Tuesday, September 1, 2020

The Tek - August 2020

 My stats for DriveThruRPG were fine. 

 AD&D Character Sheet For Use with Unearthed Arcana: 4
 Compass Rose Inn Minisetting: 2
 Kobold's Folly: 1
 Swashbuckler Character Class for D&D and AD&D: 5
 These Old Games Presents: The Hex Pack: 5
 Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners: 7

August marked two years since Zero to Hero launched. 

AD&D Character Sheet For Use with Unearthed Arcana  113
Compass Rose Inn Minisetting: 152
Kobold's Folly: 140
Swashbuckler Character Class for D&D and AD&D: 104
These Old Games Presents: The Hex Pack:123
Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners: 279   

Unfortunately, spending was greater than DriveThruRPG income for August. :) I picked up some great books, though. 

In August, I got back up on the horse and brought my webstats back up. 

Google Analytics Pageviews - 1,693
Google Analytics Sessions - 1,034
Pageviews per Session - 1.63

I participated in #RPGADAY2020 which was big help. 

Monday, August 31, 2020

Devil Fish Freighter - Background Information and Crew Notes

Yet, another ship, this time based on the 1977 Traveller rule set. This is a 400 ton freighter. The Devil Fish is a converted warship. As a warship, it was horrible. It was meant for planetary bombardment, but it lacked the fuel pods shown on this refit. It had just enough fuel for 2 jumps and 2 hours of operations. You could end up trapped in a system you just bombarded. None of these ships saw combat, thankfully. 

This freighter version is outfitted with larger fuel tanks which is slightly more practical. The two long beams are where the missiles used to be. In the refit, these long tubes were simply sealed up. The crew calls them "Industrial Accident Site, Port and Starboard", because they lack the funds to put anything in there. It's a long open chamber, completely devoid of any safety features. There is a brass sign with the names of 5 crew members who have been killed and a longer list of names of people merely injured. 

While creating the files for this ship, I made a typo that made me think of an interesting crew feature.

The current crew likes to gamble and won big at the table. It turns out the other gambler didn't actually have all of the funds to support his bet. In lieu of cash, he had a guy who could get the crew name plates for the ship, matching leather jackets and jumpsuits plus some extra patches, complete with names and logos for the ship.

Unfortunately, the crew thought he was faking an accent but he wasn't. Instead of logos with a manta ray logo and the name "The Devil Fish" they got a green devil's head and the word "Devilish". 

Since the ship is registered as "The Devil Fish", mistakes have been made in the crew's favor. Such as escaping security and not paying for goods loaded on board. The name plates are visible only when the airlocks are closed. They objected at first, but once they realized what was happening, the merely hate these details with a passion. It doesn't stop them from using them to run hustles and scams.  

It's such a strange detail, it sounds like it could actually happen. 

Edited - to add the Military variant, with no tanks. 

#RPGADAY2020 31. Experience


Well, this year's RPGADAY was quite the experience. I got to revisit the forest where my kids and I camped and hiked. I now understand the connection between my love of roller coasters and D&D, and finally wrote down my table rules for magic weapons, in three parts. (Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.) 

It's been great. 

Saturday, August 29, 2020

#RPGADAY2020 30. Portal


My first blog was a Myst fan site. Nothing says portal more than Myst. Except for maybe the game ah... Portal, which I have never played. 

Anyway, I was fascinated by MYST, both the games and the books. I bought all the hard covers and read them to my kids. 

One day, my son Paul got into some trouble online. He must have been seven or eight at the time. He jumped on my Amazon account and ordered himself copies of all three Myst novels in softback. We were short on cash, as always and this was kind of a headache. 

At first, I thought it was a computer glitch because they were the same titles I had already ordered in hardcover. While my wife and I talked it over, he happily chimed in that he ordered them on my account. I told him we was welcome to have or read my copies any time he wanted and he didn't need to order new ones. 

He said, "Dad, they're linking books," and held up up soft covers next to the full sized novels. 

My wife was baffled by this statement, so I had to show her this video from the game.  

I can't say she understood, but she at least understood our son was reading. And from that year forward, we struggled to find him enough books to read. He was consuming books almost weekly. Myst was his portal into fantasy and reading. 

