To Combat or Not to Combat

Alright, I will confess it: I have a strange and returning urge to run a dungeon crawl. I’m tired of running Call of Cthuhlhu’s free for adventures and trying to remember a large cast of NPCs motivations and personalities, scare my players. More and more I just want to draw a big map, place a bunch of loot and monsters on it and tell them ‘go’.

I find this really odd: I’m only about as old as 2nd edition, and started gaming heavily in 2002 with Living Greyhawk, so I’ve not got any rose-coloured memories of early D&D.

Additionally I was often frustrated in my Living Greyhawk days with pure-combat adventures. Adventures where one went to point A, killed monster B and got treasure C. Isn’t that the definition of a dungeon crawl? 4e combat is more fun, but I still find that it gets boring if more then 1 hour out of 4 is spent on it. Older edition combats went much faster, but I found them more crufty and arbitrary, and rather boring in the options available.

So this leaves me wondering why on earth I want to run or play in a dungeon crawl? Is it some buried desire in all gamers? Or something I picked up from reading old editions & Dragon magazines and hearing my father’s stories growing up?

Or is me desire to organize things just manifesting in an excuse to make meticulous notes? To play in such a game so I have an excuse to make a map and keep track of every copper and such? To play in a really freeform game where I can make money by looting a dungeon down to it’s bare stone walls, using some of my treasure to set up a furniture warehouse where I can sell doors and tables and whatnot? (All of which I could keep track of in meticulous detail)?

I don’t know: If  you look through my blog several of my settings basically attempt to ‘explain’ dungeons, possibly because this itch stays in my head and gets more and more romanticized. Possibly because since I have so few readers I never get comments on the settings and keep moving on without fleshing them out since I don’t get any feedback to urge me to write more. I do think I might like this more as a PBF/PBP game, since it wouldn’t be as concentrated, letting me sit down and dungeon crawl a bit each day instead of for days on end.

So…Am I crazy? Does anyone have any advice or suggestions?

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Modifications to my CoC/BRP game

So my in person games are going pretty well, people keep asking me when the next session is going to be which I take to be a sign everyone is enjoying themselves. However I’m a bit tired of it. I don’t know why, and this might get better when I get the books I left in Montreal back, since they update things in ways that I like and have adventures I can hopefully use. [Update since this was written: I’m intrested in the game again, see next post]

Anyway I’m looking for ways to keep the game fresh: One player has also expressed interest in actually using mythos spells & I am going to be introducing more spells into the game  to increase the temptation (Hand picked to give one character more of the voodoo powers his character wants to make it harder to resist)

I think it might be I’m just not a great horror DM. I’ve now run about 10 short adventures for a variety of players and so far I have killed 0
characters. In Call of Cthuhlhu. My players just have too much fun with complex plans, and gripping onto the side of racing cars and such, and well they have fun, and I have fun so why stop? [See next post]

The rules system is also working pretty well: Character generation is fast, though not as fast as pure CoC since we have to look up a couple
of things, and since we have new characters regularly (new players joining or existing players playing in 2 adventures at the same time)
and the rules are light enough a lot of non-geeks (or mild geeks) I know are willing to play.

I’m thinking of changing things to match the two-fisted style though as I know at least one player has complained about it being too lethal (He seems to think characters should never die though, whereas I like how lethal it is as a change from D&D).

I’m thinking of using the optional rule that PC’s get Con+Size HP instead of the average of Con+Size. This should make characters a bit more durable, but it might make them a bit TOO durable, so I think I will leave it for now. If we start having complaints about it I can add this in latter right?

I was also thinking of giving each character +1HP after each adventure so that experienced characters have a slightly better chance of surviving then newer characters. The most experienced character is on it’s 4th adventure, but in this system +4 HP is a pretty decent amount.

