Tag Archives: Companions of Xarth

Long term thoughts on my game group

I just wrapped up a series of solo games with the players in my HackMaster game. The idea was to give each player a chance to do something outside the group dynamic and possibly develop their character in some significant way. This was actually fun and running one player through a 3 hour adventure is actually much easier than a group of 5. I wonder why the 1GM-1Player format is not more popular.

This campaign seems to be developing into a hot house of experimentation. One of the other things I am doing differently here is I started the campaign with very little setting detail. I took some basic stuff from the Points of Light setting and started creating an independent island with that setting. The island itself is one big hex crawl and sand boxed environment. I am letting the characters explore their environment and only revealing the pieces of it that they need to know. I am also planning this campaign out to last approximately 3 years. I usually plan things in 1 year cycles, which is great, but is in and of itself somewhat limiting. My intent here is to grow a set of characters from 1st level to something close to 20th level. I believe a 3 year campaign would be sufficient for that. The first year should see them reach 8th-10th level, the second year 13th-15th level and the third year 18th-20th level. The party Thief should lead in levels and the party Magic User will likely trail behind. The campaign is following the three act structure, with each act being roughly 1 year of games. We are currently in Act I where we are introducing the characters and the antagonists, exploring their backgrounds and setting up the over arcing story line. The second act will develop the over all story and escalate the conflict. The third act will move to the final confrontation and the ultimate resolution of the storyline.

I am doing this mega campaign for a couple of reasons. First, as a group we have never gotten characters into what we consider the high levels. We have always historically moved on when characters reached the 10th level range. I think most of this has to do with me not wanting to deal with characters who can take down armies before lunch. The second reason is I think this is going to be the last HackMaster campaign we play. When this is done we will have had an epic 15 year run and I for one would like to move on to a more flexible game system something we can use to develop characters beyond the murder hobo stereotype. I would also like to change genre’s, I owe my group a Cyberpunk game, but I would also like to explore the Horror and Sci-Fi genres as well. Of course the top of my list is GURPS, but two and a half years is a long time and something else might come along that works better for us. GURPS is a well supported system that changes very little between editions and is easy to start “Light” and move to a more complex game without forcing everyone to buy 3 expensive books all at once before they can play effectively. Steve Jackson Games is really great about releasing product in PDF format, which more and more, is my preferred method of collecting game content.

Scourge of the Slave Lords

My Friday night game had its 4th session last night. We missed two Friday’s, one was to play a random dungeon with David as the GM and another because I had to be out of bed early Saturday morning. As of last night, I think all but one character is now 2nd level, I believe the party Thief may have made 3rd. Last night the first magic item of the campaign was found, I suspect it will be the first of many.

We are playing the Slave Lord campaign, an old AD&D 1st edition set of 4 modules. This campaign was recently reprinted as a hardbound book “Against the Slave Lords”. Included with this new printing was a new module, A0 Danger at Darkshelf Quarry. Additionally, Wizards of the Coast recently released A5 The Last Slave Lord, in Dungeon Magazine #215. If your read through all of these modules as I have, it becomes very apparent that magic items flowed like Niagara falls back in the day. If the players search every single room and kill every single opponent and successfully identifies every magic item, by the closing credits of the last module, these guys will be loaded up to their eyeballs in magic items. I realize the thinking here, I understand the original writers thought “No way they find everything, better put in extra chances to get some items.”. I can tell you, I have seen adventuring parties descend on a dungeon like locusts, stripping it of all its resources, destroying everything in their paths, leaving only scorched earth behind them and as I remember, we were a lawful good party.

 

Outsourcing your internet persona

So the other night during our Friday night game, it came to light that Thor had outsourced his internet persona. We were actually gaming with a fellow named Sanjay in Bangladesh, whom Thor was paying $2 per hour to impersonate him on the internet. This was a brilliant idea on Thor’s part, first because Sanjay is a better player than he is and second because if I could pay someone to do all my screwing around on the internet, that would free up a massive amount of time to do more constructive things. Mind you, by constructive things, I mean masturbate.

Friday Night HackMaster

With Friday Night Magic now behind me along with a nice long break from the Friday night RPG group, it is now time to get back into a serious game. I feel much better these days, things have slowed down for me at work and I really did need a break. We discussed moving the game to Sundays, but Sundays are impossible for David due to work, so we are keeping it on Friday nights at 9 PM CST.

