a line of cots* Message from Brady come morning.  You help, big attack soon."  He snaps to attention and walks off. 

    Zhu and the others attempted to make as comfortable as Spartan military conditions allowed.   First aid was made on the cuts, scrapes and fall from their escape.   
    No one slept that night.  A healthy dose of paranoia combined with martial arts training and what amounted to a small political pep rallies made sure at least two were awake at any time.  Not a soul bothered them.  Of course the investigators could feel some weird ease as they lay surrounded by crates of bullets, grenades, and mortar rounds....

    Next: Masks #16 "We're in the Warehouse Now"

    #RPGaDay 2016 Day #17 What Fictional Character Would Best Fit in Your Group

    Day #17: What Fictional Character Would Best Fit in Your Group? 

    How 'bout best fictional group to game with?

    I would go with the four main characters from Zombieland.  

    And plenty of Twinkies.

    Tuesday, August 16, 2016

    (Hackmaster) Burning Trogs Rule! #51: Welcome to Morosvia

    24th of DecDec, 1135 Vadevincsky
    The Trogs travel to Vadevincsky and say hello to Governor-General Cecelia Darkspruce.  She unable to be helpful, stuck in the tedious rut of administrating a formerly rebellious territory.  She does confirm that a Marakeikos military headquarters is residing inside the Vlachian Barony of Teleorman and it is investigating the disappearance of Marakeikan military units that crossed the border and simply vanished.  

    Cecelia warns that finding shelter each night in these lands is of paramount concern.  It's not the matter of what will attack you or when, but rather, how many will encircle you.
    25th of  DecDec, 1135, Barony of Teleorman Vlachia.
    They reached a military post, but is was a bare-bones military hospital.  The Headquarters Unit was moved into Morosvia.
    26th of DecDec, 1135, Morosvia, Vlachia.
    The Trogs left in the morning for Morosvia.   The further they travelled, the hills became steeper, and a low-lying fog covered the ground. 

    By dusk they find some civilization, a few out buildings and an unguarded wrought iron fence. 
    Despite no sign of the military, they pressed on, only to find the mutilated corpse in the middle of the road just on the outskirt of town.    All of the windows on all the homes are closed, many of the building completely boarded up.  

    Towards the center of town they encounter a shady, yet foppish fellow, who presents Zorin with a  bag of gold and a letter.

    The letter was addressed to The Burning Trogs and it was oddly dated yesterday, but with fresh ink.   Someone named Burgermesiter Meisterburger wanted them to cure someone of lycanthropy.

    They eventually stumbled into the only open tavern in town, The Blood and Vine.

    Upon some inquiries with the bartender, it's revealed that the Burgermesiter MeisterBurger, died three days ago.

    One of the tavern patrons offers to stable their horses from the creatures of the night if we help bury his father.  The man was Izmark, son of the Burgermeister. 

    Izmark led them to the cemetary, where they met Oksana, the aforementioned lycanthrope.  Without a full moon, she seemed quite congenial

    Lars the Gnome, the only priest in the town, performed a ritual and drop the Burgermeister's body in its plot.

    27th of DecDec, 1135, Morosvia, Vlachia.
    The fog had not lifted, but in the daylight they could make out an outline of a castle on the other side of  town.  Townsfolk only know the inhabitant was Vladmir, and was a bit of a hermit.

    They could see something moving out of the castle ground, through its gate and into town.  It was an empty carriage without horses, that stopped right in front of the Trogs.  They decided to attached their horses to and ride in it up to the castle.

    As they opened up the main doors to check the place out, weird organ music fills the hall.  In eventually stopped, but when they finally found a music room, it was empty and dust covered.

    We came across a dining room fully set for a banquet. A lone pale figure with a wicked scar across his neck was frittering to and fro. He claimed his name is Luka.  He wasn't particularly helpful, but admits that his master , the Count, is upstairs. Luka also declared that he is already dead.

    Travelling upstairs, they find an room with an ... accountant?  This man said his name was Leif and dispite staring at a rope alarm across the room, welcomed the new guests of the Count.

    From the Journal of Gwen:
    We get to the top, there isa door.  We find theres a spiffy runed door and alcoves of darkness on each side w/ 2 armored figures. When I try to examine the door, they attack.

    One activates a flame trap, and there is a noxious cloud now. We still managed to slay them and get out.  Once the clouds disspate I check out the door. it's ornate, but I can't read the runes.

