One of God's own prototypes. A high-powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die.” -Hunter S. Thompson

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Lazy Sunday - Lo Pan Style

I found this video over at Advanced Dungeons and Parenting. Being a fan of the oh so classic film Big Trouble in Little China (and really who isn't?) I just had to share it. I found it pretty funny, your milage may vary. Have a gnarly gnarlington Sunday.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Look What Came In the Mail!!!

Well look at that, I got a whole weeks worth of blog posts in. Hot damn!

In even more exciting news (for me at least) yesterday I received my order from Noble Knight Games. I've already started digging into the Player's Guide and trying to get them creative juices flowing so I can get a Deadlands: Reloaded game started ASAP.

I've written about this before but the classic Deadlands was where I got my very first start as a Game Master, and the picture of Roland, the undead gunslinger on the book cover was what inspired the Zombiecowboy moniker I still use today. In some ways this sort of feels like I've come full circle. To quote Darth Vader, "When I left you I was but a learner, now I am the Master".

Ok, that was cheesy. But I feel like a kid in a candy store right now. Anyway, hopefully I can keep the blogging momentum up. I'm sure I'm going to have some thoughts to write about on these recently acquired book. Till then, Zombiecowboy out.

Friday, January 18, 2013

My Simplified Version Of D&D

Yesterday I taught and ran my french class through a simplified version of D&D. You can read all about it HERE. Today I wanted to talk about some of the things I learned and present my version of “D&D” that I showed them.

Lessons Learned
The first thing I learned was that I should have gone into this thing with a pile of pre-generated characters. Creating characters even in my simplified version of the game was a nightmare. This was due in part to the fact that it was difficult for me to articulate the process only in french and because even if I had been doing it in english I probably wasn’t explaining things as clear as I needed too.

Secondly I should have made a cheat sheet prepared to showcase what a character could do in a scene/combat and what the  steps/actions in scene/combat are. All in all things went fairly smoothly and people had fun so I would consider the game a success and I'm happy for the most part with the results.

The Game System
When I first decided to run a D&D game I really struggled with what rules set I should use. My biggest concern was with translating what ever system I was using to french. This is a french class and the goal is to practice speaking properly. After a fairly exhaustive search I settled on the french version of Epées & Sorcellerie. However after a bit of reading I decided that even this might be too complicated for my group. In the end I ended up using it more as a reference book for learning the right french translations and creating my simplified system. After reading it I really liked Épees & Sorcellerie I could see myself playing this with another group one day.

Zombiecowboy's Fantasy RPG Rules Set

Heres my simplified “D&D” rules. Read em, use em, let me know what you think of em in the comments.

Character Creation

Step 1: Think of what you want to play.

Imagine a character from a favourite book, film, or TV series.

Step 2: Choose ability scores.

Take the numbers below and put them into the 6 ability scores Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, Charisma in the order that best suits your character concept.

18 (+3), 14 (+2), 11(+1), 10 (0), 10 (0), 8 (-1)

Step 3: Choose a race from below.

  • Human: +2 racial bonus to a specific task of choice (skill, weapon, spellcasting)

  • Elf: +2 racial bonus to spellcasting rolls or attacks with bows.

  • Halfling: +2 racial bonus to ranged attacks, or 1d6 sneak attack (stacks with thief class sneak attack bonus).

  • Dwarf: +2 racial bonus to attacks with axes and verses poisons.

Step 4: Choose a class from below.

  • Fighter: Starts with 30 hit points + Constitution Modifier, +2 Bonus on all attacks.

  • Cleric: Starts with 24 hit points + Constitution Modifier, ability to cast miracles (spells).

  • Wizard: Starts with 12 hit points + Constitution Modifier, ability to cast spells.

  • Thief: Starts with 18 hit points + Constitution Modifier, 1d6 sneak attack.

Step 5: Determine Armour Class (AC).

10 + Dexterity Modifier + Armour Bonus = AC

  • No Armour: Armour bonus +0 (If a wizard casts spells while wearing any sort of armour they take the amour bonus as a penalty to spellcasting checks).

  • Leather Armour: Armour bonus +2 (Thieves can wear leather armour without penalty, wearing heavier armour causes the thief to suffer the armour bonus as a penalty to sneaking and other thievery related activities).

