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Saturday, 31 May 2014

Seriously? You Still want to Demand the Awkward-groping Through Character Creation as a Litmus Test?

On the whole, the news about the Basic PDF has been extremely well received. There's been a sea change from before Wizards allowed us to talk about it to after; where people who had been gearing up to be highly negative about the new edition suddenly found themselves excited and enthusiastic.  Of course, there are some people who had already set themselves up to hate the new D&D no matter what, and for these, having the wind knocked out of the sails of their recruitment drive to the hater camp has only pissed them off further.  Many of these have focused on the Starter Set, and the fact that 13 year olds will have to engage in the utterly impossible feat of clicking on a button on the internet to get character creation rules.  Do 13 year olds even go on the internet? How could we even know?? Surely the haters must be right, no 13 year old could ever adjust to the need to do something online! It'll be too much for the poor dears; but spending 2 hours figuring out character creation before getting to start to play is totally cool...

Anyways, the point is that the haters are continuing to try to pretend that there's just NO WAY of making characters with the starter set; as though Al Gore had never invented the interwebs and PDFs are just a myth like global warming and the tooth fairy.   They have even gone so far as to accuse those of use who like the idea and mentality Wizards is using for their strategy of being "chargen-haters", of somehow arguing against the very idea of chargen itself, claiming that we think (and I quote a hater here) "liking chargen or that chargen itself is wrong thinking and stunts gameplay".

Um, I'm pretty sure NO ONE is arguing that. What we do have are people on the other side claiming that character creation is the very core blood-essence of RPGs and that if you don't have it in a beginner's product and make kids do it first before playing, the product will no doubt be: a) doomed to failure and b) a monstrosity that violates the spirit of RPGs.

Both of those are wrong.

There's no problem with chargen, except that if you have a group of newbies, in their very FIRST session, the best method can often be to throw them a premade character and just get them playing, instead of demanding that they memorize 48 pages of feats before they actually get to join the Super Special D&D Club of TRUE Gamers. Because that's all the other side of this argument is doing: its creating a litmus test. If you don't want to learn how to make a character and spend the first hour of your gaming experience dicking around with skills then you aren't a real roleplayer and don't belong in our elite society.

That's the mentality that's lead to 600 page rulebooks, to 21000 feats in certain editions of D&D, and to the hobby shrinking to a minute shadow of its once-mainstream popularity. We PUSH PEOPLE AWAY by demanding that they have to learn the "Special Secret Handshake" of what we consider conditions for fandom.

What I want, and what Wizards has in mind, is that a raw beginner will be treated just like I treated the raw beginners at my demo game of Lords of Olympus a few weeks back in a local con: they get the character, and you explain ROLEPLAYING to them, and then they immediately start to play. THAT is the real essence of RPGs. That's why argument "b" is bullshit: its not about making characters, its about PLAYING a character.

But NO ONE is saying that two hours after that, these kids shouldn't be downloading the Basic PDF and figuring out how to make their own characters, and start playing their own campaigns, just like gamers have done from time immemorial. And having the entire Basic D&D game (which will be the core game itself) for FREE, online, will allow these newbies to do exactly that!

Let's face it, for most new gamers, making a first character (if indeed their first character was made) was a confusing mess of people trying to explain choices to you that you really didn't understand, and you rolling dice to generate numbers that at that time meant almost nothing to you. Its not a golden experience akin to a first kiss, its more like being awkwardly groped by someone you just met at a party. You only start getting any good at the situation after you've tried it two or three times and had a while to figure out what the fuck is going on.

So all the starter set wants to do is simplify that experience: to get people RIGHT into the actual Role Playing, without any special rules, ordeals, or tests to be passed. Show them the coolest things first, and easily, and then they'll have a context to understand what makes all the other stuff matter too.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Quiete + Rattray's Accountant's Mix

Friday, 30 May 2014

Rumours and Adventure-Seeds for Arrows of Indra

Rumours and Adventure-Seeds for Arrows of Indra

The following table, inspired by those found in many classic modules, details an example of rumours that might be heard in any large city; though I had it in mind for the area around Upaplavya, in the Matsya kingdom (a good relatively peaceful minor kingdom in which to start a campaign).  Any of these rumours can serve as a potential adventure seed.

D20   Rumour/Adventure Seed
1        Krishna is raising a band of all sorts of warriors, holy men and adventurers to conquer Mathura and liberate it from his wicked uncle, Kansa. He gives no pay but promises great reward to those who join him. (T)

2        Four days south-west of Viratapuri, in the Desert of Thar, there can be found the ruined palace of a mighty Siddhi, his treasury of magic items was never found (Partly true- there is a ruin in that location but it is of a minor palace, now occupied by Rakshasa bandits)

3       The hills around the road into Kunti Kingdom are being haunted by great numbers of Aleya ghosts (partly true; there’s only a single Aleya in the area)

4       The armies of the Maghadan Empire are marching to invade the Matsya kingdom (false- for now)

5      Lord Baladeva of Tusari (a town one day’s ride from Upaplavya) is holding a great wedding banquet for his son, where there will be contests of archery, hunting, charioteering, and dueling, with prizes for the best warriors.  (true)

6      The friendlier tribes of Bhil Barbarians south of Matsya have reported attacks from a pack of Sharabha, well outside of their typical terrain.  They don’t know how the Sharabha got there, but suspect a nearby hostile tribe (true)

7      A young boy in the village of Kanharka has been blessed by Varuna, who sent a Water Deva to save him from an attack by lions. (partly true: the boy’s father made up the story as a scam, but now the boy’s life is in danger from unholy enemies of Varuna)

8      The powerful Rajpal Kichaka, commander of King Virata’s armies, is raising a great force to defend the kingdom against the threat of the Maghadan Empire (false)

9      A warband of Gandharvas from the Dwaita Jungle have emerged from the jungle to slay all of the inhabitants of a bordering village; as reprisal for some villagers’ trespass on their lands (false)

10    In a lake near Lampuwa village, a trio of Apsara celestial maidens have been seen; they are seeking a great hero of incredible beauty to take as a husband (partly true: they are in fact seeking Holy-aligned heroes to slay a dangerous Unholy Witch)

11     A wealthy Rakshasa siddhi has arrived from Mathura; he’s seeking unscrupulous men to form a raiding party to enter the Gandharva territory deep in the Dwaita jungle, to steal magic from them. (true)

12    Prince Uttar, King Virata’s son and heir seeks to hire bodyguards (false)

13    Agents of the Principality of Kusa are hiring almost anyone they can to join the Principality’s armies in the war against the Maghadan invaders (true)

14    A cave was recently uncovered in the hills east of Viratapuri that has an entryway to the Patala Underworld; King Virata seeks to personally buy any Patala Glowing Gems that brave adventurers might be able to bring back from the depths (true)

15    The great Siddhi Ramdasa of Upaplavya has discovered a way to travel to and from Mount Kailash instantaneously (false)

16    A band of cannibalistic barbarians have set up camp on the northern border of the Thar Desert, the local lords would reward whoever might remove them (true)

17    A great Yaksha sage has recently arrived in Upaplavya; he’s deeply lovesick for a human woman who would not return his affections, and has taken to drunkenness and brawling.  (true)

18    The Pandavas have been organizing groups of brave adventurers to make incursions into the Khandava jungle, seeking to clear it of dangerous monsters, and offering rewards to any who bring back the heads of Nagas, Asuras, or other dangerous supernatural creatures (true)

19    King Kansa of Mathura is offering an astounding reward to any who can bring him the means to slay Krishna (true)

20    In the forest outside Badwari village a group of Vanara thieves have disguised themselves as ordinary monkeys; they’re hiding an enormous treasure (false)


Currently Smoking: Stanwell Deluxe + Image Latakia

(Originally posted April 9, 2013)

Thursday, 29 May 2014

The Insane Chinese Star Wars That Never Was

I was just going to post a classic rant today, but shit, this is just too good not to share.

Imagine you live in Cold War communist china, and you are told to make a picture storybook about Star Wars (the movie, not the U.S. military program).  The only problem is, its impossible for you to actually see the movie.  All you have to work with are some promotional posters and materials and a synopsis of the events in the film.  On the other hand, no one in mainland China has seen the movie either, so they'll really accept anything you draw for them.

What do you do? Well, the result would have looked something like this.

Be sure to click the PDF sections for more images; and make sure to  check out this chinese forum for more images from other similar projects!


Currently Smoking: Stanwell deluxe + Image latakia

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

DCC Campaign Update: Now With More Gender-Indeterminate Wizards!

In this weekend's camping expedition/adventure the PCs were:

-lost in the Tanglewood forest

-drawn to the conclusion that it was better just to wander around looking for things to kill rather than trying to spend hours crafting some elaborate plan to take out the Smug Elves.

-ambushed by a force of Evil Forest Centaurs

-informed that forest centaurs are dicks.

-reminded with lethal force that 0-level characters shouldn't act like heroes.

-made aware that like in most of the Last World, actual humans are a rarity; however, in this region of the world there is a particular superabundance of mutants.

-surprised by the fact that apparently Shaggy-Red Caveman Mutants are often also Psychics.

-sent the message that their attempt to stop the Eco-Ogre attack on Arkhome had failed.

-not surprised by how little they cared, now that they were safely a half-continent away from the Eco-ogres and their Eye-tyrant overlords.

-warmly greeted by Bolt-O, the conversation-starved production robot.

-able to recruit Bolt-O to their group, by engaging in such diverse topics like "do you think that there is a practical difference between alligators and crocodiles" and "what is your favorite letter of the alphabet, and why?"

-confronted by three of the gender-variant-and-indeterminate archwizards of the Grand Inclusive & Non-Hierarchical Azure Order.

