Monday, June 24, 2019

Poll Results

I was shocked at the poll results. I was really expecting an old game like Star Frontiers to come in first, but also thought that a game like Catalyst's Introductory Box Set would do better due to the minis included. 

Winner with 10 Votes
8 votes

A tie at 3rd, with 5 votes
A tie at 3rd, with 5 votes
3 votes
2 votes
Good to my word, we have a review of Paranoia. 

Of course, I can't let these other games just sit. I'll be doing a review a week on the remaining sets. Stay tuned and again, thanks for your opinions.

Paranoia, Second Edition Review

Welcome to Alpha District, Citizen!

Let's start with the basics. Paranoia has been around for decades. This edition was produced by West End Games in 1987. It is a revamp of the first edition rules, which strips out much of the game mechanics in favor of pop-the-clutch-and-go fun. What was "removed" often ended up as an optional rule, which in the spirit of the game, could be ignored, introduced or changed willy-nilly during play. Players who claim to know the rules are deemed traitors and kills. So, computer, have at it. Whatever makes your players happy. And Happiness is Mandatory!

What does the game include?

  • 136 page "rule" book
  • 16 page booklet describing the life of a troubleshooter
  • 1 20 sided die for something or other
  • One box with colorful pictures 
  • Not listed on the box are supplemental items such as character sheets, charts, (dis)loyal tests, vehicle control schematics, NPC charts and reports.  
The rule book includes a mini adventure demo in the front and a longish scenario or module in the back. The artwork is wonderful, while not perfect or extraordinary, it captures the theme of the games mind-bending laughs with a touch of sarcastic paranoia. This edition was compatible with all first edition modules, which is nice. 

Game play is quick. Each player is entitled to 6 clones, one at a time to represent the player's character. Unless the computer decides otherwise. As one character dies, another clone appears to take his or her place. Sometimes, they remember what happened to the last clone and sometimes they do not. Unless the computer is optimistic about the lethality. In which case, a second, third or 20th clone can be played at the same time as the other 1, 2, or 19. This will increase the likelihood that the player will turn on themselves, leaving other players bemused, horrified or shocked. 

In one session, I had a player holding 20 character sheets like a hand of cards and when he dropped sheet, that clone died. The book is chocked full of insane tips for pushing the charac... er... playe... er... maybe character's? paranoia buttons. My personal favorite is reading room descriptions with a stryofoam cup over your mouth to simulate a broken speaker.  

For a game that revolves around comedic death, the character creation process is robust. As are the choice of weapons and suggestions as to when to use them on your friends.. There seems to be a section on combat, but it is sort of optional. Except the coveted rear position, Troubleshooter. The motive and ability to bushwack other players is fun. Fun leads to happiness and Happiness is Mandatory! 

The included 19 page module, "Into The Outdoors with Gun and Camera" is laugh out loud funny. It works in tandem with the rules, basically forcing the players and computer through most of the rules. 

One issue I see with this set is the concept that the computer is ruthlessly hunting for "Traitors", a concept that was awesome and understandable in The Cold War, but perhaps won't play well with younger people today. 

You can check out Paranoia at DriveThruRPG

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Boxed Set Reviews

I have two weeks off and ran ahead one week for 52 Weeks of Magic, I figured I would get some cleaning done. To that end, I have some box sets gathering dust. Time to do some reviews.


I'll be running a poll on MeWe to see which item goes first.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Crossing Thresholds

I cross a threshold, 32 downloads for a 32 year old character sheet for Unearthed Arcana.


One of the things I liked about UA was the addition of the comeliness stat as a distinct item apart from charisma. The ability to revolt or to fascinate based on appearance, modified by charisma. I liked the interplay of stats.

In my campaign, we did alter the rule a bit. First, you recorded your raw comeliness and as a DM I removed points for racial modifiers based on the race they were dealing with. I recall building a table off of the racial preferences table. Let's face it, to a half-orc, half-orcs are hot and humans not.

Having put all of that effort in, the house rule only came into play a couple of times. The problem with comeliness is that we are trying to insert a visual dimension into a format that is nearly only audio.

Every wonder what "Kennedy the DJ looks like?" No idea.

Amusingly,  a local radio station has a slot for their "Kennedy" and over the years "Kennedy" has morphed from man to woman to man again, with zero comment. Strange and slightly funny if you think about "Kennedy, the brand" not "Kennedy the DJ".

