Carnifex.org

The public executioner at Rome, who executed persons of the lowest rank; hence, an executioner or hangman.

Category: Role Playing Games

Cyberpunk 2020

Posted on August 10, 2019  in Role Playing Games

Back in the day, meaning the mid to late 80’s, we played a few games of Cyberpunk 2020, I still have a copy sitting on my bookshelf. It is interesting to look at and think about what we thought the future might be at the time and how far away 2020 seemed to be to us. Now of course the idea of virtual reality being streamed directly into our consciousness is kind of far fetched, considering how much processing power we now know we need to render reasonably good graphics. But back then, it seemed like a real possibility. Never mind the ludicrous idea that people would willingly have limbs amputated and replaced with bionic ones. Thankfully the dystopian part of it never really materialized either, but it was easy back then to see how it would come about. I think most people have an idealized vision of what the 80’s were really like, all they remember is what a wonderful president Reagan was and how the economy was booming. The reality was, we lived nearly the whole decade on the brink of nuclear war and if you were not a Yuppie, the new economy probably did not benefit you very much. There was a lot of anxiety about the future, I think pretty much everyone I knew had given up on any sort of golden future for humanity. Somehow we managed to live decent lives, in spite of the darkness that surrounded us.

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Category: Role Playing Games

Caldoom as it was

Posted on July 25, 2019  in Role Playing Games

Recently I wrapped up my latest D&D campaign, it lasted over 2 years and I was planning for a year before that. The PC’s all made 20th level, which is a record for us. The story itself actually started 35 or 36 years ago when I decided I wanted to merge some game worlds together, mine, Bruce’s and Stomper’s, so characters from all those places could play in my campaigns. That campaign ended with on of the characters blowing the horn of destiny which merged all three worlds into a new Caldoom. This latest campaign ended with another PC blowing the horn again, this time splitting those worlds out separately again. Below is my original map, that I drew in 1979 or 1980 side by side with a new updated map I made a couple of weeks ago. I am thinking our next campaign will begin with the 5E update of Into the Borderlands, which was the first module we played back in the day, a good kick off I think.

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Category: Role Playing Games

Roll20 and The Fantasy Trip

Posted on April 28, 2019  in Role Playing Games

I spent some time building a character sheet for The Fantasy Trip on Roll20. At this point it is pretty crude and only really supports Melee and Wizard.

 

  • Download TFT_html.zip from the link below and extract it.
  • This should give you a file named TFT.html, open it in a text editor.
  • Now goto Roll20 and create a new campaign, type in the name you want and under Choose a Character Sheet, choose custom from the drop down menu and press the Create Game button.
  • Once at your new games home page, click on the Settings drop down and click Game Settings.
  • On this page scroll down to Character Sheet Template and you should see a black editing box, make sure you are on the HTML Layout tab, copy all of the text from TFT.html and paste it into the editing box.
  • Click Save Changes, then you can click on the Preview tab and if you did everything right, you should see the character sheet.
  • You can now launch your game and add characters.

I am not sure how much time I am going to have in the future to improve this, but I will certainly take feedback. Eventually I will make it available on Roll20’s github. I make no claims to this code, do what you want with it, all I ask is if you make improvements, you give back to the community.

 

Download link:
https://carnifex.org/downloads/TFT_html.zip

Edit:

I have updated the sheet over the last couple of days. I removed all the obsolete table tags and replaced it with more modern CSS code. It looks more or less the same, but it should make maintaining it easier going forward. I have placed it on GitHub, the download here on my website is now obsolete, I am leaving it there purely for historical reasons.

https://github.com/cjstoddard/roll20-character-sheets/tree/master/The%20Fantasy%20Trip

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Category: Role Playing Games

Stranger Things + Dungeons & Dragons

Posted on February 17, 2019  in Role Playing Games

I suppose it had to happen, this spring Hasbro (the parent company to Wizards of the Coast) is releasing a new version of the D&D starter set. This version will be tied into the Netflix original series Stranger Things. The new set includes revised rules for the game, although you will still need either a Players Handbook or the downloadable basic rules to play and some dice. More interestingly, the adventure included is “The Hunt for Thessalhydra”, the adventure Mike Wheeler is running at the beginning of the 2nd season and the Player Characters being used by the group in the show. Oddly, the miniatures included with the set are of neither a Thessalhydra or Demogorgon from the first season, but rather the petal faced demon. I get it, TV show tie in, blah blah, I just found it odd is all.