Also so that characters grow & change a bit more I’m going to use the BRP advancement rules (Your int gives you a bonus to raise a skill and you add +1d6 vs +1d10, so more skills will go up but they will each go up less. It is also easier to grow new skills)

I’m also going to make skills up to 50% cost one point, up to 75% cost 2 points/% and over 75% is 3 points/% instead of the normal flat 1 point per %. This should encourage more diverse characters. Existing characters will be grandfathered in due to the work and time of redoing every character (and it doesn’t change total number of points, just distribution)

So: Proposed rules changes:

+1HP for each adventure survived

BRP skill advancement (Really just part of moving to the BRP system)

Keep Sanity & Education

Added costs for new character boosting skills above professional level (To discourage characters starting with 99% in one skill as I’ve had a
couple of times)

Personal goals:
Give out more magic! I’m going to go and add more spells to adventures to increase the temptation to use them. I’m also going to drop more hints about what they do: I wanted it to be scary & evil so I labeled “Summon/Bind Dimensional Shambler” as “Summon/Bind Dark Angel of Glory” or some such.

Well that is my slightly rambly State of the Game post. The day after I wrote it I was struck with inspiration (Ok, so I read a book that filled me with ideas) so keep an eye out for the sequel to this post. Bonus point to anyone who can guess what author the book I read was by. Hint: The author was a contemporary to Lovecraft, had the Necronomicon in it.I don’t have any prizes, but consider it a challenge.

Until next time, Stay Geeky
–Canageek

A Thank You To @MassTwitFic

This is a thank you to a very special person. Without him/her I would not have gotten addicted to Twitter and thus would not have fallen in love with @dorfird/Ada. I am speaking of @MassTwitFic who has amused us with the fun little fiction games I play from time to time. One year ago today, having been inspired by #wotw2 (War of the Worlds 2) a event where we all pretended Martians where invading (s)he  started the first #tfe or twitter fiction event. In it a small group of people pretended to be trapped in a robbery. Since then there have been 2 spinoffs, many events and fun had by all. I made the very first tweet in it.”Grah, spent all my cash at the phonix, got to get more- hate paying with plastic, takes too long #tfe” What? I needed a reason to goto the bank so we could have me trapped there for a robbery.

Anyway, I just wanted to thank @MassTwitFic and informe them that they should check their email as there is a  gift card for the local Amazon site in your inbox. Thank you ever so much.

–Canageek.

Published in: on January 30, 2010 at 12:20 pm  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , ,

My next online game?

I’ve been thinking about what RPG I’ll run next after my current online game. I mean its not anywhere close to ending, but I’m finding 4e rather heavy for online play. I’m more comfortable with rules light systems now, after playing CoC for a year now, and a session with the full BRP rules. I’d love to run Call of Cthulhu online I am not sure how much interest there would be. On the other hand, it is rules light enough the players don’t really need copies of the rules, so we will see. Anyway I noticed a thread on Google Wave about free RPGs for online play. While there wasn’t much interest in it I added some Retroclones and a couple other games, as I figured it could be useful. I was going to cross post it here, but I then realized you could get almost all of it from other sources much faster. They did miss Microlite20 as its not a retroclone, but a stripped down d20 system. I’ll link to that wave if someone shows me how.

Anyway I started thinking about what I’d like in a rules light game:

