Occult Moon’s Toys for the Sandbox

I’ve been meaning to pick up a few of these for a long time and like a fool I didn’t put it down on the good old shopping list. Yeah, I just juggle too many things. But good old Erik from Tenkar’s Tavern had a little contest to create some fun 0 level Dungeon Crawl Classics characters and I was one of the winners. My bit of loot Toys for the Sandbox 6 to 10.
Damn. What the hell was I thinking when I didn’t scrawl these down in big red letters. Buy them! One thing I look for in RPG products these is bang for the buck. The Toys fit right into. What these give you is a location and myriad of possibilities and inspiration complete with plot twists, encounters and rumors. And it’s pretty darned easy to find ways to use one of the locations in multiple ways.
Even more bonus. They are system and setting neutral.
Even more bonus. They are inexpensive.
So go check out Occult Moon’s site or check out their stuff on Drivethrurpg. You won’t be sorry.

Dungeonslayers 4 In English!

OK, seems I’m rattling on about products but there’s just seem to be a string of stuff that just keeps popping up. (Note: Yeah, that’s going to continue next week.) But dang. Dungeonslayers 4 in English. Way cool.
I’ve always been a fan of Dungeonslayers. It’s got some great simple mechanics and all the fun of the old school stuff. It’s always on the very top of my list when a potential gamer asks about for a suggestion on a first game. The cost is awesomely low. Like free and released under a Creative Commons license. There’s minimal for a new gamer. Just need a d20. And if the new person is nice, I might even just give him one. Mini’s. Yeah, we all know they are useful but you can get by with tokens or whatever when you’re first starting out.
Now if that ain’t enough for you to check it out. There’s plenty of fan made adventures, settings and supplements. So just go check it out already.

Realms of Crawling Chaos for Labryrinth Lord

OK, so I admit it. This one slipped under my radar and it shouldn’t have. But I have no qualms about doing a rant about a product that isn’t brand spanking new.

This little product is pretty damned cool. Hell, everybody loves a freaky Mythos adventure. Realms of Crawling Chaos is all about Lovecraftian horrors. There’s good advice and background info for twisting your campaign and there’s some Mythos inspired races. Cool. The usual (or maybe I should unusual) array of monsters and spells presented. Once, these are really cool. And there’s a psionics system ala the Old School way.
But there some places where this really just stands out in my mind. These are things that could be added to more normal campaigns to spice things up.
Formulae are alchemical processes akin to spells. Not just brewing up a Cure Light Wounds potion. We’re talking the weird and just a bit disturbing stuff that comes along with messing with Things Man Was Not Meant To Know.
Eldritch Artifacts chapter is just fucking awesome. Like a lot of folks, I’ve grown weary of the Magical Wal-Mart stocked full of generic items. Anything that breaks out of this mold is a welcome addition. Hell, even if you aren’t running a Mythos based game this is some good inspiration. A need I say that there’s also a nifty random artifact section. Good way to keep those players guessing at just what kind mystical bauble they’ve picked up.
Finally, there’s a section on studying tomes of forgotten lore. This is something that should happen pretty often in a game. Wizards are always poking around on the edges of what is possible and what should just be left alone. Here’s a good little system for that. Yet another good tool for the game master.
For just under $5, it’s a damned good buy with plenty of tools and crap to throw into a campaign. Realms of Crawling Chaos is available from Drivethrurpg. Enjoy!

Races: Go Gonzo!