 

I think this is a great idea for a couple of reasons, first because it will attract new players. Hopefully some fans of the show will decide to check it out and some percentage of those fans will continue to the game long after. Secondly, this shows Hasbro is interested in building a long term strategy for D&D and bring D&D into the mainstream by occasionally printing these tie in products. I would not mind it at all if starter sets became an evergreen product as a gateway to the more complex game.

 

Who knows, I may even use this to kick off my next campaign, due to start either later this year or early next year. It really depends on the level of the module, I suspect it will be a 1st level module, but judging by the TV show, it may be a mid level adventure for 5th plus level characters, it is hard to say.

 

 

 

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Category: Role Playing Games

Some days I am embarrassed for humanity

Posted on January 26, 2019  in Role Playing Games

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Category: Role Playing Games

Things you see in museums

Posted on January 19, 2019  in Role Playing Games

I came across this on FaceBook today. If I ever play a Bard in D&D, this is totally going to be my instrument.

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Category: Role Playing Games

Character Development in D&D

Posted on January 12, 2019  in Role Playing Games

Let us bow our heads in a moment of silence for Anorak, my War Domain Cleric 1/Wizard 6. He was lost to a bad draw on a Deck of Many Things in tonights game. He drew Donjon and is now imprisoned somewhere unknown. He was kind of a dick, so he will be missed by no one.

 

I enjoyed playing Anorak, he was a proof of concept character I had been working on to resolve the “Wizard AC is supposed to suck” problem. The proof of concept worked really well and for awhile there, he had the best AC in the party. As he developed as a character, he became the party strategist who successfully turned the tide of three important battles. In spite of that I was kind of uncomfortable playing him, because he had also developed into kind of a jerk. I had not intended for him to be as such, but went in that direction anyway. Don’t get me wrong, I did not hate playing him, in fact just the opposite. Yes, he was uncomfortable to play him, but he was also a deeply interesting character to play.

 

Sometimes characters develop in ways you really never intended, sometimes this is fun , and sometimes its uncomfortable. It could easily be argued that I had total control over the character and could have made him not a jerk. I don’t agree with that entirely, a good roleplayer allows events to change the character, the character should react and respond as events unfold. Like people in real life, characters in D&D should respond to those changes. In real life, when bad things happen to us, we either rise up to the occasion or we sink into the swamp. I have had many characters rise up to the occasion, in Anorak’s case, he was sinking into the swamp, not unlike a soldier with untreated PTDS. He was doing increasingly dangerous things, and at one point he coldly unloaded a Wand of Fireballs into an enemy with one of his team members standing right next to her, with no regard for the other characters life or safety, yeah he was being a dick and this ultimately lead to his removal from the game as karma took its toll.

 

While I am sure the other players are not sad to see Anorak go, I kind of am. Not only was he an interesting experiment in game mechanics, but he was an interesting experiment in how being a professional dungeon crawler might adversely affect someones emotional well being. Not all adventurers are cut out for the work, not all characters are meant to be the hero of the story, even if at the beginning, it looks like he is.

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Category: Role Playing Games

D&D, Scopes of play

Posted on December 31, 2018  in Role Playing Games

These are the general scopes of play as I see it, pick the one you like the best and play.

 

Basic: At its most basic level, 5th edition is a fairly simple game, the only allowed rules are those presented in the free downloadable basic PDF. Only 4 classes and 4 races are allowed along with a very narrow field of additional background crunch. Characters are easy to roll up and virtually all of depth is provided by the players.

 

Intermediary: This type of game uses only the core three hardbound books. There are 9 races and 12 classes available, along with several customization options for each class. Character generation is more difficult and the different niches can be filled in interesting ways by a couple of different classes.

 

High: This game includes, in addition to the core books, the Players Companion, the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide and Volo’s Guide to Monsters. Basically everything published by Wizards of the Coast as a D&D supplement is fair game, including Unearthed Arcana articles. The options available to players and DM’s is mind boggling. The first two levels are static and never change, at this level, something new is available every couple of months. The only things not allowed are rules produced by 3rd parties.