  • Chain Mail: Armour bonus +4 (Clerics can wear chain mail or less armour without suffering penalties to spellcasting. wearing full plate causes the cleric to suffer the armour bonus as a penalty).

  • Full Plate Armour: Armour bonus +6 (Fighters can wear any armour they choose).

Rules of the Game
The rules are simple, but do require a certain amount of adjudication on the GM's part. Basically if it seems right, fun or cool and everyone is cool with it then go for it. These rules are essentially rough guidelines and should not be followed rigorously. They have not been rigorously play tested.

  • Determining Success/Failure: In order to make an attack, cast a spell, or attempt an action (climb a wall, sneak, make a perception check etc.) you roll a d20 and add the most appropriate ability modifier and any other bonuses/penalties that might apply based on class, race, or circumstance. (strength for attacks with weapons, dexterity for initiative or tumbling, intelligence for casting a wizard spell, wisdom for cleric miracles etc.) You succeed on a task if your result is 10 or higher.

  • Damage: Damage is determined by rolling a 1d6 and adding the appropriate ability modifier (strength for melee, dexterity for ranged attacks, Intelligence/Wisdom for wizard/cleric spells. All attacks regardless of weapon type or spell deal damage the same way.

  • Magic: There is no codified spell list. It's up to each person to come up with the spells their character can cast and it's up to the GM and player to adjudicate how they work exactly. For example if a character wants to turn invisible they spend an action and turn invisible. Attack spells require an attack roll and on a success deal 1d6 damage plus intelligence for a wizard or wisdom for a cleric. Area effect spells allow for a saving throw (A successful save is a 10 or higher on a d20 roll) for all targets in the area. Some spells like paralysis allow for an opposed roll between the spell caster and target. The highest result plus modifiers wins the contest.

  • Actions in Combat: Characters can perform 1 action (attack, cast a spell, etc.) and make a move of 6 squares. Or a character can run for twelve squares and end their turn. Any other reasonable or logical actions a character could do within that basic frame work could be attempted on GM approval.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

I Played D&D In French Today

In February of last year I lost my job. To complicate matters at the time I was a uni-lingual anglophone (english speaker) living in Canada's french province of Quebec. My inability to speak french was becoming a major road block in becoming gainfully employed again, not to mention just down right frustrating sometimes. Let's put it this way, in a place where we have a minority separatist provincial government in power, language police and laws that dictate that french must be protected at all costs life can be very difficult if you can't or just plain refuse to speak the language.

In May of the same year I was accepted into a provincially funded program and admitted into adult education to upgrade my skill set and learn french. At the time I was skeptical. Could I really learn french in one year? Or was I going to have to uproot my family and move to somewhere else in Canada?

My french classes are intensive. I'm required to be at school 30 hours a week. Monday to Friday, 8:20 am- 3:30 pm. In my afternoon period we have a conversation class and each of us was given an assignment to teach the class about a hobby or a passion we have in our lives. Obviously RPG's is a no brainer for myself and today after 8 months of studying and practice I taught and ran a simplified version D&D for my teacher and fellow class mates. Almost entirely in french.

It was a fairly exhausting and difficult experience, yet it was also rewarding. First I'm proud of just how far my ability in the language has come since those early days. I have a lot to learn still and I wouldn’t say I'm fluent but I can now communicate with and understand others on a fairly basic level. It was also rewarding to see my fellow students and teacher flexing their imaginations and giving this bizarre hobby (and that us veterans some times take too seriously) a chance. In fact we might actually continue the game again on Monday if time allows. I'll take that as a good sign.

In a future blog post I'll write out what we did and present the simplified rules we used to play the game.              

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Dennis Detwiller On Delta Green & Creepiness

On his blog Nothing Can Stop the Blog Dennis Detwiller (one of the creators of Delta Green and founder of Arc Dream Publishing)  discusses how to creep the fuck out of your player's and run a damn good Delta Green campaign.  The original article can be found Here but I'm reposting it here since I know most people (like myself) are lazy fucks. I think it hits all the right notes in terms of not only how to run a DG scenario well, but any horror or conspiracy game.