My plan is to gather for the first time on August 30th to roll up characters and then play our first game on September 6th.I plan to play HackMaster, again I considered A&D1E, but decided meh!, HM and 1E are more or less the same game and everyone has the books already. My plan at this point is to play the Slavers series. Wizard of the Coast has once again published it as part of the retro reprint effort, included is a whole new adventure in the series and by the time we finish that, I should have something else lined up.

Hopefully everyone will be returning to the game. Three months is a long hiatus from playing. With that kind of gap, it is easy to get to doing other things. I suppose we will see how things go.

Friday Night Oddities

This year has been seriously slow gaming year. Normally we play 40-45 games year, this year we will be lucky to hit 30. However we do seem to be making the most of the the games we are playing and they seem to more entertaining. Last Friday night, the party finally found the Faerie Dragon who is appropriately named Chong. The dragon hits them with his breath weapon, which is a cloud of euphoria, everyone failed their saves. The next thing anyone remembers is reality coming back into focus with everyone sitting in a circle taking hits off a bong and listening to Chong tell stoner stories. The point of the quest was to get a whisker from a Faerie Dragon, which Chong gives up willingly to his new bong buddies. However, Chong feels bad because he played several rather cruel practical jokes on the party in their journey to find him, so he wants to give them something back. He pulls a bag out of his pile and tells the PC’s to each put something in the bag and when he is finished, wonderful things will come out. So they each place a personal item in the bag. Chong digs through his treasure pile, and pulls out a potion, he opens it and the cave is filled with a gag inducing odor, he pours the obnoxious liquid in the bag. He then opens a box with some strange glowing slime which he dumps into the bag, then he takes a hit off the bong and blows the smoke into the bag. Finally he shakes the bag up really hard, says some magical words in ancient archaic elfish. He then opens the bag and looks in, with a perfect deadpan says, “Well that didn’t work out the way I thought it would.”.

1st level characters suck

So we started our new campaign last night. I started them off in Stoneburg, hex 808 on the Borderlands map of Points of Light. In the grand tradition of sandbox games, I presented them with several choices. They could go join the Dukes Militia and help defend the Dukes territory in various capacities. They could go to the Temple of Veritas and become gods own trouble shooters. They could become wise guys in the local crime family. Finally, they could enter the employ of the local hedge wizard and get involved in whatever hidden agenda he has.

The party decided to go see Professor Stormwynd, the local Mage and see what kind trouble he has brewing. Stormwynd asks them to go get the whisker of a fairy dragon for him. He tells them there is one in a grove in the Grenar Forrest, about 30 miles to the North East of Stoneburg, he gives them a sleep elixir and tells them if they can deliver this to his face it should knock him out for a while. So our intrepid party sets out to the Grenar Forrest by way of the Andros Pass and gets ambushed by 8 kobolds. The fight starts out badly when Ahbrom the Ranger gets hit with a butt load of penetration damage from a crossbow bolt and in the subsequent turn takes critical hit which leaves him with just 3 hit points. This forced Narumi the Cleric to stop attacking kobolds and heal Ahbrom. Even with the heal, Ahbrom is unable to hit a kobold until the last round of combat. After a poor showing in the first 2 rounds, they recovered and were able to defeat the kobolds, but in the early stages it looked like they might suffer a humiliating TPK.

After playing mid to high level characters for the last couple of years, it was really surreal watching this group flail around having difficulty with a group of kobolds.

Here is the starting line up:

[TABLE=10]


By the way, this is my 250th post.

Arduin Grimoire Redux

Friday night we spent the evening doing character generation for our replacement campaign. Seeing as we have been having difficulty with attendance, I allowed everyone to roll up two characters. Feeling in a particularly good mood, I decided to give each character a roll off of the Special Ability Charts in Arduin Grimoire Volume 1. Back in the day, we used the Arduin Grimoires a lot, we had Techo’s and Phraints running around and hardly a campaign went by where one of the weird Arduin magic items appeared.

These charts appeal to me because they add a bit of background to the character by adding a single phrase to their description like; Natural Woodsman, Good Horseman or Talent for throwing daggers. There is also the possibility of picking up something very cool like Midget Hill Giant or Sired by a Vampire. All of these things brought some sort of special ability, usually +1 with daggers, +2 save versus spells or 20% discount when buying horses and  sometimes there was a trade off like -1 to Charisma. Again occasionally you got something really cool like immunity to fire, immunity to level drain or even +2 to everything.

