Thursday, 20 December 2012
Wednesday, 19 December 2012
Thursday, 13 December 2012
The adventure is a location (i.e. not a plot) and can be explored in a non-linear manner. In the case of this group, that mostly involved opening a door and saying ‘No. We don’t like the look of this. Not one bit. We’ll try somewhere else. We shut the door. Quickly’. But this was not bland, mechanical caution, a worry that their PCs would be overmatched by the Ogre hiding behind the curtain, but a growing sense of unease derived from the PCs interactions with the environment, even things that were absolutely harmless. Of course, this is an adventure by Jim Raggi, so there were lots of hazards even though there are few ‘monsters’. Given this, the Tower of the Stargazer encourages caution before the PCs even reach the door of the tower – if the PCs die, it isn’t likely to be a run of bad dice, or a monster that wasn’t ‘balanced’ against the PCs, but because the players made certain decisions as to what their PCs would do, making it an ideal tutorial for old school play.
All this reminded me of one of the better Fighting Fantasy gamebooks. There were few fights – the majority of the adventure is an exercise in player choice and, god forbid, player skill. There is lots of strange stuff for the players to have their PCs mess with, sometimes with catastrophic results. If the players do mess with the Stargazer’s stuff, they will find themselves ‘Testing Their Luck’ via a few ‘Save or X’ throws.
There is even the requirement for the GM to hold his finger in a page as his players decide to do something terribly stupid before the adventure has properly begun. Player choice driven TPK. ‘nuff said.
The adventure ran very well. The players enjoyed it, once we decided that we couldn’t let the session end quite that abruptly*. The one thing my players did not enjoy was the puzzle that protected the Stargazer’s treasure horde. My players could not crack it, and it seems that neither could Raggi’s playtest groups. If I do run the adventure again, I might well change that puzzle.
All in all, I really enjoyed Tower of the Stargazer. It is suitably strange, pretty lethal – though not necessarily so, as the lethality is so strongly tied to player choice – and could be a great beginning to a campaign, providing both a Big Bad and a number of ‘treasures’ that are bound to get the PCs into trouble with somebody or something.
*If this were a game in a proper campaign, you can be sure that there would be no ‘backsies’ – it is the persistence of the consequences of player choice that differentiates a tabletop roleplaying game from a CRPG
Tuesday, 11 December 2012
Saturday, 1 December 2012
The opening paragraph tells you some bare details about Lagash, the seas around Enraki, and the caravans of the Scythera Desert, and then asks; where do YOU want to go?
Thursday, 29 November 2012
Wednesday, 28 November 2012
Saturday, 24 November 2012
Tuesday, 20 November 2012
To bring us up to date with the current campaign (following from clearing Kalten's Keep and the Exploration of the Mire Wood [One, Two]); The party rested for a few weeks, and considered their options. What was going on in Gateways?
Sunday, 18 November 2012
Friday, 9 November 2012
After several weeks of game time rest, the adventure in the Mire Woods continued:
The Party (this time consisting of Chip, Dale, Petra, Myna (an Elf, played by A), and Tully (a hermaphrodite Halfling, played by C), with BRAN, a porter, and GILGRIM, a man-at-arms) returned to the Mire Woods to investigate the temple. They found the cottage of JENNY THE HAG, who confounded the Party with her invisibility. She eventually bargained with the Party, once she was satisfied that a bunch of armed men and women were not there to rob that. She exchanged a Potion of Invisibility for some tobacco and the promise of something interesting, magical, or arcane from the Mixie’s temple.
Travelling up the Vein, the Party killed a GIANT CRAB and a MIXIE, before avoiding a nest of STIRGES and more GIANT LEECHES as they surveyed the area around the temple. They found that the ‘throne’ moved to reveal a trap door, and explored the underground complex. Quickly locating the likely location of the Mixies (a warm door with a sweet smell), the Party decided to explore before confronting the Mixies. They found a sacrificial altar guarded by short SKELETONS with the top of their skull removed and silver coins in their eye sockets. They found a statue of a beautiful woman with the top of her head missing and something in the ‘bowl’. The party did not look inside. They found a circular room with a spiral mosaic on the floor. At the centre was a bed, with a plaque that read; “rest ye here and be reborn”. Underneath the bed was a trapdoor and mechanism of some kind, which they declined to investigate further. They found a terrifying nightmare frieze depicting a journey to Hell, which could incapacitate the weak-minded. With time, real and in-game (the party wanted to be out of the Mire Woods before nightfall), they charged into the room that they suspected to be the lair of the Mixies - and they were right. The Mixies were cut down in short order, managing only to Charm Bran and leave Petra with a broken arm (8 weeks out).
