Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Portals And Skyships Of The Black-Blooded Earth

One thing that I can't help doing is worldbuilding. It's like breathing for me. As a result, there are some things I already know about the world of the Black Blood of the Earth, even though play has not yet started.

One of those things that I know about is the Portals. No one is entirely sure where the Portals came from, though legends speak of strange men with grey skin and powerful magic the likes of which has not even been matched by the Blood Sorcerers. Not all of them seem to work any more (though some can be induced to work through the power of the Black Blood of the Earth), but the ones that do work reliably allow instantaneous travel across the continents. It's said that some Portals, hidden in caves, underground cities buried by the passage of millennia, on uninhabited islands, or deep in trackless swamps, travel to different worlds entirely. Perhaps a Portal can be found that leads to a fabled land beyond the sky like lizard-filled Torsh, Oerth, modern Earth, the Majestic Wilderlands, ancient Barsoom, maybe even the Dreamlands or dread Carcosa.

Of course, there are other ways to get to the worlds beyond the sky, such as the Skyships. Powered by magic and the Earth's Black Blood, these ships can fly into the sky and beyond, to the edges of the crystal sphere and through the mysterious, fiery phlogiston to other crystal spheres containing other worlds. The phlogiston flow to Oerth is particularly well-traveled, but other spheres have contact with the Black-Blooded Earth.

[EDIT 17 AUGUST 2012] None of this will be included in the final world. The themes involved can't include other worlds to which the people can escape. I may move these ideas to the Terra Ultima setting instead - or I may have to make a new world setting to use these ideas.

Monday, February 27, 2012


There are now two print zines out there, plus a one-shot zine/module. This is a good thing.

There's Loviatar, of course. Christian's zine is excellent. Currently, much of the space is being taken up with a hex-by-hex publication of a hexcrawl for D&D type games (specifically statted for B/X, and so directly compatible with Labyrinth Lord and BECMI, but also good for most other D&D-based games with more or less conversion).

And there's now Dungeon Crawl. I don't know what this one is like yet, as I've only just ordered the first issue. Looking forward to it!

There's also the estimable Zogorion, Lord of the Hippogriffs. A one-shot zine/module, I highly recommend this short adventure, statted for Swords & Wizardry, but obviously an easy conversion to any similar rules. Nominally for levels 3-7, I don't recommend that any players approach it as a hack-n-slay opportunity.

Friday, February 24, 2012

"This Sort Of War Can Be Fun"

It's brief, but there's a quick overview of wargaming with miniature soldiers in this video. There are other hobbies included, as well, such as building toy steamships, slot car racing, and model trains. Men will be boys, indeed!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Getting Ready To Run AD&D - Current Thoughts

Since WotC has seen fit to reprint one of the better editions of D&D (sure, it's limited, and sure, you can only get it in North America [UPDATE: Turns out that's not true], but it's a start), I'm preparing myself to run a campaign using those rules. I'll be using the Black Blood of the Earth setting assumptions, building most of the details during play. Because I am masochistic, I guess, I'll be trying to use as many of the rules straight from the books as possible. I figure that most players, at this point (including myself), have played more complex games, everything from Shadowrun to GURPS, and much more besides, so this shouldn't be too difficult in comparison.

Nevertheless, I'm going to have to house rule some things. Unarmed combat? Using System I from Unearthed Arcana, which was Gary's preferred method, anyway (though no other rules from that supplement; magic items and spells, however, may show up, and I'll take anything from the extended weapon list that I feel like). Encumbrance? I'm not sure, but I may go to Encumbrance by Stone, since Delta is right, and very few people enjoy calculating encumbrance by coin weight.