-only slightly less surprised than the Azure Wizards when the PCs' own gender-indeterminate wizard politely declined joining them, since he doesn't actually feel oppressed or set apart at all for being "trigendered" (as the wizard's 10-year old Player called it...)!

-warned about Cannibal Vines.

-nevertheless taken totally by surprise by Cannibal Vines, at the cost of Marak the Wizard's life.

-witnesses to a cannibal-vine-planting operation undertaken by a trio of easily-spooked Furry Mutants.

-able to reach the Azure Tower, only to be sent off immediately to deal with the Furry Mutants and the Toad Wizard of Bobgobdobulz (who as usual want to bury the whole world in mud and swamp).

-forced to face the fact that Bill the Elf is in serious repressed grief for his brother Ted's death, and looking for substitute-Teds in all the wrong places.

-unexpectedly drawn into a drumming competition with the Furry Mutant Tribe.

-clever enough to discover that Bolt-o can double as an excellent steel drum.

-able to win over the Furry Mutants against the Toad Wizard through the power of aggressive drumming alone.

-quick to learn that having 50 Furry Mutant 'braves' at your command is not nearly as useful as it sounds.

-successful at blowing both the Toad Wizard and his Toad Fiend to little bits, with relatively little help from the cowardly and largely useless Furry Mutants.

-determined to settle down for a good long time in the village of the Azure Order tower, to spend a year's sabbatical for relaxation and self-improvement.


Currently Smoking: Moretti Rhodesian + Gawith's Squadron Leader

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

D&D 5e BASIC/Core Rules: I Told ALL of You So!

So the other shoe has finally fucking dropped.  Here's Mike Mearls announcing what I've known for months and had to keep a lid on; what I had tried to hint at and a few of you got, but most did not.  Yes, there will be a Basic D&D.

But its more than just that. It will be on a PDF.  It will be FREE.  And most importantly, it will be the true Core D&D.   Not the PHB, not the DMG, not that 10000-feats version. No. The basic version will be the default version of the D&D game, the one that all adventure products will use for their baseline.

This is hugely significant. This is the victory of Old-school thinking over all else, and I don't mind if I take more than a little credit for the lobbying I have done to create and hold this vision as a Consultant. 

You're all welcome.

It is also an incredibly bold move for Wizards to make.  It means that in theory, all you'll ever need to play D&D will be, in the first few months, the Starter Set and the Basic Rules PDF.  And after that, not even the Starter Set.  So whatever you get, whatever you purchase or get into from Wizards will not be because they're holding a gun to your head. It will be because they'll be making great products (well, we hope!).

This is, with any luck, the beginning of the end for the whole "endless Splatbook-production-line model" of RPG thinking which only served to create an ever-shrinking mass of aging fanatics while alienating everyone else who didn't want to have to buy every single book.

Making Basic D&D the core D&D rules means that kids will be able to get into the game first, and then become customers of those adventures, expansions, settings or materials that they find exciting.  It will serve the "amateur" gamer rather than the hardcore drooling fan, and that's a good thing.

So its time now to give Wizards its due.  And to give the Pundit his due, particularly all the naysayers and those who made certain claims about me in the last few days.  I win again.

And this time, so does every other D&D fan.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Volcano + H&H's Beverwyck

Monday, 26 May 2014

UnCracked Monday: Twitter Helps Repress "Blasphemy"?

Imagine if Twitter (or any other major website) were to concede to the demands of some fundamentalist Christian organization to censor tweets that were considered "blasphemous" against the Christian religion.  Can you envision the outrage across social media that would result?!

So why would it be any different, when Twitter collaborates with Pakistani religious authorities in the censorship of whatever they consider to be "blasphemy" against Islam?

Its worse actually, because not only are they helping oppressive religious fanatics to get their way in censoring speech, they're also helping a hopelessly corrupt government.

And yet, expect the pseudo-activists to be paralyzed in any opposition to this; their addled brains frozen by conflicting "narratives", their opposition to religious oppression of speech being trumped by their absurd inability to criticize anything non-western.


Currently Smoking: Italian Redbark + H&H's Beverwyck

Sunday, 25 May 2014

A Publisher for Dark Albion? Plus: The True History of Frog Men and the Paris Swamp!

So for the first time in a while there's been some interesting news regarding the possibility of some kind of publication of quality being made out of my awesome homebrew campaign, Dark Albion.   As you can see if you click the link, you can already get a ton of info for this setting for free, on the thread dedicated to it. But I have quite a bit of extra material that is not out there, and that plus a professional look plus a hopefully affordable PDF or PoD would I think make Albion a really great addition to the stable of OSR fantasy settings.  While I have run the Albion campaign for LotFP, I would make any actual book system-neutral for use with any OSR-type game.

The news, in any case, that after a long period of languishing, the author of the Fantastic Heroes & Witchery RPG, a fairly gonzo-sided OSR game, is looking to make Dark Albion happen.  He's even made a few same mock-ups of what a cover might look like, which you can see on the Albion thread.

The irony is that "Albion" may end up being published by a Frenchman.  Have the English lost all their pride?  Some might actually ask if the French have, mind you, given how the Albion setting portrays the area we'd know as France as "Frogland", ruled by vicious and evil chaos-worshiping Frogmen!

Strangely enough, this hasn't really seemed to bother most French fans of the setting.  Whereas the Scottish consistently get worked up about how they're kilted barbarians.  I guess we see which of the two have the better sense of humour.

Keep in mind that much of Albion is not just a fantasy but a fantasy based on popular perceptions of the English; so Ireland is a kingdom of barbarians and faeries, Scots Land a frigid land of kilted brutes, and France of course is literal Frog-men.  While England itself is a classist land of serf-oppression and corrupt feuding power-mad aristocracy.

Over the course of the campaign "Frogland" has been somewhat developed and elaborated upon; for example, it became clear that the Frogmen are only the inhuman minority who rule over a Frankish human majority that are treated like slaves.  Their chief territory is Paris. They govern through the help of their advanced (chaos) magick and human collaborators.

(the "Paris Swamp", a term which apparently has confused some of the French fans, is a play on  "Lutetia", which in Latin means "city of swamps or mud")

But before the Frogmen emerged from the Paris Swamp and conquered most of those lands, there were human kingdoms there, of Frankmen, some of whom were ancestors to the Anglish Kings by marriage (hence their claim of rule over Frogland and their constant wars with them these past 150 years).  The lands of Burgundy, and Burgundy's vassal Lorraine, are still ruled by humans.  And later in the timeline of the campaign, the lands of Brittany rise up in human rebellion against the Frog overlords, and with the help of Albion and Burgundy gain their freedom (or rather, they did in my campaign; in yours things might go much worse).

As to the Frogmen's origin, I would hearken them back to ancient times, before humans dominated the world.  We know from Albion's prehistory that when humans were created as slaves for the ancient Elves, it was the Elves and the Dragons who ruled over most of the world, the two not always friendly with each other.  I would like to think that things like lizardmen and frogmen were created by Dragons in the Dragons' image, to act as slaves and ground troops to oppose the humans and goblinkind that the Elves had created.

You'll note that in The Wash, Albion's own swamps, there are also Frogmen, who are primitive and degenerate, rather than the sophisticated variety that rule Frogland.  They were probably left over there from the time of the Dragons.

Anyhow, even if it will take a Frenchman to make Albion a reality, I'm excited by the prospect.


Currently Smoking: Castello 4k Collection Canadian + Image Latakia

Saturday, 24 May 2014

RPGPundit Reviews: The Tools of Ignorance, A Baseball Roleplaying Game

This is a review of the print version of Tools of Ignorance, a baseball RPG.  It is written by Clash Bowley, and published by Flying Mice games.  The print edition is a softcover, about 50 pages long.  The front cover features a ball and a catcher’s helmet.  I am informed that “tools of ignorance” is the term for a catcher’s equipment in baseball.

I’m not yet certain if making an rpg about a sport (that isn’t, say, gladiatorial dwarf-orc combat in a dark future ruled by brain-eating vampire illithids) is an act of lunacy or a work of genius.  It is definitely a labour of love, in this case.

The game is pretty much what it sounds like: you play a team of major league baseball players, with the goal being to get to and win the World Series. You start out by creating your team, which you can do by random rolls or optionally direct choice to determine the “type of team” you have, ranging from “hapless” or “struggling” to “top notch”; and varying by the size of market.  So a Top Notch team in a big market starts with 130 points, while a hapless team in a small market has only 70 points to work with.

You use these points to buy players, rated as rookies, veterans, prime, aging, declining, over-the-hill or “ancient”; and varying according to “standard”, “star”, or “superstar” qualities. These “star ratings” determine how much money the player is worth, and it is required in the game that the player accumulate enough “notice” (from successful games in a season) to maintain a player’s rating (or increase it).  If the player doesn’t earn sufficient notice, he will end up dropping to a lower rating. A player who can’t maintain even a standard rating is kicked off the team at the end of the year.
Notice is given in small amounts for things like nice plays or good attitude, and in greater amounts for important actions, like hitting a home run in a game against a rival team, completing a game, a shutout, a game-winning catch, stealing home in the playoffs, a no-hitter, etc.  Negative Notice can also be given as a penalty if a player expresses improper behavior.  Toadying to the press or undercutting rivals might also gain notice, but there is a fine-line in that between doing it well and ending up getting a bad reputation for it.

Managers are also statted, with three varieties: “boy genius”, veteran, or “crusty coot”. There are different styles of management, like “the Tactician”, “the Mastermind”, “the Accountant”, etc., who get different special edges they can use for managing.