The party recovered a great haul worth about 4000SP. In the hands of the statue of D’NAMNAS (depicted as a pissing, rearing black horse, with human hands and spider-eyes made of jewels) they found 10 Gold Crowns from the Second Empire of Humanity. They left one in the Demon’s hands, and gave the other 9 to Jenny the Hag, who claimed to be able to feel the weight of evil. She rewarded them with another Potion of Invisibility.
Other Goings On in Gateways:
The Bishop's agents are still looking for adventurers to investigate the renegade Cleric Elywn.
Several parties went through the trap door in Kalten's Keep. None returned, until last week, when Jorkal climbed out of a secret passage in the woods, laden with treasure. None of his party survived - he described a warren of crypts filled with undead, and a secret ossuary filled with laughing skulls. Jorkal has been drinking and whoring away his treasure; he was a taciturn humourless man before striking rich, but since his return, laden with silver and gold, he has been a changed man.
The Elf in the Isle of Lost Dreams (a black lotus den) eventually wasted away. The Party saw his body being loaded in a coffin and surrounded by ice - the madam of the 'Isle' sold his possessions, and then sold his body to agents of RANGA MARR, a wizard and anatomist in Mirror Bay. Apparently, he is experimenting with reproducing Elven 'infravision' - the ability to see in the infrared spectrum.
An old sage heard the Party’s stories of the Mixies and launched into an exposition on D'namnas, a Chaotic demon associated with dreams and nightmares. The spider eyed, human handed horse is one of his forms. Mixies, he claimed, were once Elves, but sometime during the Second Empire of Humanity they became degenerate through their worship of Chaos. He has read, he said, that they reproduce through the nightmares of their victims.
A Green Dragon flew over the town. Some of the guards in the High Tower were foolish enough to loose arrows at it - annoyed, it wheeled in the sky and exhaled a cloud of noxious green gas, before swooping over a nearby farm, plucking several cows from the ground. It disappeared, heading towards the highland east of Kalten's Copse. When help reached the High Tower, they found the bodies of the guards, skin blistered and burned and their tongues swollen in their heads.
Wednesday, 17 October 2012
Saturday, 13 October 2012
*Correction - In AD&D it is worth all of 10GP.
Thursday, 11 October 2012
With this is mind, levels are understood as more than increases in skill, but broader abstractions that also include increases in fame/notoriety. This idea is already built into the classic games by the fact that higher level characters automatically attract followers, can build strongholds, etc. It’s not just the fact that a character is a good swordsman that allows him to attract a body of loyal, armed men at name level. It is that everyone in the Duchy knows that the character is the best sword in the Duchy.
So far, all I’ve done to mechanise this is to give xp bonuses for high Charisma, and for successful boasting. Extravagant spending might warrant an xp bonus, too… but it’ll have to be on something truly useless, with bonuses for inventiveness. I am thinking of codifying it – probably pinching wholesale from Chris Kutulik’s Hill Cantons Compendium – but for the moment we will play loose with these ideas.
However, extravagant spending on ladies (and men) of the night, or on less mercenary seduction, is not just a means to bolster the ‘rock star’ image of the adventurer. In Mikedemia Press' City Book (which I really like, so I ought to write about it sometime - and it appears that it is still available here), an optional rule suggests that adventurers are so filled with lust (well, it doesn't exactly say that) if they do not find companionship they risk wasting away entirely.
“Characters must have companionship at least once every five weeks, or see their abilities to concentrate, study, and cast magic steadily deteriorate. Relevant characteristics and skills might drop by a few percentiles or a point or a level a week until companionship is obtained.”
Adventurers as Russel Brand? Hopefully not – Errol Flynn, perhaps!
Wednesday, 10 October 2012
That’s the review. Here’s a few more comments.
First, they did, kind of follow through with the reference to ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’. In the trailer, Dredd says; ‘We can’t go over them. We can’t go under them.’ These lines are cut from the final film, but Dredd does say; ‘We’ve got to go through them.
