Sunday, July 31, 2016

RPGaDay2016 - 1 - Real dice, dice app or diceless? How do you prefer to roll?

Real dice.
Because the bones tell everything....

There is just something visceral, primal, down-right bone through the nose beautiful about rolling dice for a game. Your hands are the last thing to touch the dice before they hit the table so the number that comes up is a test of your soul. It is not the dice but your god-given luck which rolls out before you.

And if that strikes you like a load of hogwash there is still something to be said for the tangibility of the act, the sound dice make on the table. Even those dice roller apps which show the dice in motion and provide a clatter to their landing tend to leave me cold. I could see their value for generating random numbers of odd values, or picking between one of seven glyphs. It might even be nice to create an app which just skips the numbers altogether and goes straight to the result, like a Magic-8-Ball in digital form.

But it's hard to get past the distance which any computer interface puts between you and the game at hand. Maybe if I ever get around to buying a tablet computer I will begin to see things differently.

Diceless gaming? Like Amber? Maybe I could get used to it, but the idea doesn't thrill me. It feels as if it would lend itself to far too much strategizing, far too much time spent guessing what your opponents are capable and how that matches up to what you are capable of - something that dice based RPGs are bad enough about. You would probably need a minute timer to force people to make their move without wasting the whole night on it.

On an interesting side note, as far as I know a computer cannot generate a random number. Instead the machine plucks a number from the time on its internal clock in milliseconds when the request for a random number is made. This means that - you - are the rand seed in the sequence of commands which ultimately generates a random number. When you click your mouse on that random number roller app, you still might as well be Queequeg casting bones on the deck of the Pequod.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Fight! Fight! Fight!

I finally sat down and tapped out the sample combat section for the Red EFT Player's Handbook. Basically what is written is what is being said. What is in the parentheses is what is happening with the rules to make it happen. Of course, this is the sample encounter from a book which explains what things like Acts mean so for most of this you're just going to have to guess.

A few hints....

Characters have hit points and pow points. Most of the time they take temporary/heroic damage, other times they take more permanent wound damage. When the dice are rolled and 3d6 is followed by 4 6 5 - each number is a separate die roll. With actions the best number rolled determines the strength of the action (4 6 5 = strength of 6 ) which in turn determines its success. In combat success controls the number of damage dice rolled. If the weapon has a damage die of d8 then:

9 - 10 = Incredible: 4d8
7 - 8 = Great: 3d8
5 - 6 = Normal: 2d8
4 = Little: 1d8
3 = Fail: no damage
2 = Terrible Fail: minor screw up.
1 = Critical Fail: major screw up.

Two things the Red EFT has which you won't find in many games is a lack of an initiative system (whoever steps up to the plate and rolls first goes first) and the option to dodge, parry, or counter a blow after being hit but before recording the damage. It does contain miniatures rules but these can be ignored and in this example are being ignored. Ignoring rules you don't want to use is an established feature of the game.

The main characters are:

Ralph Cabbagehammer - Dwarven Rogue.

Grudge Orcslayer - Dwarven Warrior.

Jouicelle Junirsdottir - Half-Giant Ranger.

Zitto - York Illusionist.

A York is a small halfling-sized piglet-like creature. If the Orc embodies everything which is mean and ugly and nasty about a hog (and in this world they all have pig snouts), the York is everything about a pig which is noble, intelligent and beautiful. Unfortunately, York are also quite tasty which makes them more than a little bit paranoid.

Big Gnarly Sample Battle

Our intrepid adventurers continue their run through the warlock's castle and bust open a door on a room full of orcs. Eight to be exact. For this example there are three players. Jackie is the GM. Eric and Steve are the game's two players. Eric is running Jouicelle and Zitto. Steve is running Ralph Cabbagehammer and Grudge Orcslayer.

GM: Ralph busts down the door to stumble in on a small feasting room. Inside are eight orcs gobbling down some greasy mutton. Their green fringed hog snouts wiggle at a smell, something they don't like and that something is you.

