Sunday, June 30, 2019

52 Weeks of Magic - Week 27 - The Arclight Bag

The Arclight Bag is a magical quiver that imparts magic to otherwise mundane arrows and bolts. The effects are based on the action of the user.

If the user is targeting a foe, firing an arrow from this quiver will cause the struck target and the firer to light up as if they were under the effect of Faerie Fire spell. Additionally, the firer is protected by a shield spell. Only the target of the arrow is entitled to a saving throw. The shooter must hit the target for the effect to start. If he or she misses, no one receives any magical effects. Any number of arrows can be empowered in this way, but striking a single target numerous times provides no additional bonuses.

The quiver will also imbue one arrow per hour with the ability to glow while in flight and "explode" like a flare when fired upwards. The flare will like the area like a Light spell for up to 3 rounds. The firer will also be surrounded with the effects of the Faerie Fire spell. This is a rescue option. In this case, the arrow is completely transformed into light at the apex of it's flight.

This usage cannot cause damage to an enemy. If this is attempted in doors, the "explosion" will light the room for 3 rounds. It does not get brighter for being inside. It cannot be used to blind characters or creatures, unless the Light spell would also cause this effect.

The arrows from the quiver do not have a bonus to hit, but the effects of Faerie Fire can modify an attack roll.

While this is described as a quiver, other objects could have this effect. For example, a Roman shield is meant to hold a handful of darts and could be a source of the Arclight effect, as could a brace of knives or a case for bolts.


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
The Arclight Bag



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. 

Welcome to The Cat's Old Apartment

Many years ago, I rented an apartment in West Seneca. It was far too expensive and way too small. While it wasn't awful, it was really marginal. It had a kitchen, living room, two bedrooms, a bathroom and a sitting area in an enclosed porch. The porch looked out on to the back of another house, so I didn't use it.

It was all unremarkable until I bought a cat. I hated the place but boy did that cat love the old apartment.

The first remarkable thing that happen was the cat could walk into rooms and vanish. She was Siamese so she was pretty vocal, even when not visible. Once she vanished, I could hear her but never find her until she chose to reappear. It was baffling. After a while, I got used to it.

One day while washing dishes, I opened a cupboard. The cupboard was annoying, it was a massive wooden structure 2-3 feet deep, yet opening the doors revealed that there was only about 12 inches of space to put things. I had assumed that the pipework was taking up the rest of the space. In any event, the cat entered the bottom cupboard. I bent over to grab her and guess what?

She wasn't there. I opened all of the cupboards and drawers as if there was a chance I was mistaken about her entering the only open door. I could hear her meowing, happily, but no cat in sight.

Then I heard it. Swish, clank. Meow! Swish, swish, clank! Meow.

I almost bolted from the apartment.

Instead, I grabbed a chair, a cup of coffee and sat down. I could hear the cat moving, sometimes from within the cupboard. But other times, the sound was coming from the bathroom or the bedroom, which was on the other side of the wall. Her movements were punctuated with that odd swish-clank! noise.

Three cups of coffee later, the cat reappeared from the cupboard I saw her enter. I noticed a small hole in the back of the cupboard, just big enough for a determined cat to enter. On closer inspection, I noticed many small holes, often no more than an inch or two in diameter in the back of each cupboard. Very odd.

The next day, I armed myself with a flashlight, paper, pencil and a ruler. A map like the one below was the result. This map is not to scale, it is more a schematic and from memory.


The first thing I noticed when mapping the old apartment was that if a door could open, it would often block another doorway. Annoying. Item 2, room dimensions didn't make sense relative to the exterior size of the house. And the cupboard was disturbingly disproportional to the room and interior storage space.

There was obviously a space behind it. Looking in the various holes revealed something disquieting. There were ropes, chains and pieces of cloth.

If I was the bolting kind, I would have been gone at this point.

With a little experimentation, I was able to determine the function of this odd cupboard. It was physically dominating in the room, obviously hiding a space behind it. Aside from the small holes, no bigger than a couple of inches, there were no larger openings. Nothing on the walls behind it nor the attic above or the apartment below. Violently opening or closing the cupboard doors caused air to enter the holes and made the fabric, ropes and chains swing noisily. It was meant to distract.

But distract from what?

