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Archive for the ‘RPG campaigns’ Category

First, a bit of background:  I am a second generation gamer.  By which I mean that my dad, his brothers, and my mom all played D&D when I was a kid (I was born in ’74…same as D&D, or so the story goes).  I remember sitting up at night leaning up against my bedroom door which opened onto the living room, listening in on their adventures.  It was therefore no big surprise when I took an interest in it myself.  I always borrowed my dad’s books and loved nothing more than to flip through the Monster Manual and Fiend Folio.

Once I got to the point I could buy things on my own, I started buying any RPG that caught my attention.  GURPS (second edition) was my first.  Cyberpunk2020.  Rifts, Palladium Fantasy, D&D (of course), and on down the line through a who’s who of RPG gaming goodness.  I played Star Frontiers, Gamma World, three different versions of Star Trek, and even took a peek at the old FASA version of the Doctor Who RPG.

If this were High School, and I was a cheerleader, you might call me a slut.  And it continues to this day.  I’m always looking over the next big thing.  I contemplated trying to put together a group for the latest round of Warhammer 40K games.  I found a copy of Victoriana when I heard that Abney Park (an awesome band, if you like steampunk) was using those rules to do an RPG based on their songs.  I’ve made my share of Shadowrunnners, usually either a street sam or a rigger.  I played first edition Earthdawn.

You could say I’ve forgotten more about role-playing than most of the latest crop of players has learned.

And RPG’s weren’t the extent of it either.  I have a (mostly) complete set of Star Fleet Battles, and have no problems with the tax code rulebook.  I can allocate energy for an entire fleet in the time it takes most players to do so for one ship.  I was a member of BLADES, the local game store’s Car Wars club.  We never made it to the regionals, but we had a hell of a time trying.

Then of course, there’s all the different editions of Battletech.  When I wasn’t playing, I was building.  Either I was creating terrain pieces, or arena maps, or just building characters I might never get to use.

My “Book of the Dead” would be a sight to see.  In it you’d find my elven Ranger, who faced Tiamat, and survived (saving the rest of the party at the same time).  Then there’s Valentine Victor Vargas, gnomish thief extraordinaire, and expert at the expeditious retreat.  Sir Eglemore, the undead skeleton knight determined to find the dragon that cursed him into undeath (and roasted the flesh of his bones at the same time).  Captain Crunch, the custom built pick-up designed for tournament Car Wars play, which could take a 150 mile per hour collision and allow the driver to survive.  Or how about his cousin, flambe?  He was a tournament legal, survivable car bomb.  Most memorable are Toog, Padaras, and Lady Charity.

Toog was a half ogre.  He adventured to prove his worth to the goddess of beauty.  He thought that if he earned her favor, she would make him handsome.  She never did, but he learned to overcome his handicap.  Now he runs an inter-dimensional fighting pit.

Padaras was from Monte Cook’s Arcana Evolved.  She was a Sibbecai who had grown up among a street gang, and then fought her way out of that gang to earn her self respect and redeem the crimes of her youth.  With her bow, Bloodharp, she could shoot anything almost from any distance.

Lady Charity was the daughter of nobility.  She ran away from home to become a pirate, and would have made a name for herself as ‘Queen of the Seas’ had she not been bitten by a ghoul, and turned undead herself.

Latest is Jonah.  A gunslinger on a desert world.  The game is like steampunk, but with a lot of cowboys and indians for set decoration (the indians are actually aliens), and with demons for bad guys.  He died in a gunfight, just exactly the way he wanted to go.

So if we ever meet one day, after the introductions (and please, forgive me if I act like a hyper child when I find out you read my blog, I’m not really like that in real life…it would just be cool to meet one or all of you), don’t be surprised if I act the part of the grizzled veteran with a whole lifetime of war stories.  Because on paper at least, that’s exactly what I am.

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Yesterday, in our Hero 6th edition game, my gunslinger was shot to death.

Too many gunfights, too close together.  As a result, my son’s character (the pilot) is now captured and being experimented on.  We failed to get the masks out of the laboratory, so the bad guys can still go ahead with their plots, and we’ll very quickly find out what the bad guys are up to.  They claim they are wanting to just ‘help humanity become better.’

Via experiments and mutations.

Still, I’m not concerned.  We’ll play that game again in three weeks, and I have time to create a new character.  Not sure what I’m going to do now, but I’ll think of something.  The funny part is, I felt it was a good character death, but my son was almost in tears over it.  I guess I played Jonah just a little too well.