Eric: Orcs! Gaaaaah! Zitto hides behind Jouicelle, clinging to one of her legs. Jouicelle draws back her bow.

Steve: Grudge really hates orcs. It's in his name, so Ralph jumps on him and tries to hold him back. He shouts out, “We don't want any trouble. We're just passing through.”

GM: The orcs don't answer you, but you do hear the shiiiing! of numerous jagged edged broad swords being drawn from their scabbards.

Steve: Then let slip the dogs of war. Ralph shakes his head and lets go of Grudge who runs up and plants his axe in the head of the first orc he can find (while saying this Steve adds 3 acts to Grudge's act bar for his axe attack).

GM: He's running?

Steve: (Steve remembers that running doubles movement speed but costs 1 act) Does he need to?

GM: No, not necessarily.

Steve: Okay, he strides up to the nearest orc and plants his axe in his skull.

GM: Alright, give me a hit roll.

Steve: (Grudge's Great Axe attack has a hit roll of 3d10. He rolls 9 8 5). Strength of 9! That's 4d10 for damage (Steve picks up a ten-sider, rolls a 7 and multiplies it by 4) 28 points of sharp damage.

GM: Jeeze-louise! (The orcs have 10 hp each. The orc's full AC of 8 reduces the damage to 20 and the rest obliterates the orc. Jackie doesn't bother with a Save Vs Death check, not for monsters). With one foul swoop you just hacked that orc in half, slicing it right down the middle. The two orcs standing to either side of him are aghast, but not so much that it keeps them from swinging their swords at you.

Steve: Bring it on!!!!

Eric: Before they can do that, Jouicelle shoots an arrow at one of them. (Eric adds 3 acts to Jouicelle's act bar).

GM: What's your range?

Eric: r20.

GM: Oh yeah, no problem. It's not a big room.

Eric: (Jouicelle's bow has a hit roll of 1d10 and rolls an 8). A great shot! Doing 3d6 for damage (Eric picks up three d6's and rolls 5 5 2). That's 12 points sharp. Oh and wait! Jouicelle's a large half-giant so multiply by 1.5? That's 18 sharp.

GM: (The orc's Full AC of 8 reduces the damage to 10 points which is just enough to take the orc out) A javelin sized arrow goes thunk into the orc's chest flipping him backwards over the table behind him. He won't be giving you any trouble.

The other orc swings at Grudge (Jackie marks an attack on the orc's mini-sheet, picks up 2d6 and rolls 1 1). Critical Fail! Let's see um (Jackie tries to think of some interesting disaster). He swings and his sword. It whizzes way over Grudge's head as he steps in a spilled puddle of gravy and slips off his feet. The sword shoots straight up and sticks in the ceiling. Thwang-wang-wang-wang! A ceiling which is made of wood, by the way.

Steve: So how many orcs are left?

GM: Four. One of them is on the ground and without his sword. And another is way off to the side. This one has just picked up a cleaver and flung it at Jouicelle. And since you are a Large target he is going to gain a die on that strike. (Jackie picks up 3d6 and rolls 1 6 6) Yes! Top-Roll! Strength of 7. That's a great attack doing (Jackie takes a 1d6, rolls a 6 and multiplies it by 3) 18 points of sharp damage!

Eric: *!#%@&*@! (Eric looks at Jouicelle's sheet. She has a Full AC of 9 so that attack will hit and do some damage, sharp damage no less. She has 1 act left on her act bar). Jouicelle is going to dodge that attack. She is also going to try hard to make it work (On the act bar Eric marks 3 acts for the dodge. He also scores 1 hit point of damage for the try. This will increase Jouicelle's Agility roll from 2d8 to 3d8. Eric rolls 5 8 5). Yes! Strength of 8! In your face orc! (Jouicelle's strength of 8 is better than the orc's strength of 7 so she dodges the attack).

GM: Okay, Jouicelle ducks to the side just as this giant cleaver goes tumbling end over end, whistling as it slips past her ear and off into the hallway beyond.

