Saturday, July 24, 2021

Minor Miracles

Well. I'm not ready to talk about the fire, I am ready to start counting my blessings. My whole family made it out of the house with no major injuries. My in-laws have stepped up and taken us in for the short term. My oldest is in school with the Air Force. Of course, they take care of their own, too. So many people have stepped forward to help. 

To be honest, this level of support is completely overwhelming.  We are humbled by the response and more thankful than we can or could ever convey. Really, it's a lot to take in and process. 

Our home is nearly a total loss. The walls stand, but that is close to it. Amazinging, I found our Fracture and rescued it. This is a digital painting I did for my wife on our 19th anniversary. It's printed on glass. Somehow, it survived the 1000° C heat. Our windows blew out under the strain and the heat but this thing made it. 

If a piece of glass can survive, we can too. This is not a testament to Fracture or an ad, this one of those random things that happen. A thing that is meaningful because it beautiful or amazing or both. 

My wife got my daughter out in the nick of time. Luckily my boys and I were not home. I just thank God that the kids were old enough to act on their own. Thank God we were not asleep. If the children had been infants or if any us were asleep, not one of us would have made it out. 

Enough of that. Let me end with a whole hearted thank you, to God and his good people who didn't just come to offer help, but the people who are always there to help those in need. All of you didn't just decide that we were important, this is the way you are everyday. Thank you. Bless you. 

Just speaking to you, sitting with you, hearing from you is tremdously helpful. Thank you all. 

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Pitching Ideas - Return to the Inside Out

I just got a call from my friend Doug. He wanted some help with a project for his classroom and I did what I could do help. Then went for the important business, getting players for a new campaign. 

I did my elevator pitch, "A Druid, a Unicorn, and a Space Marine are going to save the world from technology so high, it's indistinguishable from magic, Rule set, AD&D." 

He's in. 

If that sounds a bit familiar, it was a one shot I did last year for the wife and kids. It went over like a lead fart because the setting was post-apocalyptic in the middle of a pandemic. Yeah, yeah, yeah. At least I didn't pour tons of money in the TV show based on The Stand by Stephen King. 

Every DM has ideas kicking around their brains to build a world. Most DM's I've played with will tinker with a variety of setting. I am not built like that. Every D&D campaign I run is in a post-apocalyptic. The one thing I am good at is dropping in anachronistic ideas in ways that don't disturb the players. 

My campaign settings diverge from reality in the mid-eighties with the development of fusion power. There was the Outreach, where every country in the world dumped resources into a multi-nation space program. This idea was based on "The Great Awakening(s)" that happened between the 18th and 20th centuries. Except instead of being based on spiritualism, it was based on exploration. 

There was a period of upheavals as fusion tech was deployed. This was followed by the Outreach, a world wide space program using Space Fountains to deploy probes, then ships and colonists around the solar system. This went on for a couple hundred years. It pretty much distorted all nations so they no longer existed as we know them. The goal as DM in this step was to completely divorce the setting reality by making the question "What happened in/to country x" invalid or at least unimportant.  

The next goal in the Outreach was to get to other stars. Back in the 80's, we didn't know and didn't assume most stars would have planets, so the effort to find them in this setting to centuries by sending out probes. This created a situation where the Space Fountains used to reach the solar system needed a massive upgrade. And this is where everything went wrong. 

Obviously, such a system needed to massive infrastructure built. And this was done. However, the second step was a computer based solution. They wrote a massively complex program to handle the upgrade from the first generation of Space Fountains to the truly titanic interstellar Space Fountains. It was a very rough AI. 

That AI had a glitch. It did things too efficiently. It reprogramed the Space Fountains to launch a few tentative research ships. Then instead of creating many, many waves of ships to the stars, it sacrificed everything for just one giant wave. The effort destroyed or impacted every high tech item on Earth, leaving the planet's technological systems to collapse. 

Centuries of high technological items didn't disappear in an instant, they slowly brokedown. As people tried to hold on, they used the technology to change themselves and the world around them. They were morphed into different species, elves, dwarves, goblins and so on. Some people unlocked technology so high it replicated magic. Others messed with probabilities, opening up gates to different universes where our rules didn't apply. 

The Inside Out is a defense against the AI which has collapsed to a single underground location. The locals have banded together to construct a veritable castle around the entrance. 