However, this is kind of what the rules imply, that your character has or has not Style and Poise, Charm and Looks. Its a great stat for Bards, but its a shame what Bards were back then.

Please let me know what you think in the comments. 

Commercial product placement:
I also have a little book called Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners, over at DrivethruRPG. I am obviously thinking of writing another and Gnolls might be the subject.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

52 Weeks of Magic - Week 26 - Shield of Force

Today was the last day of school. I am on break until July 8th. In anticipation of actually having a break, I have run ahead by one week. I have also decided that the Token of Infi offered last week is only a gimmick and doesn't exactly count towards my goal of 52 items in a year. You will notice that the navigation links are labeled 25 and 25b.

On to the magic!

The Shield of Force is a six side shield. It appears magical and imparts an bonus of 1 to AC. As soon as the shield is used in combat, the wielder will become aware of a pair of secondary powers. Tapping the bottom of the shield on the ground will leave a glowing mark upon the ground, a line five feet wide. This line marks the boundary of a protection from evil and shield spell. This effect will last up to five combat rounds.

The shield may create up to 6 of these barriers per day. If a creature not subject to the effects of protection from evil attempts to cross the barrier, the barrier will lash out at them for 1d6+1 points of damage, like being hit in the face by a large tree limb. When this happens, the barrier's duration will be shortened by one round for every blocked creature. Multiple creatures can rush the barrier in one round.

If the wielder creates 3 of these barriers side by side, the barrier will be a hemisphere. All six will completely cover the wielder with a sphere of protection. When these two functions are used, the barrier is shorter and curved. It extends underground.

This protection will not stop environmental effects such as smoke, fire or water, but can provide a bonus to saving throws vs magic based on the effects of the shield spell.


Navigation
WeekItemWeekItemWeekItemWeekItem
1 2 3Emulous Cursed Sword4
5 6 7The Symbol of Sol Invictus8
9 10 11Aemilla Carna12
13 14 15Shape of Memory16
17 18 19Staff of Eyes20
21 22 23Whispering Wings24
25 25b 26Shield of Force27
Coming Soon



Now, the commercial. I have a little book called Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners, over at DrivethruRPG. Also on Drivethru is my custom character sheet for AD&D and Unearthed Arcana.

I am obviously thinking of writing another and Gnolls might be the subject. Please let me know what you think in the comments. 


52 Weeks of Magic - Week 25 - Device of Defense


Sorry for the poor image. I collect paper and this stuff is a shiney, plastic like material with a texture. It feels great to draw on but doesn't scan or photograph well. I just I don't know what it is or how it should be used.

The Device of Defense has similar properties. When found appears to be a shield, it even comes in a bag. The bag has runes on it that imply that the device is for defense. The loops to hold the shield are just wrong. They are 3/4 of the way up the backside and far too large for a forearm, there is a cross strap that seems to do nothing. The whole shield is nearly 4 and 1/2 feet tall by 2 and a half feet wide. The curve on it covers a full 180 degrees. It looks like someone created a shield from an drawing and never really worked out how one should use it.

When used as a shield, it reduces the wearers armor class by 2. Unfortunately, it is so ungainly that it also causes a -2 to attack. There is no way around this penalty, short of reworking the shield strap which could damage this magic item.

The Device of Defense is actually a protective item that is worn on the back, like a cape. When activated, the user is empowered with the ability to jump and feather fall at will, as the spell.

Unlike the spell, the device ensures the user will land correctly and safely. The effect makes the user so agile and unpredictable, that they receive a -1 to AC. The user can execute charges from a standstill, which provides a bonus to hit along with the liabilities. The user can stop and start the feather fall effect at will, too. This means they could jump straight up 30 feet and float gracefully down at any point of their fall. Usually, this does not allow for a steady platform to attack from and significant penalties would occur.


Navigation
WeekItemWeekItemWeekItemWeekItem
1 2 3Emulous Cursed Sword4
5 6 7The Symbol of Sol Invictus8
9 10 11Aemilla Carna12
13 14 15Shape of Memory16
17 18 19Staff of Eyes20
21 22 23Whispering Wings24
25 25b 26Shield of Force27
Coming Soon



Now, the commercial. I have a little book called Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners, over at DrivethruRPG. Also on Drivethru is my custom character sheet for AD&D and Unearthed Arcana.