When I was a child, I felt the same way when I saw the D&D cartoon. Yet another portal. 

I love both D&D and roller coasters and never made the connection until this prompt. 

Friday, August 28, 2020

#RPGADAY2020 29. Ride


I play a mash up of BX and AD&D. Both systems introduced the idea of skills, but other than a vague mention, did not elaborate. In BX and AD&D there was the idea that characters sometimes came from a different background and would have some of the abilities a professional, skilled laborer. Exactly how that worked was unclear. AD&D did have a list of professional hirelings, but didn't give any statistics. Unearthed Arcana brought in a fleshed out version of weapon proficiency and mastery, but didn't spell that out. 

In order to correct that for my campaigns, I wrote a book called "Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners" which provides over 50 different professional "classes" you can use with characters. 

Obviously, I have spent a lot of time thinking about what characters can and can't do. However, I never meant to create or even utilize campaign specific skills. For example, ride or swim. 

A campaign takes place with in a particular setting and that setting needs to have some default skills. Like ride. All characters know how to do it, just like swimming. Skills should be an enhancement, not a detriment. An ability to do more, not less. Now, if my setting was in space, perhaps characters would not know how to swim or ride ride a horse. That makes sense, but then again, I wouldn't expose the party to a horse ride by a lake because they're astronauts.

But if they are crew of the Firefly, obviously they know how to ride a horse through water while wearing a space suit. Skills like ride should always be an enhancement, something creative and interesting that makes the session "different", while not posing a barrier to play. 

I think where this gets gummed up is when a skill is presented as a "get out of puzzle" event. Yes, skills solve problems but shouldn't ever provide a dice roll to get out of a particular situation. That is "gotcha gaming" and I dislike that style of play. (Click here to listen to my rant against Tomb of Horrors, the ultimate gotcha gaming experience.) 

World building is hard, sometimes you have to give the players a free ride, as dictated by the setting. It only makes sense. 

Thursday, August 27, 2020

#RPGADAY2020 28. Close - 14 Classic Movies Ads?

Back in January, I picked up a bunch of sponsors for ads. Since I'm doing #RPGADAY2020 and item 28 is close, this a good place for these Rakuten Ads. Rakuten is an advertising company that matches companies with bloggers. I can't say it's worked out for me, so this post is to close out this idea. No clicks, no more Alibris ads. 

(However, if your blog is amendable, it's not a bad option to check out.)

When in doubt, make a list. So, here are 14 old movies that have have influence my game play. All images lead to alibris.com where the films can be purchased, usually on DVD. Otherwise just enjoy the images, pretend the links aren't there. 

To tie back to "close", unless this format of ads works, I'm going to close the book on Alibris. 

The Lion in Winter (1968)

It's Christmas in the royal household and things are turbulent.  Peter O'Toole as Henry II, Katharine Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitaine and Anthony Hopkins in his first major role as Richard the Lionheart. 

RPG tie in Ranking: ★★★ for political intrigue and beautiful costumes. 


Brigadoon (1954)

Tommy Albright's (Gene Kelly) love for Cyd Charisse as Fiona Maclaren breaks a magic spell. Based on the 1947 play. 

RPG Tie in Rating: ★★★★★ for star crossed lovers, a magical setting in a modern time. Easily 5 stars for the quick-witted wordplay. There is not a bit of swearing, but man, the punches land fast and hard. Equally valid for the 1966 production, too. 

Cromwell (1970)

RPG tie in Ranking: ★ or ★★★★, depending. The film is beautifully acted with Harris, Sir Alec Guinness and so many others. The costumes are glorious, the action epic. But for a film that boasts 10 years of research, there is a lot wrong here. 

Princess Bride (1987)

RPG Tie in Rating: ★★★★★

"Have fun storming the castle!" 'Nuf said. 

Two Mules for Sister Sara (1970)

RPG Tie in Rating: ★★★. One reluctant hero, one reluctant nun. Every story arc gets a double beat ending. It also runs like the Three Outlaw Samurai (below), where the non-hero backs up the little guy for the win.  

