Saturday, February 2, 2019

Robotech: Battlecry (2002) - The Unreview.

Thanks to the blizzard conditions, my son busted out a game that is older than he is: Robotech: Battlecry.

On our 50" TV, the image is a bit blurry but the game is still fun. I always liked this game because it didn't use the 'gon crunching graphics, instead going with the flat looking color pallet of the comic books and TV shows. The voice acting was excellent and the imagery memorable. The story nosedives into a pyrrhic victory, which is forgivable since the game did an admirable job of staying in canon.

The game featured a good story mode and the 1v1 battle mode on a variety of maps. Progress through story mode unlock various Veritechs and paint schemes for a (limited) customized feel.

The game's combat system seems glitch filled at first, but you are in a Veritech. Enemies will hover in your blind spots, behind you or dead ahead and under your nose. If you let them stay there, they will kill you. Enemy bosses are overpowered and you face them after wave upon wave of enemies, with you armor depleted. How can you survive?

Change and adapt. A Veritech is a fighter jet, a hovering vehicle and a flying robot. Jet mode is quick and has the most long range missiles and powerful guns. Gerwalk or Guardian mode can dodge left and right while flinging missiles and gunning down enemy missiles. And of course, the Battloid mode is a killer robot.

By shifting from one mode to another in rapid succession, you can capitalize on the advantages of one mode while actually in another. These tactics don't seem obvious until you play 1v1, which is a little crazy. Starting in fighter mode, you lob missiles, boost for speed and then deploy counter measures before switching to Guardian mode. In this mode, you can strafe, lob missiles and shoot incoming missiles with your gun before going to Battloid mode to hose enemies and missiles will automatic fire or precise sniper fire. You'd do all of that in less than 5 seconds, over and over again.


Oddly, there are no melee attacks.

No console game would be complete without a choice of cheats. Cheat mode can be entered by hold L1 and R1 and pressing left, up, down, X, right, triangle, followed by start. A keyboard appears to enter the codes. 

One shot kills - BACKSTABBER
One shot kills in sniper mode- SNIPER
Quick weapon recharge - MIRIYA
Inverts controls - FLIPSIDE
GU-X ammo recharges faster - SPACEFOLD
Invinicibility - SUPERMECH
Missiles recharge faster MARSBASE
Turns off ALL cheat codes - CLEAR
Unlock all levels - WEWILLWIN
Unlock all Veritechs, Maps and Medals - WHERESMAX
Unlock all multiplayer levels - MULTIMAYHEM
Unlock new paint schemes - MISSMACROSS

These cheats are preserved though saves so be careful. Re-entering a cheat turns it off, which is less than obvious. CLEAR of course turns them all off, too. One thing to keep in mind is that the one shot kill codes can ruin your fun, especially in missions where you need to rescue or keep someone alive. One accident shot and they are dead.

The game contains many glitches, one of which is fun for the user. Completing a space mission with the Super Veritech allows the player to continue to use that loadout on missions which it would be precluded. The moment you save, that option is gone.

I would love to rate this game, but since it is my favorite despite all of it's warts. I won't. I'll just say I won by playing out my favorite children's show.

Do you have any favorite games that have been passed from one generation to next? Let me know over on Mewe or right here in the comments.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

52 Weeks of Magic - 6 of 52 - Scimitar of Smiting

The Scimitar of Smiting is a dangerous weapon. It does not have a bonus to either the to hit roll or damage, but it does grant one additional attack. The sword does count as +1 magical weapon for the purposes of striking targets immune to mundane weapons.

On each successful melee strike, the blade begins to crackle with energy, slowly charging. If a natural 6 is rolled for damage, the sword is fully charged. On the very next round, the wielder can unleash a bolt of lightning for 1d6+1 points of damage. The holder will have this information transmitted to them as a vague instinct, no words, just the idea.

The bolt has a maximum range of 50 feet and comes from the sharp edge of the blade. The weapon has the following range modifiers:

Short: 0-15 feet +1
Medium: 16-20 feet 0
Long: 21-30 -1
Very long: 31-50 -2

Lightning blasts are so random, the user cannot add their Dexterity bonus for ranged attacks. The weapon can be used as a melee weapon or as a range weapon while it is charged. The weapon will fire lightning at the same rate as the users normal attacks, plus one. It can alternate between swings and bolts in any chosen pattern.