Delta Green: Creepiness, A How To Guide
By Dennis Detwiller

I have played in many (many, many) Call of Cthulhu games. All but a very few have failed — at some point — to creep me out. It’s hard to play without guessing where a scenario might be going, especially with such a long and deep history with the game and creating for it. Still, there’s always some magic.
And those few scenarios that did frighten me… wow. Those few have made all the other games more than worth it.

How do I bring the scares to my Delta Green game? Read on.

The Mundane is the Backdrop
Delta Green is rooted in the mundane. The more you cement the conspiracy among things the things the players know, trust and understand, the more striking the moments of sheer terror unlocking the horrible secrets of the universe will be.
Have Stephen Alzis meet them at a 7-11, have the Dimensional Shambler manifest in a TARGET, note the details of destruction of a MAJESTIC hit in a home by describing the tipped coffee table and blood soaked PEOPLE magazine with Justin Bieber on the cover.
Secondary to this concept is this: moments of true mythos horror should be few and far between. Think of your game as a symphony, and only at the most special moments is there a crescendo. A symphony composed only of crescendos is boring. Choose the moments when the mythos appears carefully, make them count, and make them hurt.

Nothing is Certain
If Delta Green players are confident in their associates, their relationships, their methods: you’re doing it wrong. They should live in fear of double-cross, of being hung out to dry, of being set up. Anyone could be compromised, anyone could be a puppet for a non-human intelligence, any new lead; a trap.
A good example of this is:
An agent was driving his shit Thunderbird, and I kept describing the awful brakes and the squealing noise they made. He decided to take the car in. When he was paying for the job, the mechanic handed him an odd, gray box and said:
“Oh, this was in the wheel well, I don’t know what the fuck it is”
Popping this device open, the player discovered a mud-stained GPS tracker with a heavy magnet. No identifying marks. Attempts to trace the electronics in it lead to dead ends and empty lots that were never produced by American firms.
That player became paranoid/obsessed/terrified from that point on. I never followed up on it. I didn’t have to. They player did it for me.

Mythos Horror is Lack of Understanding
With the mythos, the answers only go so far. How did the book displace the agent’s consciousness? How does a gesture in the air cut a man in half? How can a thing that appears to be composed of bubbles of energy, speak and pass through objects?
The answers to all these questions are beyond human conception and always will be. While some elements at the edges may be picked apart, there will always be a fundamental lack of understanding of the mythos. That’s why it’s the mythos. 
This is where I see a lot of problems arise in groups. Keepers allow the players to “understand” a creature, and once that creature’s actions, stats and behaviors can be guessed, the creature/threat/mythos idea is no longer frightening. The key to generating fear is uncertainly.

Death is Omnipresent

Do not protect the characters. You are the mediator of the game, but you should not step in an reprieve a doomed character. It is your job to walk them to the gallows, the dice are the guillotine. Death is not only part of Delta Green, it is the basis of it. It is a game about human frailty and death, about the struggle against the unknown despite the fact that victory is never possible.
As such, it is important to let the game dictate the outcome. Note that the rules are stacked in favor of the creatures from beyond, and that humans, unless they are exceedingly careful and clever, have almost no chance of even a limited victory.
This is not a game about winning, it is a game about surviving to fight another day. Death is the central outcome of Delta Green operations. Few, if any, survive their tour without seeing, or experiencing death, first hand.

There are Worse Things Than Dying
Even more, there are worse fates than death in the world of Delta Green. Creatures exist that can infect and subsume a character, methods exist to artificially prolong or restore life, and there are places where all such rules — life and death — are removed completely.
Characters in the know should exist in mortal fear of such outcomes, and should be on the look out for situations which can compromise the very thing they are fighting for: normal, human existence. Many agencies and groups exist to further these concepts and infections. One might even say that the minions who serve the Great Old Ones themselves are a disease that infects and destroys human thought replacing it with alien ideas and concepts.
Death is the terror that keeps DG agents on their toes, but the things beyond death, that’s what Delta Green fights, and at their moment of greatest weakness and failure, sometimes become.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Saints of Los Angeles-Theme Song

Yesterday I posted my Appendix N for the Digital Dark Age campaign setting. Today I'm posting the music video that provided the inspiration for idea that spawned the Saints of Los Angeles campaign. I imagined the song as being the opening theme song at the start of each session, like a TV series. The basic idea behind the campaign was that the PC's/heroes were the proverbial "saints" and that the "Los Angeles" was their space ship rather than the city in California. The basic premise was a cyberpunk/firefly mash up.  We played one amazing session with the Silhouette System before it crashed and burned. But it's something I'd like to return to with Savage Worlds and Interface Zero some time soon in the future.   