The basic mechanic for resolving a regular game is a single-roll mechanic, where you compare team vs. team and roll to see who wins. That way you can get through an entire game with a single roll for any game that isn’t actually important or worth playing in the longer version. Optionally, in the one-roll game, each player can try a roll to see if they had any special personal “highlight” in the game, giving them a little Notice.

To actually create a Baseball Player PC, you will choose a professional template (based on the kind of player we’re talking about as mentioned above; ie. veteran, aging, etc.), and then a background template, like “moose”, “gorilla”, “monkey” (yes, all of these are named after animals).  The Background template gives the character his basic attributes, the Professional Template modifies these attributes.  Both give skills (of both the baseball variety, like “pitching”, “hitting”, etc; and the non-baseball variety, like “tactics”, “endear”, etc). Some of the templates provide edges (special abilities). You add together all the bonuses of both templates to get the basic character, and roll randomly to determine if you are a left or right handed hitter/pitcher.

The professional template is based on age.  Each season, your character ages a year; and when he hits the age of the next template up he would erase all his previous bonuses and add in the bonuses of his new template.  Thus, baseball skills can rise or fall in value over time; non-baseball skills only keep accumulating, however.

Non-baseball skills are used to create special effects either in or out of a game. The skill “deke”, for example, lets you attempt to physically deceive another player; “endear” lets you win people over, “overdo” lets you push through pain or fatigue.

Characters also have certain “traits”, like “hot-tempered”, “greedy”, “loyal”, “upright”, “practical”, “nefarious”, etc. Traits are refreshed each session, and allow a character to roll an extra die for each trait point used, as long as the descriptor of the trait is relevant to the task being attempted.  Characters get 7 points to put into their traits.

Now, on to task resolution; the first is hitting, and you have different mechanics to hit “for average” or to hit “for power”. The difference is the former uses the Coordination stat and the latter the Strength stat.  In both cases the checks are opposed checks to the pitcher. A table is provided giving the possible results; the system is a dice pool, so the more successes a hitter gets versus the pitcher, the better his result.  If he gets four or more successes above the pitcher’s successes, then he’s hit a homer.

Pitchers can likewise pitch “for power” or as “crafty pitchers” (using STR and COOR respectively).  Pitchers also have a fatigue mechanic, based on their Endurance, that determines how many innings they can play before getting tired. After that, they begin to suffer cumulative penalties to their play.
Players can also issue “challenges”, which are basically things like trying to steal 2nd or whatnot; the consequence of failure usually being getting “out”.  In turn, managers can make “maneuvers”, which require a tactics check, success giving certain bonuses to players in an ensuing play.

Players can get injured in-game if they botch an END check after using a trait.  There are random tables to determine where a hit or an out goes… the point here is that its all very thorough. I have no doubt that this system covers everything needed to actually play a drawn out baseball game in the actual RPG.
There are even rules for the use of performance enhancing drugs.  Which really is what makes it realistic in the context of modern professional baseball.

There are rules too, for troupe play, which I assume would really be the default here (and its “recommended” in the rules).  There is also a mechanic based on a pack of cards to create random events in “the media”, “romance/family”, “health” or “the team and teammates”.

You also get a long list of suggested team names, random opponent stat chart, a sample lineup for the “portland tradewinds”, and some reference and character sheets.

One thing this game DOESN’T have is any description of the rules of baseball itself.  I suppose this is OK, really, because who in their right mind would buy an RPG about baseball if they weren’t already enough a baseball fan to know how the game is played? It is amusing to me, though, in its absence.

Ultimately, what can I say about Tools of Ignorance? From what I can see, it would do an absolutely EXCELLENT job at what it set out to do: let you simulate an RPG version of the game of baseball, including certain off-field details.  It is a hyper-focused game, which probably would not be very heavy on the role-playing. Almost to the point where I have to ask myself if what I’m reading really is a roleplaying game, or something that uses roleplaying mechanics in a totally different way?  Its definitely not a story game, though. So there’s that at least.

Anyways, if you want an RPG baseball-simulator, this is THE game for you.  I’m fairly sure that there’s no other game out there that would cover this topic as well, or in fact, at all.


Currently Smoking: Ashton Old Church Rhodesian + Rattray’s Old Gowrie

(Originally posted May 18, 2011; reposted March 5, 2013, on the old blog)

Friday, 23 May 2014

Wait.. is 5e Making Grognards Suddenly Claim Character-optimization is More Important Than Roleplay?

There's a variety of different demographics that want to be critical about the upcoming edition of D&D.  There's the guys who have always hated all versions of D&D and always will because they have some kind of pathological psychosis about that very name.  There's the guys (mostly Pathfinder-fanboys now) who got burned by the change to 4e and have something not against D&D as such, but Wizards of the Coast in particular. There's 4e fans (both of them!) who are pissed off that the game they liked was rejected by just about everyone.  There is of course the Storygaming Swine who revel in any chance to weaken regular roleplaying.  But the one that is of particular concern to me is the Old-School Fundamentalists.

Not all old-school gamers are fundamentalists.  Many of them (like me, for example!) are hopeful and enthusiastic with 5e and believe that it represents a return to more old-school values.  A significant amount are relatively apathetic: they have the version of D&D they want to play and really have no use for anything else (but I hope to convince this group that at the very least its good that the main public face of the D&D game will again be something they could theoretically stand to play sometimes!).  But then there's what I sometimes call the OSR-Taliban; the guys who collect Gary Gygax's used hankies and make shrines out of them; the ones who think that anything published after 1989, or 1983, or 1981, or 1979, or 1974 (or sometimes even 1973!) is "a betrayal of everything great about roleplaying".  These are not the open exciting OSR I love, creating amazing new old-school RPGs like "Stars Without Number", "Red Tide", "Dungeon Crawl Classics", "Lamentations of the Flame Princess", "Hulks and Horrors" and many many others: games that take Old-School concepts and do exciting new things with them.  That's the crowd I wrote Arrows of Indra for, and who loved it in return.

No, the OSR-Taliban are the guys  who only want their exact early version of D&D (be it "oD&D", "AD&D 1e", or "B/X D&D"; pretty much any other edition after that is 'haram', and of course the fans of earlier editions often try to out-extremist the competition, saying that even AD&D 1e was against the 'true spirit' of Gygax's original vision), or who only want precise exact (in other words, worthless and useless) clones of the same. Just to have the same exact thing over and over again, ad naueseum, without any innovation.  These are the type of guys who go on long rants about how variable weapon damage is a horrific deviation from the original purity of just rolling 1d6 for everything.

And one thing that Old-school gamers (including the fundamentalists) have always argued for is the fact that the point of D&D (and all RPGs) is to play out your character in a virtual world; its not about 'crafting elaborate pretentious story', but it is also not about making super-complex rules.  Nor is it about character optimization; Old-School gamers have ALWAYS defended the criticism presented by some later-edition fans that "old D&D is dumb because there's no feats, skills, etc. so all the fighters are going to be the same" with the point that the difference between characters is not and SHOULD NOT be about what mechanical choices you get to make with the little numbers on the character sheet, that your character should not be unique because of his "Speshul Powerzz", but what should differentiate one character from another is HOW YOU ROLEPLAY them.

So I'm pretty shocked when I see that 5e-antagonism has shifted some OSR-fans, including many (like the fellow RPGsite moderator I'm about to quote) who I think are normally very reasonable sorts of people and not what I'd usually define as "OSR-Taliban", right into the far fundamentalist extreme end of mujahadeen hill-fighters.  Witness the guy I'm gonna quote, and keep in mind he's a veteran of 200 flamewars with drooling-character-optimizers bitching to him about how old-D&D hasn't got rules to cover everything and you can't really have the choice of character you want in older editions; and yet here is what he's reduced to when he's talking about the fact that the upcoming D&D Starter Set (which the 5e-negativity brigade is desperate to be able to keep describing as 'crippleware') will not have character-creation rules in the box itself, and instead you will be able to download the complete BASIC character creation rules and more, at no extra cost:

"Which happens to completely miss the fucking point of a role playing game and turns it from a game of your imagination into a consumerist item with limited replay value. From an open model into a closed one. And in case you're a bit thick too, the main point here is not the limited replay value in and of itself; it's the actual missing of the entire fucking point of role playing games in empowering their users in the first place. So ... fail. Again."

My response to this:
 Ok, never mind the fact that if you live anywhere but Burkina Faso or the Disputed Zone where internet doesn't exist, you can in fact create characters with this game, and thus have EVERYTHING you need to run any number of campaigns you want to run forever (with 2 MORE levels than the almost relic-like D&D Basic set of old had). Never mind that. Let's take a look at your statement: are you seriously saying "creating a character is the entire fucking point of role playing games"?

So you mean the Denners were totally right? Its been about charop the whole time?
But by that logic shouldn't the "point" then be about having 20000 feats and point-buy options and advancement-trees so that you can map out precisely how your guy will look at level 20 before you've rolled his first stat?

Because if not that, I don't get what you're saying here. The precise argument that many use against how "limited" Old-School D&D character creation is, is what you are now using against the Starter set. They claim that old-school D&D sucks because you can "only ever make one fighter". There's no way to individualize the character, because we all know that individualizing the character is about what mechanical options you get to pick from or generate, right? Is that really what you're saying?

Because I think if I have 5 pregen characters, I hand them out to total newbs at random, and I tell them "Ok, this is a Dwarf Fighter, that's a human cleric, etc. But now you have to decide how they act and what they like and what they think and how they make decisions and how they feel about things.." then THAT, dude, is the ENTIRE FUCKING POINT of Roleplaying games.

The set-up Wizards has chosen will let a group of kids do exactly that, from the moment they open the box. AND it will also let those kids then go on to create characters, and theoretically keep playing this game forever, with everything they need just in the box, without having to ever buy another product again if they don't want to.