 

Very High: This is where things go nuclear. This type of game can include virtually anything available from the DM’s Guild. All manner of classes and races are available and I doubt any group could or would even want to allow all of it, but it is in the realm of possibility. Niches are almost non existent at this level as virtually any class can fill any niche with just a little customization. DM’s have to be very careful at this level as to not allow anything unbalancing or disruptive to play. Of course at this level, it probably does not matter if something is unbalancing or disruptive, because everyone will have access to things that are unbalancing or disruptive. The problem with this level of play is, it is difficult to move characters from one campaign to another.

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Category: Role Playing Games

My next D&D Character

Posted on December 22, 2018  in Role Playing Games

My primary creative outlet is playing D&D. For the last 15 odd years I have been running D&D for a group of really good players, keeping these guys busy can sometimes be a part time job. The problem with always being the Game Master is I almost never get to play, however, this gives me years to think about character ideas and interesting builds. Recently I have joined another group as a player and I am now getting to release some of my ideas on the unsuspecting world. My current character is a 4th level Human Variant Wizard, with 1 level of War Domain Cleric (Wizard 4/Cleric 1), this allows me to do all sorts of cool things, like cast spells even if I am wearing armor and have a weapon and shield in may hands.

 

So now I am thinking about my next character. I have not begun his build yet, but I am thinking about his background. The character I am playing now is really just a proof of concept character, because low AC wizards annoy me. But this next character I want to be a story based character where his background is more important than his class and levels. The grain of my idea starts with Lancelot, a knight who has fallen into disgrace for the love of a woman. I want my character to suffer from unrequited love, but I don’t want it to be all emo and depressing, I want the story to be at least a little bit silly. So here is my preliminary background story.

 

Du Lac (Lancelot’s last name and my current working name, it may change) lives in a small forrest kingdom with a large Elven population. He himself is a knight bound to the king of the land, he served his king well and was chosen to become a Paladin.  Du Lac was sent to train among the elves for his eventual ascension to Paladin hood. While there training, he met and fell in love with an elf woman named Eruwaedhiel. She was just as in love with Du Lac as he was with her. However, she being an elf meant she would outlive him by a thousand years, it was was also true, she was already 100 years older than he was.  While the age difference did not matter to him, it did matter to her and the thought of outliving him saddened her. Their relationship was brief, but it left its mark on both of them.

 

Du Lac and Eruwaedhiel do not avoid each other, in fact they are always in each others orbit, always aware what is happening with the other. Du Lac often goes home to visit her. Their relationship has many strange quirks. Du Lac pretends he cannot pronounce Eruwaedhiel’s name and calls her Goddess, Eruwaedhiel knows damn good and well he can pronounce her name and in turn refuses to use his name, simply calling him Paladin. Du Lac endlessly flirts with Eruwaedhiel, which exasperates her, she is often heard saying to him, “I should have just slept with you and you would be over this nonsense by now!”, to which he usually replies “If you had just slept with me, we would be married and have three children by now!”. While she refuses to allow a romantic relationship, she does recognize his love for her, she knows he will love her until the day he dies, for this she allows him to carry her favor, a small medallion with her family crest hanging on a silver necklace. She tells him when he dies she will give it to another, but they both know that is not true.

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Category: Role Playing Games

Review: The Fantasy Trip 3rd Edition

Posted on September 25, 2018  in Role Playing Games

This week Steve Jackson Games released the PDF’s of its newly revised game, The Fantasy Trip. These PDF’s are basically beta releases they put up for downloads for those who backed the Kickstarter campaign. They are collecting feedback to fix any issues before they send it off to the printers. I skimmed through the PDF’s and then printed them out, while I do not mind PDF’s, if I am going to be sitting down and reading a game book(s) from cover to cover, roll up some characters and then write a short adventure, having a printed copy on hand is nice.