The weapon will lose its charge if sheathed, touches the ground or if a miss is rolled. This means as long as the wielder strikes a target, they have another chance to strike another target. Swings and bolts can be targeted on the same or different creatures in the same round.

Wiley characters may attempt to charge weapon by deliberately striking objects or the ground. This never works. The weapon will unleash an electrical burst on the holder for 1d6 hp damage if they state they are attempting this. There is no saving throw.

If the holder contrives some situation where they cannot be shocked by this burst of energy, such as a spell, the scimitar will smite them later. The sword will wait until it is good and ready, rather the earliest opportunity. If the sword decides to wait, it will often select a time when the wielder is well away from others or when the strike would most deadly or embarrassing. For example, shocking a swimmer or when entering a church or temple. The delayed damage is 2d6, with no saving throw.

The sword is vaguely intelligent, but does not speak or communicate often. Most communicated information is emotional in nature.

Navigation:
Week 1 of 52 - Magic Lamps
Week 2 of 52 - The Rat Bag
Week 3 of 52 - Emulous Cursed Sword
Week 4 of 52 - The Cloak of Peaceful Repose
Week 5 of 52  - The Cowl of Death
Week 6 of 52 - Scimitar of Smiting
Week 7 of 52 - The Symbol of Sol Invictus
Week 8 of 52 - The Equi Phalera
Week 9 of 52 - Libertatem
Week 10 of 52 - Sorrow

Now the commercial. I have a little book called Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners, over at DrivethruRPG. I am obviously thinking of writing another. Please let me know what you think in the comments.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

52 Weeks of Magic - 5 of 52 - The Cowl of Death

The Cowl of Death is a magical monk's habit with hood. The cowl is imbued with the spell Feign Death like last week's Cloak of Peaceful Repose. It will immediately affect the wearer under one of two conditions:

1) the wearer is rendered unconscious by any means other than normal or magical sleep,
2) the user pulls up the hood and invokes the words, "memento mori".

If either of these two conditions are met, the wearer will collapse to the ground, seemingly dead as per the spell description.

The cowl has two other features. Over a period of an hour, the wearer will seem to rot while actually regaining one hit point (if any had been lost). Normally, the spell would prevent the recovery of hit points, but this item is designed to protect the wearer. The illusion of rot will prevent all but the most hungry scavengers from attacking the wearer. Intelligent creatures are allowed a saving throw vs. magic to ignore the illusion and the resulting implication that something was horribly wrong with the person before being struck down.

The Cowl of Death normally has 20 charges, but charges are only used when the command word is used. Invocation of the command can be verbal or mental. Being knocked unconscious does not use a charge.

Navigation:
Week 1 of 52 - Magic Lamps
Week 2 of 52 - The Rat Bag
Week 3 of 52 - Emulous Cursed Sword
Week 4 of 52 - The Cloak of Peaceful Repose
Week 5 of 52  - The Cowl of Death
Week 6 of 52 - Scimitar of Smiting
Week 7 of 52 - The Symbol of Sol Invictus
Week 8 of 52 - The Equi Phalera
Week 9 of 52 - Libertatem
Week 10 of 52 - Sorrow

Now the commercial. I have a little book called Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners, over at DrivethruRPG. I am obviously thinking of writing another. Please let me know what you think in the comments.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

52 Weeks of Magic - 4 of 52 - The Cloak of Peaceful Repose

Last week, we saw an evil weapon. This week, a more pleasant items is available.

The Cloak of Peaceful Repose will cast Feign Death on the wearer under two conditions:

1) the wearer is rendered unconscious by any mechanism except natural or magical sleep,
2) the wearer invokes the command, "Pardon" or "mihi pace".

In the case of being rendered unconscious, this cloak operates differently. The spell lasts 24 hours and the wearer is given the illusion that they've been laid out in a loving fashion. Scavengers will not interpret the wearer as food and intelligent creatures will be loathe to disturb the body. If invoked by the command words, the spell lasts but a single hour. In both cases, the wearer will have one hit point restored.