That, to me, is the TOTAL FUCKING OPPOSITE OF CRIPPLEWARE. Its something we should be praising WoTC to the fucking rafters for. It means they actually got the point this time, and it also must have been a pretty bold and scary move for them, from their point of view: they're betting on actually giving people a game that gives them everything they need for $19.95 (and yes, typing out a URL, which people are suddenly pretending is an immense hurdle because.. what.. we all know 12 year-olds today have no idea how to use the internet and hate to be online??). Instead of going with the (failed) technique of giving them half-a-game and then demanding they pony up money for the full experience, they're going to give them a full game and then trust that game will be awesome enough the kids will want to pay more for other stuff. That's really what they always should have been doing, but we should still be impressed because its been so very long since they had really tried doing it this way. If they only manage to actually promote the starter set in the right ways and to the young-teen demographic, it might even bring a whole new generation into the hobby.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Oversize + H&H's Beverwyck

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Continued 5e Update

So by now some of you (those of you who really truly give a shit about all this) will have heard that there was another trickle of information.  Some WoTC spokesman somewhere said something like this:

"Approx 15% of the D&D Player's Handbook will be free on WotC site to cover the basics of building characters for those getting Starter Sets."

Naturally, some people were wondering if this was what I was alluding to in my previous posts; the same news I sounded very excited about (because no doubt while most of you who aren't D&D-haters will find the above good news, you will find it a little underwhelming).

The only way I can honestly answer the question of whether this is what I was talking about is to say "I don't know..."

If it is what this WoTC guy is talking about, then it is the absolute most underwhelming way possible to explain the news, and I would go so far as to accuse it of being inaccurate.

Its so off-mark from what I've heard that I wonder if this isn't just something different, some stopgap no one bothered to tell me about.

Anyways, there's one other piece of news that some people might have missed. Something more important than it looks:

"@thalmin mentioned the rules will be for BASIC characters (emphasis from the WotC rep)"

Anyways, draw your own conclusions as to why I would highlight that out of everything.  As usual, I'm not allowed to say anything one way or the other.


Currently Smoking: Stanwell Deluxe + Image Latakia

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Jealousy is Such an Ugly Thing; And Yet Revenge Is So Sweet...

So there has been a LOT of response to my blog entry yesterday, where I tried to share as much as I legally could regarding what I knew about WoTC's plans for D&D, and gave my own seal of approval to those plans, in the hope that the entire conversation about it online wouldn't be dominated by negative speculation from honestly suspicious or dishonestly antagonistic individuals (i.e., by those who felt burned by WoTC in the past, or by those who had decided they'd hate D&D 5e (or indeed just D&D period) from the start, and use the lack of clear information to try to sow discontent).

Two of the most common 'rebuttals' I got were (first) something along the lines that I'm just a paid hack now, have sold out to Wizards, or am being paid to say nice things about D&D, have a vested interest, etc; and (second) that Wizards shouldn't be relying on me to try to put out the good word and have done a shit job of marketing this, if indeed there is something really cool about the new D&D that has not yet been made public (and ought to have been by now, instead of requiring the likes of me to just beg people to trust me and give it a chance).

To address the second point first; I will open by saying that Wizards in no way 'relies' on me. No one at Wizards, no one, told me to say anything.  I made my blog entry yesterday entirely of my own doing, unsolicited in any way by Wizards of the Coast, and I am in NO WAY acting as any kind of official or unofficial spokesman for them.  My blog entry (or indeed any of the crazy things I ever post publicly) was posted wholly and entirely as a private individual, expressing my own words, and should in no legal sense be taken to represent any kind of official position or statement by Wizards of the Coast. 

But I know that wasn't really the meaning of that particular criticism; rather, the point is to ask why in the world should Wizards put themselves in this situation, where Mike Mearls' vague tweets and the RPGPundit's blog entries are the most reliable source of (limited) information available to gamers about the new edition?  Why the hell isn't there a official statement? Why the hell in this day and age would anyone in marketing who had the slightest clue how this hobby in particular and nerd culture in general functions think it would be a good idea to keep certain things a big secret and instead allow all the negativity to fester making all future promotion a much steeper uphill battle than necessary? How the hell would someone like that get to keep their job?

Well, I totally agree.  I think its insane. If it had been me who gets to decide these sort of things; or indeed, I think if any sane person with the least bit of understanding of the gaming hobby had been in any position anywhere in the marketing department of WoTC, what would have happened is that the part they've kept a big secret would have been the FIRST thing that got revealed, before the covers, before the details on the Starter set or the three manuals, so that the context of everything would come into place. But no, apparently in this reality there was not one person who stopped and said "hey, you know what? Presenting the Starter set and D&D manuals first and then keeping silent about the other stuff so that gamers everywhere will have plenty of time to imagine the Worst Possible Scenarios and decide that's what must be happening, aided by our seemingly incriminating silence, is probably a REALLY SHIT IDEA".
You will hear no argument from me.

And I think that little tirade proves that the other point about me just being a sell-out or a shill is invalid too.  I was explicitly told that one of the big reasons I was chosen to Consult is because I say what I think, always. That's what's wanted from me. So if I think mistakes are being made, I will say so; I did in the past, and I am doing so now. And if I say something really good is going to come, and that generally on the Creative end (rather than marketing end) of things Wizards of the Coast is getting it really right, then its because I really believe that.  The former is the reason why you can trust the latter.

Now do I have a vested interest? Sure I do! I have a vested interest in wanting D&D to do well because I love D&D; I have a vested interest in there being a good way to present D&D to a new generation because I want the hobby to keep growing, and the new generation of gamers to be indoctrinated in the right ways of how to think about gaming. I have a vested interest as a GAMER, like every other regular gamer should. 

Now apparently, my statement yesterday has also stuck very badly in the craw of certain would-be 'experts' in the hobby who had decided to go negative and were feeling frustrated that suddenly here was someone who had a much better claim to knowing what was really going on telling them they were wrong.  Some of them, hilariously, said "its all opinion"; except of course that for any of us who have not had our brains so melted by relativism as to not be capable of understanding the difference between a wild guess and an informed position, its clearly not.
When a would-be-gaming-authority tells you "the starter set will clearly suck because X" or "5e is just going to be Y so I'm definitely not going to buy any of it and neither should you", they are:
a) engaging in rampant speculation
b) asking you to trust them in that

When I tell you that they're wrong, because of things I've actually been informed about, I am:
a) making a statement based on actual information I have recieved
b) asking you to trust me in that

Now "b" is the same in both cases except that in the first situation the person is asking you to trust their ability to guess.  In my case, I'm asking you to trust that I'm telling you the truth about what I've been informed personally.

There's a very big difference there. In the first case, you want to judge just how clever the dude is at guessing; in the other, all you have to decide is whether or not I'm lying to you when I say that I actually KNOW that some of the first guy's guesses are wrong.

In one amusing case, there's a guy named Erik Tenkar, who has some kind of OSR blog, that I guess got so put off by my deflating his own highly speculative blog posts that in a fit of pique he declared on a G+ thread that I'm probably lying about working as a Consultant on D&D next altogether!

I'm so sorry, Tenkar, that you're upset with me for suggesting people shouldn't listen to any idiot who decides to make wild guesses just now, and that it bugs you that I was chosen from day 1 to be one of the people to advise on this project and you weren't even on the list for consideration.  But really, jealousy is unbecoming.  Now, are you sure you don't want to take your claim back?

Because seriously, let's look at this: you actually believe I would flush my entire reputation and career in the hobby down the toilet, and subject myself to (what would in that case be absolutely deserved) mockery and humiliation at the hands of all the people who've been waiting years to see me fail, by pretending to have a job I don't actually have, in a situation where the truth of that would inevitably come to light?! That's what you're betting YOUR reputation on now?

Well good for you; one of the two of us clearly has no brains: either I'm a fraud (and a moron, for such a stupid case of fraud), or you're a complete idiot.   The good news is that in only a few months, absolute proof one way or the other will come out. I look forward to disemboweling you in a future blog entry.  Revenge is usually unbecoming too, but at least its very sweet.


Currently Smoking: Castello Fiammata + Image Perique

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Insider Information on the new Edition of Dungeons & Dragons

So, the other day the cover images for the new D&D books came out, and that caused quite the stir.  It also continued the stir about the prices of the new core books (at a basic $50 each, that means a $150 investment on the three books; assuming you get them at full price).

What has been less mentioned is the starter set, which will come in just under $20, a much more affordable level.  But this has led to rampant speculation that the starter set will be nothing more than 'crippleware', a "for-profit ad for the main books", as more than one commenter suggested.  Admittedly, there's good cause to make such speculation, since pretty much all D&D starter sets for the last 20 years of so have amounted to that.

Well, I have a bit of an edge over other bloggers in that I'm actually a Consultant for Wizards of the Coast on the project-formerly-known-as-D&DNext, now mercifully revealed to simply be called, in its final version, the tried and true "Dungeons & Dragons".  Being a paid consultant is a double-edged sword, of course, because there are NDA-imposed limits on what I can and can't say.  But on the other hand it means that instead of having to wildly guess based on twitter feeds or the like, I can just talk directly with Mike Mearls and find out what's what.  Which is precisely what I've done.

So here is my statement, not of Mike's words (much less of some PR hack from WoTC) but of my own personal position on this subject as a gamer, and with information that almost no one else writing about this subject has access to:

I'm willing to say, right here and now, that the Starter set will NOT be "crippleware", not as I consider that term

I can't get into a lot of specifics here, but as an exercise in contrasts, I will tell you what I WOULD consider 'crippleware'.  It would be Crippleware to me, for example, if it was a boxed set that contained some pretty dice and some minis and rules for playing characters at levels 1-2 and after that you're shit out of luck and have to go buy the big-boy books.

