Friday, September 23, 2011

What do you mean I'm playing a Coachman?

My friday group (the on & off guys with the changing lineup and the "Gamer ADD") started a game of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying a few weeks ago. This edition is made by Fantasy Flight Games, and it comes in a gigantic boxed set. Everything's beautifully illustrated and in Fantasy Flight style there are tons of punch-out tokens, cards, chits, and sheets to play with.

This is the primary appeal of the game: there's a doodad for everything. You have action cards, which include the most basic moves ("melee attack", "ranged attack", "block", "dodge") and all kinds of advanced attacks and feats; talent cards which provide various bonuses; small green and red tokens which describe your character's combat stance; wound cards, which you accumulate as your character takes damage (each card is literally 1 HP of damage); character portraits which you stand up in a clear plastic base, to use instead of miniatures; and the dice.

Oh, the dice are awesome. There are three basic colours of attack dice to use depending on your combat stance, two colours of skill dice, and two types of challenge dice. The entire attack and damage roll is made in one throw and can often use almost every kind of die at once. It's a lot of fun to pick through them and lay down a bigass 10-die attack roll.

The only thing that I found weird was the character generation. I show up and I have to pick a card out of this stack of 30, and I draw... a coachman?

Me: "What the Fuck! I wanted to play a witch hunter and wear one of those cool hats. What is this shit?"

GM: "Well, this is your career before you became an adventurer."

Me: "Oh... Well okay I guess. Can I change class later to be a witch hunter?"

GM: "Maybe. For now, you drive the town shit wagon. Your life sucks."

Me: "Fuck!"

It worked out in the end, though. I saw the other PCs wandering into town and immediately told my manure-cart boss to take this job and shove it. Thirty minutes later I was creaming goblins and it didn't really matter that I used to be the lowliest, most broke-ass dwarf on the planet.

Some other mechanics influence play in different ways. We have a 'party card', which gives our whole adventuring group "The Brash Young Lads" some special abilities. There is a track on this card from 0-8 called the 'Party Tension Meter', and whenever the PCs have disagreements the tension meter increases. Once it gets high enough, the whole party starts to take penalties.

In practise, this leads to a lot of fun, and sometimes tense situations. The only non-dwarf in the party is a high elf, played to the hilt as a money-grubbing, weaselly prick by one of our more committed roleplayers. He'll take any excuse to pocket a few extra silver or screw the rest of the part out of their share. This attitude has nearly cost him his life on several occasions, and since the party is now three dwarves to his one elf, he'd best come correct in future.

Because of the tension meter, we're almost encouraged to fight amongst ourselves and the GM is okay with it - it's part of the game! Warhammer tends to do this to our group; our Dark Heresy game was much the same. I've found that in both fantasy and 40k, almost everyone is a butt-ugly asshole (except the Sisters of Battle).

In conclusion: the dice alone make this game fun for me, but the action cards and countless thingamabobs may put people off. I know it's a very 'nu skool' way to play. I've heard comparisons to 4th Edition D&D, but I wouldn't really know about that.

This post brought to you by IRS years REM.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

3 to get ready, now go kids go!

Here's my second shot at some great Forge names. I think the Spell Forge is easily the best; the names immediately get me thinking about awesome, mind-bending magic effects. I would happily play a Magic User with only one spell per day if I could say things like: "Stand back fools, and feel the power of SNOD'S CRIMSON JUDGEMENT!" After that, even meteor swarm doesn't sound that scary.

Again, numbers kept to a minimum for portability. Today's post brought to you by KMFDM when they were awesome.


SNOD'S CRIMSON JUDGEMENT

Area of Effect: 2 creatures within 20' of each other
Save: fortitude or vs. spell for 1/2 effect if unwilling

Equalizes current Hit Points between two targets. Find the difference between the two creatures' current HP totals, and each creature gains or loses HP equal to half this number. An unwilling creature can save for half effect. Hit points gained in excess of a creature's maximum are wasted.

For example: Dave the fighter is in melee combat with an ogre. They are targeted with Snod's Crimson Judgement. Dave has 2 hit points left and the ogre has 22; the difference is 20 HP. Dave is healed for 10 HP, and the Ogre succeeds on his saving throw - he only loses 5 hit points instead of 10.


PATHIS' BITING WALL

Area of Effect: Wall 20' high, 5' thick and up to 10' long per level.
Duration: 1 minute per caster level

Creates a wall made of icky gray flesh covered in large, bitey mouths. Anyone who gets close or attempts to climb it will get chewed on. 1d4 mouths can attack a character near (or on) the wall per round, each doing 1d6 damage. Climbing the wall is hard (DC 25), and penalties are incurred for being bitten during the climb (-2 on your next climb check for every mouth that bit you that round).


DEMONIC POOL

Area of Effect: 30' diameter circle
Save: reflex or breath weapon to avoid
Duration: 1 round per caster level

This opens up an extradimensional pit in the floor, 20' deep. It's crammed full of demons, just piled up on top of each other. Have fun wading through that. Demon type can be rolled randomly or chosen from your favorite list, but they should be lowly grunts. At the end of the spell's duration any unfortunates stuck in the pit, and 1d6 demons, are ejected and the pit disappears. The leftover demons will stay around until destroyed; they fight anyone they like and this spell provides no control over them.


OSTENTIA'S FREEDOM SWORD

Duration: 1 round per 2 caster levels
Save: magic items only; see description

A translucent, glowing longsword of force appears in the caster's hand. It can cut through most non-living matter with ease (1 foot of wood, 6" of stone, 1" of nonmagical iron or steel); magic items struck by the Freedom Sword are entitled to a saving throw to avoid being destroyed.