I enjoyed this exercise so much, I think I might sit down one these afternoons and convert the charts to HackMaster and make them a regular part of my game. I might convert Phaints too while I am at it.

RE: Companions of Xarth

This year is not shaping up well. Even the Friday night game seems to have lost its momentum. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, after all the group is almost 9 years old, and it has been a good run. The problem is I don’t want to let it go. Unfortunately, Bruce has been having difficulty with his Internet and will probably not be attending the game for the foreseeable future and Thor has been ill off and on for more than a month. This leaves me with two active players, David and Scott. This also makes it difficult to run the current campaign which is not just high level, but really requires a broad mix of characters.

So what I am thinking is putting the current campaign on hiatus until Bruce and Thor are better able to play and start something new. This would allow me to focus more tightly on David and Scott and allow them the opportunity to build a balanced party better able to adventure. This would also be a good transition time to switch over to the Points of Light setting. Perhaps this is a good opportunity to change the name of the server and possibly the group name as well. I think I will change the server name to Carnifex for consistency, since it resides on the carnifex.game-host.org sub-domain. For the group name I am not so sure of, the Companions of Xarth name has a long and proud (?) history reaching back to Billings Montana in the 80’s, so I am less inclined to change it. I am not completely sure what I want to do yet, I suppose time will tell.

Well then, right, I suppose thats it then….

This is actually how the Lord of the Rings would have went if it were run with my group as a HackMaster game.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sUrJdsN_-B0&fs=1&hl=en_US]

Post #200

This will be my last post for the year, oddly enough, it will also be my 200th post on this blog. I was going to make this post an end of year montage of various subjects I have talked about, but about 10% of the way through writing it, I was bored to tears. So then I start writing post about my expectations for the coming year again, about 10% in, I said to my self, fuck this, no one wants to read this shit. So I put it aside and went to catch up on the various blogs I read. I found there had been a multi blog discussion about how the commercially developed RPG products were not that good, especially back in the golden age and this probably stunted how the hobby grew up. A lot of the focus was on the creativity of the modules.

I think over all they are probably right. Many of the old dungeons were not all that good if you tried to read through them, or god forbid, if you tried to run them as written. I think what they missed here is, no one ran them as written. Do an experiment, go to Dragonsfoot forum and start a thread entitled “Tell me your stories about playing in The Steading of the Hill Giant Chief (G1)” and see what comes out. What you will get a 50 or 60 stories, all of them different, even stories about the same room, will be wildly different. The modules were run by different GM’s in different levels of skill, with different players and different PC’s with different equipment. What you will realize when reading the thread is the creativity came while the module was being played. The module was just a bare bones outline of an adventure, it was the GM and the players that filled out the details and brought it to life. We don’t remember the room because there was a snake with 8 hit points in it, we remember it because this god damned fucking snake was under the old bed and when Evro walked by it, the snake bit him and the poison almost killed him. See the difference there.

The other accusation aimed at the hobby is it is too reliant on Tolkien as source material. On the surface, this is probably true as well, but again, it misses deeper issue. Players and GM’s make this stuff their own. Again, my experience in GreyHawk would be wildly different from another player who didn’t earn his RPG cred in Billings Montana in the early 80’s. I think they are also missing the contributions of other authors to the hobby, Fritz Leiber, Michael Moorcock, H.P. Lovecraft and Jack Vance, all left their mark on D&D. Not to mention all the various mythology, especially Greek and Norse which influenced us. You could probably add more to that list.

Lastly, I’d like to point out what seems really obvious to me. What these other bloggers seem to be missing is the shared experience. Shared experience is an important element in human community building. For instance, people who have been in the Army can go to a VFW anywhere in the country and feel at home. We can do this because we have similar life experiences. We all went to Basic Training, we all took craps in open stalls were another guy was farting 2 feet away, we all ate in chow halls and choked down over cooked grits and under cooked bacon, to name just a few things. This stuff is unpleasant, but it does form a shared experience that makes for a community bond that transcends generations.

While D&D does not provide the shared experience of ultimate male bonding that is open bay crappers, it does provide us with something similar. Going back to my idea of starting a Dragonsfoot thread about telling G1 stories, if you did this you would discover players bonding over the experience in the same way two old soldiers would bond over visiting the same bar in Mannheim Germany 30 years apart, these are the things that bind us together. Next week I am starting act two of my campaign. Act two is going to be the “Against the Giants” series, which includes the fore mentioned G1. These modules fit nicely into the over all plot of the campaign, but more importantly it passes the shared experience to my nephew, whom I hope one day will go to a game convention or a gamer forum and talking to others, realize he has a link to these people that transcends time and geography.