There are two orcs left that haven't done anything. One of them takes a swing at Ralph and he – sensing that you guys are no ordinary opponents – is also going to try hard (Jackie marks a hit point of damage on the orc and rolls 3d6 to get 4 5 3). Meh. A normal attack (she rolls 1d6 for damage, rolls a 6 and doubles it) but it does do 12 sharp.

Steve: Crap! Ralph parries with his broad sword. (Steve marks 2 acts on Ralph's sheet and rolls 2d8 to make the parry. It turns up 3 4) Double crap, a little success (the broad sword's parry die is a d6. Steve rolls 1d6 and turns up a 5. The parry reduces the hit to 7 sharp and Ralph's Full AC of 10 soaks up the rest). Good enough.

GM: And the last orc, with a slavering gleam in his eye, lunges in from the side to skewer little Zitto with his sword.

Eric: Zitto counters it with a spell cast.

GM: Using what?

Eric: Levitation. (Eric marks 3 acts for the spell on Zitto's sheet)

GM: Doesn't that have a time requirement?

Eric: Nope.

GM: Alright, make your roll. This orc also tries harder and rolls (Jackie rolls 3d6 to turn up 4 5 2) a strength of 5. A normal hit doing (she rolls 2d6 for damage) 9 points of sharp damage.

Eric: Yikes! Zitto tries hard and rolls (Eric marks 1 pow point of damage since spell casting is a mental action and rolls 3d8 turning up 3 7 7) strength of 7! (Zitto's 7 is greater than the Orc's 5 so by way of countering he gets to go first). And for the toll (Eric rolls 1d6 as asked for by the spell) 3 pow (which he marks on Zitto's sheet).

GM: Okay. (There is more than meets the eye to the spell Levitation. The Orc should be given a weight defense roll. He will rise at a certain speed and float for a certain length of time but Jackie is having too much fun to bother with all of those fiddly bits. She decides to just roll with it.)
The orc slices in with his sword and would have done some serious damage if only his legs didn't suddenly float out from under him, spinning him upside down and sending him floating up to the ceiling like a big green putrescent balloon, bouncing helplessly against the rafters. He encounters the other orc's sword and clings to it for dear life.
Anyone else?

Steve: (Steve looks at his sheets and notices that Ralph has 2 acts left before he is out of action) That orc Ralph just parried? Ralph hacks at him with his broad sword (Steve rolls 2d8, turns up 3 3). Misses. Man, Ralph is just sucking out tonight.

GM: Well, that's the end of round 1. Everybody recoil.

Steve: (Niether Ralph nor Grudge have left the springs so Steve simply erases their act slashes).

Eric: (Zitto hasn't left the springs either so his act slash is erased. Jouicelle has left the springs. She recoils 4 points. This leaves her with just 2 acts open for the next round).

GM: Round two begins with one orc still bouncing against the ceiling, another on the ground and one without his sword. The two who are unscratched are now having some definite second thoughts about continuing this fight. What do you do?

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Fear of a Dice Rolling Planet

Summer always brings out the worst in me. Maybe it's the heat, sweating my brain with sweltering paranoia. Or maybe it's just the passing of another birthday, another year down the hatch, another mile closer to that ultimate end. There is something about July which turns me into a creature of the night. No month has more daylight in it and yet no month ever seems as dark as July.

Tonight - 1:32 AM to be exact - I am going to go out on a limb and say something which is crazy-ass insane. Yeah, I know, new territory. And it is this: big media is secretly afraid of board games and role playing games in particular. Yes, this is terrifying to them.

Have you ever wondered why we never seem to get a decent portrayal outside of the realm of low budget indie films? Seriously, there seems to be a connection where the lower the budget goes the better our portrayal is but as that budget climbs and the more widespread the audience becomes the more we end up being portrayed as clowns. Well, here is my pseudo-conspiracy theory.