    The room behind the runed door is dusty and there is a dust covered room.  There's a really old wedding cake on the table.

    Aftera couple  of rooms we fina abig fancy bedroom with a woman in it. She's sleeping. We go down a secret passage near the bed  (Terval found it)

    AIt leads to a secret passage in a hall.  There are many terrified statues.

    The ghostsof them appear. They say they are ghosts from living here. They say the Count  is either downstairs or in the  highest tower. and point to the tallest structure on the castle.

    We find a bridge to cross to another tower.

    Party splits up,  Terval was alone in water filled basement.  Count is a vampire.  Count attacks! Somehow Terval kills vampire!

    this changes town, much happier.  hq is found.  Able to rout the sympathizers of the master.

    Back to Celsior,  letter arrives.  yarbay has surrendered.   Ceasing hostilites for two weeks, yule, and treaty goes into effect 2nd of UnDec.

    Ravenloft is a beloved module, a innovative adventure in the era of dungeon treks.  The Hackmaster variant, Robinloft, faithfully adheres to the originally, with an overdose of required parody and humor that Wizards required of Kenzer, only turned up to 11. 

    To be honest, the group was more interested in finding the missing headquarters and other units, and dealing with this Count got in the way of their mission.  After the green dragon, Terval single-handedly killing a vampire was just another feather in the Trog's cap. 

    Next: Episode #52 The End of Arms

    #RPGaDay 2016 Day #16 Historical Person You'd Like in Your Group? WhatGame?

    Day #16 - Historical Person You'd Like in Your Group?  What Game?

    Teddy Roosevelt is my default answer for most of these types of questions, especially since Jesus could multiply damage dice faster than he could multiply fishes and loaves.


    Which game?  Anything that's not naval related.  He's a bit of a know-it-all at the gaming table, but he'd be insufferable with anything naval. 

    Of course I'd love to see the time paradoxes if I ran a younger version of him through Cthulhu and the River of Doubt.


    Monday, August 15, 2016

    Cthulhu 28's by Crucilble Crush

    Bob Murch has been a very busy beaver sculpting the Cthulhu28's  for Crucible Crush.  Here's some of the painted results that were displayed at Gen Con.



    Still no word on a release date or crowdsourcing campaign. 

    #RPGaDay 2016 Day #15 Best Source of Inspiration for RPGs

    Halfway into the month, and I'm finally going to dial one in. 

    Day #15: Best Source of Inspiration for RPGs

    There's two directions I can go with this:

    Current Events:  I don't plan on basing any game on a plot device "ripped from the headlines."  Rather, I use the newspaper to transfer local and state news into campaign appropriate forms.  School boards and local municipalities are baronies, counties and cities are duchies, other states are neighboring kingdoms.   I usually grab a paper once a week for this purpose and the weeklong story usually lasts 1-3 months in my timeline.  If I really need some inspiration (or lots of filler), I'll grab the New York Times.

    Other RPGers:  This is a no brainer.  With the expansion of blogs and podcasts, it's quite easy to take a technique or idiosyncrasy and go crazy with it.  Better yet, I can see interesting techniques that fail on initial look and I can adapt them to my own game. 

    Sunday, August 14, 2016

    #RPGaDay 2016 Day #14 Your Dream Team of People You Used to Game With

    Your Dream Team of People You Used to Game With

    I will throw in one caveat to determining my team.:  My main criteria for "used to game with" are those people I have not role-played with over the last five years.  I can't think of anyone that's sat at my table since my kids have been born, that I wouldn't welcome back.  Alright, maybe Crazy Daryl from high school, but last I heard he was running protection at a hostel in Albania.

    Todd:  Not the DM of my "Naked Roast Nazi", rather a popular TORG GM from the local circuit all the way up to GenCon.  Great games, great personality.  If I didn't run a game, the keys would handed over to him.

    Larry:  Only man I ever met who wanted to max out head butt on his Call of Cthulhu (and all other) characters.  Let him attempt one outrageous act a session, and he was usually the best team player in the group.

    Chad:  As the only teenager in our extended group two decades ago, Chad was a great mix of maturity and comic relief .  As Mythos entities and government bullets began to descend upon our Delta Green characters, we inquired on who had a safe place to lay low.

    His clueless character excitedly said, "We can stay at my house!
    Us:  "Is it safe?
    Him:  Sure, it's got the Slomin Shield!

    TOWN.  The man we lovingly call "The Other White Nate"  moved back to Western PA during college and relocated to Ireland some time after.  His interaction with a starving kobold family changed the campaign I was running and earns him a spot at the table.