Happy New year everyone, drink, fuck and be merry, because on Monday we have to go back to work.

The continuing adventures

I realised last night I had not posted anything about the Friday night game in a while. Last night, they completed Act I of a very long and drawn out campaign. To recap, last year I decided we needed to play a long long campaign and give everyone a chance to get a character to 15th level, which has never been done in one of our campaigns. So I laid out an 18 month campaign, of which we are now 6 months into.

The over arcing plot line is this campaign is, last year during the Christmas game, due to several bad draws from a Deck of Many Things, Trelissa (David’s Drow Thief) became a prisoner of Ymir, the Frost Giant Gawd, to make matters worse, Hahmez (Thor’s Half-Orc Fighter/Cleric) acquired an extra dimensional enemy, if you guessed Ymir, you are correct. So, now the party is off to rescue Trelissa and hopefully get Ymir off Hahmez’s back. To this end, the party was told by the seer Lilly they needed a guide, someone who could lead them into Jotunheim. To this end, the seer told them to seek the heads of the three hags. The heads turned out to be skulls of Valkyries, when put together, can summon the Queen of the Valkyries. Last night they managed to get the third skull and most everyone is now 10th level, putting the campaign right on track.

We are now headed into the holiday season, so no game next week, the next game we will be playing our mini campaign, which is run by David. After which, we head into the Christmas game, so we will not be coming back to this game until after the first of the year.

10/10/10

Happy 10/10/10 day everyone. Was there suppose to be an apocalypse today ?

Canonical is releasing Ubuntu version 10.10 today, I suppose they thought they were being clever. Yesterday I upgraded my main system to 10.10 Beta, figuring it would make the upgrade easier today because there will be only a few files updated and I will not be competing with 30,000 other Ubuntu geeks to get everything downloaded and installed.

In other news, last Friday nights game showed just how radically the game has shifted in its transition from a mid level party into a high level party. During the big fight of the night, the major violence was not committed by the fighters, but rather by the Magic Users. Looking back over the game, it is apparent that Azzy (9th level Wild Mage played by Thor) is possibly the most powerful PC mage ever played in one of our games. The previous holder of that title would probably be either Tithus or Arcanis, both played by Ed back in the 80’s.

My Character, Take 2

In my last post I talked about rolling up my next characters, I made the following rolls; 8/21, 12/60, 13/52, 7/63, 11/71, 17/86, and 5/76. I then went on to build a Gnomeling Thief/Cleric. Since then I got to thinking about how I wanted my new character to actually play out. He is basically a thug who prays to an equally thuggish god, neither of whom are particularly enlightened.

In the comments for that post, I said I always hated being ineffective in combat and all a high Wisdom nets me is a few extra spells. I am thinking it might be better to set Wisdom just high enough to get the the two bonus 1st level spells but not high enough for the bonus 2nd and 3rd level spells, which I think is 14. Then up my Strength to 18 to get a +3 to hit and +6 to damage to help increase combat effectiveness. Of course, if you think about it, all I really need is a 9 Wisdom to be Cleric.

The second thing I wanted to look at was weapons. Historically Clerics have a bad choice of weapons, being limited to blunt type weapons. This locks them out of high dice and multi dice damage weapons. Last night I remembered Kenzer & Company listed Frying Pan in their Equipment Guide as a weapon and I remembered it did ridiculous amounts of damage. Sure enough when I looked it up, Frying Pan does battle axe type damage. Of course the book also says it is appropriate for bar room brawls, but no self respecting warrior would ever run around the country side using one as a weapon. My thought was, well, I am neither a warrior nor self respecting, so I should have no trouble using it at all.

I also went with Gnome this time, because Gnomes get slightly more BP. I also took common as my primary language and eliminated Gnome. The saved BP allowed me to take Opportunist, which gives me a bonus 5% to any percentile roll, a huge bonus for any thief. I added Culinary Arts as a skill to help justify the Frying Pan weapon choice. I think this version of the character is going to be far more fun to play than the original.