The creatures coming out of the facility are interpreted as undead, demons and devils who's vast technology appears as magic.  

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Book Review - This Time of Darkness by H. M. Hoover

Title: This Time of Darkness
Author: H. M. Hoover
Year: 1980
Pages: 161 page booklets
Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Born in 1935 between Canton and Alliance, Helen Mary Hoover was the daughter of teachers and naturalists. Her ventures took her from sea to shining sea, from LA to NYC before she settle down in Northern Virginia to write. 

This Time of Darkness is yet another book which sits in the middle YA fiction. It was published in 1980. Of all of Ms. Hoover's books, this one withstands time perhaps because it follows a simple formula of place and becoming. 

Meet Amy and Axel, two 10 year old citizens the City. Or maybe they're 11. Doesn't matter, no one in the City cares for these children. In one moment, they make a choice to escape the City, to go outside. In the rain. The City is like Corrasant turned literally on its head. Amy and Axel must use all of their resources to escape. As they climb the ramps and prowl the halls and corridors looking for the tunnels that lead outdoors, they discover the many secrets about the City and themselves. 

They are pursued by the Authority, Crazies and secretive Watchers on their quest to escape this dysphoria life and explore the great Outdoors. 

This Time of Darkness is a dark, but quick read. As you can tell from the description, this tale could be a sourcebook for 1984 or the Paranoia RPG.  

Or you could get this book as a part of one the Kindle Unlimited Membership Plans. Kindle Unlimited Memberships offer access to 1 million book titles like This Time of Darkness, or current magazines and Audible Narration for your books. Best yet, it offers a 30 day trial so you can test it out before you buy.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Draft Review - Dungeons and Dragons Essentials Boxed Set

I ordered this Dungeons and Dragons Essentials Boxed Set to do a review. I noted a price drop on this from Amazon, so I am doing a draft review to share that link. 

Title: Dungeons and Dragons Essentials Boxed Set
Rule Set: D&D e5
Year: 2019
Pages: 2 64 page booklets
Rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of my reasons for purchasing boxed sets of any kind is to get a condensed ruleset which allows me to sample the goods before making a larger investment. This box set comes with the rulebook and an adventure, Dragon of Icespire Peak. Additionally, it contains: 

  • 11 dice, 
  • 6 character sheets,
  • DM screen,
  • poster sized map, 
  • 81 cards, 
  • a organizer box for the cards 
  • and codes for digital content.  

These rules are neat and well organized. The adventure is good, a rock solid entry into the world of Fifth Edition. I will probably do a review of that on it's own. The DM screen is perfect, with the DM facing size containing all of the tables and information needed to run the game easily accessible.  

I'm not used to having cards included with a D&D set. This is not some weird Magic The Gather fusion set. Most are cheat sheets for the players, including combat review, magic items, spells effects, and NPC info. 

The game works with the idea that this boxed set will be opened right away and used. While labeled for 2-6 player, the sidekick and NPC rules will make playing with just two people a joy. These additions are well thought out. If you actually had 6 players, the sidekicks can be put away or added in to pump up the action. Meatshields, GO! 

The digital content is coupon for 50% of a digital version of the PHB, a digital version for Dragon of Icespire Peak adventure and supplementary content for the adventure. 

At $20 bucks, I felt it was a steal before I realized all of the digital content available. The price just dropped, making it an even better deal. 

Sunday, July 11, 2021

With a One-Two Punch

I'm working on revamping my offerings on DriverhruRPG. What I noticed is I don't list my house rules which changes a fair bit of how these products work . I also discovered I don't consistently apply my own house rules. 

One house rule I have is for unarmed attacks. A punch does 1-2 hp of damage. I hate the AD&D e1 unarmed combat system for grappling and simply don't' allow it. 

So here are my general rules for non-lethal combat for punching and kicking. Every character can throw a combo of punches, the classic one-two punch. Roll two d20 and each hit does a point of damage. If you roll at 20, your opponent makes a save vs. petrification to avoid going down for 1d4 rounds. 

If a punch downs a character by hit point damage, they get back up in 1d10 rounds. 

If a punch puts someone on the ground either by loss of hit points or a failed save, that damage is not recorded. It's a nod to not tracking too much stuff. When they get up, they simply have whatever hit points they had before being knocked down. 