    Jennifer:  Sometimes, one game is all it takes.  Jennifer played in my GURPS-IOU "Scavenger Hunt" game at CoveCon, Bangor, PA, circa 1995-96.  The game was one of, if not the best games I have ever run, and much of that had to do with fantastic players.  I don't even remember what character she ran, but she was such a great player I remember her to this day.  I also remember that she and her sister (another great player) moved out of the area shortly thereafter.

    Eric T. Smith:  Already covered him earlier this month. 

    Kelley:  Kelley played Gwen the Druid in my Burning Trogs Rule! Hackmaster Campaign.  She was part of one of the two married couples in the group, and when I moved out of the area we occasionally stayed in touch.  However, during the oddly messy divorce and aftermath with her husband, I took his side.  Now that things are as okay as they're going to get, I'd love to have her at the table.  For as hack-and-slash a game of Hackmaster can be, Kelley always tried to add more role-playing to the game, without hurting the effectiveness of the party. 

    Saturday, August 13, 2016

    Pokethulhu: The Adventure Game

    Pokémon Go continues to lure our youth into slowly mobile catatonic complacency. 

    But what if we could play something similar while our dead phones' batteries were still recharging? 

    Oh yeah, and it was actually more fun?

    Fear not my friends, because from the vaults of time immemorial, I present Pokethulhu The Adventure Game!  by S. John Ross and John Kovalic. 
    When this came out in 2000, I was in my final year of managing game stores.  Griffon Games was a customer's bounced check away from failure each week, yet the lights were on and new product stocked... and copies of this game were flying off the shelves.    Truth be told, we might have sold a dozen copies, and it was pretty cheap, but the only things that outsold it were these new Third Edition books for a game called Dungeons and Dragons. 

    Now you don't have to worry about not getting your copy at a failing brick and mortar store, because the 3rd Edition of Pokethulhu is available FOR FREE! 

    Trust me when I say, it's meant for fun-loving adults, not necessarily the kids.  If my kids actually like Pokémon, I may try to refute that, but for now enjoy your Pokenomicon with your (physically) grown-up friends.

    #RPGaDay 2016 Day #13 What Makes a Successful Campaign

    Day #13:  What Makes a Successful Campaign?

    It doesn't matter if you're running a new-fangled four session campaign, or haven't stopped running your game since the fantasy expansion for Chainmail, one thing is required to run a successful campaign:  Continuity. 

    While most players are quite content acquiring money, fame, and power in a game, most will take a second to a pause when they realize their action (or inaction) has a direct result at the world at large. 

    We were all taught at an early age that the Caves of Chaos, if done right, weren't just a traditional dungeon crawl of going through Rooms 1-20 in order.  Once the orcs were removed, and the party moved on, SOMEBODY was going to fill that vacuum, be it the kobolds, the bugbears, or some new threat.  Most players expect that.  It's when it occurs outside the anticipated, basic throw-away interactions that mean something to someone. 

    That barmaid you keep throwing money at, but she always rebuffs you?   After a certain point, something needs to be done regarding her.  Is she saving up enough to help her family move to the frontier and start a new life?  Will the extra money be the catalyst to have her world spiral out of control?  Will street thugs catch wind of this income and waylay her in the alley... or worse?   It doesn't have to be a major story arc of the campaign, but this continuity makes the story believable, relatable, and provides some attachment to the players/characters.   Worst case, if the players ignore the warning signs and something terrible happens to her, perhaps the tavern owners will hire more half-ogres bouncers to ensure that fraternization with the wait staff doesn't endanger them.

    Outside of plot points, I emphasized subtlety in most actions.  That doesn't mean I don't drop the "They were spider people shapeshifters all this time!" plot hammer when appropriate.  Even when I retro-fit the story into the campaign, it needs to feel like it occurred right under the characters' noses, not slapped on like a "Ninjas drop out of the ceiling," moment. 

    Even more than the intimate moments, characters need to know that the world outside their purview is going on quite well without them.   People die, nations go to war, borders change, famines and miracles occur, with or without the character's knowledge. These changes affect the world, sometimes immediately, many times over the duration of a long campaign.  These events should be analyzed the same way you review the outcomes of those times the party doesn't rescue the prince/princess, kill the dragon, or returns the Egg of Weeble Wobbling. 

    Wait, your guys always succeed?   That's another topic for another day. 