Here is the new stat block;

Str 18/11, Dex 16/10, Con 12/21, Int 9/21, Wis 14/02, Cha 5/01, Com 3/63
Race Gnome, Class Thief/Cleric, Level 1/1, Alignment Chaotic Neutral, Hit Points 26
Quirks/Flaws – Misguided, Chronic Nightmares, Enmity Towards Assassins
Skills – Common 100%, Religion 30%, Culinary Arts 19%
PP 15% OL 20% FT 15% RT 15% MS 35% HIS 35% DN 45% CW 45% RL 0%
Talents – Ambidextrous, Follow Through Healing, Opportunist
Leather Armor (AC6), Frying Pan x2 (3d4/2d4+1/1d8), Back Pack, Cloak, 27 GP.

My newest character

So this Friday, David is going to run a HackMaster game. We spent some time last game discussing what we wanted to do as a party. I always loved the idea of a theme party, where all the characters have something in common. This was first tried by us back in the early 80’s in a campaign dubbed the Children of the Scar, where we were all siblings. I don’t really remember much about the campaign, the plot was over reaching and the story muddled. Then a couple years ago we tried it again, by building a group of Zealots, which was mildly amusing. So this time around, we decided we should all be thieves, multi-classed with something else. The party is essentially, the boys from the hood. After some discussion, it was decided Scott and Thor would play a Thief/Fighter, Bruce would play a Thief/Magic-User and I would be a Thief/Cleric.

I pulled out my GameScience dice and rolled my stats. I rolled; 8/21, 12/60, 13/52, 7/63, 11/71, 17/86, and 5/76. Since I am playing the Thief/Cleric, I put the two highest rolls on my Wisdom and my Dexterity. Of course I embrace the dump stat and assigned my lowest rolls to Charisma and Comeliness. so my initial assignment was as follows; Strength: 11/71, Dexterity: 13/52, Constitution: 12/60, Intelligence: 8/21, Wisdom: 17/86, Charisma: 5/76 and Comeliness: 7/63. Because I chose to play the Thief/Cleric, I am limited to gnome or gnomeling (Part gnome,part halfling), I choose gnomeling, only because to my knowledge no one had ever played one. The following is the stat block for my newest character.

Str 12/21, Dex 17/02, Con 12/10, Int 9/21, Wis 18/11, Cha 5/01, Com 4/63
Race Gnomeling, Class Thief/Cleric, Level 1/1, Alignment Chaotic Neutral, Hit Points 26
Quirks/Flaws – Misguided, Chronic Nightmares, Enmity Towards Assassins
Skills – Gnomish 100%, Common 19%, Religion 31%
PP 50% OL 25% FT 10% RT 10% MS 30% HIS 30% DN 30% CW 50% RL 0%
Talents – Follow Through Healing, Ambidextrous
Leather Armor (AC5), Club x2 (1d6), BackPack, Cloak, 129 GP.

The World of Caldoom

This is the unofficial announcement of the forthcoming demise of Caldoom, the amalgam game world we have been playing in for the last eight years. Caldoom actually started off as two separate game worlds, the one used by me for the games I ran in Bozeman Montana and the world where Bruce ran the Companions of Xarth campaign. When I started this group in 2002, I melded several ideas from Kenzer & Companies Garweeze Wurld and a couple locations from the campaign Jerry “Stomper” Stoddard (distantly related) ran in the very early years of the 80’s. Then a couple years ago after Bruce started GMing, we fused the two game worlds making one huge continent, my world being in the south, his world in the north.

For the past year or so, I have been putting a lot of thought to the long term of my campaign. I mean, when I started this, I really didn’t think we would be playing eight years later, but here we are. So I thought it is time to start planning for the next eight years. One of my considerations was, do we want to continue in Caldoom. Calddom has the advantage of familiarity, its disadvantage is familiarity. What I mean by that is on the one hand we have been playing here so long, the players are intimately familiar with the details of the world in much the same way a real person is familiar with the real world, we know who major political powers are, we know where its safe to travel, we know where to hide. The downside, is there really are no surprises anymore. Recently I replaced the ruler of BronzeHelm, Arbusto, with an old player character named Arcanis. I did this to show that player characters can have long term effects on a grand scale in the game world. When I started looking at the history of Caldoom, it was literally scarred with actions of player characters, the sacking of Odian, for instance. In short, there is a lot of baggage here, both good and bad.

So about a month ago I started talking to Bruce about leaving Caldoom for a new game world. After some discussion, we decided it would be fun leave behind the old world and explore something new. Since we both work full time at serious grownup jobs, neither of us has the time or inclination to build a brand new game world, so I suggested the Points of Light sandbox campaign world, which gives us four areas which are outlines with just enough detail to be interesting, but are a blank slate otherwise. We brought the notion to the other players and no one objected and so it was decided, our current campaign would be the Caldoom swan song, the last great campaign played there. I will say this however, never say never, we may eventually return here and play again, after all it was 30 years in the making, and was as much our childhood home as Billings Montana was.

