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Thursday, 30 March 2017

RPGPundit's Playtest-Running Tips

Well now, having just finished the first draft of my upcoming Medieval-Authentic OSR RPG, "Lion & Dragon", my mind has wandered to thoughts of playtesting.  I'm lucky in that this is not my first rodeo, and that I have a selection-pool of literally hundreds of people wanting to play my games here where I live.  Not everyone is that lucky.

So anyways, if you are able to get together a playtest-group for the game you're trying to design, here's my main advice for you:

1) You should make it very clear to your players that you are engaging in a Playtest.  That you need them to point stuff out to you, and that they should understand it might not work like a regular RPG campaign; possibly including the rules changing as you go along.

2) Have at least one mechanics-nerd in your group (a guy who likes to figure out rules, how they work, and how they can go wrong).

3) Have at least one guy who tends to be a powergamer, and/or a rules-lawyer; people that will try to find loopholes in the rules you never intended for their to be, to abuse the system. This gives you a kind of 'devil's advocate' that you can try to proof a bit against.

4) Mainly, TAKE CRITICISM. Your first instinct might be to try to defend your current rules. If people tell you they're broken, or that they suck, and can either explain why or show you how by fucking up the game, you need to accept that and work through it.
Your job is not to try to defend your 'baby' here, or justify your choices. If you aren't willing to improve stuff, there's no point doing a playtest.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Poker + C&D's Chestnut

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Weirdest Dark Albion Mix Yet

I'm sure it's happened to all of us at some point.

I'm sure you've woken up sometime in the last couple of years, and in those first moments just before getting up, asked yourself, "Could it be possible to combine Dark Albion with the 80s movie Krull"?

Well, over at the Swords & Stitchery Blog, the answer is Yes.

So go check it out, for the weirdest take I've seen yet on Albion.

I look forward to someone in future trying to combine Albion with The Goonies.


Currently Smoking:  Lorenzetti Egg + C&D's Chestnut

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Classic Rant: A Working Definition of the OSR

Because others have asked, and I've already expressed this idea before. If you want a positive definition of the OSR, and what it's all about, here it is:

I would classify the OSR as a design philosophy of creating systems, settings and adventures that fit within the boundaries of old-school mechanics and concepts; that is, either directly utilizing features that were in existence in the period before the advent of 2nd edition AD&D; or features that, in spite of not having historically existed at that time, could have existed in that period without the addition of material or design concepts that are clearly the product of subsequent ideas or later theories.

That's it. That's what OSR design is.


(october 9, 2014)

Monday, 27 March 2017

Break Monday: Kung-fu Magic Edition

Today we take a look at the mystical ideas that inform Asian magic, martial arts, and medicine alike.

The fantastical stuff that you've seen in Doctor Strange, Iron Fist, and countless kung-fu movies, or at your acupuncturist's office, or in a Qi Gong class, are all based on some fundamental concepts.  Today, we explain them.

If you liked the article, please reshare it!


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

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Wild West Campaign Update: Yellow Fever

This session in Dodge, the city was heavy into the Cattle Drive season, and the long awaited opening of the Beatty Hotel and Babylon Gambling Hall was taking place.  The ribbon-cutting ceremony was officiated by the mayor, and the mayor's girlfriend: the beautiful and famous singer miss Dora Hand.

At the same time, Bat Masterson invited over his surviving brother, James Masterson, to take the place of their dead brother Ed as Deputy Sheriff, and as his partner in the Lady Gay Saloon & Music Hall.

James turns out to be less gentle than Ed, and less genteel than Bat. He makes it clear that it's not just family-loyalty that brought him to Dodge; it's also Dodge's reputation as the "Gomorrah of the West".  He quickly makes it clear that he's looking forward to shooting someone, and gets into an argument that looks very tense for a few moments with Kid Taylor, when he takes an interest in Kid's younger sister.

Speaking of Kid Taylor, he ended up having a meeting with the Better People, the rival power-group in Dodge to "The Gang", the group of saloon owners who currently control most of the town's politics.  Kid Taylor was more or less associated with the Gang until now; his former employer Dog Kelly (current Mayor of Dodge) and current employer Bat Masterson (Ford County Sheriff) are both members of the Gang. But he feels he's been underappreciated, plus he's trying to get himself married to the daughter of Better-People member Judge Robert Wright.