That's crippleware.

The upcoming D&D Starter set, based on current information I have received firsthand as I am presently aware of it,  is not that.

I would be skirting the limits of what I'm allowed to say if I were to state that in fact, the Starter set will contain more campaign-level material than pretty much any starter set I've seen, possibly including the original Basic D&D red box. 

More importantly, as Mearls recently stated in his twitter account, you will NOT need to buy all of the D&D "core" books to play OR RUN the game.  And unless I've been massively lied to, this is not a play on words or a trick; it is exactly what it says it is.

I will finally close with this enigmatic statement: not everything about how the new D&D will work has been revealed to the public yet.  Everything will be more clear when certain information is made public in a while. Information, I might add, that I as an advocate of the D&D game being made as accessible as possible to regular and casual gamers rather than just marketing to the hardcore fans am very excited about.

I really wish I could say more, but I can't, not yet.  Still, I hope that those of you who know me, and have read me, whether or not you like me as a person or in my positions on gaming, will know that I'm not going to say something that isn't true, or pretend to be positive about something that I don't feel positive about.  And I feel quite positive at this point about the direction WoTC is heading in with this new edition of D&D.


Currently Smoking: Italian Redbark + H&H's Beverwyck

Monday, 19 May 2014

UNCracked Monday: DC Doubles Down on Massively Sucking

Today's entry deals with something that has been vexing me for the better part of a decade now, and shows no sign of abating.

Seriously, how do the people at DC comics not fucking understand this?! Lately I've heard some people suggest that "DC hates it heroes".  And as crazy as that sounds, the most recent evidence of what they've got planned only strengthens that claim.

For YEARS now, DC has failed to understand its heroes, that's for sure.  DC have consistently been trying to act like a second-rate Marvel Comics, which kind of could work for them back when Marvel itself was acting like a third-rate Marvel comics, but these days Marvel (which I have never liked as much as DC, in theory) is doing amazing work and has worked at appealing to a very broad range of readers.  DC, meanwhile, has been a one-trick pony of gore and "edginess" for so long that many people may have only ever known DC as being about that.

How do they not get this? How do they not understand that DC is all about ICONIC heroes, about Archetypes, and thus needs to be about Optimism?? And I know that optimism is not as cool to 14 year olds with gun fetishes as ripping people's arms off, but its all DC is set up in its lifeblood, in its genes, to actually do well. And you know, if they were to do it well, I'm pretty sure that 14 year olds and 40 year olds alike would be impressed.  But no, they insist on trying to make DC's heroes into something they're just not made to be, and in the process radically fucking up almost every last one of them. 

Fuck's sake.


Currently Smoking: Moretti Rhodesian + Gawith's Squadron Leader

Sunday, 18 May 2014

RPGPundit Reviews: Scourge of the Demon Wolf

This is a review of the “Majestic Wilderlands Adventure and Sourcebook” entitled “Scourge of the Demon Wolf”, written by Robert S. Conley and published by Bat in the Attic Games. This is, as always, a review of the printed edition, of about 70 pages; which has a colour cover (a fairly nice one that riffs on the “hexmap” concept but with scenes relevant to the adventure, one would assume), and black and white interiors. The interior has some nice old-school style art, including some guys that look like they stepped right out of any 1970s era D&D product (fairly high quality, though); but that said, the best “Art” in the product are the maps, in my opinion, which are quite awesome: hexmaps, dungeons, local encounter areas, floorplans, a village, etc.

I’ll note that some could say I have a bias toward Conley’s map-making skill since he was the one who provided the truly amazing maps for Arrows of Indra; but of course, I wouldn’t have run with him if his map-making skills weren’t so truly awesome.

The book is divided into two parts: the first is the adventure itself, the second is a fleshing out of the locales of the adventure to form a regional sourcebook. The setting of the book is the Majestic Wilderlands, and that is also the default system that the game is made for; for those unaware, Majestic Wilderlands is a sourcebook that Conley put out earlier, detailing a number of new rules, classes, races, magic, etc. for use in the particular version of the classic Wilderlands setting, from Conley’s long-running campaign.  In the introduction to Scourge, the reader is advised as to how he can modify the adventure to fit any other version of D&D or to place it in a setting other than the Wilderlands (the latter is fairly easy, the former involves changing the various homebrew classes of NPCs back into the standard D&D classes; as well as changing back the monetary system).  Modifiers are presented in the game in the form of D20 mods or percentage mods, so that both are available depending on what type of “skills” you are using in your D&D game.  The statblock format mostly conforms to those of Swords & Wizardry.

The adventure begins in media res, and it is fairly non-linear; there are several options as to how the PCs can start out in it, as well as to how things could progress. No railroading here, this is a sandbox adventure!

As always, I want to be careful not to give away too much when reviewing an adventure, but here’s the basic gist of it: the region of the adventure, the Barony of Westtower, which the PCs are either passing through, or specifically called to by one of many reasons related or unrelated to the central issue, has been of late beset by a terrible “demon wolf”, a vicious monstrosity that has been murdering locals.  The Baron’s hunters had thought they had dealt with the creature, but it appears they were wrong and its come back; most notably butchering the local Bailiff almost beyond recognition.  Now the villagers of Kensla (where the attacks are occurring) are refusing to bring in the harvest unless the Demon Wolf is destroyed; the imminent loss of the harvest and its income infuriating Baron Michael.

The adventure is written out in the format of a series of encounters, some of them have certain chronological conditions, and a few depend on finding clues at previous encounter locations, but there’s no specific order that the events must follow. In some cases I’ll note that the descriptions of these different encounters there are certain moments where characters, groups, or locations are just introduced by name or very brief description, without any real explanation of who they are; notes by the author indicate that you have to go looking later on, in the “sourcebook” section of the book, to find out the correct details.

A few general notes about this adventure:
First, it seems to contain a considerable number of “red herrings” meant to lead the PCs to make (incorrect) speculations about just what the “demon wolf” might be.  I think that’s fair enough, however, as in at least some cases these speculations are likely to only be pursued assiduously if the Players are using out-of-character ideas based on prior D&D gaming, rather than sticking to what the characters themselves are likely to interpret.

Second, the adventure is as much about interacting with interesting NPCs and groups of NPCs as it is about fighting wolves; there are all kinds of interesting characters and different groups with differing interests in the region: there’s the baron and his interests, the villagers and theirs (and conflicts between rival groups in the village), bandits, a mage-order, a tribe of gypsy-like beggars. How the players interact with each will very much decide the tone of the adventure and subsequent events.
The adventure does have a climax, which all events should lead to sooner or later (with some possible exceptions; like the party being able to overcome the problem much earlier through pretty spectacular luck, or of course the party being wiped out or abandoning the mission/investigation/whatever), but just how that climax plays out would depend very much on what the PCs did along the way, and which individuals they end up making what kind of connections to. 

The adventure is quite good, and it proves the lie to the notion that OSR adventuring isn’t going to feature sophisticated roleplay, or that the only thing that old-school is about is dungeon-crawling.
The supplement section of the book is actually the majority of the product, the last 40 pages (out of 70).  It establishes the Barony of Westtower as belonging to the Duchy of Dearthmead, south of the City State of the Invincible Overlord. The supplement produces extremely detailed information about a relatively small region, in the case of the various settlements of Westtower including things like the number of households (the largest being Kensla with 43 households), the estate holder, the primary resource, and potential military force.  There is very much a sense of “small scaled but very detailed” going on here; and for that matter of the “village of homlet”-style details of information on the locals unlikely to ever be used in actual adventuring.  The essence of the area is fairly low-powered, quite medieval, and kind of depressed (not as in “depressing” but as in “living in hard times”).

The section particularly goes into details about Kensla, providing 43 different location descriptions for the town; many of these amount to things like “peasant, sharecropper: Edward (age 44) was an apprentice to a prosperous merchant” who developed an illness that forced him back to the town, but his contacts led him to make a good life for himself with a wife and five children.  In other words, the kind of Hommlet-homage that certain OSR-players adore, but that in general tends to be a lot of flavour information that will never be used unless you really plan to run an entire campaign in the village.  A similar level of detail is provided for the beggar encampment; and also the mages of the order of thoth (found in “The Golden House”, a kind of wizard-enclave) are statted out in full with personality descriptions.  Various pages are dedicated to the masters, adepts, apprentices and support-staff; as well as floorplans and details thereof.  All of this paints a very interesting picture, but it seems to me that other than its instructive potential as to how a Mage-house should look like, it doesn’t really seem to have much utility.

In fact, you could say that about much of the “supplement” section of the book; fortunately the adventure itself is quite good, but the supplement section is just not what I’d be looking for in a sourcebook.  It has too-few adventure seeds, and far too many descriptions of farmers or teenage wizard-school apprentices (though I guess you could use it to run an OSR version of Harry Potter, or something).  Its just not my thing; I think its only really the thing of certain OSR-nuts who are just way too into the Village of Hommlet.  If you’re looking for that kind of minutely-detailed small-town settings, then you’ll probably love this section; if not, you probably won’t find it of much use.

All in all, what’s worthwhile about Demon Wolf is the adventure portion, which I expect to be quite playable, interesting, and enjoyable; its great strength being its non-linear nature, though this can also mean that just how playable, interesting or enjoyable the adventure turns out to be could vary wildly depending upon the tracks taken… though one could probably say the same about all but the most Railroady of modules.

