Saturday, August 18, 2018

#RPGaDay 2018 Day 18: What Art Inspires My Game?

We're getting a line of softball questions to answer for #RPGaDay:

Day 18:  "What Art Inspires My Game?"

I'll be honest, I loved me some Elmore back in the day, but nowadays?

Art, created by an artist, a painter, an illustrator, a professional interpretive goat dance?  It really doesn't hit me like it used to.

It might be that in this age of social media, everybody and their uncle posts their world for our world to see, and so much of it is so... mediocre and uninspiring to say the least.  Now I'm not saying that the person who created the art or their fellow players wouldn't be inspired by the work that was completed.  I'm just saying that, I come from a era where the few black and white drawings in the book were all we had to work on.  We mined those illustrations for as much as we could get out of them.  I just don't feel the same inspiration from either Twitter pics or the 300-page full-color professional books.

And it doesn't even have to be pretty, just competently done.  I've been inspired by plenty o' stick figures in my day.

Friday, August 17, 2018

(Painting) OGRE Minatures Infantry

So with all this Role-Playing stuff, people claim I forgot about minis.

I sorta did, too.  But truth be told, there's paint largely on unfinished figures.

These are some infantry stands for the OGRE Minis Set 1.

These guys are 8mm tall, and despite some of the cool paint schemes I found, they're just too small for anything I can do beyond dab and wash. 
Compared to a GHP Microarmor Marine Recovery Vehicle. 
 This batch gets the paint scheme of my Transnitrian Scientific Republic.  Half of the equipment on Set 1 will be done in the TSR green, and I'll be fiddling around with the rest, still sitting on my painting bench.
Oops, wrong game.... same result.

Plastic Infantry vs a Metal Howitzer.
NEXT:  If the water in the basement stays manageable/non-existent, I'll be pumping out a little more 6mm love, slowly putting more paint on two Pulp-related units, and dabbling into Terrain Crate.

#RPGaDay 2018 Day 17: The Best Compliment I Had While Gaming

As we begin to build a head of steam through the second half of #RPGaDay, Day 17 is another easy one for me:

"The Best Compliment I Had While Gaming."

Sure, the easiest one, would be "Thanks for being the guy who actually runs games."  Everybody's hungry, but someone needs to be willing to cook the stuff.

No, the best compliment was wisely surmised by my friend, Hoyce (and paraphrased by me):

"You're able to keep everything connected in your campaign... even if it never affects the PCs."

I'm near obsessive/compulsive when it comes to the events of the campaign, large and small. Now, this doesn't mean that if the PCs stiff a waitress for the bill that the waitress becomes the big evil at the end of the campaign, but I will try to work through the repercussions of the actions until the ripples fade away.

Helped NPCs hopefully improve themselves or others, empty dungeons usually abhor a vacuum, Kings and Queens get older and either get wiser or senile.

When the party returns from their adventure/journey/shenanigans I always have them come back to the inn or tavern and catch up on the world's events.  Just because there nowhere near the Grand Duchy of Celsior, it doesn't mean that news of his wife having twins, or him barring the Riffalin Elves from entering the city, won't eventually affect them.  But as the campaign progresses, the erratic behavior of the Duke could be chalked up to sleepless night (even with paid help), or perhaps the elf ban spreads to other towns.  I would hope that all of us in our real lives pick up bits and pieces from around the globe
Remember the Buddhas of Bamiyan?  They were destroyed in March 2001 by a little-known, ruthless theocracy known as the Taliban.  Outside of some awesome intelligence analysts, no one's characters in a modern game could possibly imagine acknowledged US forces in the country less than a year later.  This is what I do on a smaller, and hopefully, less heinous scale in my own campaigns.. the constant cause and effect, not helping start a War on Terror. 
One of my dream campaigns is "getting the Hackmaster band together again," and continuing their storylines roughly 15 years later.  For my addiction to continuity, it's a gleeful blessing and a painful curse at the same time.