  • No arbitrary restrictions: For example if class/level based there shouldn’t be ‘no elves can be rouges’ or ‘no dwarf mages’. Other things I don’t like are maximum level limits on demihumans. They just feel restrictive and unfair to me.
  • No holdovers from early D&D (Or at least few of them): AC should go up. There is no reason for it to go down (that I can think of anyway, I guess nostalgia). I’ve heard arguments that it makes more sense if you just have a track on your character sheet like people did back in the TAC0 era. However you CAN just write the same thing if AC goes up.
  • Preferably nothing obviously broken out of the box. I’m still trying to figure out how the autofire rules in BRP got past the editors (+5% to hit per bullet, roll to see how many bullets hit? Ummm yeah…. So firing 8 bullets gives me +40% to hit and I hit with 1d8 bullets. Biggest complaint with the system so far.) On the other hand I don’t think 3e or 3.5 was broken out of the box. Sure there will always be some edgecase that the games doesn’t do well, or one class will be a hair more powerful, thats fine. I just don’t want everything busted when I sit down to play.
  • If there is magic I want it to be useful outside of combat: My biggest problem with 4e right now is that in reaction to all the ‘scrying and teleporting broke my adventure’  magic isn’t that useful outside of combat in 4e. It takes forever to cast and is skill based. Some combat powers are useful outside of combat, but still. I like solving problems through creative solutions. Sadly in old editions of D&D each non-combat spell you carried took away from your combat spells so I usually could only have what scrolls I could afford. Really this has been a trend for a while as I noticed it in 3e as well. I’m guessing it was due to some of the stupid stuff I saw on the net from old editions (flying battering rams, gnomish flying machines powered by oil of blasting)
    • On the other hand magic shouldn’t take over the game like it had a habit of doing with high level 3e, where most of the time was spent buffing
  • While I normally love battle maps I’m spending too much time on them in my 4e game, even with Rich’s great silverlight map. So something position-light would be nice. I know 4e can be run sans-map, but its still reasonably position heavy. Same with 3e, though less so (most combats became stand around & hit it anyway)
  • Characters that are statistically different from one another. Back in 2e two 10th fighters looked very similar. Wizards got new spells so each one would have a different selection, but if you had two in the party they’d probably swap spells anyway. I want some way to customize characters as they level. Skills, feats, proficiencies something.
  • Characters have to be able to advance. While this is kinda a no-duh one there are some old RPGs without this. Traveller springs to mind (My version is old enough that you can still die in character creation). Levels, advancement through usage, skills, advancement points, something.
  • Non-random character creation preferred. While I’m using that right now in my CoC game I originally started it as a one-shot. It’s gone pretty well, but I think non-random eliminates a lot of problems. I can work out what the average roles would be and make points however.
  • Action-Reaction based: I’ve seen two types of RPGs. I don’t know if there are official terms for them, or at least commonly accepted ones, but  I’m going to call them action-reaction and shared narration. Action-Reaction is the traditional type: The player takes an action, the DM describes the result. If there is a conflict or chance of failure you break out the dice. See D&D, Alternity, CoC, BRP,  GURPS. Shared Narration can be fun, but I don’t think I want to run it right now. For those curious I count it as ‘Player succeeds at something and describes the result’ For examples see The Pool, Wuxia, Fung Shei.
    • This usually goes along with a traditional system: As in one in which the characters act continuously as in a simulation of the world. As opposed to ‘cinematic’ or whatnot systems where there are set scenes to overcome and everything in between them in blurred over. I’m mostly thinking of a game called ‘Story Engine’ or some such I played once for this. Also a game where each player uses actions & acts to influence what is happening rather then everyone declares what they are doing, and uses some abstract system to determine the outcome.
  • Something I can find an adventure for. This is a big one: I don’t have time to write adventures. I’ll modify them heavily, but it has to be easy to do so. I’ve kept playing CoC because the book comes with no less the FOUR adventures. While some are a lot better then others none of my players have finished all four. (Several players are on the 4th: I’ve rerun several adventures with different groups and let players move between groups as convenient.). I’ve also bought another book about Arkham which has more adventures, and a book of adventures set in Arkham. Whereas I bought the Conspiracy X book (Unisystem edition) and have never played it as it doesn’t have a sample adventure for me to cut my teeth on.
    • This has always been my problem with old editions of D&D: How do you tell what is a fair challenge for the party? 3.X had CR, which while buggy worked pretty well though it took more math then I was willing to do. 4e has a great system for this. I need some kind of guideline
    • BRP/CoC doesn’t have this but the power curve is pretty flat. Skills go up enough that you feel like your advancing, but your not that much stronger in any one area.
    • On the other hand if I’m running a single published adventure I don’t care about this as much.

This isn’t a complete list by any means. just something I threw together to try and collect my thoughts.

I’m thinking BRP with a CoC adventure would work. On the other hand combat & dungeon crawling seems to be more popular with my players so I may go with some sort of D&D type game. Suggestions?