The “Robilar” Character

Wow, this blog post is a must read for anyone who gamed us during the early 80’s in Bruce’s basement.

http://bxblackrazor.blogspot.com/2010/07/doesnt-everyone-have-robilar.html

Our “Robilar” character was Tithus, played by Ed, he was the diva who commanded the most attention from Bruce and as a result grew far more wealthy and powerful than the rest of us. It would not have been so bad really, if Tithus had not been a drama queen and a bully, which made him insufferable. I can not speak for Chad or Darren, but I hated Tithus, not just a little, but a lot.

I vaguely remember when my character was about 3rd level, I got really ticked off at Tithus for some reason I no longer remember, and proceeded to try and kill him. I let Ed talk me out of it and I regreted it for the rest of the campaign, I should have killed Tithus when I had the chance. This situation culminated into what I call “The Tithus Incident”, where we had just finished killing a dragon and I noticed Tithus took the brunt of the attacks from the dragons, my character Katskill, then used this as a basis for convincing Darren’s character Sojat, that Tithus was low on hit points and we should attack him now while he is vulnerable. The ensuing fight resulted in a total party kill thanks to a wandering vampire. Ed claims Bruce put the vampire there on purpose, but Bruce denies it to this day, saying he simply rolled a random monster encounter. Me, I don’t care, in spite of the horrible end to the campaign, I considered it a win.

Mutants & MasterMinds, Actual Play

Last Friday night we took a break from HackMaster and played Mutants & MasterMinds (MnM). I unfortunately was a bit underwhelmed. I had been lead to believe MnM had fixed many of the problems previous super hero games had, which is the problem of scale. What I mean by scale is, it is nearly impossible to play an interesting game with a Superman type character and a Batman type character, in the same game. You either have to all be Superman scale characters or you have to be street level characters like Batman. In our game, everyone was a PL 10 character, but the Morphing character and the Living Weapon character had almost no chance to hit the Powerhouse opponent and the fight was quickly coming down to the Powerhouse and the Blaster, leaving the other two to stand around bored.

If I were going to run MnM as a long term campaign, I would make several changes. First I would either eliminate or seriously reduce the effectiveness of Impervious. With Impervious it is far too cheap and easy to become effectively invulnerable.  In fact I would probably make all defensive powers a lot more expensive, but Impervious is the worst offender. Next I would heavily regulate the types of characters everyone could play. No Green Lantern/Green Arrow situation, because lets face it, GL does not need Ollie for much. I’d probably go for a Watchman style game, where everyone is a martial artist, low level gadgeteer or lower powered super, say PL 8 with a cap of 5 ranks in any super power.

On the other hand, maybe super hero style games are just not my thing. As much as I want to like them, I have never played one that I really liked. None of them seems play nearly as well as they should and none of them have simulated comic books very well. Of course I have also never played in a group where everyone was a comic book fan either, usually I am the only one, close to the only one, so it is also possible playing in a group of people who shared my love of comics would make a difference. Oh Well, next week is ShadowRun, I am hoping that goes better than MnM did.

You loose some, you win some.

Last game was a bit of a bummer. You can read Davids write up of the game over at his blog. I am not going into a lot of detail here, but it resulted in a character death and the loss of a great many magic items. To help balance things out, I gave the party DoomSaker, a +8 HackMaster sword, which should be fun.

What Would You Rather Play ?

To go along with my “Who Would You Rather Play With?” question, I have also considered if there are games I would rather be playing. We play HackMaster 4th Edition (HM4) because it it is the direct descendant of Advanced Dungeon & Dragons 1st Edition (AD&D1E). I have of course talked about playing other games and we do play Traveller semi regularly. The fact is though, we like HM4, or more likely, we like AD&D1E and HM4 fixes about 50 things we didn’t like about AD&D1E.

Okay, so, we play HM4 and Traveller, we have very little incentive to play anything else. However, there are a couple of games, I’d really love to try out. Mutants and MasterMinds for one, I really like the super hero genre, but Mike Barrett, who seemed to take great joy in ruining the fun of actually being a super hero, ruined Champions for me pretty much permanently. We also played a short stint of GURPS Supers in Bozeman, but they never really went anywhere and in my opinion were rather flat. GURPS Supers works well for street level gritty play, but when you scale it to Superman or Green Lantern, it gets ridiculous really fast. What I want to play is a serious knock down drag out rock and roll super hero game. Where the villain hits the hero so hard he gets knocked through a wall, then the hero stands up, dusts himself off and says “Amateur” and then the real fight starts.