If we ever begin play, I will eventually have some player go over their ancient notes and inquire "Why didn't the Senate of Danaan help us with the endeavor years ago?"  and I'm going to need to either have the answer right there in black and white, or rattle my brain for the why, when, and how of the action and the effect of such an action within the sphere of influence.

... and to be honest, if it doesn't involve bribes or getting the plutocrats rich, the Senate of Danaan couldn't help themselves to an all-you-can-eat buffet, much less pressing lawmaking.  That was an easy one.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

#RPGaDay 2018 Day 16: Describe My Plans for My Next Game

Day 16 of #RPGaDay does not help those who try to finish these up before the August 1st launch:

"Describe My Plans for My Next Game"

Vague enough to ask for clarification.  Is this as a player?  As a GM?  Is this "next game" as next session for next campaign?

(PLAYER) 5e D&D Online Game.  Falgor the Mighty has tagged around with this group of adventurers with ulterior motives and plotlines, traveled to other dimensions, and might be trying to save the world.  But all the poor elf barbarian has wanted is a legitimate target to rage on... followed by a nice nap. Stuck in some odd gravity dimension with skyships, Falgor's developed a love-hate relationship with giant locust-esque creatures that overwhelm the realm.

Falgor's getting antzy
(GM - Next Session with the Guys) Basic D&D Adventures in Gulluvia.  The party got their butts handed to them, and had a falling out with the craven wizard in the group.  But things have been smoothed over and with ex-caravan guards Leroy and Jenkins, they plan on re-entering the ancient temple which is home to fire-breathing dog-boys (kobolds!)
I might be a little behind on all the Goodman Games offerings.
(GM - Next Session with the Kids) The Pulp Egypt game has been a lot of bad guy vs bad guy action this season.  With the next episode, we travel to where the old heroes are relaxing.  One known for peaceful landscapes and ninjas:  Sweden!

(GM - Next Campaign) I've run two filler Call of Cthulhu online sessions that involved 90's Canadian college students uncovering strange occurrences in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada.  I've already "replaced" one student, schooled younger players on the sizes of floppy disks, and demonstrated the escalated military preparedness of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.  We had a few cancellations of the 5e Online Game this time last year, so I could possibly fill in some more sessions of my "Curse of Nevoz" campaign.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

#RPGaDay 2018 Day 15: Describe a Tricky RPG Experience I Enjoyed

If the great failure that turned out to be amazing wasn't tough enough, Day 15 of #RPGaDay made my head spin:  "Describe a Tricky RPG Experience I Enjoyed."

I would like to think that I'm quick on my feet and even I can take an honest swing at the wackiest of curve balls thrown by my players.  I try to stick with my initial decision, be it a "Yes and..." , " No, But...", or "Yes, but..." situation.  Sure, I may scramble between session to tie everything together with at least the basic semblance of logic, but we will all try to figure out the result at the table, together.

So I guess the one of the more trickier situations was finishing up Masks of Nyarlathotep. 

I started my Call of Cthulhu campaign over a decade ago, in a response to the intermittent schedule of our gaming group.  Sometimes we gamed once a month, sometimes twice, sometimes we missed a few months between sessions.

Not the schedule conducive to fantasy RPGs, but the one-shot capability of CoC, mixed with the inherent fear of going mad/getting eaten, seemed to keep the group engaged, no matter what they encountered.

I essentially gave most of the players an avatar character of themselves, adjusted for the 1920's.  Some lived, some died, some got blown up, or eaten by the "Minotaur," but, for the most part, I ran scenarios that used their strengths and improved their skills, so I felt confident they could go through Masks.

***Spoilers***

I won't attempt to tell the trials and ridiculousness they went through during Masks (that's for the actual play link above), but eventually,  the investigators made it to Shanghai, found the person of interest, plus learned of an opportunity to attack a cult base.

First problem?  The latest patron in this endeavor was the Imperial Navy of Japan.

Second?  They disabled/destroyed a lot of the weird tech on the island base before Japanese marines could reach the site.

Third? With the help of an equally deranged Japanese officer/translator, they convinced the Captain of Japanese cruiser they were using on this mission to open fire on a yacht, allegedly belonging to the cultists.