When using B/X rules fighters, dwarves and elves can add strength bonuses to damage. No one less can. 

Thieves who meet the backstab requirements can throw a single sucker punch for 4 points of damage. There is no to hit bonus or damage bonuses. It is also a single attack roll making this all or nothing. 

When using AD&D e1 rules, not much changes. Rangers, Cavaliers, Barbarians and Paladins add their strength bonuses like fighters. Assassin's can sucker punch. Monks and Mystics can retroactive decide to use these rules AFTER the attack roll.

Kicks use the exact same rules but do 2 points of damage in a single roll and no one can perform more than one per round. 

Fighters, monks, mystics and assassins can make a coup de grace strike barehanded. No one else can. If someone attempts to finish off a downed creature or character barehanded, it will take 5 rounds. Generally, these types of finishers are chaotic, evil or both which the characters are aware of before they make the attempt. 

This will help me clean up some stuff for my character classes I am writing for DriveThruRPG. 

Friday, July 9, 2021

Looking at Updates - Wacky Character Types

For the past year I've been saying to myself, "Update my Swashbuckler Character Class" on DriveThruRPG. I'm working on that now. I have some refinements for that class, but I also want to convert this offering into a pack of wacky character classes. You've seen The Monomach, The Unicorn and The Hoodlum class here on These Old Games. I've play tested these characters plus two others The Veteran and The Space Marine. The Veteran is a 1970's era soldier, while The Space Marine is technological character. 

The Hoodlum, Space Marine and Veteran all have the exact same issue. They have firearms which are wildly different than anything else in B/X or AD&D. The original DMG features guns, but the rules are wildly unbalanced and totally wrong for a budding or growing characters. They also presuppose ownership of Boot Hill and a familiarity with those rules. 

They are rightly killing machines, but a good character that does not make. For B/X and it's "I go, you go" style of combat, one shot per combat round is for the most part fine. For AD&D where some characters get multiple attacks, guns get crazy. 

One way to address this is to control what the gun does. 

Of course, it should do damage. For B/X that's a flat 1d6. If you use variable damage or AD&D, then they do damage based on the weapon type. 1d6 for pistols and shotguns, and then 2d4 for rifles. I don't see a need to adjust anything for a laser pistol or rifle over a slug thrower. That's not much better than the melee weapons offered in each game and it shouldn't be better. 

When used as a pointy or blunt weapon, rifles and shotguns should do 1d6 points of damage and pistol whip should be like a punch with a +1 for having a chunk of steel in your hands. We are still right inline with standard melee weapons, except for the pistol which is about as useful as brick in melee.  

What I need to weigh is the fact that a select class of characters can fire more often than someone can swing a weapon. I would link that to level. A first level character is going to be more cautious about throwing away ammo when they can't get ammo. At higher levels, they will be freer with bullets because they have grown into someone who gained other skills. 

Tracking ammo is a beast so it really shouldn't be done. A soldier might be carrying up to 20 pounds of bullets, maybe more or less. That's like 150-300 shots. With prudence, a character should be able to wipe out a 75-150 Hit Dice worth of critters. That should land them in Class Title territory. 

To address ammo constraints, I would use the rule that if the player rolls a 1 they need to reload before they can shoot again. 

I would also provide a morale bonus to the player with the gun. The noise and fire may drive off monsters and men. I would impose a normal morale check the first time a gun is fired. This would occur for every combatant that has not seen a gun before, including friendlies. They might just want out. Other morale checks come at the normal triggers, first casualty then 1/2 of the force being lost. These should be done at a -1 and -2 respectively. They are going to bug out faster in the face of gunfire. This is an interesting dynamic because it robs the players of loot in some cases. 

Now, some people and creatures are not subject to this adjustment or even the first fire morale check. True fighters would be nonplussed by gunfire. Dragons and snakes, too. They are wary, but not threatened any more than any other type of attack. 

Magic users would need to make a saving throw vs petrification to continue casting with someone blasting around with a gun near them. They startle and need to control that reaction. If the spell was foiled by gunfire, the magic users doesn't lose it they just need to start over. 

What advantage does a gun give? They aren't better than melee weapons, but they do have some effect by forcing morale and shock. By removing the capabilities of a firearm from the device itself and moving those abilities to the character, you get a nice even approach. 

Check back for some of my next moves to get these characters published.