In my bedroom, the cat had taken a liking to the closet. It turns out there was a secret passage way from the closet of one bedroom to the closet of the other bedroom. It was about 7 feet long. In bedroom two, there was an odd grill, which looked like a heater vent. Except, there was no central heat in this apartment. I had a gas heater awkwardly placed in the kitchen, nearly blocking bedroom 2's doorway. It turns out this grate could be pushed upwards to allow access to the bathroom.

In the bathroom, across from this grate was an inset shelf, no more than 3 inches deep. Pushing it allowed access to the large space labeled with a question mark. This area was about 10 by 10 and painted jet black. Or so it seemed. I entered the area without a light and as my eyes adapted, I noticed the shapes standing along the wall. And they were looking at me.

This time I did bolt.

When I worked up the courage to reenter the apartment, the cat was happily playing in this space so I had to go back in there. With a baseball bat and a very bright flashlight.

Someone had painted the walls with odd blue, pink, purple and mauve lines. They were not even and sometimes broken lines. At about head level, there were white ovals. Only the floor and ceiling were actually black. These shapes looked like people standing against the wall. How creepy.

In this space, I noticed two ladders. One went up and one went down. One lead to the basement and another lead upwards to a crawl space. It was horribly filthy and the wooden catwalk was only about 18 inches wide. I decided not to try my luck.

Later that evening, while sitting in the living room, I took a good look at the old fireplace. It had been sealed up years ago and was now a rather small but nice bookshelf. That matched the shelf in the bathroom. I pushed it and it slid back to reveal another space.

This area was a crawlspace with a ladder to one side, again with the odd paint job, which also covered a window. When a window's glass is painted over, the creep factor climbs by 101. I climbed up the ladder and noticed the same 18" crawlway leading back to the bathroom. This was no an attic of any kind, it was a catwalk above the ceilings. I could see that the area above the cupboard was sealed up with thick wood planks. Some odd bumps might have been the chains and ropes.

I have no idea what all of this was for. Maybe someday I will tell what my landlady said about the apartment and my friend's theories. But not at night. I don't want to think about it.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Drawing from the Past

This week, artwork has been on my mind. In July, I am going to challenge myself to learn to draw hands and feet. Those are tough subjects, especially if you have little skill. If only I drew more, I would be a better artist.

For inspiration in this self-challenge, I found a book Drawing for Printers by Ernest Knaufft. It was published in 1899 and is available at Gutenberg. It is a treatise printers, not a how to book. Since I also like writing, it may be beneficial for a couple of purposes.


At the very least for publishers of Old School Gaming products, this sort of book captures the style of early game publishers. If you would like a more modern look at publish games, check out A Brief Study of TSR Book Design by Kevin Crawford. I did a review of it about a year ago. I wish I had found it before I started developing my BD&D/AD&D supplement, Zero to Hero


Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Harpoon II Review for Macintosh OS 9

Title: Harpoon II
OS: Mac OS 9, 64k and Power PowerPC plus Windows.
Year: 1994
Producer: Three-Sixty Pacific
Setting: Combat Simulation
Number of players: 1
Rating: ★★★★★

One of my favorite games from the 1990's is Harpoon II, by Three-Sixty Pacific. 



If you've ever played Civilization and said, "Hmmm... I wish there were more micromanagement in this game..." then Harpoon is the series for you. The initial offerings for the series were simple 2d images of a simulated radar screen, more recent updates use 3d graphics. Personally, I like to the simple 2d. More natural for a simulation, in my mind. 

The game presents a series of scenarios, each of which allows you select your level of realism, control and side. The scenarios hop around the global from Greenland to Antarctica. Each force has specific victory conditions and you receive a ranking in for each condition.

When the game opens, you have a strategic map and a tactical map. You can create as many as you like. You can create formations and CAP patrols, activate ECM/Radar/Com, determine speed and altitude/depth, and a myriad of other functions for each unit. The group command allows you to keep assets together and a waypoint editor allows you to send them off to battle. Or you can leave it the AI. 

Never leave stuff to AI, it isn't that bright. One of the limitations of the game is that the AI only deals with certain parameters, the objectives and can be faked out far too easily. Be careful as you can easily issue orders that will result in losses for stupid reasons, such as planes running out of gas or subs tooling up to a battleship on the surface. The AI happily does that to your opponent.