Anyways, I’m guessing I’ll probably try running the adventure myself, some time. But I doubt very much I’ll have much use for the supplement-section.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Poker + Rattray’s Marlin Flake

(originally posted April 4, 2013; on the old blog)

Saturday, 17 May 2014

A Day Chock-full of Gaming

I don't really have time to write today, because I have to go rush off to an exhibition about RPGs (along with many gaming events including gaming tables) going on at the Intendencia (city hall) "municipal esplanade".  Yes, in Montevideo the local government is actually funding for a mini-con to be held inside the City Hall itself.

And this just one week after the federal government's INJU (institute of youth) put on an awesome and very successful Con organized by my friends at

Seriously, if you're a gamer and thinking of moving to south america, you couldn't possibly do better than Uruguay.  A great gaming community (quite a few who speak english), and while we don't actually have events every single week, its definitely a place where RPG gaming is still growing, and where you have a networking and level of community you rarely see, that makes it easy to game every week if you want to (and who wouldn't?).

At today's event there's a good chance I'll be getting interviewed, as (since last week) the word kind of slipped out that I'm a local gaming celebrity.  I hadn't been to a con event in Uruguay in years, and the last times I had, maybe 4 or 5 years ago, I did not stand out at all.  Last week, I had scores of people, people I didn't know, youngsters, coming up to me with awe in their eyes so impressed to meet me, particularly for Lords of Olympus which (having been pirated here) has become a big hit (as Amber has been around and very popular here for the last 11 years, since I brought it to Uruguay).

So yeah, that was quite the warm fuzzy feeling.

And of course, as usual, later tonight I'll be running Dark Albion (my homebrew LotFP campaign, where the PCs are currently outside Albion itself and adventuring on the Continent); where the PCs will hopefully finally be reaching Wallachia to confront Vlad Tepes (now calling himself Dracula).  No story of lost-loves here, the real story of Tepes is how he was betrayed by his own brother; having fought desperately to save his country from the Turk only to have his own flesh and blood (like Tepes himself, a former child hostage at the Sultan's court, but who had converted to the Turk's religion) betray him and ruin all his hopes.  So a few years later an army of wolves and the walking dead swept in from the transylvanian forests to massacre the Turk occupiers and the undead Dracula, forever cut off from the light of the Unconquered Sun he once loved and fought for, again rules; having shrouded his principality in mists and darkness and terror that risks to spread to all of the continent, from the mountain peaks of his castle Agnesz ("the Crow's Loft") where he manages his inhuman rule.

Obviously, the PCs are going to kill the motherfucker. Or be slaughtered by him. It'll be neat to see which!


Currently Smoking: Stanwell Compact + Image Latakia

Friday, 16 May 2014

Arrows of Indra: Caste Skills

I'm particularly proud of Arrows of Indra's skill system.  I know that "skill system" is a bit of a dirty word to some old-schoolers, conjuring ideas of min-maxing, point-investing, and exclusionary mechanics.  But what I tried to do in Arrows of Indra is create a skill system that had a truly old-school nature, that avoided all of these pitfalls.

There's a bit of difference between Class Skills and Caste/Background Skills; the former are less like skills in the D20/3.x-system sense, and more like proficiencies and extra special abilities.  I'll talk more about those in some future entry.

The Caste/Background skills are much more like conventional skills.  But there's a few important details that I think hit all the right old-school spots:

1. By default, they're randomly generated during character creation.
2. There's no point-buy elements.
3. Most of the skills are not related to the standard elements of adventuring; though creative players will be likely to find use for almost any of them.  So they are meant to enhance the roleplaying of the character and immersion, and NOT the stats and power-level.
4. There's no artificial sense of balance.  A player is as likely to begin with Cooking, Perfuming and Mining as he is with Hunting or Sage (the knowledge skill).

Finally, most skills can still be checked by people without the skill, albeit at a penalty.

The list of caste/background skills are:

Animal Training
Managing Corpses
Religious Dancer
Rope Making
Tablet Making

Anyways, that's all for now; as I said, later I'll get on to the Class Skills.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Volcano + H&H's Beverwyck

Thursday, 15 May 2014

On My DCC Campaign

My own Dungeon Crawl Classics game has only been two sessions, but they were amazing sessions.

My game setting is a world where humanity is nearly extinct, and the world itself is some kind of immense life-preserver at the end of the universe; a superspecies trapping the last star left in the universe and used it to escape the end of all things; only now the super-species is gone, their AI (“G.O.D.”) has gone senile, his living programs (daemons) have rebelled, terrible mutations have arisen in the original species, and everything has basically gone to shit.

The humans had apparently originally been called up to be indentured farm servants, the elves were supervisors, dwarves worked deep in the underground “world-machines” and halflings’ role is not clear. But after the “Ancient Ones” vanished, the halflings became almost-feral cannibalistic bandits in the woods, dwarves were forced out of the deep places by horrific goblin hordes, tentacle things and their gnomish masters; the elves continued sleepily into a helpless decadence in their automated pleasure-domes, very slowly losing all their knowledge and wisdom to become shallow, self-absorbed drug-addled dilettantes, and the humans were slowly wiped out by plague, mutation, undeath and attacks by monstrosities.

Its possible that there’s still other human survivors besides the PCs out there, there were other human settlements in the time of the Ancient Ones,and its not clear how they might have fared in the thousands of years hence; there is even a legend about a great human city named Arkhome, on the other side of the world.

But the PCs only know that their village, the last in the five valleys, was overrun by Zombies; their party survived escaping through a deep tunnel into the Rose Pleasure Dome of the Elves. Now they’re based there; and recently helped the Elven Elder (the only one there who more or less still knows something, or cares about something) to retrieve a Power sphere from the 9th dimension, from the grey men and their dreaded Queen Priscilla.

Unfortunately the absolute earliest we’ll be playing again is late June. It was awesome.


(originally posted April 3, 2013; on the old blog)

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

RPGPundit Reviews: Scenic Dunnsmouth

This is a review of the RPG adventure "Scenic Dunnsmouth", published by LotFP, written by Zzarchov Kowolski (yes, two "Z"s, that's not a typo). The book is 112 pages long, a softcover with a colour cover (an eerie picture mostly consisting of a weird artifact from the book: the time cube).  The interior art is black, white and red; and consists mainly of NPC sketches.

Physically, the book is pretty enough, though not nearly as gorgeous as "Isle of the Unknown", the last product by lotfp I reviewed (and praised for its physical appearance but totally and now famously trashed for its content).  On the other hand, I'll tell you right now the content is quite a lot better than Isle (thankfully!).

So, Scenic Dunnsmouth is a setting/adventure sourcebook, and it is a sandbox setting on the whole done right; albeit a micro-sandbox that only covers a small town and its very immediate environs.  There is a particular "gimmick" to this book which is that every time you run it, you "generate" the town; this is done by rolling 14 dice onto a sheet of paper.  Where the dice falls indicates where the locations are found, the numbers on the dice indicate variable levels of certain qualities that can affect how far along certain chronological details of the setting are developed at the time of the PCs' arrival.  Then you draw a series of regular playing cards to determine which inhabitants are available in this version of the town (each card is keyed to one particular NPC). 

This means that every single time you run Dunnsmouth, the particular set of inhabitants of that town will be different, and the setting will have a different dynamic.  There's also a particular monster, and a particular magical artifact, and depending on the roll of the dice these will have different levels of influence over the town.

It is, undoubtedly, gimmicky.  But as far as gimmicks go (and I'm not a fan of gimmicks), its a pretty good one.  The same could have been more or less accomplished through the use of random tables, but the method the author chose instead probably makes generation easier and less time-consuming.  It also means the book will have a decent re-use value, even if certain players may have run into Dunnsmouth in a previous campaign. The method itself is explained in a very straightforward manner, and an example is provided at the back of the book (which I suppose a GM could use if he was too lazy or in too great a hurry to generate the town himself).

As for what the setting/adventure is like, well, the not-extremely-creative but very evocative title says it all; get it? Its like Dunwich or Innsmouth, a weird little town in a forgotten corner of the world that's full of creepy families and dark secrets.  Made for relatively low-level play (the book's back cover says lv.2-5), the point here is to have a mostly investigative game, potentially with some big end-fights.  As usual when I review adventures, I won't go into too much detail about the particulars, especially the two big problems in the town, since I don't want to spoil it for anyone.

What I can say is this: the town is not entirely generic, certain people are identified by real-world nationalities, for example, and the town has a vaguely 17th-18th century feel to it.  But on the other hand, elves are mentioned, and there's magic and monsters.  None of these details are so significant that you couldn't easily transfer the setting to fit into any forgotten corner of most standard fantasy worlds.

The town has a couple of townsfolk that are particularly important and are almost always present: "Uncle Ivanovik" (a 'crazy old hermit', or so says the initial description), Magda (an "aging but still sultry Roma magic-user", or so says her initial description) and Father Iwanopolous (the local priest who has become "a little unhinged", or so says his description).  Aside from the basic buildings and the Church, there are a number of potential special locations (termed "kickers") that can appear depending on die rolls; these are the kind of locales (for the most part) that might exist in a small town (a tavern, a sawmill, an old fort, a manor, etc.) but obviously each will have their own weirdness about them.

The bulk of the randomly-determined population belong to one of four families (determined by the suit of the playing card used to generate them). There's the "jovial" Duncaster family, the haughty Dunlop family, the Samson family (who are a family of "angry, inbred hillbillies"), and the Van Klaus family (who are proud and xenophobic, and have an ancient shameful secret).  Each potential member of each family is described with somewhere around half a page to one page of text (with details on how to modify them depending on certain conditions during town generation).