The Society of Torch, Pole and Rope a has the videos of a really cool discussion from NTRGPCon about Gonzo gaming. I mean really folks, you’re there to have fun. And in my humble opinion, one of the best ways to go Gonzo in your game is with player character races. So here I go again painting things with broad stokes and just brainstorming a little.
Let’s face it the standard fit out of races has gotten pretty damned boring. Also, players want their characters to be cool. So instead of having a couple dozen classes that are only slightly different from one another make some of your standard “monsters” available as races for player characters and like I did before tweak and twist some of the tropes of the standard races. I already started down this path with some preliminary notes on a Sexy Alien Elves, Hillbilly Dwarves and  Pragmatic Orcs.
Hey but what about game balance? OSR games are a slave to number crunching but there still needs to be some balance. The idea here is not to overboard but still make some neat choices and keep things freaking simple. Let’s take on that big elephant in the room. Everybody wants to play Drow. Oh, admit it. To that I’m saying screw it. Nope. Just make Elves freakier and just a tad bit evil and mysterious. What about Dragons? Hmm, maybe that’s a good one. Maybe I can run with that.
There’s another 800 pound gorilla in the room too. Especially, when talking about races in an old school game. That’s racial classes. There are good arguments on both sides of this debate. I stand firmly in the middle and proclaim, “It depends.” First, the racial class has to be special and not just a rehash of another class. It has to have some flexibility so not every member of a race turns into a cookie cutter Fighter/Magic User (You know what I’m talking about.) It also has to be cool. Just doing it to do it or doing to balance more powerful races just for the sake of some sort game balance.
Let’s break down what I plan on ending up with when I start hacking into the crunch bits of this Frankengame.
The Standard Races: Humans, Elves and Dwarves are in. Half-Orcs and Half-Elves are out. I’m just tired of Half-Races. I don’t know why. Halflings and Gnomes are just about the same damned thing so make them just one race. Let’s call them Gnomlings.
“Monster” races: Like I said Half-Orcs out. But Orcs are in. Here’s some other creatures that are up for consideration (in no particular order): Centaur, Lizardfolk, Ogre, Bugbear, Goblin, Kobold, Minotaur.
Some Monster Races that would take a little tweaking of fluff but still have some good potential: Satyr, Lamia, Nymph, Dryad, Medusa, Naga, Doppleganer.
I admit that I said I hated Half-Races. But for some odd reason, I find Tieflings and Asamir to both be pretty cool. So they deserve some gonzoing up and twisting to make them a little more interesting.
I can’t say that these ideas just came about. Our little group has played plenty of gonzo type games with Pathfinder and 3.X. And I’ve seen the dangers of over powered races and how too much crunch from too many sources can end up dragging a game to halt. And also there Zak S. over at D&D with Porn Stars. Hell, his game is totally gonzo and totally cool. Just dig back and see what kind of characters are in his game and all the tweaks he’s done to so many of the standard tropes.

How Many Gods?

I’m continuing on painting my yet-to-be-named world with broad strokes. Don’t worry, the detailed stuff will follow. This time I want to talk about gods.
So how many? I know that may seem like kind of a crazy question but let’s face it too many gods just get too damned confusing. For this little Frankengame, one of the first thoughts when it comes to gods and making a manageable number is to drop the racial gods. One world, one pantheon. But what this doesn’t mean that there’s just one church and one way of worshiping the gods. The idea is a few gods but they are worshiped many different ways across the world and like I said in the last post. I don’t want to divide the gods between “good” and “evil”. The gods are worshiped and/or feared depending on the situation and the location. For this world, I’m thinking five major gods but allow a whole host of minor or household gods. So the big five:

Life, Healing, Nature, Elements, Storms, Farming
Death, War, Disease, Corruption,
Knowledge, Wisdom, Mysteries, Secrets
Love, Lust, Emotions, Bravery
Fate, Luck, Destiny

This little break down is based on my first gut reactions. Thoughts?