We also got in a bit of DnD, in Planescape.  In that game, my son is playing a sorcerer.  He’s finally branching out and learning what other classes can do.  I don’t think he’s impressed much, but that is one of the risks of playing a 2nd level Aasimar Sorcerer.  I, on the other hand, have a Githzerai Monk.  Yeah, I got conned into a d20 game, despite how much I’ve burned out on it.  But I had fun, especially when the bar brawl broke out, and I jumped from chair to tabletop to the shoulder of a bad guy and from there jump kicked the boss in the teeth.

It was so cool.  Of course, I didn’t KO the boss.  It could have been cooler.

I was knocked out twice in that game, and reduced to 0 the third time.  That third battle, I didn’t do too badly at despite it all.  I maxed damage with a concussive blast that killed one of the attackers in one shot; and I didn’t flee from the phantasmal force spell (unlike my partner, the sorcerer, who fled for his life leaving me outnumbered).

Once I fully figure out all of the details of the monk, I just might have enough fun to stick with it.  Next week, we pick up the adventure from the library of last week.  We are converting the PC’s from Palladium Fantasy to Basic Role-Playing by Chaosium.  I now remember why I sold my Palladium books back in High School.  Too many wonky and missing rules.  I expect the conversion to be pretty simple.  In other words, I’m not going to do to much (both systems are d% systems with a 3-18 ability score spread).

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The last time I mentioned our weekly games, I mentioned that one of the systems we’d take out for a spin was Palladium Fantasy.  We had a pretty solid time last night, so much so that everyone told me they liked the adventure and their new characters.  A lot.

When we made the characters in preparation for this session, I followed the rules and let them take the Elven language because the rules said that for the Palladium world, that was basically the common language.  However, in the intervening time, as I prepared* the scenario, I switched worlds, and it turned out that Elven was not the common language.  But that was a minor issue, and could easily be explained away.

*By prepared, I mean to say that I decided what the broad strokes of the story were going to be.  I didn’t write anything down, and winged it through the rest.

The world I went with (instead of Palladium) was a homebrew a friend of mine and I wrote way back in the early days of DnD 3rd edition.  I decided to use this world because I know this world, and I haven’t yet finished reading all of the Palladium fantasy books.

First, the characters: (Remember I have a two player group, though I am open to finding more players should the opportunity arise.  If you are in/near Herrin, Illinois, let me know!)

Osric Arduin, Gnomish Bard.  Now, remember, this is Palladium fantasy, so the bard in this tale does not inspire others, or have any psuedo-magical abilities.  He’s just a wanderer looking for new tales and songs.  (and something of an oddball, since in Arrylon, most gnomes like to invent things.  Their inventions are generally harmless to anyone but the gnomes themselves, or anyone within 10′ of them when they explode.

Borodin the Learned, Elven Diabolist.  This is our rune mage.  In Palladium fantasy, the diabolist is an expert at creating runes and wards, which when touched by another person, causes all sorts of nasty effects.  In Arrylon, the elves are treated pretty much universally with disdain and suspicion.  You see, they’ve tried to conquer the world several times in the past.  No one likes them, because they tend to think that everyone is below their notice.

So, I brought these two seekers of knowledge to the Twilight Isle.  In Arrylon, there is one center of knowledge.  It is the Bard’s College, also called the Twilight Campus.  All books and scrolls eventually end up here.  The college has an annual festival to determine which new prospective bards should be considered for admission to the college, and so the entire island becomes the biggest party in the known world.  Our two characters come here for an opportunity to peruse the library, and our group is ready for the adventure to begin.

Upon arrival at the library, they are greeted by a halfling, who tells them how the library works.  You get in with a donation, preferably a new book or scroll.  They are shown around the lower levels, and in particular to the history section.  They spend the rest of the evening there, even past the time that the place closed for the night.  As they studied, a blood-curdling scream echoed down the halls.

They rushed down to the main hall to find the librarians clustered around a dead body.  No blood, no obvious wounds.  Later, as they investigated things, they found two strange runes on the man’s chest.  Runes, our diabolist recognized.  Not only that, but the art of rune-magic is so rare, that our diabolist looked to be the only one who could have created them.  For most of the day’s adventuring, it looked like he was going to swing for it.

My son was playing the Diabolist.  He was having fun, but was also irritated that all the evidence was pointing at him.  He even asked why it couldn’t have been some NPC that could have done it.  I told him it was drama.  It would not have involved him in the plot so deeply otherwise.  He didn’t like that answer much.

