Friday, February 21, 2014

The Good, the Bad, and when it gets ugly.

Last Thursday, Tim of Gothridge Manor ran a one off game to try out the hybrid RPG he is working on.

Two kudos, first off to Tim whose enthusiasm really showed for his new game and campaign. How can you not get excited when the referee hands you stuff like this.

Second is to Ken, Dan, and Chris for their strong roleplaying of their characters. Even with the off-color jokes and laughter the game had a strong sense of immersion because of all of you.

So what went down. In Marricks own words.

Ah was leavin' th' Manatine figurin' t'resupply in Baludar. It was jest past nightfall when ah come acrost these fellas betchin' their boat. ah hide mahse'f an' sar thet they uncovahed an old tunnel intrance.

Th' uppity villagers like t'call us fo'ess rats but ah c'd see this hyar is no kind of trouble thet ah wish fo' them, dawgone it.

Thar six of them an' two of them had bows an' climbed up trees t'hid themselves.

Sumpin was gwine down an' it'd be bad. So ah foun' a fine spot an' climbed a tree mahse'f.

Mah legs were startin' t'ache an' th' chill a-gonna mah bones when out come three mo'e fellas.

Whutevah they were talkin' about didn't hoof it fine on account o' sooner then shit flies outta an ass ind of a shot raccon thar were swo'ds drawn an' th' fightin' started.

Even eff'n th' noo fellas were up t'no fine thet fight warn't fair. So ah plugged th' two archers outta th' three. Then started wawkin' on them on th' groun'.

It was jest like them goblins an' th' ban'it thet attacked Cleese, they went down faster than Old man Holt at th' tavahn.

So th' fight inded wif three of them givin' right up. Howevah one of th' noocomers muss had it hard on account o' he jest went an' slit th' one fella throat like mah uncle wif a pig, acco'din' t' th' code o' th' heells!

ah figgerd thet th' knight an' th' steward ought t'knows about whut gwine on, as enny fool kin plainly see. So ah climbed down an' went into th' tree line.

ah shouted t'th' noocomers thet we need take a step back an' brin' ev'rybody back t'th' gate an' let th' knight an' steward so't it out.

They soun'ed friendly an' seem like it was a-gonna hoof it all right. ah came outta th' woods an' intrydooced mahse'f. ah didn't ketch their names 'cept fo' one in robes who called hisse'f Hythom.

Jest when ah thunk we a-gonna leave, thet son of bitch start mumblin' an' gyratin' an' befo'e ah knows it a bright flash sploded an' ah felt burnin' ah ain't felt on account o' thet dadburn fool fall into th' fire when ah was 8.

ah shoot th' bastard an' high tailed it out thar. ah reckon ah got him fine on account o' he screamed like a li'l gal. Th' bastard nailed me in th' back, thet hurt like a son of a bitch.

But ah made it back into th' woods an' circled aroun' t'th' town gate. Dawgone fool guards made hoof it back. Shet mah mouth! Th' smell of burnt leather makin' me be hankerin' t'retch an' mah ribs an' kidney hurtin' like hell. Do yo' knows it too four days of oilin' an' ah had t'buy a pot of lavendar t'mix in befo'e thet smell got out.


But ah reckon ah can fo'give on account o' as it turned out th' haids of th' daid rivahmen were wo'th a lot.

Convinced they let me see th' knight an' th' steward an' mah repo't. Th' one daid guy was wo'th on over a hundred silvah. Plus th' steward was kind inough t'gimme some healin' salve.

Thet night ah barely got enny sleep wif mah ribs an' kidneys hurtin' like hell. ah tell thet mage has sumpin a-comin' t'him when ah see him next.

So ah woke th' next mo'e an' had t'repo't back t'th' knight. ah will tell ress of it af'er we finish our dinner.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Take $25 from me! The OSR Superstar competition.

Tenkar has just announced the 2014 OSR superstar competition starting with a call for magic items. +Tim Shorts , +Mark Gedak , and I will be judging the entries. We will judge these entries with thought and consideration. Just as we do when the party opens the door to a room full of cockatrices.*

*Which incidentally actually happened at Saturday's game.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Some interesting RPGNow numbers.

Rarely a day goes by where somebody doesn't download a copy of Blackmarsh. My sales report show the order number. I then realized that while it can't give an accurate number of sales on the various One Bookshelf sites it may be useful to see what happens year to year.

In addition my own personal orders goes back to January of 2007 (a copy of Castle and Crusades Monsters and Treasures) . So after some fiddling around I came up with this chart from 2007 to 2013.

Wow, 1.2 million order numbers in 2013! Probably a fair amount are cancelled or generated for administrative purposes but that would be true of previous years. I think it safe to say that the volume of sales at RPGNow has nearly doubled over 2010, and nearly four times that of 2007.

I suspect most of the post 2009 increase tracks the adoption of various tablet devices.

Anyway it food for thought.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The last couple of Harn Days

Columbia Games has been releasing Harn material just about every month for the last year and a half. Far quicker than their track record of previous years. Here are the last two releases.

First a general comment, all of these products are set in Harn's low fantasy medieval setting. While tied to Harn in many says because of their fantasy medieval foundation they are easily ported to any similar setting like Greyhawk or Forgotten Realms. When pressed for time to have a detailed settlement I often go into my Harn books and use one of the settlements in there.

One of the projects has been to released expanded versions of the original Cities of Harn. It not just more content, they go more into the personalities of the place. The kind of stuff you need when trying to bring a place to life in a session.

This time it is the City of Shiran turn. It is one of Harn's smaller cities located in the merchant controlled Thardic Republic. It is noted for its hedonism and for its arena games.

And it comes with this cool map of the Arena for those desiring for some action with blood and sand. 