If the character is moved to a location that would cause actual death, The Cloak of Peaceful Repose sacrifices itself to rouse the wearer. The wearer will be granted all of the hit points they would naturally regain in 24 hours and they will rouse before they are buried, burned, etc. The cloak will disintegrate into a glowing white dust cloud, which will seem miraculous. The risk of death must be eminent, such as being placed in grave or set on on pyre mound.

Being buried at sea or in water provokes a violent response. The wearer will wake immediately and break for the surface with no hesitation. If the wearer loses a hit point to drowning damage, the cloak sacrifices itself by encasing the person in a glowing sphere which pushes them to the surface in a single round while also restoring a number of hit points equal to 48 hours of healing. Any weights, rope or chain wrapped around the character will fall off, undamaged. In this case, the cloak loses all magic but is not destroyed completely. The cloak changes to the color of wet slate and will remain so permanently. It will it will not accept dyes and is not affected by any normal bleaching agents or processes. It is subject to all other forms of damage.

The cloak has 20 charges if invoked by the keywords but functions any number of times unbidden. Obviously, if the cloak turns to dust, it is gone.

Navigation:
Week 1 of 52 - Magic Lamps
Week 2 of 52 - The Rat Bag
Week 3 of 52 - Emulous Cursed Sword
Week 4 of 52 - The Cloak of Peaceful Repose
Week 5 of 52  - The Cowl of Death
Week 6 of 52 - Scimitar of Smiting
Week 7 of 52 - The Symbol of Sol Invictus
Week 8 of 52 - The Equi Phalera
Week 9 of 52 - Libertatem
Week 10 of 52 - Sorrow

Now the commercial. I have a little book called Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners, over at DrivethruRPG. It is a framework for old school commoner class characters or for adding a little background to Player Characters via professional skills. It's pay what you want, including free so don't hesitate to give it a try.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

52 Weeks of Magic - 3 of 52 - Emulous Cursed Sword

Emulous is a cursed gladius (short sword) with dangerous powers. This +2 gladius is neutral evil, speaks, has telepathy along with several other magical powers. As implied by it's name, it invokes jealousy through control of the wielder.

Its primary abilities are fairly useful, detecting magic and good or evil at 1" at will.

Emulous has two extraordinary powers, clairaudience and clarvoyance. Since the sword is intelligent and uses telepathy, these two powers are far more dangerous to the wielder than useful. Emulous is able to present these powers, meaning that the sword can force them unbidden on the victim and opportunistically "reveal" information to that person about allies in an effort to drive the wielder to subvert them. The holder of the sword will notice that the effects of these two powers are about a round each, but the sword is able to speak over the images and sounds to work it's evil intentions. It is the king of context shifting.

If the wielder invokes these powers willingly, it is far less likely that Emulous will be able to spin the effects to it's own advantage.

Emulous has an Ego of 11 and intelligence of 17.

Under great duress, Emulous will detect food and water for the wielder and his allies. Only the sword can decide to use this power and food and water are the only objects it can detect. It provides a direction but not a distance. The price of this power is the loss of all other powers including speech and telepathy while retaining the +2 to strike and damage for 24 hours. During this time, Emulous is deaf and dumb to what is happening around it. Its intelligence drops to 3 and ego drops to 2, meaning most healthy people can set the sword aside. Obviously, it is more likely to take this gamble when the wielder is weakened by hunger and thirst.

The sword usually communicates using the common language or telepathy in that language. It rarely uses it's ability to speak neutral evil. It does not like having detection spells cast at it and will hold a caster in disdain if it notices. On the first encounter with the party, the sword will strike up a conversation and offer knowledge of all of it's powers except detect food and water. It will deflect questions of alignment, but will not lie to do so.

While Emulous is evil, it is intelligently so. It will not willingly strike at other player characters during combat with hostile forces. It desires the wielder to take the lead position in the party and will assist in this endeavor. It never requests that the wielder divest him or herself of other magics and will compel the the holder to have defensive magic and good equipment. It is cagey around animals, especially magical animal companions (familiars warhorses, etc.), choosing not to speak aloud in front of them if it can be helped. It views animals as rival intelligences, no matter how low their actual intelligence or paltry their skills are.