The head librarian, Philemon, closed the library and locked everyone in.  Among the lock-ins were a fat merchant, a wiry juggler, and a large barbarian.  (We took to calling him the Mad Russian, due to his size, presence, and the accent I adopted when speaking in character).  As the constables tried to piece together the evidence, the merchant starts to cough up blood, and he dies.  there are runes on his chest.  The diabolist knows it takes time to inscribe the runes, that they could not just appear, and that an unwilling target would make it very difficult.  But still, he is the only one who could do it, and that must mean he got to the victims much earlier, perhaps while they slept.

The rest of the people no longer want to share a room with the diabolist, so to keep the peace, the constables separate them into two groups.  Once they are alone, the mad russian tells the PC’s that he knows neither of them did it.  He’s from another land far to the east, and he’s been pursuing a killer that causes symbols to appear on his victims.  There is no way to know when he’ll strike, or how.  He hadn’t said anything because he knew that as a foreigner, no one would believe him.

The bad guy in this case, even the Russian didn’t know his name, had gotten hold of an artifact, one of the seven pieces of “Azorel’s Key.”  When collected together, the pieces of the key would form a device that could open the doors to Cairn Aedel, the home of the gods.    The key also helped you track down the locations of the other pieces.    The Russian doesn’t know which of the NPC’s has the key fragment, but he knows that they will continue to use it until they uncover the second piece, which is apparently somewhere on the campus.

The next morning, the constables took everyone aside one by one and began the questioning.  While Borodin was being questioned, the Juggler was turned to stone, also with runes on his chest.

To make a long story (and post) shorter, they suspected it was Philemon.  then the evidence suggested it was the halfling at the gate, especially since none of the halflings in the employ of the college worked the gate.  The halfling used magic to appear human because he was tired of all of the ‘short’ jokes.  In the end, it turned out to be Elder Tribune, the man in charge not only of this library, but many others across the lands.  The bosses boss.  He was a changeling.  Everyone thought the changelings were all dead, wiped out in the last inquisition.

This game was far more serious in tone than any of the others I’ve run, and I was pulling everything out of thin air as it went along.  Everyone had a lot of fun, and they all want to re-visit the characters.  Looks like I’ll be using Palladium Fantasy to explore Arrylon more from now on.  I just don’t know how to top this episode.

Part of the fun was that we played outside, in the breeze, and under a big shade tree.  We grilled out (being memorial day), and it was a very enjoyable time for all of us, even the GM.  Next week, Hero system, back in the gasoline punk world, where my gunslinger has to decide what to do now to stop the bad guys from basically nuking the entire planet.

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In about half an hour, our weekly RPG session starts.  This will be session 4 of our Hero 6th edition game entitled “gasoline punk.”  Basically, take a lot of elements from anime (including a heavy amount from “Wild Arms”), and set it on a planet that is mostly desert.  It’s the remains of an old colony long since cut off from the original founding culture.  It’s a western, with sci-fi elements.

I play a gunslinger, name of Jonah.  My sidekick is a young pilot.  Both of us are on the run from the Galbadian Empire, a collection of robber barons who picture themselves as rulers of the desert.  To paraphrase another sci-fi western “there’s some disagreement on that.”

We were hired to escort a scientist and his project to a place of safety where he could do research into an artifact left behind by the Mu, the worlds version of Native Americans.  Uniquely, Jonah is able to help with that a bit, having spent a lot of time among the Mu.  He understands some of their mysticism, and can even invoke a healing ritual, given enough time.  Of course, there’s the old flame from Jonah’s past who was also hired to go with them to retrieve an artifact from an ancient Mu temple.  Perhaps not too surprisingly, she turned on us, robbed us, took the artifact, and sealed us in the tomb to die.  We got out, and are looking for a bit of retribution.

Later, we’re going to be using GURPS because the GM is wanting to do something based somewhat on the Otherland series by Tad Williams.  So it looks like we’ll be doing a little post-cyberpunk adventuring.  Of course, I don’t care much for GURPS (or Hero for that matter), but like always, it’s either play what everyone else wants or don’t play.

Then of course, next week we return to Hackmaster.  The PC’s have decided that the dungeon is too tough for them, so I’ve been plotting a new story.  Don’t want to say too much here, but it involves the potential for some bad people to tear down the barriers between the planes of existence and “return the world to it’s natural state.”  Should be fun.

In the meantime, I’m also back to sketching out a new RPG system.  I’ve repeatedly tried, of course, to write my own rules, but in trying to be generic and universal, I always flounder after a bit.  This time, I have a goal in mind:  Instead of generic and universal, I’m aiming for cinematic action, a set of rules that can handle what I feel steampunk and pulp action should feel like.  The difference is that I don’t want to just copy someone else’s work, and I do want to consider how to add in other types of genre’s (even if the core isn’t written directly for it).