 

First a bit of background, back in the late 70’s Steve Jackson (Steve) worked for a company called Metagaming Concepts, they published inexpensive little wargames, that were cheap and quick to play. This is where Ogre got its start. While there, Steve wrote a game called Melee, a nice little game for simulating man to man arena combat, like their other games, it was small, cheap and easy to play. He followed up with Wizard, which simulated magical arena combat. It did not take them long to figure out that this could easily be leveraged into a roleplaying game similar to Dungeons & Dragons, which was growing popularity at the time. Steve then went on to build The Fantasy Trip, which filled in the gaps and added all sorts of new ideas. Jackson at this point became disenchanted with the way things were going at Metagaming and left the company. He took some of the games with him, like Ogre and started his own game company. A few years later, Metagaming went under, Steve tried to negotiate for the game, but the owner Howard Thompson want too much money, so Steve went on to design GURPS. Thirty five years later, after the copyright to his works went unused, he applied to the U.S. Copyright Office to have the rights returned to him and he succeeded. Here we are today with an all new 3rd edition of the game.

 

Between 1978 and 1982, my friends and I use to play a variety of games in our High School Library during lunch hour. There was an early complaint that we were gambling, because we were rolling dice, but one of our mothers came to the school and straightened Principle and the Librarian out. I have no idea what was said, but no school official ever bothered us about it again as long as we did not get noisy. Wizard and Melee were chief among those games because they were fast and easy to play. Although, we never played it specifically as an RPG, surviving gladiators often developed personalities, relationships and drama over time. A winning gladiator always had the option to let the looser live or die. Often times this was a good way to get rid of a particularly annoying rival, but not showing mercy was also good way to not get any yourself, so it was a fine line. Occasionally there would even be interesting dramas and blood feuds, at least one of which lasted a couple of years.

 

Okay, so now onto the review. Frankly, not much has changed from the original version, the mechanics and virtually identical to the original game. The characters have three attributes, Strength, Dexterity and Intelligence. Strength dictated how many hits a character could take before dying, how many spells a wizard could cast and how big of a weapon a character use. Dexterity provided the character with the basic to hit roll, based on three 6 sided dice. Intelligence tells use which spells a wizard can use and how many. As the character received experience points, they could raise these attributes, because of the weird way the rules worked, it was not unusual for a Wizard to have a high Strength, sometimes higher than their Intelligence. It also did not take long for characters to get ridiculously over powered, once a warrior had a Dexterity of 15 or 16 he rarely missed and a wizard with a high Intelligence and a decent Strength could put a dragon on the battle field on the first turn or throw a huge fireball down range making for whoever goes first wins type of game. Reading through the rules, I see very little that would change either of these conditions. In the Labyrinth, which is the book that provides the RPG part of the game, does give players more choices like adding Talents rather than increasing attributes, but it is not really enough to counter balance the game. Having said all of that, the mechanics do work fine for low to medium powered characters, combat is quick and fun, magic has a lot of interesting effects and you can come up with a lot of cool characters to play.

 

The layout, again has changed very little from the original books published way back in the late 70’s and early 80’s. The art has changed, primarily because Steve did not get the copyrights to any of the art from the original product. Steve did however have the good sense to hire Liz Danforth, who did much of the art on the original, to be the primary artist on his new revision. If you are an old school gamer and especially if you actually played this game back in the day, you will like this game. In fact from that perspective, you really could not have asked for a better product. Steve did not make any radical changes rules wise, he simply sanded down some of the rough edges and in designing the layout he stuck with what was there rather than going for a more modern slick appeal. If you are a modern gamer, this will probably seem simplistic and amateurish by modern standards and you would be correct about this. Steve has made no announcement about what he is going to do in the future beyond supporting the game with some new adventures next year. I suspect that if the game does well, we can expect a 4th edition with a more modern appeal to it.

 

Overall, I am going to give this 3. Realistically, I should give it a 2 or a 2.5, because the new edition really does not add anything to the hobby and the rules were not particularly ground breaking at the time nor are they especially interesting today. However, being an old school gamer myself and I fully remember what it was like back in the heady days of the golden age, this does have a certain appeal to me and gamers like me. I can certainly see playing a couple of games of Melee or Wizard on one of those game nights where half the players don’t show. It does not happen often, but it does happen occasionally. So I am going to go with a 3 and I hope Steve does something interesting with this in the future.

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