The direct hit created an odd explosion, and a giant radium cloud that killed tens of thousands in the city, and obviously created an international incident.

Needless to say, the Empire of Japan did not appreciate the circumstances the investigators put them in and decided to detain the three surviving Americans for a "debriefing."

At this point it was time to leave and after some wrap-up and Q&A, we called the campaign a success.

Except there were too many unanswered questions on all sides.  So, for the first time in my gaming career, I tried Play-by-eMail to fill in the gaps of the story and possibly get everyone home to the East Coast of the United States.

The trickiest part lay when I separated the investigators in game and sent individual emails with the players. Without working together, each one stuck to their guns "I wish to speak to a representative of the United States Embassy in Japan."

The Japanese played a delaying game, even providing small gifts and creature comforts for information.  The investigators barely flinched.  Finally some meetings were established, the true nature of the radium poisoning accident in Shanghai were made public, and the Japanese finally acquiesced to their secondary demands.   For physicist Steven O'Hara, it was proper medical treatment for his radium exposure. for, author David Kavida, it was contact with The New Yorker, and their demand for a story, pronto.

And for history professor Dr Bob Wintermute? It was a simple telegram to a powerful New York Industrialist, Mr Ambrose Mogens.

Mogens was a BIG bad guy in the game.  The group had foiled his plans and burned down with mansion in Queens, but the near-immortal Ambrose could use these bumbling fools for his own, and had struck up an interesting arrangement with them.

Within days, there were new conversations, Kavida had submitted a manuscript about he chaos in Shanghai, and the group had individually boarded the same steamer back to America.

The mention of Mogens provided me an interesting escape.  He had admitted to some of the players that he worshiped the same dark god as the other cultists they were encountering, just not as deadly and violent.  Stopping these cults was a good business decision.

Mogens successfully negotiated their freedom and had the US Ambassador to Japan killed for his insolence (Between the Mogens telegram and my discovery that the Ambassador actually did die while the Investigators were detained made me absolutely giddy.)

Of course this set up a huge  "You owe me..." while setting up everyone's return trip home. 

If we never get a chance to play with these characters again, I closed a chapter with some terrifying personal horror of dealing with Mogens. 

And if we do get to play, I would gleefully appreciate the attention to detail the big bad guy has while dealing with our heroes. 

I'd jump back into that campaign in a heartbeat, if I was given the opportunity.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Ballad of the Pigeon God #71 The Stand

For a breakdown of what's transpired, check out the Ballad of the Pigeon God Page.  The "Apocalypse" starts with Episode #64.

The Mid-Afternoon of the 2nd of DecDec 1072
The Chateau d'Echleon, Outside the Village of Eding

Fiame Runyon had been a simple farm girl from the village of Agtir in Crosedes.  She was ardent follower of Akana, becoming a cleric in her nineteenth year.  With her faith, skill, and years of networking, even the most conservative clergy knew she might one day become the first female Bishop of the Duchy of Draloite, but first she fell in with Prince William. 

She disliked being relegated to a "healing check" in a party full of warriors, but she performed her role, and most of those inconsiderate bastards were dead.  She was still here. 

But now, her best friends and the last line of defense for the realm was face to face against the Cabal of Anon-Maxis, the twelve most ruthless, most powerful mages on the continent.  Defended by one hundred of their Iron Guardsmen, they had just disintegrated what appeared to be an avatar of the rumored God of Goodness and Light, and now only needed to push the remaining heroes mere feet to fall down a steep cliff and out of the battle.   

Laying on the ground before her was the body of King William.  His coronation did nothing to serve his wanderlust... or improve his administrative powers, but the group had helped him obtain The Blood-Brand from White Plume Mountain.  Despite overwhelming odds, he had rallied many to maintain a thin line between the monster hordes and the rest of humanity.  But now he was dead.

They were all dead from the party, save the viking Rurik from the fjords of Wyrmnal.  He was impetuous, but he might have been the only fellow party member who was inherently good.