I am obviously thinking of writing another and Gnolls might be the subject. Please let me know what you think in the comments. 


Thursday, June 13, 2019

Rediscovering the Past - Part 1 - The Mac is not a Paperweight

Back in the day, my friends and I had dozens of character sheets but no copier. What a headache. I had a computer and thought to myself, "Gee, what if I could make this machine spit out sheets on demand?"



It could. This was the standard character sheet for my campaign. It was designed on a Mac plus e using Mac Draw. This evening, I found a copy of one jammed in the back of my Unearthed Arcana book. My friends and I were so proud of it, we put our names on every copy we printed.

Judging by the context of the sheet, I suspect this was done in 1987. I received my Mac in 1986 and probably purchased Unearthed Arcana in '87. I can assure you that I cribbed off of many different versions of the official sheets to create this document, but I have to say, this is the very best sheet I have ever used.

Isn't it amazing how much technology has changed?

But wait, my Mac plus e isn't a paperweight. It has not been lost nor replaced. It's still with me.


I still use it. But not in the expected fashion. For school, I had to do a series of podcasts and videos and I wrote all of the scripts on the good ol' mac. Why? Because I could hide the mouse off to one side and use it like a teleprompter.

This file is now available at DriveThruRPG as an unwatermarked PDF.

This product is a scan of a character sheet from 1987, created on a Mac Plus E. It has been uploaded for nostalgia. It is specifically meant for Unearthed Arcana and includes the six basic abilities, plus comeliness. I have used this sheet for decades. While not entirely error free, nor perfect for every campaign, it is a great design.

This item is offered as PWYW. It is strongly suggested that you download the sheet for $0.00 and if it works for your group, come on back and reorder it at the price point you feel it is worth. Remember, this is a scan of 32 year old sheet from 1987. The value is in the history of the game, not the production quality, so your mileage may vary.

This product is unwatermarked so as not to disrupt the old school feel. Please print as many copies as you need, but do not digitally redistribute.

For more great romps in nostalgia, visit me at These Old Games. I would love to hear how this sheet fared in your AD&D 1e setting.

Monday, June 10, 2019

House Rule - Empowering Arcane Casters

For years, I battled my players on Magic Users and Illusionist. No one would play them because at low level, they can't survive combat. Of course, they can't. They aren't meant to rush headlong into combat. You need those clerics, thieves and of course, the mighty fighting man to smash whatever remains of the enemy after the Magic User has his or her way with them. Once a couple of spells are released, Magic Users should take a back seat to the action.

No one likes the back seat.

I even had trouble trying to get players multi-classing MUs. My players' opinion was that fighters fight, thieves steal and Magic Users use magic. And never the three should meet. Two of my players advanced a ranger and paladin to spell casting levels, but then never used the option because they believed it to be to unbalancing.

I was always a fan of Fighter-Magic User-Thief when I couldn't be a Bard under AD&D, and wanted my players to do the same.

In an effort to inject something attractive to the players into the Magic User classes, I tried some house rules. The only one seemed to appeal to the players was Counter Magic. Back then, I didn't have the whole thing codified like I do now, so it was a relatively unsuccessful trial run of House Rules.

Two other ideas struck me: Down Casting and Crisis Casting. They also turned out to be untenable.

Down Casting is simple. The character has a certain number of spells of certain levels. A fifth level Magic User has 4 first level spells, 2 second level spells and 1 third level spell. When Down Casting is in play, the Magic User can forgo his or her third level spell and convert that to 3 second level spells. They can take it a step further and convert a second level spell into 2 first level spells. Note that you get x number of spells based on the level of the forgone spell. I had thought this was diminishing returns, but it wasn't enough.

You can probably see how that didn't work. While we were play testing this rule, the 5th level Magic User Down Casted his 3rd level spell to two second level spells, then Down Cast all of his second level spells to first level spells. He then spent the entire combat casting magic missile. I am uncertain as to how many times that was, but he could have potentially put 36 magic missiles in to the enemy. I recall they ran out of enemies really fast.

I still think the idea has merit, but needs a different mechanic to prevent a magic missile MERV attack.

Crisis Casting was a little more successful, but also equally untenable. The rule was, if a Magic User has 10 or less hit points and is hit for damage, they regain memorized one first level spell. I had intended for this ability to make a spell caster more dangerous in combat, but it ultimately caused the deaths of several characters.