I would also like to play a good solid horror game, preferably Call of Cthuhlu, but I would take a Buffy: The Vampire Slayer game as well. Horror is probably the hardest genre to run as a GM. It is very hard for the GM to actually cause a fear reaction, so most GM’s settle for creepy, which is not the same thing. The other thing, is it is very difficult for players not to just rob a contractor for as much dynamite as they can steal, make a car bomb and drive it into the gate where Cthulhu is being summoned.

Lastly, I’d like to play some Paranoia. This falls into either the comedy category or the science fiction category, depending on how you look at it. The idea of clones bumbling around the Alpha Complex testing experimental equipment, backstabbing each other and otherwise dying in particularly comedic ways, appeals to the dark side of my sense of humor.

So if anyone wants to run one of these games, I am in. 😉

Who Would You Rather Play With?

The blog “How to Start a Revolution in 21 Days or Less” asked an interesting question the other day. Who would you rather play an RPG with, someone with an expansive background in playing or with newbies or something in between. My group, the Companions of Xarth, is made up primarily of old gamers. Bruce and I have been gaming together since 1979, Thor has been at it since 81 or 82 and David started sometime in the mid 80’s as well. Our n00b is Scott, my nephew, but even he has been playing several years now. They are good solid bunch of players and I really can not imagine gaming with any other group.

If however, I suddenly found myself without a group, I think my answer would depend on what I decided I needed. Either I would go looking for an established group or I would assemble a new one from scratch. I think my initial preference would be to go look for an established game, see if I could find a hidden cache of OD&D or AD&D1E players somewhere. In that case I would want players and a GM who had been at it a good long time. I’d love to see some characters who had been played for 20+ years and a game world assembled bit by bit, adventure by adventure and character by character on a foundation of love and enthusiasm. These groups are rare and very underground, you can see glimpses of them on Dragonsfoot, but they are not easy to find and generally someone needs to die for them to admit a new player.

On the other hand, if I decided to go scrounging for individual players, I think it would be different. I think I would rather look for newish players that I could brainwash…..er….I mean mentor and pass along the old school style to. But I would also want at least one other grognard at my left hand to help move the group along and not get mired down in ways only new players can. Bruce has been unimaginably helpful to me these last eight years both as a backup GM and someone I can bounce ideas off of without worry of metagaming. Our group is as much reflection of him as it is of me, and I think every group needs a linchpin player like that.

Running a successful game group, Part 4

In previous installments of this series, I have pointed out the cardinal rule of being a good RPG player is simply “Don’t be a dick.”. Another facet of good playing is a direct extension of that rule, which is player cooperation. If the players in the group recognize they are stronger together than separate and take steps to maximize this, the group as a whole works better and are more likely to ignore minor irritations. I am amazed with the current level cooperation in my game group, it is as far as I can tell, unprecedented. A couple games ago, the party acquired a Dagger of Vital Organ Seeking, Azy, the Wild-Mage could have kept it for himself, but he recognized it would be better suited in the hands of a thief and gave it ti Trifallen, who has since used it to great effect. Last night, Azy’s Karma rewarded him. The group came across the trifecta of Gauntlets of Ogre Power, Girdle of Hill Giant Strength and a Hammer of Thunderbolts. The group awarded this to Naropa who is especially suited for using this stuff. He in turn gave his +5 Dagger of Intimidation to Azy. I can not think of any group I have ever been a part of that had this level of player cooperation.

Friday Night Dice

Last nights game proved an interesting point. The right magic item in the hands of the right character have a significant effect on the game. A couple of games ago the group acquired a Dagger of Vital Organ Seeking. It is a +3 dagger with two special abilities, first it makes any natural roll of 19 or 20 a critical hit. Second and more importantly, any surprise attack is automatically a critical hit. By definition, a backstab attack is a surprise attack, so this weapon in the hands of a thief is a truly lethal weapon, easily producing five or six die of damage. This is compounded by the Cricket-In-A-Peapod skill, which allows upon successful roll of the skill, to give the thief another backstab and another shot at five or six die of damage. This also proves I have a smart group of players who would rather maximize potential and effectiveness of the group, than argue over insane treasure division rules designed to maximize greed and mistrust. I have said for a long time, this is great group of players and my only regret is, we cannot play face to face.