One of the tricks to this is the time compression settings. You can slow things to a crawl or even pause, then leap to real time or faster to get to the meat of the action. By slowing moments before an important event happens, you can save, proceed to the event and if you don't get the desired result, quit and reopen the game for another chance.
All and all, Harpoon II is very much a tabletop counter game perfectly adapted for the computer. If you like Avalon Hill games, you'll love Harpoon II. It works under Mac and Windows and best of all it's always willing to play with you. 

As this product and equipment ages, I have noticed some bugs. I have a Performa 475 which runs the game very slowly, as it did back in 1994 with no issues. The Performa has OS 7.5.3 and 32 MB of memory, which is about the most it can have. When running the software on a G4, 450 mhz sawtooth, with 512 mb of memory under 9.2, the program hangs on launch. I've tried every solution that comes to mind to fix this but nothing works. One work-a-round is opening a saved game, which allows you to exit that scenario and pick another. There is something about the video file that launches on start up. 

This brings to mind another funny thing about Harpoon II. On a Mac, the Harpoon II folder has a folder called resources, which contains videos used at various points in the game. If you can match the size and name of the old video, you can replace it with something else. Anything else. 

I seem to recall using movie clips at one point...

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.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Epsilon Indi in Fiction - A World Building Exercise

In my latest work, so far unnamed, the heroes are bound for the Eighth Planet. The ship's AI has named this planet Urbian-Adams for the two people who "helped" discovery Neptune, Sol's eight's planet. The ship's AI is snarky as hell. Urbain Jean Joseph Le Verrier cranked some heavy math to pinpoint the planet for French observers, while John Couch Adams seems to have sent British observers on a wild goose chase. It was expedient at the time to make them co-discovers, but it turns out there was a lot of horse trading going on. There is a fascinating reading here about what really happened.


This is a hard sci-fi story, so the heroes are outbound from habitable worlds so that I don't have to describe them... yet. Except the question came up on MeWe.

So I need some scale here. Pales and Salus are huge brown dwarfs orbit each other. They are 1460 AU from Epsilon Indi and they orbit each other at a distance of 2.1 AU. They have no anlog in our solar system.

Kawal is named for 2060 Chiron's discover, Charles Kawal. This is a tiny body between Saturn and Uranus and it is classified as a small body and a comet. The ship's AI likes trivia. Additionally, the ship has been to Kawal before. It is fairly old.

Urbian-Adams is very like Neptune, while Minerva and Kawal are like Rhea and Dione. These planets are smaller than our moon and a mix of ice and rock. As mentioned before, there have been a manned mission to both planets.

Iuno Regina is a near Jupiter analog. It orbits much further from the star than our Jupiter. Either it is smaller than Jupiter and orbits at about 9 AU (like Saturn) or is more massive than Jupiter and orbits between 10-20 AU. I have selected the first, smaller mass planet.

Around this planet is Bacchus, which is one of many moons. Bacchus has a dense atmosphere and some sort of liquid on the surface. It is very much like Titan, which would be a good place for humans to have small outposts. There is no life, despite having mud and liquids on the surface. Vera memories take place here.

The trouble spot is Terra Mater. It is just .6 AU from the star. It does have an Earth-like atmosphere, called "The Stuff". Terra is much smaller than Earth, about 85% of Earth's radius but is far more dense. "The Stuff" is largely nitrogen, CO2 and O2. It is not particular dangerous, but also not breathable. Life on the planet has been stuck at Devonian level, where plants first took to the land and fish ruled the sea.

So what is the problem? First, from a story teller's point of view, I have a planet named Terra (Mater) and character named Terra. I need to change that. Second, if Terra Mater is just .6 AU from the Epsilon Indi, I need to cram 3 other planets inside that orbit. This means Apollo and Vulcan must be very low mass and close to the star. No more than 0.15 for Apollo. Neither is as big as Titan.

Duellona is a hell like world at about .25 AU. There are two problems with it. This is too hot and it is in a belt of asteroids. This belt of asteroids is far less dense than our solar system's asteroid belt, but a Venus sized planet sharing orbits with big rocks is not good. In the time line of the story, it known before the colony left Earth. It was visualized by a scout craft and all seemed well. At some point between the flyby and the colonists arrival, it was clobbered by a very large object, maybe several. The whole surface is a magma sea. The colonists have deliberately sent several probes to their doom there. Duellona is interesting but deadly. It is the most telescopically observed object in the solar system, merely for being striking.