Emulous does not view killing animal companions as a particularly good idea as it invokes fear in humanoids and causes them to raise their defenses. Additionally, it does not like to kill children or women unless they are a viable physical threat. It will refuse to strike if it feels justified and will attempt to move to another, more civilized person as soon as possible. Again, while evil, it is not chaotic. It may engineer a heroic and forlorn fight to do in such a vile creature. Of course, it will do so in front of witnesses so that it's fame increases and someone more pliable will take up the sword.

To a degree, it will evaluate equipment and magic items found and try to direct them to the person in the party it feels is the best match, including hirelings and retainers not normally allowed a choice of equipment. It will use oration over out and out demands to do this as only the wielder can be compelled. The sword seeks to dominate the whole party, not just the holder. It desires to be come a legendary sword in the hands of a legendary hero, at nearly any cost.

If granted a quiet moment, it will attempt to eliminate all those who are critical of it's owner or itself, either by revealing information that diminishes them in the eyes of others or more rarely, by murder. It will only engage in murderous ploys once the owner is subverted to its will for a couple of weeks, perhaps months.

Navigation:
Week 1 of 52 - Magic Lamps
Week 2 of 52 - The Rat Bag
Week 3 of 52 - Emulous Cursed Sword
Week 4 of 52 - The Cloak of Peaceful Repose
Week 5 of 52  - The Cowl of Death
Week 6 of 52 - Scimitar of Smiting
Week 7 of 52 - The Symbol of Sol Invictus
Week 8 of 52 - The Equi Phalera
Week 9 of 52 - Libertatem
Week 10 of 52 - Sorrow

Now the commercial. I have a little book called Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners, over at DrivethruRPG. It is a framework for old school commoner class characters or for adding a little background to Player Characters via professional skills. It's pay what you want, including free so don't hesitate to give it a try.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

World Building Vignette #2: 'potamus Tarn

The Tarnian Empire derives it name from a dozens of mountain lakes called tarns. In the north western region of the Empire is one of it's oldest settlements called 'potamus Tarn.


The area's main feature is not a tarn at all, but a massive lake. The lake is fed by many tarns to the north and give it its name. The lake supports many types of large animals, the hippopotamus being the most noticeable. Gazelle, wildebeest and lions are found on the north and south sides of the lake, the treed areas host puma, rhinoceroses and deer.

The local inhabitants have built three small walled towns. The plains are home to many fortified houses. These fortifications have solid stone first and second floors but often have ramshackle third, fourth and fifth stories. Their purpose is to protect against the larger animals in the area, especially the unpredictable hippos and rhinos.

In the Century of Chaos, many of these fortified houses were burned to the ground by Elven and Orcish warbands. A few were reconstructed as actual keeps, but most were rebuilt with sturdier but still wooden upper stories.

This map was created using an online editor called Hextml and some details were retouched in GIMP.

If you are interested, I have a small book called Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners which includes farmers and huntsmen as classes for your old school D&D campaign. Priced at pay what you want, every download no matter the price, supports me as an author.

Click this link to read Vignette #1. Later this week, Vignette #3 will be available.

Friday, January 11, 2019

52 Weeks of Magic - 2 of 52 - The Rat Bag

The first magical item created by the sacerdos of Tabletop was "The Rations Bag". The sailors call them "Rat Bags", a name that all clerics hate universally. (See World Building Vignette #1.)

The Rat Bag is an oilcloth belt pouch with a tie down at the knee, much like a holster. In fact, the exterior of the bag has a large flat sheath for a knife or small dagger.  Typical closed dimensions are 12" x 2" x 5", however many different sizes are available based on the size of the recipient. The bag tri-folds, and when opened completely is 12" x 15" x 2". It has three small pockets, two are the size of a deck of cards and the third is approximately the size of a thumb. One pocket is empty for personal goods, the second contains a piece of hardtack and the third holds a spool of fishing line and three hooks. Two loops hold a flask of water and a vial of oil, wine or brandy. The flask is 8 oz. and the vial holds about 1/2 of an ounce.