The book itself has no coherent pre-designed "adventure" as such; some sample reasons are provided as to why on earth the PCs would go to Dunnsmouth, but then the game itself is all Sandbox.  It would involve meeting the various townsfolk in the various locales, and depending on how the town is generating either eventually or very quickly discovering what details are horrifically wrong about the town.

If you like both Sandbox play and "Creepy Towns", you're very likely to enjoy this adventure.  Of course, if the freeform style of a sandbox is not your thing, you may have trouble with this book.  I'm not sure just how many times you'd really want to use it as a GM, but the random town-generation system does certainly permit for the town to be made different enough each time that at least it would not feel truly repetitive.


Currently Smoking: Neerup Poker + Brebbia no.7

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Golden Age Campaign Character Update

So in our weekend game, the mystery men were assigned to train a new Government Hero, "Captain Flag":

He had been created with a "super-soldier" formula, which granted the previously weak and sickly man great strength, stamina and reflexes.  The team was soon set into motion to try to find an incredibly powerful crystaline monster:

The creature, which was powerful enough to take on and hospitalize most of the JSA, would disappear as mysteriously as it appeared. 

As the team continued their investigations a couple of the team (the Inquisitor, and Prometheus) ran into and got seriously beaten up by a sort-of crimefighter but mostly delusional alcoholic named The Fighting Hobo!

(and yes, the Fighting Hobo was actually a real golden age comic character, and since he was published by the precursor of Marvel, he's technically still a real Marvel Universe character to this day)

What should have been a brief joke turned hilarious when the Hobo managed to hold his own against two of the Mystery men, was later dropped of at the Inquisitor's parish, which he promptly set fire to (believing them incorrectly to be fascist agents of Franco's) and then again fought the Inquisitor, and finally at the climactic battle with the crystalline monster, he got away again when the Inquisitor's van was trashed, and fought him yet a third time (by which point the Inquisitor was actively ignoring the enormous radioactive crystal monster the other Mystery Men and JSA-ers were fighting, focus entirely on dropping the Hobo).  He was finally hospitalized.

Oh yeah, and the crystalline monster? Turned out to be Captain Flag.  The O.S.S. had stolen part of the Canadian Super-Soldier formula (the one used to create the Canadian Shield and Captain Wonder) in the last adventure, when King Faraday had conned some of the PCs into unwittingly infiltrating the Canadian military base at Camp X.  The scientists at Monster Island decided to fill in the missing blanks using some radioactive material they'd found off a meteorite that had crashed somewhere in Kansas. The result was a Super-soldier with occasional Monsterism.

Ah well, back to the drawing board. 


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Horn + Gawith's Navy Flake

Monday, 12 May 2014

UnCracked Monday: The Death of Expertise

Today I wanted to share with you a really excellent editorial, on a pretty important subject.  The notion of the value of expertise has been steadily eroding in our culture; starting with the post-modernist idea that authority implies illegitimacy, then growing with the relativist notion that there's no such thing as truth, only opinions which must all be given equal weight and value, and finally being accelerated by the developmental impact of new technology on our culture.  Particularly the internet, where its often hard to judge the difference between informed and uninformed statements and where there is the impression that everyone must have their say and will by default have equal weight in terms of any statements made (whether backed by years of rigorous study and research, or pulled fully-formed out of one's own ass).

So without further ado, here's The Death of Expertise.


Currently Smoking: Raleigh Volcano + Burlington's Lapis Lazuli

Sunday, 11 May 2014

RPGPundit Reviews: Wizkid: The Cheapening

This is a review of Wizkid: The Cheapening, written by Ian Warner, published by Postmortem Studios. This is the print edition, softcover, clocking in at about 156 pages.  It seems to have good paper quality, and a nice full-colour cover showing a pair of somewhat rebellious-looking wizard-school students (one boy, one girl) and a goblin of some sort. 

I have to say, Ian Warner may be far from the best RPG writer of the day, but he sure as hell is the craziest motherfucker in the hobby right now.  And that’s saying a lot!

Wizkid is part of a whole series of RPGs he’s crafted (the recently reviewed “Chav: The Knifing” being another) that is both a parody of the WW system and “world of darkness” setting (his version is called the Shadow World), and a parody of some fad, style or significant element of modern society.  Some of these are fairly provincial; Chav, for example, mocks the “chav” trailer-trash youth gangs of the United Kingdom.  But others are of more universal recognition.  Wizkid is a parody of the Harry Potter craze specifically, and more generally the whole “magick teen” idea. 

So, knowing you’re in for a Harry Potter/WoD parody, let’s begin.  For starters, Warner presents us with a damned funny introduction (“Welcome to a world of Dazzlement”), which unlike most RPG introductions is well worth the read. In it, he explains the basic concept of his setting: wizard schools had existed since quite some time ago, but were secretive and little known to the general public, until “A certain fantasy author” went and published a series of memoirs about life in the Hippogriff House magick school, which led to a craze of youngsters taking up the study of the magickal arts. The massive influx of new blood has made it an interesting time to be a wizkid (though the rival Slithering House did consider suing the certain fantasy author for slander).  Characters will usually be students (though it seems that they could easily be faculty instead) of a school of wizardry, with all the Potter-esque trappings.

I’ll make a note about artwork in general before I proceed here: the interior artwork (all B&W) is mostly drawn, some of it slightly amateurish, some of it quite awesome (particularly the drawings of the magical creatures in the “opponents” section has some good selections); and in general it is far more stylistically appropriate to the setting than Chav’s images.  However, this is mainly because both books are full of images of hip and attractive young people; which for the magical students of pseudo-Hogwarts is just fine; whereas in Chav I would have expected the illustrations to look more like Vicky Pollard or something.  Anyways, no real problem here.

Character creation is basically similar to that of Chav (and I would assume other Warner games): first you choose a couple of basic “shticks” (character quirks), then you choose a House, then buy attributes and skills, as well as your Realms of magic(k) power (the broad categories of spellcraft), and a Trademark (a spell you are best at), merits and flaws, wiz capacity points, and House Points (basically, your reputation).

The houses are four, though a GM could probably easily make his own house to add.  The four are probably recognizable to readers of the Potter series (I wouldn’t know, I’ve never read Harry Potter or seen the movies, but even I recognized two out of four immediately): Hippogriff, Slithering, Crow’s Feet, and Hubblebubble. Hippogriff has become the most popular house thanks to that “certain fantasy author” casting them as the protagonists, and tend to be the kind of everyman good guys. Slithering are the upper class snobs. Crow’s Feet are essentially emos, complaining about something at all times.  Hubblebubbles are “deliriously perky giggly types”.  Each house is given a description, along with details about their sanctuaries (dorms, basically), which realm they’re best at and which they’re worst at, a weakness all members of the house have (Hippogriff house, for example, do not reroll successes when making Control-based rolls, ie. giving orders; but in turn they are extremely resistant to being swayed or mentally controlled getting Resistance for half the regular cost). There’s also information on the background of a typical house-member and what they think of the other houses.

The Realms (broad categories) of magic are also four: “Buff” (magic(k) which enhances you or others), “Create” (makes things out of thin air), “Destroy” (“blow shit up”) and “Nerf” (magic(k) that diminishes or penalizes another character).  Each house has a superior and inferior realm, meaning one of the four realms (the superior one) is half the usual cost in points to purchase, and the inferior realm is double the usual cost to purchase, the other two being available at normal cost.

There is a lengthy list of possible merits and flaws, which cost or grant points respectively.  Merits include things like “aristocrat”, “Cool shaped scar”, “gnarly wand” and “horrible life” (yes, Horrible Life is a merit, not a flaw, because you are like the hero of those certain novels).  There are also some merits that I think are more meta-setting than directly parodying anything from the Potterverse (though again, I wouldn’t know), like “film buff”, “fanfic master” or “encyclopedic Comic Collection”. Flaws include “annoying sibling”, “damaged wand”, “half breed”, and “Paisley” (the name of a famous Hippogriff family known to suffer from chronic poverty and cause mischief).

Skills include mostly standard stuff like acting, brawling, driving, firearms, programming, streetwise or survival; but also some unusual skills thematic (I guess) to a school-setting like Bitching (describes as “intimidation by proxy”), “look good” (fashionable appearance) and Comedy (to be the class clown, I suppose).  There’s also the (highly questionable, in my opinion) “nookie” skill, which also appeared in Chav; which is as you may have guessed the skill at having sex (with such skill specialties as “spanking”, “oral”, “straight”, or “anal”).  I really shudder to think of the sort of application in actual play of this skill that you’d get; it more than borders on Lawncrapper territory; it made sense at least to have it in the setting of Chav (where sexual promiscuity and teen pregnancy are frequent themes of the “chav subculture”), but what the fuck is the point of having it here? Did anyone get knocked up in the Harry Potter-verse that I never heard about?  Did Rowling write torrid scenes of spanking and anal sex between young magicians? Why, fuck, why??

The basic mechanic of the game is essentially the same as in Chav, and a D6 clone of sorts to the standard White Wolf system: you stats plus skills as a dice pool, trying to get “successes” that match or exceed a target difficulty.  Any dice that succeed get a single re-roll for chances of added successes.  Pretty standard stuff, and not a system to my liking to begin with, but you couldn’t really have expected them to parody white wolf’s games and end up with a D20 system or something, could you?
Magic(k) is handled very differently from Chav; which is to be expected as it would be a much more central feature of this game.  Characters have Wiz points that fuel their magical spells; any and all spells cost a single wiz point to cast.  Characters typically begin the game with a maximum Wiz point capacity of 8; they can regain wizpoints up to that limit by such things as reading teen-wizard novels for inspiration, writing teen-wizard fanfics, sacrificing small creatures (huh?!), visiting sites of supernatural significance (like stone circles), drinking energy drinks or ginger beer (is this something that happens often in the Potter novels, or is it some kind of attempted mocking of Potter fandom itself?), having an orgasm (again, what the fuck?!), getting a “sugar high”, or a good night’s rest.
To perform magic(k) (and yes, by the way, “Magic(k)” is how its written in the game, not just an affectation I’m putting on), you choose an appropriate statistic and realm for the type of spell you’re trying to create, spend 1 Wiz point, and then roll the attempt to cast the spell.  There are sample spells listed for each realm; Buff does things like “Bless”, “healing”, “invisibility”, or “induce love”; Create can let you create objects or creatures, animate objects, create a pocket dimension, or teleport; Destroy lets you stun, kill, make magic(k) missiles, or make defensive effects like a magical wall; and Nerf lets you do things like curses, combat nerfing, reveal invisible things, prevent teleportation, or “induce hate”.