Anyway, its late and my wrist is getting sore (I injured it a while ago) so I’m going to head off now.  Until next time Stay Geeky!

–Canageek

About My Character: McCord (Serenity) [Version 2]

I posted this character a while ago based on stats someone else wrote for me a while back. Now I’ve bought the book and have been playing for a bit so I thought I’d post the updated version. The game is being run over at DnDorks if you want to take a gander.

Captain Dirk McCord
============
Veteran | Personality: Rough and Tumble Trader
Agility      : D10
Strength     : D6
Vitality     : D6
Alertness    : D10
Intelligence : D6
Willpower    : D10

Initiative : 2d10
Life Points : 16

Assets
—–
Two-Fisted
Good Name (Minor)
Fightin’ Type
Trustworthy Gut (Minor)

Complications
————-
Loyal (Minor)
Credo (Major) (Always deal straight, Never rip a man off, Never sell tainted goods)
Prejudiced (Minor) – Alliance (Bureaucrats)
Dull sense: Smell
Dull sense: Taste
Skills
——
Animal Handling        D2
Artistry               D0
Athletics              D6
Covert                 D6
Craft                  D0
Discipline             D4
Guns                   D6
+–Pistols D10
Heavy Weapons          D0
Influence              D6
+– Bargain D8
+–Persuade D8
Knowledge              D4
Linguist               D2
Mechanical Engineering D2
Medical Expertise      D2
Melee Weapon Combat    D4
Perception             D6
+–Intuition D8
Performance            D0
Pilot                  D2
Planetary Vehicle      D2
Ranged Weapons         D0
Scientific Expertise   D0
Survival               D2
Technical Engineering  D2
Unarmed Combat         D4

Note: The above stats include 2 Advancement Points that were spent on Influence: Bargain as its something his background should have, I just didn’t have the points for it. The dull sense struck me as something that would hurt a trader like him when he is being wined and dined as he has to be careful not to let on he can’t really taste the expensive wine, but also lets him note taste the disgusting rich man’s food he never got a taste for. Didn’t make sense not to take just one as they are tied together in the human body. I gave him Two-Fisted because I love the western gunslinger who shoots with a gun in each hand and Firefly didn’t have anyone doing that. I’m thinking given his crew his next points just might go into Discipline. If not I’d like to get Planetary Vehicle up, Looking at my character again I’d really like to get Covert specialized in ‘Conceal on Person’ or Slight of Hand, or somesuch.

McCord started out as a small trader. His home planet, Redwood, wasn’t on the rim, but it sure wasn’t a core world. He ran a small shop selling tools and did it well.  He gradually bought up some other shops in nearby towns, focusing on getting basic, good tools. He discovered he could sell basic goods such as shovels for a fortune to the outer worlds. He started buying them cheaply from his suppliers then selling them at a fair mark-up on the outer worlds. He met a lot of ship captains and a lot of grateful farmers and miners. He insisted on running his own ship a lot of the time, refusing to run any business he didn’t understand. He always made sure to do his fair share of the work, even learning gunplay to help defend his goods. Then came the war, and he stayed carefully neutral, refusing to carry goods for either side.
He survived the war, carrying food and basic goods to devastated worlds, sometimes at a loss. However, in the aftermath an alliance bureaucrat ruled that his shovels had built alliance trenches and ignored all evidence that he’d sold them to reputable local stores. His business was stripped from him and given to a massive corporation that has proceeded to charge massive prices for everything as they are now the only supplier. He asked around and found that right after they finished stealing his company that bureaucrat retired and took a job on the corporation’s board of directors. He called in some favours, scrapped up his personal savings and bought an old firefly and a load of basic goods. He found some friends and put together a crew. Now starting over on the outer worlds, he’s pretty sure the Browncoats were right, and is just a little bitter about doing so.

He carries a gun at his left ankle and a small utility knife on his right, just in case. When expectin’ trouble he carries a gun on each hip in fast draw holsters, but does not do so from day to day as he believes that tells people that your lookin’ for a fight.