The colonists on Terra Mater arrived by massive ion ships. As a consequence of not being able to land on the surface of the Terra and the danger of space rocks from Duellona, the colonists have decommissioned their ships' engines and power plants on any old rock that looks like it could be a danger to the colony. These rocks have been moved to Trojan orbits around Terra.

I figured I would share this world building as it won't appear in my story and will go to waste. The primary purpose of this exercise was character building, which meant limiting the scope of the setting. The heroes are stuck, but not trapped on a single ship going to a planet with no surface. This is the stuff of character building.

As a result of this world building, I have significantly altered my characters, "Terra" in particular. She is now named "Keira" and will feature more prominently in Vera's story.

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.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Solar System files - Background Information on Unnamed Project

I think I have crossed over to the point where my unnamed project is going to need a name. Its writing itself.

The characters are colonists of the Epsilon Indi system. I collected some data on this solar system, and it does seem to be a real solar system with planets and stuff. Pretty interesting, but also complex.

As of right now, Epsilon Indi has 3 known objects in orbit. There are a pair of brown dwarfs at 1460 AU from the star and hints that a Jupiter-like planet orbits the star. The most recent data indicates this Jupiter Analog is between 8.5 and 16 or 17 AU from its host star.

Heaven help me if they discover more companions to this star, because I went and invented a bunch of my own.

This is a chart of my fictional system:

This chart obviously has no scale and is wildly different than the actual system. I decided that the colonists have named the planets after Roman gods, specifically from the list Di selecti by Varro. The brown dwarfs are named after Sabine gods, as Varro was of Sabine descent. This has created an in-universe problem where if the colonies wish to continue the practice, they must reuse some names of the Earth's Solar System. That would be confusing, so the naming process stopped at the seventh planet. 

The characters are bound for the eighth unnamed planet. Their ship's AI thinks that the humans are being dumb and cheekily names the eighth and ninth planets Urbian-Adams and Kawal, for astronomers responsible for discoveries in our Solar System. It wouldn't do to have an adventure around an unnamed planet. 

The system is full of tiny planets, only Iuno Regina, the Jupiter Analog and Urbian-Adams are bigger than Earth. The smaller bodies in grey are airless. The blue body is Terra Mater. It has a earth-like atmosphere, made up of CO2 and nitrogen. There is a small moon, Bacchus which has a very dense nitrogen based atmosphere at a higher pressure than Earth's. 

If you would like to use this template for your writing or your games, feel free to download the Google Drawing from my drive. Or in plain text, https://drive.google.com/open?id=1S-RyAjCq3LRwKvT0kv-GAH20mSdDRqzZWrersYf69S8 

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. 


Saturday, June 15, 2019

What To Do With My Summer...

No vacation is in the stars, this summer break. So it's time to read.

I picked up a copy of Forge of God by Greg Bear. I love his characters, they are rather plain and unexceptional, even when he tells the reader they are exceptional. It's the big ideas that drive his books.


Over the summer, I plan on populating that weblog of choice websites to read. I have a ton of books to get through over the summer, but reading blogs really helps me connect with the "here and now", even if it is someone else's "here and now". I love seeing other perspectives on life and writing.

First up is Michael K. Ferrante's I'm You From The Future! Mr. Ferrante's is a budding hard science fiction writer, he is always full of great ideas and new perspectives. The first selection of his that I have read is "Introducing Smitty". It is one part character study and another part establishing shot. The main upshot of the piece is Mr. Ferrante's study of the concept of a church-like entity to distribute live extending processes to all, in an equitable fashion.

If this doesn't scream "here and now", what does?

Let me know what's on your summer reading list in the comments below or follow me on MeWe.

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.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Three Character Study - Moral Creatures

This document was written as 3 character study, where 2 of the characters are children. The main intent was to create a realistic seeming conversation including children. I did not want idiots or wunderkind. I think I succeeded, but in free writing, created a rather dark story.

The secondary intent of this post was to imbed a Google doc into a blogger post, as can be done with Google sites. It's a bit tricky, but I think I nailed it down. 

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.