The Taming of the Shrew (1965)

RPG Tie in Rating: ★★★★ Who doesn't want to be a princess? Katharina, that's who. Just like Brigadoon, the wordplay is incredibly funny. If you need a snappy retort, take notes from this film. It works because it was a written by the Bard. 

The Three Outlaw Samurai (1964)

RPG Tie in Rating: ★★★★★ Ronin vs. Samurai, heroes backing up the little guy for the win.  

The Birds (1963)

RPG Tie in Rating: ★★★★ This is the only Horror film on the list. This is a classic world gone wrong story with lots of action and tension. 

Mutiny on the Bounty (1962)

RPG Tie in Rating: ★ Only for people who want to fall in love with the setting, not the story or players. This was a box office bomb, but still packs a punch with scenery-porn.

Magnificent Seven (1960)

RPG Tie in Rating: ★★★★★ A different take on mercenaries. Instead of the scrappy villagers fighting back, the scrappy mercenaries fight and lose for a higher cause. 

Sleeping Beauty (1959)

RPG Tie in Rating: ★★ This one is an off beat selection, but I think that the two kingdoms in this story reflect the Heptarchy era of England. There is no world shattering threats here, its a low level dust up between angry and confused parties. Everything doesn't have to be Big, BIG, BIG!

The Ghost and Mrs Muir (1947) 

RPG Tie in Rating: ★★ Another quirky pick, an ageless story of love and loss. Not entirely amendable to RPG play, but I could see a party encountering these people on their adventures. It'd help if you could get Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison to reprise their roles at the table. 

Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)   

RPG Tie in Rating: ★★★★★ Ah, that smile. Errol Flynn as Robin Hood is trope all on it's own. This film is from a era when every special effect was a practical shot, usually with something dangerous flung at an actor. 

This one has created a whole genre of films, from The Court Jest to Men in Tights, all of which are classics on their own. Even the Kevin Costner version. 

Monty Python and The Holy Grail (1975)

RPG Tie in Rating: ★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★

If you play a game and this doesn't come up, you're doing something wrong. 

In closing, I would like to thank for for participating in the possible cessation of some types of ads on this site. 

#RPGADAY2020 27. Favour


I love mystery and exploration. It appears in all of my games, no matter the genre. It probably goes back to being a kid and raiding my parent's LP collection. 

I would pour over records and try to guess if it was Mom's or Dad's. If it was show tunes or sound tracks or classic, it was my Dad's. If it was Iron Butterfly or Jefferson Airplane, it was Mom's. 

But one record threw me for a loop. "Every Good Boy Deserves Favour" by the Moody Blues. Was it Mom's or Dad's? Why did with have two copies?

It didn't trouble me too much as my parents let me listen to it over and over again. They had a lot of great music which rubbed off on me. 

The song, Procession was a clue, but one I could not decipher until 2001, 30 years after it was released. In August, 2001, my wife and I got married and finally moved into together. Anyway, we moved into a tiny apartment and didn't really didn't step foot outside until January of 2002. 

9-11 happened. I was working non-stop at Mattel, Kitty worked nights at the hospital. A December snow storm shut us up for weeks.  

Dec 2001. This picture was taken from our upstairs apartment. It doesn't look too bad
but the weight of the snow collapsed the porch roof and metal awings trapping us inside. 

My wife and I really got to know each other on a couple of different levels. One of those was through music. 

We both love music and our combined CD collection was over 1,000 discs. There was only one duplicate: Pink Floyd's "The Division Bell". 

This answered the question of who owned "Every Good Boy Deserves Favour". Both Mom and Dad. That was their duplicate CD, in vinyl form. 

While this is supposed to a post about games, I find there is an incredible parallel between "Every Good Boy Deserves Favour" and "The Division Bell". A lot of the same ideas run through both of them. Communication, destruction, feedback, discourse, discovery, creation, sharing. 

I've never played both albums back to back, but each favours these ideals. And they mirror my main themes and goals of game play. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

#RPGADAY2020 26. Strange


I love the unexpected, so strange is hard coded into to my game play. 

I like to introduce mini-games and new concepts into my campaigns. I have missile fire procedures which are stolen right from Car Wars. I have a system of rules to set up weaponless chases, a la Indiana Jones. And silver is always magical

Do you have any strange things going on in your games? Let me know in the comments.