Weapon speed factors? I want to use these, but even Gary decried them (thanks, Beedo, for that link). I'm still mulling this one over. I've heard a number of options which make them useful, but not overwhelming. On the other hand, I will definitely be using weapon AC "to hit" adjustments. They're really not that complicated in practice (though as a Referee, I'd have to rule on the AC type of monsters or just use the overarching ruling that there is no adjustment for natural armor, which latter I'd feel uncomfortable with, personally), and even easier if the character sheet has space to record them. In both cases, these are elements that make one weapon different than another, forcing trade-offs when choosing between them. This is a good thing in my book. Similarly, weapon length is valuable for charges (and, oh yes, I will be using the charging rules), and space required is also necessary in those narrow dungeon corridors. No way will two halbardiers or doppelsoldners fit in a 10' corridor! Firing weapons into melee and helmets are definitely going to be used. I'm on the fence about random melee targets, though. Also on the fence about morale: I'm going to use it in some form, but whether to use the one in AD&D, the version in Battlesystem, or move to the version in BECMI/Cyclopedia is still an open question.

I'm basically going to stick with segments in some form (we'll see how those weapon speed factors turn out), so spell casting times will be in force. Material components? Track that resource, mages!

Gender-based stat limits are going away. They had some funny ideas of how to do things in the '70s, but that one is kinda offensive in retrospect. Level limits and racial stat limits, though, will be enforced because I like humans and want them at the center of the game. Don't like it? Don't play a nonhuman. I might, depending on how I feel at the time, even disallow nonhuman PCs. That's actually a tempting idea. It would allow me to take the faery races and make them more… fey or whatever. Unhuman. Alignment, on the other hand, sucks rocks as written, and will be definitely jettisoned in favor of a system based on the article "For King And Country" from Dragon #101, or possibly a simple Law/Neutral/Chaos version like the one from classic D&D.

Training times for leveling up will be in force, but the costs will be substantially revised. XP for magic items is definitely one to use.

Psionics and the Monk don't need much modification (well, I might use -C's psionics rules, or perhaps the minor changes in Dragon #78; either way, I'll be adding a Psionicist class). The Bard, on the other hand, will be completely revised as a normal class instead of a proto-prestige class, based on information in Dragon #56 (with the "Songs Instead of Spells" article and original spell progression replacing the spell list in that article).

So, the list of classes will include: Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Paladin, Ranger, Magic User, Illusionist, Thief, Assassin, Monk, Bard, Psionicist. I may include some other classes from Dragon magazine (The Bandit from Dragon #63 is high on my list of consideration), but probably not many.

So, my main area of concern still is the use of weapon speeds. Suggestions for ways to make use of them would be appreciated.

Edit to add: Here's a thought for weapon speed and initiative. Roll initiative by side, but individuals act on a segment equal to their weapon speed modified by the losing initiative roll (alternately, the difference between the initiative rolls) and Dex reaction adjustment. Add segments if on the losing side, subtract them for those who win initiative. So, if the two sides roll 4 and 2, the side rolling 2 adds 2 to weapon speeds to determine segment of action (natural weapons are mostly speed 1), the side rolling 4 subtracts 2 from weapon speed. Results below 1 act on segment 1, above 10 on segment 10. Casting time in segments is the "weapon speed" of spellcasting (and is not modified by Dex reaction adjustment [edit] or winning initiative roll, only modified when initiative is lost [end edit]).  Tied initiative rolls act on weapon speed modified only by Dex reaction adjustment. Missile weapons are treated as speed 5 for those which get a single attack in the round; 3 and 7 for two attacks; 2, 6, and 8 for 3 attacks. All attacks from an attack routine go off at the same time. Multiple attack routines happen after a two segment wait (so, if two attack routines start on segment 7, the second will be on segment 9; if one is on segment 9 or 10, the next will go off at segment 10). If two attacks happen on the same segment, the winning initiative side goes first (if also tied, the attacks go off simultaneously). The Dex reaction adjustment is always subtracted (so a Dex 16 subtracts one segment, a Dex 4 adds 2 segments).

Further Edit: I forgot to mention that I am also thinking about modifying the weapon proficiency rules along the lines of the article "Weapons Wear Out, Skills Don't" in Dragon #65. Basically, this groups similar weapons into a single proficiency and adds some formation and special skills (similar in some ways to Feats). Also, I plan on allowing any character to use any weapon at any time, but they can only take proficiency in the listed weapons.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Heave To And Prepare To Be Boarded!