His accent is an odd mix of normal and high’ falutin speech since he was born speakin’ one way and spent a lot of time speakin’ the other so as not to be taken as a bumpkin.

Possessions: Unpaid: Last Chance: A Firefly class ship (well technically. It was at one point anyway). The DM has stated it has basic gear such as spacesuits and a big winch. His pilot discovered the weapons a few months after they took off and he’s not sure how he feels flying an armed ship.

Paid:

  • Gun Cleaning Kit
  • Patch Tape
  • Purification Crystals
  • Drink, Good Whiskey (2)
  • Ballistic Mesh
  • Knife, Combat (belt)
  • Knife, Utility x3 (Misc pockets + belt)
  • Pistol x2 (A small revolver, left ankle, concealed), Other in cabin or vehicle he’s driving…just in case (Stole that idea from the book Casino Royal where Bond keeps a longbarrel 45 in his car for ranged shooting: No game effects but I liked the idea)
  • Derringer (In case he has to go to some fancy shindig where carrying guns is impolite but allowed)
  • Commpack, Long Range
  • Compack, Short Range, x6
  • Distress Beacon
  • Microtransmitter x6
  • Laserlight Mist
  • CuttingTourch
  • Scarpware x4
  • Scrapper’s Gel x4
  • Tool Kit, Basic
  • Tool Set, Electronic
  • Tool Set, Mechanics
  • Formal Wear (Very shiny, 40 credits, could easily pass at any Alliance company even if the fashion is a year or two out of date now he dressed conservatively enough that it is unlikely to be noticed. Think black business suit but western). He paid extra at the time to make it last.
  • Newtech Pistol (x2, revolver, longbarrel) (+1 damage, Makes fancy Weerrrs and Clicks when cocked or fired. [Yes, I made sure the DM would let it werrr and click like in the show….yes I was willing to pay extra for that.)
  • Medical Supplies, Emergency.
  • Immunization Packets (12)
  • Large Hovercraft

Cash: 91.4 credits.

The gun has a story: He was working a deal and some hotshot corporate executives took him out and whined and dined him. Took him shooting and gave him this fancy gun. Well he was a young trader and long story short he wound up with several tonnes of lead tained ‘silver’ cutlery. Never figured out what to do with it, still has most of it in a storage facility somewhere as he bought it from his company to ensure it never entered circulation. He has kept the gun around as a reminder ever since. That and its a damn fine gun, easy to maintain, takes normal ammo and packs the punch of a mule’s kick. This is based in part on a story a businessman told me once (Only it was a knife and he figured out they were trying to wine and dine him and was not fooled.) I can’t wait for the cutlery to show up in the plot..hehehe.)

Edit: Almost forgot: His reason for learnin’ to use a gun so well came up in game when told someone didn’t believe reavers existed.

“He undoes the button at his cuff and rolls up the sleeve of his nice blue shirt. As it slides up you can see a horrible puckered scar sliding up his forearm. Was about ten years back now, when I was a welp just getting started out. Made myself a bit of money dirtside and wanted to start trading into the black. Was riding on a tramp liner named the Marie Celeste looking to set up some trade routes on the rim. Next comartment over was a squad of Alliance troops being sent to some to some backwater or another. I played cards with them a time or two, good men. Three days out of Buthers world we were attacked. They hit us out of nowhere, cut through the side of the hull. Sloppy, air leakin’ from a bad fast sealjob. They tore through the luxury compartment and….” McCord shudders. “I was lucky, in last class with the Marines ‘tween me and the Reavers. Some of us that knew which end of a gun to hold went forward to help. Those weren’t met I was fightin’ they were beasts. You shot them once they got back up. You shot them twice they slowed down. We learned how to shoot them in the head pretty gorram fast. Was barely enough. Not many people who fought survived. Me, handful of marines, couple a’ others. They didn’t get past us though, all the women and young’uns survived. Mostly they used captured guns same as anyone, but some…some used blades. Serrated blades, so it don’t cut clean. They leave puckered scares.” *lets his eyes fall to the scar on his arm*

Let Me Tell You About My Character: McCord (Serenity)

This is a character I’m going to be running in Ada’s Serenity game. I don’t have a first name yet and someone else is doing my stats. I’ll be updating the stats and story as I work on them. Feel free to comment on how I could improve him, background or stat-wise.

