Friday, November 17, 2017

My own private Anomaly

I've mentioned here before how I've adapted Patrick Wetmore's brilliant Anomalous Subsurface Environment for my house campaign.  Or rather, I'm mentioned that I've adapted it, if not how.  Which is mostly fair, since I didn't start out with any major changes besides the stats and mechanics.  After all, I had a rationale to explain that the party traveled to the Land of One-Thousand Towers from their homeworld, allowing the two settings to be almost entirely distinct.  In other words, there was no need to figure out how to integrate ASE into my home setting.


I dig the metal bard in the lower right corner wailing on his ax

Given that I've been moving to a somewhat more ad hoc approach to GMing (perhaps better described as just-in-time design i.e. desperate brainstorming the night before and not a moment earlier), it makes sense that I didn't bother to think about things in great detail.  I'm into a more organic approach to world building, although I'm careful to avoid the pitfalls of illusionism.  Suffice to say, my approach was to just start with straight-up ASE and let it evolve from there.

And evolve it has.  At this point, some of the heretofore unimagined backstory is starting to coalesce.  I now know a lot more about what makes this world tick.  I know why wizards are all insane, and why their magical tools don't work after they are killed.  I know what happened to the ancient civilization that discovered/created the ASE.  Heck, I even know what the ASE is.  

At least, now I know all these things in the context of my own campaign.  And I'd like to share it with you.  It all started to come together when I tried to imagine a reason that my players might venture forth from Denethix to visit a distant village by the name of Carrowmere...

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Playing with mechanics

I'm currently in the midst of collecting ideas for a third edition of my personal RPG heartbreaker, Empress.  I don't know if there's much point talking about editions or versions, because homebrew rulesets like these are always in constant motion.  However, it's still a good idea to formalize these into something like "releases," if only for the sanity of the players at my table.  "How does initiative work, this week?" can be a rather pointed question.


This mechanic is all good

Anyway, the ongoing process as well as the process of formalization has me thinking about mechanics.  So here are a few of those thoughts!

Friday, September 29, 2017

Review follow-ups: Blades in the Dark (the back half) and Life and Death, Zarth Edition (for the Crypts and Things system)

I've been trying to make a dent in my backlog of quality RPG content without purchasing more.  So far, it's an exercise in willpower, but the alternative is the pathetic existence of a digital hoarder.  My role-playing backlog is the equivalent of a crawlspace full of unread issues of National Geographic.  It's nowhere near as messy, but I have nothing to show for it.


He probably actually read these

Anyway, I just caught up on two interesting projects that, for different reasons, return me to past reviews.  I recently completed my entire read-through of John Harper's Blades in the Dark; when I wrote my pre-review, I had only completed a read-through of the mechanics.  

I still haven't played the damn thing, but who knows when that will happen?  I want to review the rest of the text while we're still alive.

As for Life and Death, Zarth Edition, which is a recent conversion of one of the author's (Newt Newport) older adventures to his most recent rule-set i.e. Crypts and Things. I previously reviewed C&T very favorably, and this new adventure is worthy of the system.

First up: Blades in the Dark, part II:

Monday, September 25, 2017

Concepts in game mechanics

Any serious GM is always going to have a few ideas about gaming stewing at once, and inevitably some of the ideas will relate to game mechanics.  So let's talk about a few of those.


Super-simple die systems

I'm always obsessed with the idea of simple mechanics.  When I can identify some mechanics that reduce complexity without sacrificing simulation, I'm happy.  I'm also trying to find ways to make the hobby more accessible.  One way that role-playing games can be a huge turnoff to a lot people is the complexity factor.


Rolling the old D2

Reading Blades in the Dark (see my pre-review) has helped me figure out some of the final details on a super-simple die mechanic. The idea is that it boils down to a single D6 roll.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Pre-review: Blades in the Dark

It's time for another one of my half-cocked opinionspre-reviews, and the subject of this one is that fresh-faced new hepcat, Blades in the Dark.  It was written by a fine fellow named John Harper and published by...a company?  It's hard to tell, because DriveThruRPG swears this was published by One Seven, while you can find the damn thing on the Evil Hat website (and not the One Seven site). The PDF sez it's an "Evil Hat Publication" but it is "In association with One Seven."  Well, it should know who made it.  Guess that clears it up.


Not a very subtle assassin, gotta say

Anyway, I'm supposed to hate this sort of thing, because I've declared myself an OSR nerd and this game is wading far into the storygame side of the pool.  You have players narrating flashbacks!  But as I'm sure my longtime readers know, I cleave to no orthodoxy, so instead I find myself quietly intrigued.  Well, not that quietly...after all, I wrote this.

Oh, what is Blades in the Dark, anyway?  It's a role-playing game where the players are members of a gang of ne'er-do-wells in a Steampunk world with gritty low magic.  You know, Dunwall from Dishonored.  This is Dishonored: The RPG in all but name.  I mean, the name of this city is Duskwall.  That's the opposite of trying to hide your influences.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

A new DCC class: The Murderhobo

The idea behind this class is to take an obnoxious concept - a backstabbing jack-of-all-trades powergamer - and make it something fun and balanced. Functionally, the murderhobo is a bit of a twist on a magician/thief dual-class. From the thief, he only has stealth and backstabbing, and from the magician, he only has a small stock of first-level spells.  On the surface, this sounds pretty lousy.


Especially arson...there's always arson...

However, there are a few twists that I get a kick out of.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Empress session report - My Beautiful Sociopaths

I am, of course, referring to my players, the crew that refers to themselves as the "Murderhobros."  But before we catch up with them, I just want to let you know that you're in for a special edition of "What Did I Learn?"  Today I'm going to go big and list my Principles of Gamemastering.  This is eternally a work-in-progress, which is how it should be for us all.  Life lessons, people!

So anyway, where did we last leave our winsome charmers?

All credit to Gus L. - check out his awesome blog, Dungeon of Signs

Ah yes...they had just received a massive text dump of plot hooks, courtesy of the GM with two thumbs (i.e. "This guy!").  And they were very curious about the effects of their sabotage on the Pie Cult.