Saturday, July 24, 2021
Sunday, July 18, 2021
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.
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
Title: This Time of Darkness
Author: H. M. Hoover
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
Title: Dungeons and Dragons Essentials Boxed Set
Rule Set: D&D e5
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
Friday, July 9, 2021
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.
Thursday, July 8, 2021
Author: Bill Webb
Rule Set: D&D e5
Number of characters: 4-6 characters
Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Wednesday, July 7, 2021
I stumble across some cool stuff this week and wanted to share.
First up, Ruins of Murkhill. This is a group of players with the mission statement:
"Original Dungeons & Dragons the Old-School way. We are here to discuss ALL OLD SCHOOL table top role-playing games with a focus on OD&D; however, we also discuss Classic D&D and other TSR games and non-TSR games, Arduin, Gamma World, Metamorphosis Alpha, Retro Games; Clones, Retro Clones, Emulations and Old School inspired games, Classic Traveller and other Science Fiction games."
I've jumped right into the forum and have been loving it.
You'd be hard pressed to find a better resource for all things old cool gaming. I purchased a book, The Castle Guide from an offering in the forum. This week, it was my leading review post.wiki, it's a massive RSS feed of old school blogs. You need to check this one out and if you're blog doesn't appear on the list, get it added.
In other news, the users of DriveThruRPG went crazy and download many copies of my offerings, Kobold's Folly and the AD&D Character Sheet for Unearthed Arcana... at full retail price. I am extremely grateful to you guys. All of my titles are Pay What You Want, so this was amazing.
To close it out with an off note, check out The Revolution's podcast. It's like someone doing read at you or to you. Mike Duncan has a new book, Lafayette, Hero of Two Worlds coming out. He's kindly taken the time to read Chapter 4 as a preview on his podcast. This is part where the story gets good, Lafayette is shipwrecked on arrival to American and makes some interestings choices on the way to Philadelphia.
Sunday, July 4, 2021
Editor: William W. Connors
Pages: 128 pages
Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Saturday, July 3, 2021
Publisher: Marvel Studios
Rating: 1 of 5 stars.
Yeah, I review movies now.
Thor is my all time favorite Avenger. A Thor comic book was the first I ever bought. My favorite superhero in general is Beta Ray Bill, who is just a different sort of Thor. So it is with great shame that I have to admit Thor is one of the worst films in the MCU. Not the bottom, but close to it.
But because of this film, this is what I do on Wednesday.
And here lies the rub.
Everything wrong with Thor has nothing to do with the story, the production values, or the actors. The name is wrong. It should have been called Loki. For that one little change, I would give this exact same film, 4 or 5 stars.
The title is the only problem. It's not about Thor at all. It's about Loki. Where titular hero should be the one who grows, he does not. He frozen throughout the film. In fact, not only Thor not the protagonist, he's not even Thor for most of the film. Thor is full of great things and of himself. Which does not make a good film or character.
A character needs to be brought to life by more than the light of the projector. In this movie, who's origin story do we get?
Loki's, right from the first 10-15 minutes.
When Odin is preparing his children to be king, who doesn't want to be a childish warlord and who wants to be a ruler? Loki. You can see even young Loki knows better than Thor how to deal with people. You don't go around picking fights, even when you have an excuse.
Who had flaws to be corrected? Thor who stands before the assembled court of Odin or Loki who is in Thor's shadow? Well, Loki. Thor doesn't realize that his large ham behavior is not valued by Odin.
But Loki's flaws are bigger. The disapproval that Odin has for Thor is interpreted by Loki to extend to himself. He is a bit of the definition of a narcissist, but had a few atypical traits such is self-reflection. Additionally, you can see that Loki knows his father is not entirely comfortable giving his own child, his first born the title of heir-apparent. Of course, Loki being Loki thinks he isn't even in the running. He is overwhelmed by Odin's disdain and worry.
Loki evolves, Loki changes. Thor does not. Sure, Jane and Thor had a love story, which is as hamfisted as Thor is. There really seems to be no chemistry between the characters. He also takes a moment to assume a role of protector and guardian to the townspeople, but even that seems contrived.
However, Loki's defense of his people is more nuanced. He becomes more like Thor, doing things that make him feel good in the moment as opposed to actually being good or wise. In the end, Loki was in it for the win, which by his own standard, he did. He crushed every obstacle in his path including Thor and Odin. Yes, it appears that he dies in the end, but that is exactly how a narcissist behaves. He suffered nothing and left everyone else wondering "what next?" And wham! Does he delivery.
It's why Loki an anti-hero as opposed to villain and why Thor makes a lousy hero in this film.
You can pick up the DVD at Amazon, which funds this site.
Or you can do the better thing and get a Disney Plus subscription, which is just free advice. Personally, I have the bundle with Hulu and ESPN which is about the same as buying a DVD a month.
Friday, July 2, 2021
In June, my DriveThruRPG downloads suffered a slump. It's really time to make updates and changes or write another book, which I already knew.
AD&D Character Sheet For Use with Unearthed Arcana: 1
Compass Rose Inn Minisetting: 0
Kobold's Folly: 0
Swashbuckler Character Class for D&D and AD&D: 4
These Old Games Presents: The Hex Pack: 1
Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners: 0
Webstats were "blah!". I shrank a bit, but had a huge pickup mid-month.
Google Analytics Pageviews - 1,222
Google Analytics Sessions - 720
Pageviews per Session - 1.69
My reviews have slacked off, but at this point, I am still ahead of schedule.
I am probably going to end The Tek series, with a solid 3 years of data. This is July 1, 2019 to current.
Google Analytics Pageviews - 28,310 (25 reads a day, or 786 a month)
Google Analytics Sessions - 18,227
Pageviews per Session - 1.55
To round it out, here are downloads numbers for the same period:
AD&D Character Sheet For Use with Unearthed Arcana: 97
Compass Rose Inn Minisetting: 167
Kobold's Folly: 154
Swashbuckler Character Class for D&D and AD&D: 120
These Old Games Presents: The Hex Pack: 151
Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners: 115