I’m calling it the “3D System”, which kind of tells you a little about the mechanics.  But it uses several different die types, and every roll is an opposed roll instead of just against a set difficulty.  Should make one on one duels a bit more interesting.  This way, even someone with a low skill might succeed, but the odds are against it.  Being a 3dice system, the result will still follow a bell curve, but you never know.  Damage in melee is a factor of how strong you are, and the better you beat his defense, the more damage you do.  Instead of just doubling damage when you roll a natural 20 (for example), the critical hits go up in severity based on how much damage you manage to score.

Right now, I’m still trying things out, and taking notes.  Soon, I’ll start on the actual first draft and maybe set up a time to do a preliminary playtest.  I might even share a few tidbits here with you.

Until next time…

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The last time I wrote, I said I was having trouble deciding which system to run aside from Rolemaster.  Well, one of my players had a copy of the Hackmaster Player’s Handbook and Gamemaster Guide that he was willing to sell me.  He wasn’t getting any use out of them, they were just taking up shelf space.

My son, of course, wanted to play Hackmaster from that moment.  So much so that he wouldn’t entertain any of the other possibilities.  So no Rifts, no Palladium Fantasy, no Star Frontiers, nothing else.  So I decided I’d at least run a one-shot and see how everyone liked it.

So Wednesday comes around, and by this point I’ve already helped my boy make his character (Dwarf Fighter: named of Clay Anvilbinder).  I pay for the books, and he hands them over.  then we go on and play in the other game we play in between my sessions, which is a western-sci-fi-indiana jones-pulp adventure on a desert planet.  But the adventure there ends early.  In looking for something else to do, I agree that it’s time to make another character for Hackmaster.  We end up with a Thug Halfling Thief.

There’s still an hour or two left for the evening, so we start Hackmaster.  Remember, I only just got the books that day (all I know for sure is it is based on 1E AD&D, so I’m winging it rules-wise), and all I have are a few pages from the beginning of a module I found online that I printed ‘just in case.’  Enough to make a start on something if it came down to it.  I was not really prepared.

But they wanted to give it a go.  So I read the introductory text, described the first room of the dungeon and away we went.

The first real encounter they have is with a pair of snarky “magic mouth” spells designed to frighten away intruders.  These Magic Mouths follow them down the hallway, making all kinds of racket, and making it obvious that there will be no way to get rid of them without a fight.  Further, all of this noise is sure to bring other denizens of the dungeon down on them.  Of course, I was totally unprepared, so I missed the part where it says they can’t be damaged except by magic.  So we had a rollicking good time fighting these two wise-cracking defensive spells.

A ROLLICKING good time.  I don’t pull out the old-fashioned words unless I mean them.  Even though we didn’t really know the rules, and I spent much of the time page-flipping looking for the ones I needed, things flowed smoothly, and the battle proceeded apace  We laughed for the rest of the evening like we’ve never laughed during a session before.

Coming Wednesday, I get to run more of the dungeon crawl.  There’s also a good chance we’ll be bringing in a new player.  (Partly to help round out our 2 PC group, and partly because the Hero GM is moving to Indiana in the middle of the summer.  Playing an RPG with just two people can be done, but it just doesn’t seem as fun.)

Now I just need to get started on a campaign of my own so that when we are done with this module, I have something else to throw at them.  So…what next?

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A couple of weeks ago, we finally got to play Rolemaster (Standard System).  It went pretty well, with only the minor hitches that accompany the first game of any system.

Our Cast:

Snok Ngo’Olek: Goblin Swashbuckler.  4’5″, and all of 70 pounds.  But he has a fighting attitude that reminds me of the saturday morning cartoons.  Remember when something small and full of sharp teeth would get ahold of Sylvester?  That’s right, nothing but a blur and the sound of a buzzsaw, until all that was left was Sylvester standing amid a pile of his own fur.    He believes that everyone else is the bigoted one, and that he’s just misunderstood.  “I’m not antagonistic, I just like to fight.” “I don’t steal things, people leave them to be taken.”  “I’m not a smart-ass, I’m just way ahead of them intellectually.”  Things like that.