The magical properties of the Ration Bag are not evident on inspection. Three times a day, the bag will produce one piece of hardtack wrapped in an edible paper-like seaweed, refill the flask with water and the vial with water, wine, brandy or oil. The vial will produce one of these fluids at the request of the holder, at the time of pouring. No item placed within the bag will rot or rust, including the knife or dagger.

Hooks, knives, daggers, and line are not replaced by the magic of this device. They are merely preserved against rust and rot. Sailors have obviously noticed that the device may be used to supplement the ship's stores and it is common to decant liquids into a common pool for emergencies. The hardtack is not often pooled in this fashion as it is not packaged against spoilage or rot.

These bags are produced in pairs for each sailor under the tribune's command and the sailors are required to have them when shipboard. One bag will always have a knife and the other a small dagger. Stealing the bag or it's contents from a sailor is a capital offence as they are so important for the safety of the ship's crew.

Items within the bag are not magical in nature. For example the flask can be replaced with another, as can the vial. However, there must be a flask or vial present to refill. Each ship has it's own design for vials, daggers, knives and flasks but sometimes the sailors swap them for personalized items. They do keep the original items. As a consequence, many sailors have a small, flat box which holds the replaced items as a memento of past ship assignments.

These items are treated as service badges to particular voyages and are passed to next of kin. While not technically illegal, it is taboo to sell these items. In times of hardship the tribune or various religious institutions will pay sailors for the privilege public of display of these trophies. Payment is in wine and grain, in one year allotments. At the end of the year, the items are returned to the sailor or his next of kin. This is an important governmental control on the economy. Generally, next of kin do not receive this privilege, however, exceptions have been made usually based on the outcome of a particular voyage or on the basis of food scarcity in town.

3.5 Craft Item Requirements:
Price: 1,000 gp (per pair)
Caster Level: 7th
Aura: Conjuration
Activation: Open bag, except the vial which requires a verbal command of Oil, Brandy or Wine in any language.
Weight: 2 lbs each
Spells: Create Food and Water, Mending or Make Whole, Dimension Door.
By tradition, the interior of the pockets are lined with either frog skin or fish scales, however inclusion is not mandatory.

If you are interested, I have a small book called Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners which includes sailors as a class. Priced at pay what you want, every download no matter the price, supports me as an author.

Navigation:
Week 1 of 52 - Magic Lamps
Week 2 of 52 - The Rat Bag
Week 3 of 52 - Emulous Cursed Sword
Week 4 of 52 - The Cloak of Peaceful Repose
Week 5 of 52  - The Cowl of Death
Week 6 of 52 - Scimitar of Smiting
Week 7 of 52 - The Symbol of Sol Invictus
Week 8 of 52 - The Equi Phalera
Week 9 of 52 - Libertatem
Week 10 of 52 - Sorrow

Now the commercial. I have a little book called Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners, over at DrivethruRPG. It is a framework for old school commoner class characters or for adding a little background to Player Characters via professional skills. It's pay what you want, including free so don't hesitate to give it a try.

World Building Vignette #1: The Town of Tabletop

The southwestern tip of the Peninsula of Plenty comes to a ragged point. The cliffs have collapsed into the sea creating a natural formation of semi-submerged, stone tables in the water, which makes for excellent fishing. The town that sprang up on the point was dubbed "Tabletop" after these formations.

Tabletop is a seagoing community, it's whole culture revolves around life at sea despite being ruled by a land based Empire. Several of the earliest Imperial magistrates were lost at sea which was predicted by the town's cults. These events created the odd situation where the one half of the town's leadership was held by a tribune appointed by the Empire and the second was often elected from and by the various priesthoods as the sacerdos.

This is not the normal state of affairs within the Tarnian Empire. Major cities are assigned 2 tribunes by either the Senate or the Emperor or Empress, with a three year service time. The Senate selects tributes in times of peace, while the Emperor or Empress acts in time of war.

The town of Tabletop is so far from the Capital, not only is it a poor backwater, the citizens are thought of as seditious, backstabbing traitors. The fact that the whole of the Empire's shipping passes through Tabletop requires a Tribune. Tribune assignments are viewed at best as a punishment and, at worst, a death sentence.