Attacks with the Freedom Sword are made like a normal longsword but with no penalty for non-proficiency. Constructs, undead, and other non-living monsters take 1d6 damage per 2 caster levels from the Freedom Sword (maximum 8d6 at 16th level). Although it passes harmlessly through living creatures, it can do serious damage to their armor and equipment.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

My first crack at The Forge

The Forge comes up with some nutty stuff, but some of the names have that ring to them - you know they'll be awesome and memorable. Here's my first crack at it. Numbers have been left out so everything's compatible with your favorite system.

FORGE MONSTERS


TAKER CAT - Obviously, this is a cat that takes your shit. It doesn't sneak up in the middle of the night, though. You find it in the dungeon, scared and alone, about to be eaten by hobgoblins. Your girlfriend's PC picks it up and puts it in her backpack so just its cute widdle head sticks out. THEN, when you're all asleep, it takes the most valuable magic item it can carry, and its observations about the party, and scampers down 2 levels of the dungeon to the arch-wizard who runs the place. It is, of course, his familiar.

Stats for a regular cat, except for high intelligence and charisma (cuddlyness). If the PCs wise up to the trick, they can hold it hostage or perhaps just kill it at a critical time in the battle with the boss wizard... if they can look into those big, cute, cuddly eyes and still swing the sword, that is.


FLESH SERPENT - The hot dog of the undead, this "snake" is made from whatever floor-scrapings and castoffs are nearby. Perfect for an on-the-go necromancer! Gnome intestines? Orc tongues? A few mismatched eyeballs? Elf scrotums? Just throw them together, add some sharp teeth and drop it down the chute on top of those pesky adventurers.

Use the stats for your favorite snake, add the 'zombie template' and then make it slippery, foul-smelling, gooey and gross. Venomous bite is optional, but it should at least have some kind of parasite or disease from all that raw meat in there. Can also provide clues about the creator's (former) allies or favorite foods. Hurl!


NEEDLE APE - Hilarious! Some fucked-up wizard crossed an ape and a cactus in the worst way. An ape with cactus needles in its mouth instead of teeth. Can't eat solid food, and its spike-mouthed existence has made it really pissed off. It bites you and leaves a whole bunch of needles in the wound. Some needle-apes are rumored to have spikes over their whole body, and the bad attitudes of such creatures are the stuff of legend.

Stats for your favorite primate, but with a horrifying cactus bite attack. It can bite 3 times per day, then must wait 24 hours for the needles to grow back. After being bitten, the needles will stay in the wound and deliver a paralytic plant juice. Save vs. poison or lose 1d4 DEX per day until it's cured or you reach 0 and die. Greater Needle Apes are left up to your imagination (hint: they are huge prickly assholes).


CANDLE SALMON - These salmon look normal during the day, but at night they light up inside; imagine a fish that swallowed a few of your Christmas lights. Some nobles keep them in their garden ponds as living night-lights, but there are many other applications for a Candle Salmon. The oils inside their fishy bodies make them extremely flammable. Pull one of these out of the river and set it to the torch, it'll burn up in 2 rounds, leaving nothing but a grease spot. Used carefully, they make a half-decent substitute for flasks of oil. A few mishaps with these have given rise to the phrase "burning the Candle Salmon at both ends."

Stats are for a regular fish, except they can't possibly sneak up on you.

This post brought to you by early Frontline Assembly and Wellington beer.

Monday, September 19, 2011

I suddenly have a lot of free time.

I was in a band until about 2 weeks ago, when the bullshit finally became too much. After 2 1/2 years of tantrums, yelling, imperious commands, and generally being treated like someone's whipping boy and slave, it was time to go.

Similarly, my "job" has gradually reduced in hours/week until I can't survive on it anymore. So begins the hated resume-polishing, door-knocking and cold-calling.

I've been gaming with a few acquaintances on & off for the last year. Our sessions are infrequent, many players don't show up for a month or more, and we have a bad case of "gamer ADD" - before a given campaign gets off the ground, we've started playing something new.

I had been reading Ars Ludi and The Alexandrian for several years, but without a regular, serious gaming group, I could only take notes and dream of running a game again. In the spring, I stumbled across some of the OSR blogs and began reading voraciously. Suddenly, I remembered what my life was all about back home - gaming! I went out and bought the Pathfinder core rulebook, roped my roommates into rolling up characters, and just like that - I'm back!

GMing again feels like riding a bike after five years away: I'll never forget how to do it, but I'm a little unsteady. It's great fun sitting on my bedroom floor drawing maps on graph paper while listening to REM, just like I did when I was 14. After very little consideration, I decided to start up my own blog and see how it goes. I'll be posting up my ruminations as I develop my campaign world; new monsters, spells and magic items; session reports (maybe); house rules, and all kinds of other fun stuff.

That's more than enough preamble for now. Let's give the people something they can use:

OUBLIETTE, aka CAGE SKELETON

This is a monster that's geared towards scaring your players. It's a skeleton inside a man-shaped spiky metal cage, hanging from the ceiling by a chain. It looks like some unfortunate bastard stuck in there to rot by the local Duke or whoever, until it reaches through the bars to choke the shit out of passersby. Throw it in your next prison or torture chamber to surprise-attack the PCs!

Stats for these things are pretty simple.

Use regular Skeleton numbers, except their natural AC and hit points are higher, and give them some more Damage Reduction if you have that in your game. They have the 'Grab' and 'Constrict' abilities if you're playing Pathfinder.

We almost had a TPK when I put these up against my PCs, because I didn't read the grappling rules for Pathfinder very closely. I thought 'Grab' allowed an instant grapple when it only allows for a free grapple check. So every time they attacked, the PC was immobilized and started taking damage. It didn't take long to put a few guys below 0, but the ranger and cleric pulled a few clutch moves and saved the day, so it all worked out in the end.