The Better People decide Kid Taylor would be a good fit with them now that he's Dodge City's dentist, and want to essentially use him as a spy on the Gang, between now and the next election, in the hopes of getting information they could use.

At the same time, Miss Jenny, the saloon-owner and known beau of former Sheriff and current Marshall Charlie Bassett, gets a visitor of her own, in the form of a New Orleans gambler named Cole.

He's here for the big winner-takes-all high-stakes Poker Game being held at the Beatty Hotel Gambling Hall for its opening.  Bassett is none too pleased with this, but he takes it with his usual stoic resilience.

Then, on the day of the big Poker game, disaster strikes. The great Yellow Fever Epidemic hits (it would end up claiming 13000 lives that warm summer, mostly in the American South).  It turns out that 2 of the PCs get infected: Martin the telegraph operator, who had just secured a steady job writing a weekly article as a correspondent for a Philadelphia newspaper; and Hale the Mormon Gambler, who had just gotten a new job as the head concierge at the Beatty Hotel. Both became quickly ill, along with a few other people in town (most notably the old lady who ran the boarding house most of the PCs stayed at when they first got into town, David the Mexican, and Louie the town drunk - of those three, only the old lady would die).

Beatty and Miller, neither of them infected, had to make a gargantuan effort to try to hide the fact of the disease's presence in Dodge; even though the infection rate would actually turn out to be very low, the scare-effect alone could ruin everything for their new hotel enterprise, and especially, they had to get the Poker game started before anyone could find out, or the whole thing would be cancelled. They resorted to all kinds of shenanigans, most notably temporarily kidnapping Mayor Kelly so he couldn't blab the truth of the matter.  Then they remembered Kelly was actually on the list of participants in the big game, and recruited him as a co-conspirator.  He kept his silence until everyone had sat down, cashed in, and placed their first ante, meaning the 'winner takes all' rules were binding. Then he announced that there was Yellow Fever in Dodge. About a third of the participants up and left in a panic, deciding that the $500 buy-in wasn't worth risking their lives. Thus, the day was saved for Beatty and Miller; not so much for Dog Kelly, as he ended up losing the tournament to the Bar-T Ranch owner, Buck.

As the game ran well into the night, the gambler Cole went from doing moderately well to losing very quickly around 3am. Miller, who is very observant and was supervising rather than participating in the game, noticed this and found it odd. He'd noted (also being a pretty decent gambler himself) that Cole changed his style and took some unusual losses in quick succession; almost like he was trying to throw a game.  It made no sense for a winner-take-all game, unless he had a very good reason to want to leave quickly at a certain time. He also remembered that earlier in the day, Cole had paid a visit to the Dodge city bank.  Deciding to be better safe than sorry, he sent a quick note to Sheriff Bassett about these odd developments.

Sheriff Bassett got together Deputies Jeff Young, Wyatt Earp, and Bill Tilghman, and had them stake out the bank. He went to look for Miss Jenny, to see if Cole hadn't just slipped out to see her in the middle of the night.  It turns out he had been to see Miss Jenny, but to say his goodbyes. She confessed that Cole had lived a criminal life in the past, and was worried Cole was about to do something.

Bassett came back just in time for the lawmen to spot Cole and a couple of associates (one of whom had been working at the bank for the last three months); they were indeed robbing the bank, during a time of year when it would be likely to have the most money (the early part of the cattle drive).  They intervened, calling on the men to surrender. A shootout followed. The rogue banker hid in the bank and didn't participate, the man on the horses ran. Tilghman was too far away to join the fight, his only part being to call on the men to surrender themselves.  But Cole's associate shot it out with Wyatt Earp, and was quickly killed with two bullets to the skull. Cole himself shot at Bassett, the man who'd won Miss Jenny's heart, and Bassett and Young fired back; Cole missed, but the two lawmen put two bullets each in Cole's chest, and he was dead before he hit the ground.

As to the victims of the Yellow Fever, the Mormon Gambler got fairly ill, and in his moment of crisis even tried to settle his affairs with his fiance Becky, willing her his money. But he also prayed fervently to the Heavenly Father and the angel Moroni, and (the player rolling a natural 20 on his check against the disease), miraculously recovered! His faith was now redoubled.

Sadly, Martin, who had been a telegraph operator and journalist, and had only been in Dodge for a few months, was not so lucky.  The fever took him.

That means, though, that next month someone new will be coming into Dodge. Stay tuned next time as the cattle drive season of '78 ramps up!