The duo stood with the last members of the estate owned by the "Pigeon Baron" Echelon.  He was a deranged man with mysticism from the far off eastern lands with a disturbing interest in pigeons.  And his whole party had been simply horrible at the adventuring lifestyle.  William's party had earned the most coin cleaning up half-finished adventures from Echelon and company.  Heck, they had managed to acquire the two ancient weapons, Wave and Overwhelm, and left an open path for William to obtain The Blood-Brand and become Emperor of the World, as per the prophecy.

His friend, Kane was also of eastern origin, and somehow manipulated water, but after nearly a full day of fighting the armies of evil, he had tapped all his abilities, using his staff more to hold himself up than for defense.

A dwarf, not the quirky one with the accent, but a stoic dwarf named Thorrin stood alongside these two, wielding Overwhelm, a flying boomerang battle axe.  It had belong to the other dwarf, Norm, but he was lying motionless on the battlefield.

Lingering near the entrance to the barn besides them was a red-headed bard with a bow named Ariel, and a wolf, Pathfinder, whose wolf looked dark-red with the caked blood and gore.  Both were past exhaustion, both hoping for a miraculous change, or a swift and honorable death.

That was everyone who was left...  and in a few moments they'd all be dead and this cabal of mages would move on to decimate the innocents in the nearby village of Eding.  From there, who knew....

As the mages began the somatic components of the spells to destroy these remaining interlopers, a divine strike from the ruins of the estate arced right into the center of the mages.

"Mohammad's alive!"  Fiame could hear Echelon say in great relief.  She didn't know who this Mohammad was, but any miracles were gladly accepted.

As the mages and the surrounding Iron Guardsmen recovered from the blast, a tall and lanky elf rode in on a war horse, he dove off the horse right into the dozen spellcasters, only mace in hand.

Fiame and heroes stood flat-footed, simply amazed at the relief coming from all directions.  The remaining hobgoblins behind the mages encountered Ashe and his lost Winnebago tribe of elves.

Rolf Wolfsblood, a vicious tattooed barbarian, and his other heathens from Galmar met the Iron Guardsmen's right flank.  And on the left, a kobold with blood soaked vestments of Akana, Dag di Velandro led his remaining kobold acolytes harassed as best they could.

The heroes moved forward, but the Iron Guardsmen seemed to take inhuman amounts of punishment, and with the help of one of the surviving mages, they pushed out into the encircling attackers.

Once again, everyone was pushed to the brink.  The Guardsmen merely toyed with the hero, even once disarming Rurik of his longsword.  The viking fumbled around the ground for another weapon and pulled out the sword under the body of Norm Dingleberry.

It was The Blood-Brand.  And unlike all other interactions, the sword glowed bright blue in Rurik's hands.

The mere sight of the blue glowing runes on the black made made the three surviving members of the cabal to instantly flee, one by flight, one by teleport, another by gate.

More aid came over the eastern hill, near the old vineyard.  Dozens of halflings on war ponies, led by Mayor A. Warren Corkbarrel, charged down the hill and into the fray!

The halfling cavalry from the nearby villages and Rurik wielding the Blood-Brand with an effect completely opposite of how it was in William's was just enough to save the day.

With the death of the Iron Guardsmen, and the ultimate rout of the hobgoblins and other lingering creatures, the monster races seemed to almost vanish instantly.  Pockets of resistance could be found, but most could be seen fleeing the area at full speed.

The heroes all reunited at the barn to rejoice at the apparent (and largely unexplained) collapse of the forces of evil.  Echelon, Thorrin, and Kane searched for their friends among the casualties, and to the relief of all, Norm, Felix, and Brutus were all still alive, but just barely.  Markuus, the large elf, had died a heroic, if foolhardy death.

Thorrin returned Overwhelm to Norm once they took him inside the barn for medical attention.

Fiame and Rurik were still dumbstruck by what had transpired.  The Blood-Brand was still glowing a light blue.  The pair simply collapsed from where they were standing, each putting their head on the other's shoulder.

For the others, Rolf, Ashe, Binklen, and Dag, it was a time to catch up on lost time, and tell some tales as their followers secured a perimeter.