Rundarr: Gnomish Mana Molder.  4’6″, 135 pounds.  By comparison to Snok, this guy is pretty pudgy, but he knows how to make things appear out of thin air, can muddle enemy minds, and likes to tinker with machines, and invent new ones.  He has the odd occasional magical flare-up that he doesn’t understand (I didn’t mean to burn that wolf to a crisp, i was just trying to distract it!).  He hasn’t been adventuring for very long, and is still pretty naive when it comes to surviving the adventure. He often gets caught up in the moment and forgets that he has spells, instead trying to use a weapon he has no training in to fight alongside the nimble swashbuckler.

The campaign:

After several abortive attempts to create a playable campaign, I finally threw my notes out of the window and just decided on a situation to throw my characters into.  I figured from there, I’ll let things develope.  As a result, we all had a lot more fun than usual. As things progress, I plan on introducing a lot of steampunk elements into the game (just because I think they are cool and fun).  Besides, this summer Abney Park’s Airship Pirates will be out, and I want to end up with something compatible.

The story:

I started by describing how our two intrepid adventurers were out in the wilds for whatever reason floated their little boats.  They were ambushed, sacks dropped over their heads, and kidnapped.  The adventure started after the hoods were removed, and they saw they had been penned up with a lot of other, scraggly looking people.  It didn’t take long for them to realise that they were taken by slavers and sold to a fighting arena.

Before they can make any escape plans, the pair of them are chosen for a fight, some gear is thrust into their hands, and they are pushed out into the pit.  Their opponent: an emaciated, hungry wolf.

DM Note: I chose the encounter because I knew it would be tough (according to RM rules), but not so tough that while dire, they shouldn’t have trouble overcoming it.  I also chose it so that I could teach them the rules for combat, which work a little different from other games.

The swashbuckler started trying for a flank attack on the wolf, while the mana molder tried fighting it with a quarterstaff (with no skill in it).  After a few exchanges, the mana molder is knocked out.  The wolf turns it’s attention to the swashbuckler, and the two of them take turns exchanging attacks.  Both are scoring hits on the other, but the wolf has more hit points to burn through, meaning unless the swashbuckler pulls something amazing out of his…er…rear, he is going to lose.  The table finally turned when the swashbuckler started scoring critical hits against the thing.  By this time, though, the gnome was back on his feet, throwing stones.  The ploy worked, and as it turned to deal with him again, he enveloped it with flame.

DM Note: I failed to notice that he didn’t have enough ranks to cast that spell, so I retroactively decided that he has occasional flares.  It should be interesting to see what happens with the next flare (Rolemaster is a D% system, and if you roll a natural 66 or 100, the GM can apply any unusual result he sees fit).

The wolf dispatched, the slavers came for them.  They tried to struggle, but until the gnome started using his “Jolts” spell (which stuns the target for a number of rounds)  things weren’t going well.  The Jolts spell came in very handy through the rest of the evening, as they stunned or killed as many slavers as it took to escape the slave pens and steal a wagon to make their escape.  Session #2 starts with them on the run.

And Now, Next Week:

Actually, this is going to happen in just a couple of hours from now.  In fact, the gang should start showing up soon.  The plan is for them to have a nice chase scene.  Them on a wagon loaded with weapons (from smugglers!) being pursued by the remaining slavers and the owners of the wagon.  I’ve planned such obstacles as a ravine jump, and steampunk air pirates.  At first, it looks like the pirates are coming to their aid, but in the end, what kind of story would that be?

I didn’t plan much to happen in last weeks session, because I knew with a group of new players, and me GMing the game for the first time ever, things would go slow.  This weeks plot has a lot more elements, and we’ll just see how far we get before we run out of time.

If you’ve never heard of Abney Park, go here for basic information: www.abneypark.com

Abney park is an Industrial punk band that went steampunk a few years back.  I like just about every song they sing, and since the steampunk stage, they tell some pretty interesting stories as well.  Furthermore, www.jango.com has some of their music (possibly other sites, I don’t know).

And, coming this summer, based on the stories they tell in their songs: http://airshippirates.abneypark.com/

It’s based on the rules for Victoriana 2nd Edition :  http://shop.cubicle7store.com/epages/es113347.sf/en_GB/?ObjectPath=/Shops/es113347_shop/Categories/Victoriana  which is a dice pool system, and so will take a bit of work to convert to Rolemaster.  But I think it will be worth it.

Victoriana itself has been a very interesting, well researched and entertaining read.  I may just have to use their settings more often, if not their rules (I’ve sunk way too much into my Rolemaster set to just stop using it).

And for those of you who know nothing about Rolemaster:   http://www.ironcrown.com/, and    http://www.ironcrown.com/ICEforums/index.php  are good places to get info.  Also look here:   http://www.icewebring.com/what-is-rolemaster/

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