It is true that Tabletop is a relative backwater, but the citizens and townspeople are far from seditious. In times of war the town has been captured and the people have ousted these conquerors by trickery, sabotage and even murder. They are ruthlessly effective at returning to the Empire.

Because of these military threats to shipping the town is responsible for maintaining a cohort. With approximate 12,000 townspeople and most of those involved in sailing ventures, this is not possible at all times. In times of peace, the tribune has about 220 soldiers or guards at his disposal. Tabletop also has 15 regum antiquorum, or "Ancient Kings" who are required to provide approximately 100 soldiers for the cohort. The remaining soldiers are drawn from volunteer citizens, and traditionally they will provide enough men, women and even children to round out the cohort at 888 soldiers. Again, this is unique to Tabletop.

Once the cohort is on the move Tabletop is very vulnerable to capture. The cohort and the townspeople view this as a necessary evil, which explains the viciousness of the townsfolk towards invaders.

On a daily basis, the town supports a virtual cohort of sailors and marines, perhaps many more than 800. One tribune is permitted sea travel rights, while the other remains in town with the sacerdos as his or her second.

The sacerdos is responsible for the physical safety of the tribunes, his or her sailors and these tasks are a local tradition, not something found in the Imperial Tables of Laws. Tribunes are not normally assigned a bodyguard, but in Tabletop they are effectively surrounded by people who will defend them. Many public oaths involve loyalty the Tribunes as individuals, which may be the cause of the perceived seditious tendencies.

It is rare for both tribunes to show up for duty on time. Often, at least one tribune will "tag the base", showing up late and leaving early, if not immediately for home. The citizenry to elect an honorary mayor while the priesthoods to elect a sacerdos. The sacerdos would stand in as one tribune, if needed. The elected mayor has no power so long as a single tribune is working in the service of the Empire. This creates many cases where a tribune is at sea or leading the legion while the sacerdos has sole control of the town.

The role of sacerdos is unusual. All of the religious organizations can vote for a single priest or priestess from any organization. Since this job does not require any special physical or magical skill, very often the selected person is young. They typically are negotiators, book keepers and planners.

Tribunes acknowledge and respect the power of sacerdos but do not acknowledge mayoral powers. This is because a mayor only has power in the absence of both tribunes. If there are two tribunes in town, the sacerdos only has his religious duties and the duty to organize the production of goods for the protection of the sailors. A few tribunes will invite mayors and sacerdos on to their council of advisers, but never use the title "mayor".

Tribunes can forbid any public activity, except for two very specific actions by the regum antiquorum and cult activities deemed a public service. This is similar to the idea of a veto and is it is called that by the townspeople. The town hovers on the edge of martial law at all times. In the absence of one tribune, the sacerdos does not have the power of veto even when acting as a tribune's second. In the absence of both tribunes, the mayor and the sacerdos can veto each other actions, but not public activities. Basically, they can stop new laws or policies from going into effect.

When a veto by a sacerdos is in effect, the temples, churches and shrines will symbolically close, displaying a black curtain over a predominate window or door. When the mayor vetos an action, all public businesses shutter themselves with a plank over the front door. These traditions are symbolic and end once the mayor and sacerdos negotiate a solution or when a tribune arrives to set the situation right. The businesses and religious institutions still conduct operations while symbolically closed.

The current acting sacerdos cannot not leave the confines of the town, is responsible for blessing each new vessel and is able to charged the various cults to produce goods, magical and mundane to support the seafaring tribune. The sacerdos has a specific blessing for each type of ship, which is spiritual, not magical in nature. The sacerdos' symbol of office is small rudder. He or she wears a black cap with three long tassels over each ear. Former office holders wear a similar white  cap with one yellow tassel for each year of service.

In this Empire, the collective word for all religions is "cult". It is not a disparaging term. The ruling class is leery of all cults and the Empire does not have a default religion. Religions are viewed as mysterious groups, which are largely impenetrable to outsiders.

Click this link to read Vignette #0 or this one to read Vignette #2.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

World Building Vignette #0

I am working on a new D&D campaign world, largely based on the Romans. This is an interesting scenario as it is so different than the typical D&D setting which is often based in medieval times. This is wildly different than the Greyhawk setting or anything else I have encountered.