Sex and RPG’s

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, I know, I know. This is an old joke perpetuated by Phil Foglio in his Phil and Dixie comic in the Dragon Magazine. So what happened in the Friday night game, was the party finally made it to Free Port where they were to find the Sea Hag, the first of the three hags. While they are there, Hahmez, over tips the Bar Wench, who takes this as solicitation for sex, which she accepts by slipping into his room and being in his bed naked when he arrived. Over all, I don’t tend to do sex in my games. I have done sex scenes with other groups, but I am certain this was the first I had done with this group. We do not tend to be graphic, sex tend to be a “Fade to Black” situation and this was no different. It was really a fairly minor event and my guess is, when this campaign is over, it will be barely remembered. However, I think occasionally such things should be done in game. The reason is, it makes the characters more human, more real, because they are engaging in human activities and being human. It adds to the character to the game.

This event also triggered a minor discussion about Clerics and celibacy. The fact is, my game world is a reflection of myself in many ways. One of the ways it reflects me is in how the over all culture views sex. Sex in Caldoom is generally practiced in a free and open manner, homosexuality is accepted, nudity is common and prostitution is legal virtually everywhere. In fact, it is is generally the evil societies where sex is restricted and nudity is frowned upon. By extension, only a very few deities require celibacy from their priests and again, it is evil gods who tend require it, not the good ones. I suppose this reveals something about how I view modern religion.

My 50th Post

Last night was the first game of our new HackMaster campaign.The basis of the quest is they are seeking Trelissa, David’s Drow Thief character whose soul was imprisoned by an unfortunate draw from a Deck of Many Things, then her body joined her soul by way of a badly worded wish. To make this more complicated, during the same incident, Hahmez, Thor’s Cleric, acquired an extra dimensional enemy. So I decided to meld the two problems together, Hahmez’s extra dimensional enemy is who is holding Trelissa captive, in order to lure Hahmez into his trap.

Last night, the party was assembled, they had the opportunity to reequip themselves and get hot baths and sleep in a real bed. Then they went to find Trifallen, Trilessa’s brother, who had been keeping company with Lilly, who is an undead head on a jar, currently in residence on the bar counter at the Black Shark Inn. Lilly tells the party the extra dimensional enemy is Ymir, the king of the frost giants and Loki’s father, so they must travel to the land of the frost giants to rescue Trilessa. Lilly, advises them they will need a third party to walk the path they must walk and this person must be summoned from Asgard. In order to do the summoning, they need the heads of three hags, the SeaHag, the Medussa and the Witch, each is located respectively at Free Port, Molenshire and Ymis. With little fanfare, the party sets off for Free Port.

Behind the Screen

Bruce wrapped up his run as GM for our HackMaster group last night, which means, after a short and much needed break, I am the GM again. I enjoyed playing, Zymmer is a beautifully subtle character and I reached my goal of getting him to 9th level, making him officially, my most successful character ever. However, as pathetic as it is, GMing is what I was born to do, no I was not born to be a Computer Tech, sometimes I despise computers with a fury hell like hatred. Nope, chucking dice behind the screen, weaving stories and gently pushing characters to their destinies is the thing I was meant to do.

So anyway, a couple of month ago I was having one of those conversations with myself in my head (don’t judge me) and I realized Bruce and Thor had been playing the game for 30 years and neither of them had a character above probably 10th level and in fact, I did not have a character over 10th level either. I think after 30 years of play, one deserves a ridiculously high level character with a ridiculously powerful magic item. So I laid down the ground work for a  group of characters 6th-8th level at the start, they all have  one character in that range, Bruce and Thor have at least two or three. The campaign would last for grueling 2 years, probably the longest campaign any of us has ever run and the plan is to add four levels in the first year and four levels in the second year. After Bruce wrapped up the game last night and a short discussion, the players decided on their starting line up.
[TABLE=4]

As you can see, as always, the party tends to be Fighter heavy, but lets face it, contrary to popular belief, fighters are the funnest class to play, everyone likes to bash orc skull now and again. In spite of that, this is a good mix of characters and a decently balanced group. There is a good chance I think at least one of them will make 16th level and once we break the 10th level ceiling, the campaign should take on a different vibe as the characters move from gritty low fantasy Conan style play, into a more cinematic Elric style of high fantasy. It should be fun.