McCord started out as a small trader. His home planet, Redwood, wasn’t on the rim, but it sure wasn’t a core world. He ran a small shop selling tools and did it well. He gradually bought up some other shops in nearby towns, focusing on getting basic, good tools. He discovered he could sell basic goods such as shovels for a fortune to the outer worlds. He started buying them cheaply from his suppliers then selling them at a fair mark-up on the outer worlds. He met a lot of ship captains and a lot of grateful farmers and miners. He insisted on running his own ship a lot of the time, refusing to run any business he didn’t understand. He always made sure to do his fair share of the work, even learning gunplay to help defend his goods. Then came the war, and he stayed carefully neutral, refusing to carry goods for either side. He survived the war, carrying food and basic goods to devastated worlds, sometimes at a loss. However, in the aftermath an alliance bureaucrat ruled that his shovels had built alliance trenches and ignored all evidence that he’d sold them to reputable local stores. His business was stripped from him and given to a massive corporation that has proceeded to charge massive prices for everything as they are now the only supplier. He asked around and found that right after they finished stealing his company that bureaucrat retired and took a job on the corporation’s board of directors. He called in some favours, scrapped up his personal savings and bought an old firefly and a load of basic goods. He found some friends and put together a crew. Now starting over on the outer worlds, he’s pretty sure the alliance was Browncoats were right, and is just a little bitter about doing so.

Captain McCord
============
Veteran | Personality: Rough and Tumble Trader
Agility      : D8
Strength     : D8
Vitality     : D8
Alertness    : D10
Intelligence : D10
Willpower    : D10
Initiative : D8+D10
Life Points : 18

Assets
—–
Nose for Trouble (Minor)
Friends in Low Places (Minor)
Trustworthy Gut (Minor)

Complications
————-
Memorable (Minor) (No sure about this one)
Branded (Major) (Oh yeah, I’m in alliance records)
Loyal (Minor)
Credo (Major) (What does this do? I have some sort of code of ethics?)
(Can we add a bias/dislike of Alliance Bureaucrats? Heck, can be all Bureaucrats if needed) Prejudiced (Minor) – Alliance (Bureaucrats)? What would Major do?
Skills
——
Animal Handling        D2
Artistry               D0
Athletics              D6
Covert                 D4
Craft                  D0
Discipline             D4
Guns                   D6
+–Pistols D10
Heavy Weapons          D0
Influence              D6
Knowledge              D4
Linguist               D2
Mechanical Engineering D2
Medical Expertise      D2
Melee Weapon Combat    D4
Perception             D6
+–Intuition D8
Performance            D0
Pilot                  D2
Planetary Vehicle      D2 (Can we bump this up if my new bias gets me points?)
Ranged Weapons         D0
Scientific Expertise   D0
Survival               D4
Technical Engineering  D2
Unarmed Combat         D4

Edit: Here is my original post on McCord:

Mmmm, I’m thinking some sort of merchant, neutral in the war that was hit hard by trading with the enemy punishments and then driven under by a large corporation from the core systems. He packed up and bought/chipped in on/joined a ship and does what he can to survive. Learned a fair bit a gunplay to protect his goods out on the rim worlds, plenty of men that will try and take whats yours if you let ’em. Prehappes might know a few folkes from his time as a merchant, might know a few that need cargo moved. And a course, he knows how to drive a good bargin after all these years. (Is that possible to do? Skilled w/ small arms, some contacts and lots of barganing and lie detection, no so much on the social niceties or fancy knowledge?)

Edit: Added another line to his character description.

Edit2: I know own the Serenity rule book and have rewritten his stats based on it. I’ve also modified him a little as roleplay happened (For example I wanted him to be Ambidextrous so I took Two-Fisted) anyway, the updated post is here.