I plan on posting a series of vignettes on this process. Next Saturday, I plan to introduce a magic item unique to one town in this world: "The Rat Bag". The town has an interesting name and history, which explains the rational for this item. It is a mass produced magical device, which is strange to say the least. 

My planned schedule for posting is Friday and Saturday nights. The first post will be vignettes of this campaign world and the second will continue my 52 Weeks of Magic Series. As time permits, I may increase my posting rate. 

Please join me this weekend for world building fun.

Click the link to read Vignette #1

Saturday, January 5, 2019

52 Weeks of Magic - 1 of 52 - Magic Lamps

As a New Years resolution, I have decided to create a news column style post, entitled "52 Weeks of Magic".

These spells and items have played a prominent role in my various D&D campaigns over the years. They should be amendable to the various D&D editions available to all players, including retro games such as Labyrinth Lord and BlueHolme. I am uncertain about 4e or 5e as I do not play those sets... yet.

The first entry to the 52 Weeks of Magic is a basic magic spell employed in a way that was never really intended: Continual Light as magic item. Quite possibly, this was your first magic item. It was mine.

The spell creates a sphere of light with a 60' radius. It will move at the direction of the caster or it could be attached to a mobile or immobile object such as a rock. As an attack spell, it could be cast at a creature's eyes to cause blindness. Over the years, dispelling the globe of light was worded differently. It could be canceled by a Darkness spell, at will by the caster, Dispel Magic, and in the case of blinded creatures, Remove Curse.

Gee, that is a rather problematical spell on a couple of levels. It disappeared in 3.5e, replaced by Continual Flame which has a cost and is less effective. This was a stylistic change and probably for the better.

Down to the brass tacks. Or tube, as the case may be. Character's intelligent enough to realize the immediate benefit of the spell could cast this spell into a scroll tube. My character used a brass map tube, creating a brass lantern, ala Zork. One of my players cast the spell into a cut and blackened tube of bamboo and added a large glass bead for color and dubbed it the 'boo Torch. The color of the bead of glass was assigned to specific characters so they could identify each other over great distances. How ingenious.

This article is not about the spell, it's about the items created for the spell. The material cost can be very low in the case of the 'boo Torch. Or more likely, the spell would be cast on a high value item such as an ornate, custom-made tube or a standard votive candle.

The game breaking aspect of this spell and the items created by it are not the obvious ones. A Continual Flame spell in 3.5e carries a cost of 50 gp. Even at many times this rate, every village should have one or more lanterns powered by Continual Light. Dungeons should be lit all the time. Another consequence is lanterns should not exist at all or exist as a cheaper replacement to the magic lanterns being turned out by the player characters.

An interesting cultural twist on this type of item is whole cities being lit by these devices. Attackers would be well advised to make Dispel Magic and Darkness apart of their siege craft. Imagine the terror of having your defenses plunged into darkness the moment a besieging army arrived? Where are those lamps and torches, again? Defenders wouldn't have ready stocks of oil due to a lack of reliance on it for lighting.

Another aspect to considered for this infiltration of magic on a culture is the lack of heat by light sources. A permanently lit room is pretty chilly without a fire or stove. Some cities may require lamp and torch making materials on hand at all times after the "White Winter Death", a particular bad winter which exhausted all primary sources of fuel for heating and no reserve of burnable lighting materials existed. Sure, there was light but it was of little comfort from the cold. Other cities may not be able to handle tradition sources a light as they are walking fire hazards.

In general, if a culture has no reliance on oil for lighting, the need for oil is greatly reduced. This fact could reduce a nation's need for presses, ceramics, waxes, machines, crops like olives, the hunting for blubber bearing creatures, etc. Lighting is a critical aspect of a culture's style.

Limitations to this type of object could be simple. There is a desire to outdo other wizards, clerics and magic users by having the most ornate device imaginable. It isn't a material cost of the spell, it is the desire to have shinier kit than everyone else that drove the price.