Currently Smoking: Blatter Diplomat + C&D's Crowley's Best

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Break Saturday: Obligatory Transgender-sex Edition

In today's article, we break down everything that's flawed about a video a feminist produced where she argued that if you are a straight man, and don't want to have sex with any trans women with penises, you are guilty of transphobia.

Historically, there are so many different definitions of 'homosexuality' or 'transgender', why is it that modern western feminists think that theirs is the only right one? Was everyone else just "gaying" wrong?

And as a pro-LGBT person, I'd say it serves no one to make the same assumptions about the changeability of other people's sexuality as some have made about yours.

Anyways, check out the article, and please feel free to share it if you liked it.


Currently Smoking: Brigham Anniversary + Image Latakia

Friday, 24 March 2017

RPGPundit Reviews: Starcluster 4 Free Edition

This is a review of the RPG rules "Starcluster 4: Free", written by Clash Bowley, Albert Bailey and Klaxon Bowley. It's published by Flying Mice games.

This is a review of the print edition, which is a slim softcover volume, about 65 pages long. The Front cover is full-color and features an image of a type of centaur-creature running in a plain. The interior is black and white, and very sparsely illustrated, with just a few images of sample characters and sillhouettes of guns.

Starcluster 4 Free is an edition of the Starcluster series. Bowley has produced a number of different products in this series, each potentially stand-alone but set in the same universe.  Starcluster 4 Free is intended as an introduction to this system and its universe; the PDF version is free to download, and the print edition (which I am reviewing) is sold at cost.  It also includes a developer's license which would allow people to use anything from this book in 3rd party products.

The book starts right off with character creation, no introduction whatsoever. It includes only two species: humans, and german-shepherd uplifts.

Characters are created by using the species template to start with, and then modifying the base statistics (Strength, coordination, agility, endurance, charisma, intelligence, psionics, and luck) via a random die roll.
Each ability score governs a list of skills and of special traits.

Skills are purchased through 'templates', these are bought with 'template points'; the number of template points you receive are based on your character's starting age (the older you are, the more points you get to buy skills, but after a certain age you also start to lose physical attributes). All characters, regardless of age, start with one background and one education template; the former represents your origins (based on family social class), while the latter your early education (with options being 'hard knocks', apprentice, engineering, management, pre-med, science, art, military, or athletic).

Each of these templates provides certain basic skills, an attribute bonus, and in the case of backgrounds an 'edge' (for example, 'lower middle class' gets an edge in "urban", while 'plutocrat' gets an edge in "social").

Beyond these, skill templates (representing later studies and training) work through a series of skill-trees, where you have to take earlier choices before having the chance to get later ones. Each selection has a cost in template points, and sometimes have prerequisites; they grant you certain skill points and sometimes a new 'edge'.

There's a selection of basic equipment (with guidelines regarding tech levels).  There's also optional rules on having "Psi skills".

Some versions of Starcluster feature more than one resolution mechanic, a peculiarity of Bowley's game design. In this book, however, there's only one mechanic system included: the "Starpool" system.

The basic resolution involves rolling 1d20, plus 1d20 for each point you have in a relevant skill. Each die that gets equal or less than the governing attribute counts as a 'success'.
Using a trait point gives you an extra d20 to roll.
If you have a relevant "Edge", then the relevant attribute gets a +1 (so if you have an INT12, but your 'social' edge is relevant, the target number for roll-under would be 13).

Different circumstances could provide modifiers for or against.  A small modifier would adjust the target number by +/-1. A large modifier would add or remove 2 dice from the rolling pool.

Very basic rules for combat are included; they're based on the same mechanic, plus a choice of different damage methods (damage boxes, damage states, or an attribute pool of 'hit points').

And that's basically it.

So what's this product good for?

Well, it's very very basic.  I think it can be useful, mainly, as a way for people to check out the basics of the Starcluster system to decide if they like it, before buying other Starcluster products.
It provides the basic rule mechanics if someone wants to make a product of their own using the Starcluster system, with the license.

However, on the whole, this strikes me a just a little bit too barren to be of real use in actual play by itself.  I get why the designers would have gone the way they did, but I think that it would have been a useful touch to add at the very least a couple of pages of introductory material about the setting.

Still, you can't really argue with "free". And that's what makes the PDF worth while, as a kind of preview to give you an idea of what Starcluster looks like. Even if it's just a tiny hint.


Currently Smoking: Stanwell Deluxe + Image Virginia