I HATE 3D films, the 3D effects break, rather than build, my immersion in the film – they often feel more like a simulator ride (or one of the 360° cinemas that they used to have a theme parks) than a movie. And they leave me with a headache. That said, 2D films do that to me too – the first Transformers movie was a baffling whirl of visuals and ear-bleeding noise, so I’m obviously not built for contemporary action films. In Dredd though, the 3D effects work. In fact, they’re integral, being used mainly to visualise the effects of Cake, a made up drug, as it stimulates Shatner’s Bassoon. In the film the drug is called Slo-Mo, and there’s no sign of Czech Neck, but its neurological effects appear the same.
But Dredd isn’t a good Judge Dredd film. It is a very violent sci-fi film. And here is the beginning of the problem; Dredd (and Anderson) mete out summary executions left, right, and centre. Now, I have let my 2000AD subscription lapse in the last few years, but the lasting impression of the wardrobe full of progs and Megazines is that Dredd doesn’t summarily execute people except in extreme circumstances. That the Judges are hyper-violent BUT sentence people to the Iso-Cubes was always a big part of the distinctiveness of Judge Dredd and Mega-City One, for me.
I have been talking about Dredd as being like a new Verhoeven film, but it isn’t. It’s got the violence. It is set in future. But the satire is absent, and as a Dredd fan, or a Verhoeven fan, all through the film the question, ‘where is the satire’ keeps bouncing back to the front of your mind. And without the satire, Dredd becomes a much more reactionary concept (especially when there’s summary execution in the bargain); here is your future, and drokk, you better hope we have fascism to contain it. Which might not be that far away in some parts of the Mediterranean Free State.
There is a belly wheel, there is a Hottie House, and there is a poster advertising a ‘The Mark of Krysler’, but these barely perceptible nods only heighten the non-Dreddness of Dredd. It’s a shame when you add it all; Dredd, and 2000AD, played a big part in forming my taste in fantastical fiction, and therefore my tastes in fantasy gaming. I’m struggling to imagine the Mega-City One of Dredd being a city of a Boing(TM) craze, or Otto Sump or Max Normal, one of Judge Cal and the Kleggs, or even one invaded by Judge Death. They’ve made a very good film that is a worse Dredd film than Stallone’s effort. I could imagine a late 1990s Stallone Dredd sequel featuring all of those things. If Dredd makes enough money to warrant a sequel, stripped of licence for visual inventiveness granted by Slow-Mo, I wonder where they can go.
Saturday, 6 October 2012
I'd love to see one of these well funded Kickstarter and Indiegogo OSR campaigns commission some work from Ian Miller...
Thursday, 4 October 2012
Wednesday, 3 October 2012
Tuesday, 2 October 2012
Monday, 1 October 2012
p.s. Tenkar's thoughts on Attacking the Darkness certainly bear thinking about as an alternative fumble system, mind. They seem original, but who knows what rules are hidden in my gaming cupboards?
Friday, 28 September 2012
Wednesday, 26 September 2012
A work of fiction can get by with very rare monsters, just one site of adventure, or even just one adventure - because the whole thing is a massive railroad. I've tried playing Lord of the Rings like a Fighting Fantasy gamebook, but I still haven’t got the bit where I can make a decision. A fantasy world made for fiction can have a more convincing veneer of ‘realism’ because most of the world can be filled with the mundane. Adventure doesn’t need to be everywhere, it doesn’t need to be in lots of places, it just needs to be in the one place the characters go.
A game such as D&D needs adventure to be everywhere. It needs to be in enough places that the exercise of player character ‘freedom’ does not depend on quantum dungeons appearing wherever the players go, or years of in-game mundanity while the player characters traverse the world without coming across the Lair of the Spider Queen, or the Crypts of the Last Men, or… These travels might involve peril, even opportunities for interesting roleplay, but not for fantasy adventure.
In the end we are back to my post on Titan – and I promise to switch to another topic soon; we’ve been playing using the elegant mechanics of Lamentations of the Flame Princess, but with the tone of the game taken from D&D read through Titan – which in summary, even if you don’t like adventurers as ‘rock stars’, is that a world for fantasy adventure needs to be a world packed with fantasy adventure. If accurately representing medieval demographics, economics, politics etc. gets in the way of this, then these have to be done away with. OR, the inconsistencies have to be glossed over – this is the cost of playing a fantasy adventure game in a pseudo-historical setting.