Another limitation introduced by my characters was to voluntarily end the blinding effects after a period of time. This is an entirely different issue, but interesting because the players thought of it themselves. I liked it because I had forgotten about the poor blinded victim. He was never coming back into the story, but the good and lawful players decided that a day of blindness was more than enough "punishment". Can you say bonus role play experience?

The oddity of this was the "dispel at will" function never had a clear distance rule. This circles back to siegecraft, a wizard could be enticed to turn out the lights on an offending city.

I experimented with the "the birthday rule", where all magic spells ended on the caster's birthday if not supported by another energy source. A Resurrection spells continued past the birth date of the caster because the living person was the source of power for continuance, but poorly worded Wishes and Continual Light stopped on the caster's next birthday. I liked this story line as a one shot, as it put a single character at the center of an adventure, but it was impractical over time. This adventure corresponded to a player's birthday and I was unable to keep it going over the whole campaign.

I hope you enjoyed this essay. Next week's magic item is The Rat Bag. Please come back next Saturday evening for another unique essays on magic.

Navigation:
Week 1 of 52 - Magic Lamps
Week 2 of 52 - The Rat Bag
Week 3 of 52 - Emulous Cursed Sword
Week 4 of 52 - The Cloak of Peaceful Repose
Week 5 of 52  - The Cowl of Death
Week 6 of 52 - Scimitar of Smiting
Week 7 of 52 - The Symbol of Sol Invictus
Week 8 of 52 - The Equi Phalera
Week 9 of 52 - Libertatem
Week 10 of 52 - Sorrow

Now the commercial. I have a little book called Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners, over at DrivethruRPG. I am obviously thinking of writing another. Please let me know what you think in the comments.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Kingdom Hearts 3

This week I had a special opportunity to preview Kingdom Hearts III at Disney Springs.





The rules were simple: register for the wait list (65 minutes), play either Olympus or Toy Box and all pictures taken of the screens had to include a person, playing or not. Each play session lasted 15 minutes which was sufficient to get through one casual playthrough of a world. If you were quick, you could play both worlds in that time.

My son noticed that "critical" play difficulty was not an option, easy was the base setting. Xbox and PS4 were available.

After playing, you can pre-order the game with special loot - stickers, a lanyard and a mini keyblade.

We are going back to play again today.

Kingdom Hearts 3 is out Jan 29, 2019.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Overpowered Spells and Obvious Consequences

Meteor Swarm is one of those that has some very obvious societal consequences, even more than teleport or fly spells. Magic users anywhere nearing the ability to cast this spell should immediately become a "priority" to anyone operating an army in the area.

I've never ran a magic user from 0 to 18, nor had anyone in any of my campaigns done so. I was unfamiliar how effective Meteor Swarm was until I played a game with a pre-generated, 21st level magic user. The DM was an old school wargamer. He loved the Chainmail rules and WRG. He intended to start the game with a prison break, but as a twist, let us play out our capture. Our party encountered what could only be described as hoplite phalanx, a seemingly overwhelming force that would easily capture our tiny party.

As the DM described the situation, I read the description for Meteor Swarm. I asked if they were in bow range. The DM advised that they were not. he smugly informed me it didn't matter because magic users use darts, not bows. As they got closer, the party loosed arrows. A few arrows hardly did anything, there were several hundred guys. At 180 yard... yards(!), I cast Meteor Swarm.

Meteor Swarm vs. Phalanx
The DM consulted the Player's Handbook as I rolled damage. He read that description back and forth, over and over again, as I rolled die after die. The zig-zag of range in yard and area of effect in feet confused him, but not me. The AoE is massive for this spell. The rolls didn't matter, there were only a few hundred guys. The DM ruled that anyone hit by the spell was dead. The overlapping pattern of damage made saving throws moot.

What happened next was even more horrifying. I cast it AGAIN! The DM walked away from the table. Even assuming the phalanx scattered to the winds, I was killing survivors by the dozens. The few that ran towards the party were running into a hail of arrows and in the very next round, I would be casting a fireball.

As it stood, the DM decided to allow this insanity to stand. The second, third and forth phalanx captured the party. Funny how they snuck up on us. My character was put to the sword. I played a 5th level thief for the remainder of the session.

If there is a smart lord or lady of the lands, they would be wise to kill any and all magic users before 18th level.