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Digital Dark Age: Appendix N

So heres a list of the major influences on the Digital Dark Age Campaign. None of it is presented in any particular order of importance. It's a sort of a freak show of science fiction with tones of cyberpunk, noir, pulp, and of course weird. Some are fairly self explanatory, others not so much.

  • The Hyperion Cantos (Dan Simmons)
  • Ilium/Olympos Cycle (Dan Simmons)
  • Red Harvest (Dashiell Hammett)
  • The Takeshi Kovacs Trilogy/Market Forces (Richard K. Morgan)
  • Hellboy/B.P.R.D comic series (Mike Mignola)
  • Path of Fury/ Honorverse (David Weber)
  • Neuromancer (William Gibson)
  • Snowcrash (Neal Stephenson)
  • Northwest Smith (C. L. Moore)
  • The Shadow Over Innsmouth (H. P. Lovecraft)
  • Star Wars (George Lucas)
  • Total Recall (Philip K. Dick)
  • Firefly/Serenity (Joss Whedon)
  • Appleseed (Masamune Shirow)
  • Warhammer 40,000/Necromunda (Games Workshop)
  • Heavy Gear RPG (Dream Pod 9)
  • Cyberpunk RPG (R. Talsorian Games)
  • Shadowrun RPG (FASA)

Saturday, January 12, 2013

That Is Not Dead Which Can Eternal Lie...

...And with strange aeons even death may die.

 And thats sorta what this blog has become, not dead but dreaming. Waiting for the stars to align or some such esoteric Lovecraftian babel.

I've been wanting to update the blog for a while now. However with a lack of actual gaming happening, and the priorities of school and family, I've either been too busy, or too tired.

So whats been happening in the past while?

Well I finished David Weber's “Out of the Dark”. Great read except the ending. One of the first times I actually ever wanted to throw a book across the room. I wont spoil it for you, but believe me when I say Weber gets a good square kick in your nuts on this one. However to Weber's credit I finished the first book in the Honor Harrington series “On Basilisk Station” and it was frigging awesome from start to finish. Next on deck is “The Honor of the Queen”. And of course I still have the first book in Weber's “Safehold series sitting on my shelf to get to as well as John Ringo's “A Hymn Before Battle”. Too many books not enough time and all that jazz.

Currently I'm reading the first novel in Clive Cussler/Grant Blackwood's “Fargo” series called “Spartan Gold”. So for the most part it's a fun read though at near the end its starting to drag a little. Hopefully the ending will pick it up. One thing of note is how all of the novels in any of Cussler's series are packed with great ideas for RPG adventures and campaigns. Particularly if you tear the ideas straight from the books for use in a modern action/adventure setting. Characters, exotic places, interesting historical bits, and crazy plots abound.

Lastly on the RPG front. I recently purchased the “Savage Worlds Deluxe Edition”, “Deadlands: Marshal's Handbook”, “Player's Guide”, “1880 Smith & Robards Catalog” (Explorers Edition all), and “The Last Sons” plot points campaign setting books. In addition I picked up a really nice Texas Hold'em poker set from Walmart. The intention is that I' ll finally get to try out running/playing Savage Worlds and get some gaming going on again. I've wanted to get a SW game started for a while but keep getting cold feet on it as well as “Gamer ADD”, unfamiliarity of the system, laziness, time constraints, etc. Hopefully with the substantial amount of money I sunk into these purchases I will have the motivation to make it happen.

So that pretty much sums up shit around here. I have every intention of updating the blog as much as I can realistically can. I have no intention of writing updates for the sake of updating. So if I have something of note to write I will. Till then you are the resistance. Zombiecowboy out.