From a DM's perspective, Crisis Casting seemed to be a cure for any number of tactical problems. However, in practice, it made the Magic Users too aggressive. Instead of using Push, Jump, Spider Climb or Feather Fall to take control the tactical situation, most player simply unleashed another offensive spell. Usually of the type which didn't help them the first time. It could be that with limited spell slots available and combat being on the mind, they didn't memorize the right spells to make good use of the talent.

I'm probably going to try to reintroduce these option in my next campaign, but need to rethink each of them. I have the most hope for Counter Casting. What do you think?

Sunday, June 9, 2019

52 Weeks of Magic - By Infi, half a year

Believe it or not, this week marks half a year. In honor of this milestone, I'm taking the day off. By the Infinite, I feel I deserve it. Hard work should be appreciated and rewarded.

Wait... that gives me an idea...

The Token of Infi is a magical item created by a cleric whom believes in luck and the random nature of people and events. To create the token, they must witness the recipient perform a difficult feat. Having observed a successful use of a singular ability, they can meditate on it and then create a small token which provides a bonus of 1 when performing a similar action. The task is linked to a single die roll, usually a non-combat action. The token has a life time of a year and a day and crumbles to dust when the bonus is invoked. A character may only have one token at a time and the bonus and cannot be transferred to another.

The token is similar to The Shape of Memory created by magic users:

"The creation process takes all day as the {cleric} makes choices about creation, but is not an all day process. The item has some worth, say a few coppers, but no one would call it art."

Navigation
WeekItemWeekItemWeekItemWeekItem
1 2 3Emulous Cursed Sword4
5 6 7The Symbol of Sol Invictus8
9 10 11Aemilla Carna12
13 14 15Shape of Memory16
17 18 19Staff of Eyes20
21 22 23Whispering Wings24
25 25b 26Shield of Force27
Coming Soon



Now, the commercial. I have a little book called Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners, over at DrivethruRPG. Also on Drivethru is my custom character sheet for AD&D and Unearthed Arcana.

I am obviously thinking of writing another and Gnolls might be the subject. Please let me know what you think in the comments. 


The Difference Between Zero and Hero

The difference between zero and hero is good PR and support. When most parties go looking for NPC or henchmen, they tend to pick up another sword or a healer, when what they need is a Herald or Lawyer.

Heralds are much more than criers, they announce the party with style. They are made of moxie, poise and flair. They improve the standing of a party and positively affect morale and reactions. Lawyers often do the same. Since both speak on the behalf of the party first, each can provide a "fail safe" or "cutout" should the random dice go wrong. Players can counter their pronouncements with fairness and humility, gaining another reaction or morale roll. An uppity lawyer of herald can speak quietly with the lady or master on the behalf other henchmen to prevent walkouts.

Where lawyers differ from heralds is lawyers must not tell a falsehood. They do not have to tell the thruth, but good ones are poor liars. When things go wrong, lawyers tend to go formal. They dress and speak formally, which enables a fair amount of bluffing. Lawyers are apt judges of both character and situations, which can be a second set of eyes and ears for a party adventuring in a foreign land. The can guess the underlying reasons for most traditions, laws and policies which should help the party.

Heralds tend to dress and speak as needed by the goals of the party. They can wear any armor, including none at all. They may carry any weapon, but usage is limited to the lightest arms: daggers, foils, etc. Lawyers are limited to knives and daggers, and will resist all suggestions of wearing armor. They will fall back on their official robes and poise for protection. Sometimes, that can work.

These NPC types exploit their social status, portraying themselves as sacrosanct. Enemies wishing to have good standing with the general public or to hide evil plots for the future often perpetuate this idea. However, if chaos and evil ever reign, lawyers and heralds will be the second against the wall, right after the PCs.

For most campaigns, lawyers and heralds are well versed in oration, history, and tradition besides the more expected talents for showmanship and legal proweness. Should the party become imprisioned, the captor may view locking the lawyer or herald up as bad press or form.

You can read all about these NPC character classes and more than 50 more in my book, Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners, available at DriveThruRPG.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

52 Weeks of Magic - Week 24 - Monk's Bane

This weapon is a dragonfly shaped dart made from wire and glass. When thrown at a target, it will strike once a round, every round until the target either strikes the dart with a weapon or makes a save vs. magic. No to hit roll is required as the dart can be avoided and neutralized with a saving throw. 