Next is the Order of Hyvrik one of the clerical order of Larani, the Harn goddess of Justice and Honor. As in real life the various Harn religions have sects and orders. Hyvrik dominates the Church of Larani in the western portion of Harn. 

Next is the Order of the Checkered Shield. Some of Harn's religions have fighting order like the various order that fought in our history's crusades. Unlike the rest of the island western Harn has a good vs evil conflict between the Agrik dominated Kingdom of Rethem (god of fire and tyranny), and the Larani dominated Kingdom of Kanday. The Checkered Shield are on the frontline of Kanday's border with Rethem. Lots of adventuring possibilities with this organization.

In the past years Columbia Games have been putting out small location articles. They take a building or a small area of land and detail it. This location is about the Temple of Larani in the Castle town of Dyrisa. It shows how the above two articles (Hyvrik and Checkered Shield) work together in something an adventuring party would interact with.

Onto the second release.

Many of the cities and castle of Harn have been detailed in articles already printed. Now Columbia Games is expanding to smaller keeps.

Heru Keep is located in the Kingdom of Kaldor. It show the effect of the succession crisis meta-plot of Kaldor as on a smaller settlement.

Menio Keep is located in the Kingdom Melderyn. It is interesting example of a settlement dominated by a single industry. In this case pottery. While it sound mundane, where there is money involved there is intrigue and this place is just as dramatic in its own way as Heru Keep and the succession crisis.

Next is an addition to the Harnmaster beastiary that focuses on Harnic Lycanthropes. An interesting section are details of the attitudes of the various religions towards Lycanthropes.

Last is another small location article, this time focusing on a Charcoaler outside of Harden Castle in Melderyn. What makes this useful is that Charcoaler not only have a shop in town, they have to maintain forest camps where the charcoal is made. This can be used to add an interesting encounter to a wilderness adventure.

Again just a warning Harn products are pricey but the the quality is always top notch.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Sandbox Campaigns and the Bag of Stuff Redux

From a comment on +Trent B  post.

For a variety of reasons I have no problem with players doing whatever their character can possibly do during the course of a campaign. With that attitude comes some practical problems. How to present setting detail with minimal or no prep.

A computer can use algorithms or procedure to generate new content on the fly. The problem of this technique it doesn't scale for people. Beyond a certain point the players are sitting around twiddling their thumbs while the referee is busy rolling.

With random tables this breaking point can be extended by clever design as found in +Zak Smith  's Vornheim. But eventually even that falters with the players waiting.

The way I have overcome the issue is what +Brendan S  mentioned, the "Bag of Stuff". It is a process of memorizing elements so you just can come up with stuff on the fly. The downside that it rewards experience and practice.  It something that a novice is not going to be good at right away.

Personally I use something close to a Palace of Memory. Through experience I note recurring elements of my campaign. Then I think of variations of them. For example different type of peasant huts. Medieval Building styles. Buried in there there is a typical example which I focus on and I build variations off of that.

For  more detailed things, I have a folder full of generic templates and characters that I reskin as needed. I have a dozen floorplans I cycle through for a random castle.

For you reading this, what will work for you will vary from what works for me. And it will very well likely involve a multiple of techniques. The important thing to remember is to be aware of what you do. Note the patterns in things you create or use. How you use them. That your starting point from which you can refine the techniques for you that allow you to make up stuff on the fly.

I consider the ultimate test is to be able to sit down at a table with nothing but a bunch of players with characters and run the whole thing from the top of your head. I will also add even if you do master this, I don't recommend trying this all the time. But by mastering this and becoming comfortable with this situation, then the typical sessions with a mix of improv and prepped content becomes that much easier.

Remember the thing that sets tabletop roleplaying games apart from their computer and LARP alternative is allowing the player to attempt anything their character can do. That what makes tabletop roleplaying special in the 21st century. So whatever you can do to enhance that aspect of the game the better off the experience will be.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Five goodies for Monday

So my good friend Tim Shorts posted about the stuff he scored from a sale over on Troll and Toads. When I hopped over there sure enough there were some real bargains that I had to get.

First off is Ars Magica's Covenant for 5th Edition. It was the most expensive of the lot at $8 but compared to its cover price it is a bargain. I always valued Ars Magica stuff as a supplement to my fantasy campaigns. Those of you with the Majestic Wilderlands Supplement  and my Scourge of the Demon Wolf probably detected a strong Ars Magica vibe in both. Never ran the game itself tho. Although with the way cleaner presentation of 5th edition it is tempting.

I always been a big fan of Babylon 5 and even ran a few GURPS B5 campaigns. One was memorable for teaching me the hard lesson of never letting anybody, especially Tim Shorts, take the unfazeable advantage in a sci-fi involving the mystery and wonders of the B5 universe. At .50 it allowed me to add to my Mongoose Traveller for B5 colleciton.

Next is a was a real find. A Traveller Digest at a decent prince. I didn't have this issues so I snapped it up. Digest Group produced some of the best Traveller products ever. Nearly all their stuff is gold..

Next up is the Hero System Bestiary. I been slowly rebuilding my First Edition Fantasy Collection just for nostaglia. The internet makes it feasible to do it from my home. I just wait for the right price and buy the item. At 50 cents this can be beat. As Bestiary goes it not very good. Even when it first came out I was a bit disappointed. Its successors in 5th and 6th edition vastly superior.

Next I found a copy of the edition HarnDex. The very first product for Harn was a folio that came with a map, and two books. The Harnview which had the history, some generic chargen table, and of course the famous Harn Weather Chart. The second book was the HarnDex an A to Z encyclopedia of all things Harn. Most entries were just a paragraph but they managed to pack a lot of information in there. My originals worn out and I managed to get a new set. But when I saw this for 50 cents I couldn't pass it up to get an extra copy.