While that is also my favorite pirate pick-up line, this post is about pointing out the latest offering from The Oatmeal.

More specifically, this is an exhortation to WotC/Hasbro to learn from it. Learn from it, or heave to. Because that's what artificially limiting access will lead to every time. The world has changed. You don't get to play the game that way anymore.

That is to say, we want to pay you money. We want the money in our pockets or bank accounts or credit unions to transfer into your bank account in exchange for the things we want. We think that such an exchange is fair for those things, and we truly believe that it encourages you to make more of the things that we want. When you don't let us give you money, though, we will find a way to get the things we want, and we will give the money to the people who will make that happen. That isn't a threat, it is a description of what is going on right now, all over the world. If you want that money, you have to make the things we want available to us. Welcome to the 21st century.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Just Checking In

I've been quiet here, and most places on the internet, for a little bit now. I figured that it would be worth my time to make a quick check-in.

I've been re-reading AD&D, with an eye toward running it later this year. I'm planning on using the Black Blood of the Earth setting that I mentioned previously. That will be pretty much the extent of the wider worldbuilding that I'm going to do to start with (I'm also going to set up a religious system based on the "Elemental Gods" article in Dragon #77). The rest will be created in play. I'm working up a plan of a small town of about 2000 people where the players will start. They'll have information about a secret entrance in the sewers that leads to a mysterious tunnel where their informant found a few gold coins, but got scared before exploring much further. 0-levels, amirite? I'll have a couple of small modifications to the rules (notably, completely revamping Bards based on Dragon #56, psionics based on Dragon #78, unarmed combat from Unearthed Arcana, level training, and removing gender-based stat limits), but largely will use the rules straight (even hated things like weapon vs. armor type or racial level limits, and I'll have some sort of level training).

I've also been reading Battlesystem, in part because I'm intending that it will be the mass combat system I will use (still deciding between 1st and 2nd edition, but leaning toward 1st).

Other than that, though, I've been doing very little. I haven't even been keeping up with my reading outside of gaming. How are you doing?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Miniatures Companies: A Request To You Readers

I am wanting to make a list here (for my use and yours) of companies which currently exist and which make miniatures suitable for fantasy gaming. I would prefer to avoid companies which traffic exclusively in the "heroic" style (super-buff warriors with spiky bits and whatnot) or companies that produce miniatures entirely for their own game settings (Games Workshop and Privateer, I'm looking at you). Mostly, I'm interested in classic fantasy figure styles, historical medieval and ancients, and so forth. Pig-faced orcs! Stuff from the old Grenadier and Ral Partha lines! That sort of thing. (I mean, it doesn't have to be specifically pig-faced orcs, or classic figure lines. Just in that style.)

If you can, include a link to the company's website or an address to write to them if they don't have a web presence (as if that would happen).

Edit to add: Right on schedule, ckutalik over at Hill Cantons posted about plastic minis.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

AD&D 1E Adventures And Stuff

So, WotC is reprinting the 1st edition of AD&D. That's pretty cool, but what do you do with it? Adventures are very helpful to the Referee, and there exists a list of adventures for AD&D 1E that are in print. You can see that list, with links, here. You should get the word on this list to everyone you know. They'll thank you. Even if they aren't a gamer. Don't bother linking back to me, unless you really, really want to (but if you want to link back to me that much, you should do it for something that I actually did, not a pointer).

Um, I found a place that sells pads of 17"x22" graph paper, from 4 squares/inch to 10 squares/inch. A pad of 50 sheets is less than $20, a pad of 100 less than $35. They have all sorts of other useful tools, too, like mechanical pencils and other sizes of graph paper, and they ship by UPS. (One downside: they require orders of a minimum $20 before shipping.) Check 'em out.

Hopefully, I'll have some actual content soon. I've been working on some templates for the GURPS Greyhawk project, which I should be putting up in the next couple of days.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Rock And Rules

If you don't already hang on Jeff Rients's every word (and why don't you?), you owe it to yourself to get on over and read the secret history of that great band, Dungeons & Dragons. Surgeon of the Underworld was truly a great album.