But it wasn't a big enough perimeter.  The eastern hill had assumed secured with the halfling cavalry, but Rolf spotted a large mass coming over the hill.

Lots of cavalry, unknown markings, and worst of all, they appeared fresh to fight.
The day was not over yet....

RIP: Markuus Brighthelm

Next:  #72 Ascension

#RPGaDay 2018 Day 14: Describe a Failure that Became Amazing

On whatever day the #RPGaDay list is made available, I take some time and build out the drafts for each daily post.  Title, "RPGaDay" under labels, and any quick one sentence answers to the questions if they immediately come to mind.  By the first of August, I like to have at least 15 days of posts ready, either completed or darn near close to finished.  By Today (#14),  I'm usually figuring out the  five or six days at the end of the month.

As I write this, I'm in the middle of the previous weekend, I have seven posts left, but two of them are Days 14 & 15.

So for Day #14:  "Describe a Failure that Became Amazing," I'll cover the TPK that wasn't.

2001:  I had launched my latest fantasy campaign, The Journey of Mutumbo, in a kinder, gentler time. 

Monday, September 10, 2001.

Needless to say, a lot changed in the real world as the campaign progressed, even the weeknight we played, but all of us learned to fall in love with Hackmaster, 4th Edition.

Months later, with the first plot line successfully completed, the party stumbled and bumbled their way across the Kingdom of Crosedes.  About half the party from session one had been killed off... and a few of their successors as well.. 

Then some claim I made a mistake:

I ran the N2: The Forest Oracle



The Forest Oracle is widely regarded as one of the worst written D&D modules of all time.  It's not a bad structure for an adventure, it's just that parts of it are written completely incoherently. 

Nevertheless, it fit the geographic transition the party was traveling, so I persisted.

Right before I was to start this story arc, one of players hit me with a bit of bad news:  School/Work (it is nearly 18 years ago) would interfere withe gaming for a bit and Cecelia Darkspruce, Half-Elf Warrior Priestess of Sif, needed to drop out for a number of weeks. 

We couldn't agree on a proper transition that wouldn't involve travelling in the same direction of the other characters, so I ham-fisted a bad prophecy/calling involving Sif's Valkyries calling her to aid in the upcoming Ragnarok (*spoilers* It was a false alarm).  With their best fighter and cleric gone, the group moved on.

Even in my early years of gaming, when I first purchased this module, I knew the rope bridge was a killer.   To cross from the mountains into the elven wood, a three-rope bridge was needed to cross a small river full of whitewater rapids.  Except there was one small problem: most of the characters already owned steeds.

It was decided that the Nubian warrior Mutumbo would lead the animals downriver to find a ford to cross.  With a time-sensitive quest and their second best fighter now missing, the group crossed the bridge.  Of course, a pack of wolves ambushed them, and even with pulled back tactics and perhaps a fudged die or two, heroes either fell of the bridge or fell into the river at zero hit points.  Everyone in the fight was killed. 

Everyone was quite bummed out, especially since Mutumbo noticed the bodies of his friend and allies floating in the river, but didn't even make an attempt to save them/retrieve the bodies.  He simply worked his way downriver for two days until finding a fordable part to cross.   It shouldn't come as a surprise, that I definitely hit Mutumbo with an alignment penalty/shift.

For my players, essentially a TPK was enough to ponder stop playing, but with Mutumbo's player leaving for a bit "to let cooler heads prevail," I started a campaign on the opposite side of the continent, and the Burning Trogs became legend. 

To be honest the characters rolled up for the Trogs (and the addition of two players to offset our losses) made this party far more powerful than the first storyline.  In fact, when Mutumbo and Cecelia Darkspruce eventually returned on separate occasions, both got their backsides handed to them by the Redrock cousins, Gnome Titans who were still significantly lower level than the older characters. 

The Burning Trogs Rule! was the last great fantasy campaign I've run, and without that TPK, who knows where the old group would have stumbled towards. We had much better storylines, cooler magic items, and much better drama in the Kingdom of Marakeikos (yes you read that right).