The target number for success in a spell, like in any other action, is based on your “skill” level in the appropriate realm.  The more successes you have, the more potent your spell.  If you ever roll a botch (rolling all 1s on all the dice), you induce Feedback, an unexpected (detrimental, usually) magical effect.

The feedback table is based on rolling 2d6, the effects can be outright deadly, or bizarre.  Getting snakeyes means that “Cthulhu himself rises from  his slumber” and devours your character (instant death, in other words).  A 6 summons a gelatinous cube.  A 7, statistically the most probable result, creates a “spectral fist” that punches you in the face for non-lethal damage.  My favorite is if you roll a 9, wherein a “certain time traveler” arrives and starts to stir things up (he is not named for copyright reasons, but “you know who we mean”).   If you get boxcars, the spell goes off with a (very high) potency of 10, so positive results can occur too. 

The author, in a sidebar note, prides himself in having achieved the creation of an open-ended magic system in only 6 pages, whereas “a certain other gaming company” (usually when someone says that, they’re referring to WoTC, but in this case I would assume White Wolf) took 120.  That’s true, and the system isn’t bad, but it is also fairly simplistic.  I can think of a lot of “magic” related effects that would not easily fit in one of the four “realm” categories, and other effects that would probably need a lot of detail to describe in terms of mechanical effects; detail that the author basically leaves as the GM’s job.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and the magic system is good for any GM that wants something fast and malleable, but I also wouldn’t say its necessarily something to be bragging about either.   In all, its quite workable, but I find Chav’s magic system far more clever and innovative (though admittedly it would be completely out of place in this game).

The background chapter introduces a mechanic that should be mentioned, which is (as far as I could see) not covered in the least until this point.  Its called Wizdom, and it reflects wizkid alignment or morality (you know, like how White Wolf always has a morality mechanic in there for some damn reason).   Wizdom operates on a 1-10 scale, with starting characters typically having 5. Gaining Wizdom seems much easier than losing Wizdom (also mirroring typical WW morality-mechanics). High Wizdom characters have benefits in social skills with other wizkids, but penalties with the mundanes in everything but intimidation (Wizkid “morality” being quite different than normal morality).  The inverse is true if you have low Wizdom.  If you ever get to 0 Wizdom, your character has become non-magical and you have to retire him.  What is interesting about this is the list of things that can potentially cause Wizdom loss (in each case requiring a roll to see if you do lose Wizdom): they operate on a scale where the higher your Wizdom, the more things there are that can cause you to lose Wizdom.  At the lower end of the scale (stuff that can make you lose Wizdom even if its already low) are things like “gravely insulting the Wizkid scene”, worshipping a higher being (apparently Wizkids are anti-religious), refusing to use magic(k) in dire circumstances or committing a crime against a senior wizkid.  When you reach higher levels of Wizdom, you can also lose it from such things as flaunting your powers in front of the mundanes, insulting senior wizkids, not using magic(k) in even mundane tasks, or (if you have Wizdom 9 or higher) using your trademark spell or even thinking “unmagical thoughts” (whatever that is, its not really elaborated upon). 

The mechanic, especially at higher level, will lead to some unusual forced behavior on the part of players, in my opinion, and combined with something like the mishap table can create a very chaotic kind of play.  Of course, this is mitigated somewhat by the fact that a character with very high Wizdom is also likely to be a very competent magic-user and unlikely to have many mishaps.  Still, you only need that one snake-eyes to end up eaten by Cthulhu.  On the other hand, the mishap table also means there’s about a 6% chance of the Doctor showing up whenever you roll it.

The background chapter concludes with a 20-questions format for character background development and a list of common equipment. 

In the “Combat” chapter you get the standard combat rules (working, as you would expect, in a way very similar to how WW games run combat); but you also get the rules for the game of Bigpitch, a popular sport among wizkids involving chasing around balls while flying on brooms.  The mechanics for handling a Bigpitch game are fully detailed, something that will no doubt be a source of great interest and entertainment to Potter-fanatics out there (not so much to people like me).
A subsequent chapter details Wizkid society, mostly focusing on the wizard-school environment, with more detail on the houses, on staff (professors, headmasters, prefects) etc., and include the mention of the popularity of the “coven” (a group of wizkids who hang out together, regardless of house; creating an instant justification for the gaming group’s existence). Here you also get full details on the “House Points” mechanic, which measures just how hip a wizkid you are.  It is a numerical total of a number of different elements of your character: his realms, his charm, modifications based on merits or flaws, modifiers based on the state of your uniform, titles (if any), and favour.  Any character interacting with another character with a lower House Points score gets a bonus to all charm-based rolls; inversely, you get a penalty interacting with anyone who has a higher House Points score than you.

There’s a very short chapter detailing how wizkid society differs in various other parts of the world (whether there’s lots or little wizkid presence, if any given house is more prominent, etc).  After that, you get a fairly good-sized chapter dedicated to “the opposition”, possible monsters and other enemies one might face.  This includes creatures like dragons or the aforementioned gelatinous cube, pegasi, dwarves,  elves, trolls, wraiths, etc.  Its mostly good, though I have to say the entry on Gnomes is grossly misleading as to the true nature of these horrific creatures, to the point that while the Gnome is presented in no way as a positive type of creature, the information provided could be accused of being intentional total mis-direction on the nature of their menace. 

You also get statblocks for Witches, which we are told are in fact a totally different kind of supernatural creature from Wizkids.  These are divided into “Light Witches” who are all full of hippy crap (basically a joke on Wiccans) and “Dark Witches” which are more your stereotypical fantasy “evil witch”.

Then you get info on other opponents, like Bible Bashers, Constructs, Bacon (the cops), members of Operation Cadabra (a government plot to study and combat wizkids).  You also get info on Bloodsuckers, Chavs, Dead Kids, Dogboys and Pixies, all of which are the thematic characters of Ian Warner’s other games or soon to be released games; annoyingly the first two, having already been released as RPGs, are not actually statted out here.  Neither are pixies, said to be too varied, but instead you get referred to another Postmortem game (Urban Faerie, which I reviewed years and years ago). Aside from that, the section is basically good.

The final chapter is on campaigning, where we hope we’ll get an idea of what to do with the characters.  Though really, if you’re playing a Potter-parody and don’t know what you should be doing, you’re probably in the wrong damn game; this kind of chapter was far more important in a game like Chav than here.  At the very start of this chapter, we get told a few unwritten rules, like that the game is for having fun, the GM is god, and “this game isn’t about being powerful. Its about comedy, failing, and how fucking pathetic some people are”.  The first two are fine but that last one comes as something of a surprise; I can understand the idea of telling people “hey, you’re playing students of wizardry, don’t expect to be conquering universes or something”, but frankly, if Warner’s goal was to make Failure into a major comedy theme in the game, I’m pretty sure he’s failed.  He hasn’t really made any significant mechanical thrust in the game to back that up; characters, as far as I can see, would easily be competent enough junior wizards.  There’s no sign of “Worst Witch”-style antics going on here.

In the rest of the chapter, Warner goes on to suggest that “your wizkid school will likely work best as a way to satirize your local situation”, which is actually fairly good advice, though given that I suspect most of the players of this game will be well out of their teens, its more likely to be a satirizing of their long-outdated high school experience. We’re also given some potential adventure seeds, like a group of fantasy creatures breaking out of a dimensional pocket and needing to be herded back; a group of Chavs breaking into the school grounds through a dimensional portal and needing to be herded out, or a construct wandering around the school that needs to be found and herded out.  To be fair, there’s a few seeds that don’t involve following this formula, but really, everyone playing this game is going to be fighting Lord Voldemort, so really this section is pretty fucking pointless.
The game closes up with an appendix of vehicle rules.

My conclusion? This is a pretty good game with which to play a simulation of the Harry Potter setting.  The “comedy” here seems way more subtle than in Chav, which was a combination of constant mocking and generally offensive material.  In Wizkid, there’s certainly an undertone of making fun of potter-fanatics, but its so smooth that you could run this game straight without it being more than a regular game with a few funny bits, rather than a full-on comedy game (you’d be hard-pressed to do the same with Chav).

The Good: Well, the game is basically well-written, and touches on a lot of the bases that even I can see marks fidelity to potter-fandom.

The Bad: I don’t know if it really succeeds as comedy, though that may actually not be a bad thing.

The ugly: the sexual references in the game, which made sense to have in Chav but here just lead me to think that there’s something off with the author (more than I used to think!).  In Chav at least he had an excuse because it was thematic; whereas I don’t think hardcore sex was a significant theme of Harry Potter. I suppose it might be a significant theme in harry potter fan-fiction.  In any case, this just makes no sense to me here.  Fortunately, these are few enough that they can probably be ignored without a significant detriment to either system or setting.


Currently Smoking: Winslow Crown + Dunhill 965

( reposted March 31, 2013; on the old blog)