Painting With Broad Strokes: Gods & Magic

Whenever I start thinking about a fantasy world, I start with the big picture. Mainly, the gods and also how magic works.
This just makes sense to me. How the gods are portrayed and their relation to the world set up so many things. How clerics work. The role of various Outsiders (like angels, demons and devils). And you can’t have gods without having religions and we all know what kind of effect they can have on government, society, culture and day to day life. It’ll also bring up that infamous, what does Alignment mean debate.
For this little world (Damn, I still need to come up with a name for it.), the gods are pretty much hands off. Yeah, in the old days all the cool kids killed at least one god during a campaign. But I like the idea of the gods as being off stage and pretty just letting the chips fall where they may. As far as angels, demons and devils go. Well, they’re just alien beings from another plane with strong moral views. And evil gods. They kind of need to be there. But they still need to have a place that is more than just a bunch of evil cultists for the player characters to kill.
So here’s premise number one: There is one pantheon of gods. They are known by many different names by different cultures but they are still the same gods. The so called “evil” gods get just as reverence (out of fear) than the “good” gods. A village will do a ceremony to appease the evil god of disease to protect itself from a plague. You get the idea. I can see temples erected in a particular god’s name tended by faithful priests or supplicants. People will pray to whatever god they need to in order to get the results they wish.
But what about insane Lovecraftian gods from beyond the universe? OH yeah. They need to be there but list the description says insane and from beyond this universe. Many of these entities are on par with the power of the gods but they aren’t the gods of this world. There will be the occasional cult. But the goal of reaching beyond this world (and universe) for more power is more the purview of Wizards than Clerics. So more about them when I arcane magic in a later post.
So how do classes fit into this big picture?
I’ve played many clerics in my time. There’s one thing that’s kind of bugged me. The Cleric of X mechanic. In this little game, I want clerics to be servitors of the entire pantheon. Clerics are a special type of spell caster. They can channel the power of the gods. Any of them. And another thing. I never liked the wake up in the morning, pray for a specific set of spells and then go about the day. It’s just not how I imagine it. I see the cleric loudly proclaiming a prayer to a particular god for a particular purpose when he needs it. So yeah. Clerics need to be spontaneous casters of a sort.
Now Druids are special case and I’ve pretty much brainstormed on the direction they are headed for this little project.
So what does that leave us with? Paladins. That’s right everybody’s favorite douche bag class. Which brings us to our first point. Alignments are just right out the window. I’ve always felt it was kind of a crazy mechanic and had the amazing ability to be both vague and specific at the same time (Don’t worry. This will all be taken up in a later post.) So with no Alignments, where does that the poor Paladin? Well, they really aren’t Clerics. And if Clerics can simultaneously serve all the gods at once then it kind of puts the Paladin in an odd situation. So stepped back and looked at what I thought the Paladin had evolved into. Paladins are zealots. It may not be the power of the gods that drive them but their belief that they are protecting the world. Depending on where they are Paladins can be viewed as heroes or dangerous vigilantes. So there, Paladins get a major work over later on.
So there you are the ideas for gods, clerics, druids and paladins.

Catching Up & Building Worlds

Yes, I have neglected this blog for too long. I have this little weakness. When I’m not playing a game sometimes I just don’t feel like writing about it plus I’ve been busy running my Dresden Files campaign. So the best thing I can do here is use to start building my “perfect” world. Hell, I’ve got the time, it’s not there’s a deadline looming over my head. Plus I figured it would fun to drag along a few readers through what passes for my creative process.
To put it bluntly, I’ve grown a bit weary of thinly veiled Middle Earth (Tolkien) inspired fantasy worlds. I want something a little more warped. More Sword & Sorcery than High Fantasy. I want a world that’s dangerous, exciting and just a bit frightening. I not want to tear a part some of the tropes and tweak a few things that have always bugged me deep down. I want to make a world of my own that isn’t just another cookie cutter fantasy world.
For the crunchy bits, I’ll turn to my holy trinity of OSR games. Castles & Crusades, Swords & Wizardry and Lamentations of the Flame Princess. I also plan on throwing in some healthy inspiration from other great games like Arduin, Empire of the Petal Throne and ACKS.
How long will this take? Damned if I know. How far will it go? Don’t know that either. But it should be pretty fun. So stay tuned, kids this is going to get interesting.

Roll Dice. Kill Monsters. Take Their Stuff. And Have Fun!

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