Our free time is a precious commodity. When we spend it playing board games we are not spending it watching tv or movies or even playing video games - three financial juggernauts which make up the bulk of mass media. They spend millions to create an hour of entertainment. We spend a few bucks on pizza and gas to get across town and gather with our friends. Tabletop RPG's in particular are notorious for gobbling up hours and then days and possibly even years of free time. That is taking money out of the mouths of gluttonous media moguls. It could very well be that we are perceived as a threat and don't even know it.

My sister is a very corporate person. In so far as I know she doesn't read the stories I write or visit the websites I create. There could be an element of sibling rivalry. It could be that she is afraid she will find something she doesn't like. But I think the reason she avoids my work (as well as many many other people) is because it doesn't do her any good at the office. She needs to spend her free time consuming the media which will help her maintain a social edge in the workplace. Today she may be a valuable member of her company, yet no one is irreplaceable so the ability to be someone that other people like to have around is a valuable asset. And so she spends her free time watching Survivor or Modern Family or whatever happens to be popular at any given time.

Yes. My sister was one of the popular girls back in high school, a member of the upper crust among high school cliques.

My point is that she doesn't spend her free time actually entertaining herself. She spends her free time arming herself, stocking up on things she can use to talk to people about, people she knows by name but barely actually knows. This is what most of America uses big media for. It is what solidifies their audience, guarantees that they will continue to draw a crowd, and ultimately causes them to create entertainment which is about as engaging as cold oatmeal.

My sister never has and never will play an RPG. It is not who she is, and I'm okay with that. I think that just as people should be allowed to play whatever elf games they want that others should be allowed to have nothing to do with them. That's their prerogative.

But what if she did? 

What if the people in suits started getting together on weeknights to play medieval adventure games rather than watching it unfold on Game of Thrones?  What if that sliver of the populace which plays RPGs on a regular basis grew into a wedge? It would be a terrible blow to big media.

Obviously, such a thing will never happen. I mean, that would be as bat-shit-crazy as people wandering around the city trying to catch pokemon on their smart phones. But just in case, can it hurt to make the portrayal of anyone doing anything which does not involve the consumption of media seem weird, geeky, awkward or antisocial? And I'm not just talking about RPGs. Go eat your media and notice how often the negative side is shown of anyone entertaining themselves without big media's help. Musicians are glorified but anyone trying to learn to play an instrument is show to suck and ultimately gives up. Unless an artist is an established master, anyone who makes their own art is resoundingly bad at what they do. Actual athletes are applauded by the in-studio audience for making cameo appearances, but anyone trying to hold onto the sports of their youth are depicted as sad, pathetic and hopeless. Do you spend your free time collecting anything (coins, stamps, dolls, trains, games, shrunken heads, dice)? You might as well be a circus freak.

Is it the truth?

Or is it just what they want us to believe.
And for who's benefit?

Yes, there is a reason why it's called programming.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

7/11 - Happy Crimson Dragon Slayer Day!!!

As well as the release of a brand new CDS adventure module from @tarihard, It's Z2.) Danger Zone An adventure with tanks and babes and evil dead from beyond the grave. There may even be a laser-guided shark thrown in there too.

This is a continuation of the adventure started in Z1.) Monkey Mountain. I didn't get the chance to outfit it with any internal artwork (aside from maps and the mandatory cover girl), but it is a complete full length adventure.

Because this is Crimson Dragon Slayer day, today - and today only! - for the true believers out there I am cutting the price of both modules in half. Yes, that means you can get both Z1.) Monkey Mountain and Z2.) Danger Zone for less than the price of a slurpee. A sweeter dumpster dive has never been had.

So do this miserable summer a favor and turn your staycation into something awesome. Take that trip! After all there's nothing wrong with this brain....

And yes I know I probably should have gone with Kenny Login's Danger Zone, or possibly even the Ramones' Danger Zone. But somehow Trip at the Brain seemed more fitting. Besides, haven't you heard enough Kenny Loggins already? You know you have.