The dart strikes for 1 point of damage per round, but also foils one attack per round by the target. If the target strikes the dart without a weapon or tries to catch or deflect it, they suffer 3 points of damage, lose all attacks for that round, and the dart will still attack next round. This is why the dart is called Monk's Bane.

Any handheld object counts as a weapon, including gauntlets, sticks, brooms, shields, etc. 

If thrown at a magic user and the MU passes their saving throw, the dart will return to the thrower and explode for 1d6 points of damage. There is no saving throw. Illusionists who make a saving throw will take control of the dart. Again, there is no saving throw. All other character types that make a save cause the dart to return to the original thrower, where it will go inert for a day. Note: Characters have two opportunities to negate the dart; First the saving throw and second, an attempt to strike. 

Since the Bane is attempting to strike the target's face, the target suffers no penalty for striking it and can even use a shield to bat it down. However, other people suffer a -4 when striking at a dart pursuing someone else. Missile weapons are right out for this purpose (unless the archer is evil or doesn't care). 

Monk's Bane is usually found in groups of three, sometimes 6. Several of these darts can target one individual, but only the first will attempt to strike them. The rest will circle. If one is defeated, another will take its place in the next round. Most characters will need to make multiple attacks or multiple saves to escape. However magic users and illusionists require only one and this one save will either cause all of them to return home and explode or all fall under the control of the illusionist. 

When an illusionist takes control of the darts, the darts will land in his or her hand. The darts can only be thrown as fast as the character has attacks. Monk's Bane have the normal range of a dart, but once in flight can chase someone for miles. 

When a magic user repels these darts with saving throw, the darts will scream after their former owner and newest target with a vengeance and will usually strike by the end of the round, but can strike like a bolt from the blue after many days. It is a rather ignominious way to die. 

Magic users and illusionists generally understand the problems presented with these magic items and will use them with care.

Navigation
WeekItemWeekItemWeekItemWeekItem
1 2 3Emulous Cursed Sword4
5 6 7The Symbol of Sol Invictus8
9 10 11Aemilla Carna12
13 14 15Shape of Memory16
17 18 19Staff of Eyes20
21 22 23Whispering Wings24
25 25b 26Shield of Force27
Coming Soon



Now, the commercial. I have a little book called Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners, over at DrivethruRPG. Also on Drivethru is my custom character sheet for AD&D and Unearthed Arcana.

I am obviously thinking of writing another and Gnolls might be the subject. Please let me know what you think in the comments. 


52 Weeks of Magic - Week 23 - Whispering Wings

The Whispering Wings is a small amulet or brooch, useful to organized societies, such a clerical orders and thieves guilds. Typically it takes the form of a moth or butterfly, but can be any winged insect such as a scarab. The device will deliver a 15 second verbal (25-35 words) message over a distance of two miles. The travel speed is 1 mile per hour, which is why they are not used by the military.

The device is made of stone and is not subject to any weather conditions but wind. If it is too windy to fly, it will crawl.

On arrival, it will unerringly find the recipient, if within it's range. It can detect invisible and hidden creatures and will approach in a manner that will not reveal their position to others.

It's message will be delivered by whispering in the targets ear. This is difficult to hear when in combat and if it is asked to repeat the message, it will jumble the words. This scrambled message will shift the word position, but can't alter the individual words themselves. Users would be wise not to use both negative and positive intents in the same message. 

Once its mission is complete, the amulet will attach itself to the recipient on any visually appealing and convenient area, such as a collar, button hole or string. It has a limit of two uses per day; the recipient can, but doesn't have to send a return message. In order to return the device, some sort of message must be sent.

Navigation
WeekItemWeekItemWeekItemWeekItem
1 2 3Emulous Cursed Sword4
5 6 7The Symbol of Sol Invictus8
9 10 11Aemilla Carna12
13 14 15Shape of Memory16
17 18 19Staff of Eyes20
21 22 23Whispering Wings24
25 25b 26Shield of Force27
Coming Soon



Now, the commercial. I have a little book called Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners, over at DrivethruRPG. Also on Drivethru is my custom character sheet for AD&D and Unearthed Arcana.

I am obviously thinking of writing another and Gnolls might be the subject. Please let me know what you think in the comments.