    Friday, August 12, 2016

    Happy Birthday Sam Jones!

    Happy Birthday, Sam Jones, actor in the infamous 1980 film, Flash Gordon. 


    #RPGaDay 2016 Day #12: What Game is Your Group Most Likely to Play Next and Why?

    Day #12 What Game is Your Group Most Likely to Play Next and Why?

    We are ever so close to finishing Masks of Nylarathotep!   And before I started some Play-by-Email to better coordinate the big finale, I set up a poll on my blog and gave descriptions to some possible post-Call of Cthulhu games to cleanse the palette.   Not too many voters, but between those votes and my players who don't read the blog (heresy!)  I've made three determinations.

    #1 Gaming with the Gnomies was originally meant to be, and continues to be high traffic for, the Gnome Wars wargame and miniatures.    The Number One selection was the continuation of our Great War campaign game in German East Africa.  We had about half the group direct group express interest in wargaming, the other half wanted nothing to do with it, so this can fill in those spaces when our disinterested parties are unavailable.

    #2 Savage Rifts -  The much ballyhooed Kickstarter marriage between Rifts and Savage Worlds has ignited my passion to play in some gonzo butt-kicking adventures.  I'll be introducing both Savage World and Rifts to the group at the same time, so I can ease in dispensing the rules and setting information. 

     Truth be told, I absolutely hate the player organization that is provided by the Tomorrow Legion thus far, so I'll be taking things in a completely different direction.  I'm pondering a session or three of generic Rifts goofiness to warm everybody up, but I picture a campaign that varies from  Logan's Run, to the defense of Zion in the Matrix, with a little bit for everybody in between. 
    Plus, somebody's gonna play a Glitter Boy, and that makes the teenager in me happy.

    #3 Hackmaster, 4th Edition:  It's not a Mission from God, but the group is dedicated to getting the band back together to resume our Hackmaster campaign, The Burning Trogs Rule!  In this next chapter, simply named The Burning Trogs Redux, the adventuring party is reassembled twelve years after they "saved the world" as well as twelve years real-time since we last played.   The party never had a cohesiveness, but there is one thing that would make the Trogs want to re-unite:  A chance to finally destroy the Slavers of Roark. 

    In a moment of campaign disharmony, when a number of players needed to drop out due to work, grad school, and real life, the remaining Trogs were waylayed by slavers a la A1-4 and only two managed to escape with their lives. 

    Revenge is a dish best served with a well-financed expedition, and the Trogs were too busy saving the world, their adopted homeland, and themselves to launch one.    As the campaign wrapped up, most of the Trogs went back to lives they were more accustomed to.  Some became merchants, some became leaders of dominions or secret societies, others just sat on the beach of their newly granted estates, glass of wine in hand. 

    But for Zorin Redrock, Gnome Titan Fighter, Hero of Frandor's Keep,  Warlord of the Imperial Expeditionary Force of Barthey, retirement was never a long-term option.

    Two years after the war ended, he left his estate for the final time and travelled to the Gnomish City States. He convinced the City-States military to sponsor a pirate and slaver-hunting expedition throughout the Mer Kasp. Unfortunately, Zorin wasn't much of a sailor, as are most other types of gnomes, and the slavers secret bases have remained hidden.

    Six years on the sea taught Zorin a lot about sailing, and an utter disgust for human and gnome sailors. Despite the finest armament on the Mer Kasp, his lack of naval tactics results in more than a few crews nearly getting wiped out from pirates. The City-States decided to recall the ship and its crew from the mission.

    Zorin sank his small fortune into three new ships and tried to outfit them with proper crews, but his reputation for confusing independent merchants, and sometimes naval frigates, for pirate ships preceded him. After a few disasters, a few sunken ships, and a couple of replacements along the way, his two remaining ships are crewed by a swarthy, gung-ho band of halflings.

    This year, the twelfth since he "retired," his haphazard networks of contacts, spies, and informants have finally uncovered information as to the possible where about of the secret slaver city of their ire.  A tiny cove that's almost impossible to navigate has been rumored to harbor slavers or pirates.. Only the skilled, or the well-organized could get through, so that means only a treacherous overland march is required to reach it, and possibly even rappel down some cliff faces. Even worse, this information could be time-sensitive, and Zorin's flagship, is far, far away. His second ship is nearby, and it's up to its scrappy halfling crew to do the recon, and possibly assault the pirates there.  

    The Hoped Revenge on the Slavers, Although the Men Would Be MUCH Shorter.