RPG Blog Carnival: Weapons of Legend: Gretzky’s Staff

The Logo of the RPG Blog Carnival.When Gretzky was a child his parents discovered that he had a natural aptitude for magic that often manifested in destructive ways. To avoid having their chesterfield lit on fire (again) they enrolled him in a magic academy. As the years went by, he learned that while he loved magic, he had little in common with his fellow classmates who tended to be bookish and nonathletic. While of reasonable intelligence, Gretzky preferred more athletic and violent pursuits in his spare time, often enrolling in the extracurricular activities of the fighters’ school across town. His favourite sport was hockey, for its combination of speed, skill and violence.

When it was time to craft his staff, he refused a traditional oaken or ebony rod, instead using a hockey stick that he had outgrown. He kept this staff for many years, and added to its original enchantments over time. In addition to storing several spells and the traditional enchantments for durability he placed an unusual level of enchantment on it enhancing its melee combat ability, figuring that few people expected a wizard to run up and cross-check them. At one point he even added a flaming enchantment more commonly found on warriors swords to the stick’s blade. One enchantment he did not place on the staff is cold resistance; it was commonly thought that the staff bore such a dweomer due to Gretzky’s habit of going coatless in the winter. This habit came from Gretzky’s growing up in the north and simply being much more used to cold then the natives of the southerly region he eventually built his abode in.

While Gretzky’s Staff is usually thought to be a single item, usually as described above, over the course of his career he made a number of staves as he grew more skilled, or as he needed sets of spells or protections for specific tasks. This has confused descriptions of the staff and its powers over the years, as his later ones were often made from full-length hockey sticks, rather then the child’s stick he used originally.

This is a post for this month’s RPG Blog Carnival, hosted at of Dice and Dragons. I’m not a rules guy so I’m not going to try and stat this up. I got the idea as I am thinking of running a play-by-post game in an X-Crawl-like world. I know, I know, I’m finally giving the setting I’ve been talking about since the start of the blog a try. I’m  hoping not to let this blog sit idle for years and years this time. Anyway, until next time, stay geeky.

–Canageek

Multiclassed to oblivion

Another post in my series on how to build characters that will actually help the party. This advice comes from a very common character type that I could not stand at all. The overly-heavily multiclassed character. Multiclassing is a great way to meld the attributes of two classes: For a barbarian to take some sorcerer levels to magically enhance themselves, or a fighter that wants to flip out like a barbarian every so often.

However, it is an even better way to water down your character to the point of uselessness. Sure, there are lots of multiclass characters that can do a bit of everything, but do first level spells really do much of anything at 1oth level? If you have more HP then your average rogue, but can only take one more hit then a normal rogue, and you are far less skilled then a normal rogue, are you really an asset to the party?

I once played at a table with a Fighter 2/Wizard 2/Cleric 2. That’s right, he wasn’t very good in a fight due to only having a BAB of 3 (half that of a fighter), he had few HP, and could only cast 1st level spells due to splitting his abilities so many ways. Sure, as a character in a book he sounds awesome, since he can do so many things, but as an asset to the party? A straight fighter, or a cleric, or a wizard with an attack bonus high enough to hit monsters, 3rd level spells and so on would have been far more useful.

Remember; your most previous resource in combat is often time. There are never enough rounds to cast all the spells you want, and fighters can always use more attacks. When you build a character think about this: You are walking along a hallway, you run into a group of orcs: When do you do? A fighter will hit something: The cleric buffs the fighter, the wizard casts a spell, the rogue tries to flank of slip into the shadows or something (Can you tell which class I never play?). Or for the more epically inclined of you, what do you do when you when you burst into the throne room of the evil wizard-king moments before he completes his ritual to destroy the world? The base class person knows what to do: The multiclass person doesn’t. Do you cast a first level spell at them? Do you charge into battle and go squish? What can he actually do to HELP the party? (Not much).

I’m using D&D terminology here, but this can also happen even more easily in point-buy games. It is very temping to grab skills willy-nilly all over the place, and stock up on cool advantages and whatnot. However, you should sit back and go “How will I help the party?”. Most of my examples are from combat, but it doesn’t have to be: One of my old GURPS characters Dalton had a special ability that let him see the past of items (Very useful in an investigative game), some combat skills, and more antiquities skills. Which, in an occult investigation game, was quite useful. In that game, that ability was usually worth more then another bruiser. I had a very fixed idea of how I wanted him to help the party when I built him, I didn’t just randomly pick skills out of the book.

So, when making a character and thinking of doing some multi-class combination think: How will this play in combat. Will my abilities help the party out? Am I worth taking over a fighter, wizard, cleric or rogue, or am I going to be a drag on the party? Also remember; Bards at least have charisma, skills and bard song. If you can’t match that, just play the freaking class they built into the game.

Well, so much for this series. I hope you’ve enjoyed it, and that I’ve made you think about making characters in a slightly different way.

Until I think of something else to write about, stay geeky.
—Canageek
 

Published in: on May 20, 2013 at 9:12 am  Comments (8)  
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It doesn’t matter if you are awesome

There is a lot of advice out there for DMs. What you don’t see a ton of is advice for players. I’ve played with a lot of players: I was in Living Greyhawk from 2002 until its end, which means convention play with random people. I’ve seen a lot of players, and they played even more characters and I saw what worked and what didn’t. I’m not saying I’m an amazing player —I can see something work without having the skill, patience or inclination to do it myself— but I like to think I’ve got a good sense of what works and what doesn’t. From this I’ve learned something that may shock a lot of you:

It doesn’t matter how awesome your character is if they don’t help the party.

The biggest thing that people tend to forget, even really, really skilled gamers that I admire, is that modern D&D is a team game. There are games where players are constantly backstabbing each other and whatnot,  but most games follow the assumption the designers work with: That a team of specialists, go do heroic things as a team.

As I’ve mentioned before, Penny Arcade and Weregeek both describe sports with gaming (MMO) metaphores, and you can easily convert these into gaming terms. Each player in a sport has a job, and they are very good at doing that job. Now, I don’t know sports that well, but even I know that you don’t have all quarterbacks on a football team, or all…um, goalies on a hockey  team. Ok, so I really don’t know sports: I think of it more like a commando team, a group of elite agents working together to beat obstacles that would break lesser foes: I’m told that The Dirty Dozen and Ocean’s Eleven are the archtypical examples of this, but as I haven’t seen those I think of The Mass Effect Series (Mass Effect 2 was 90% building your team), Firefly, The A-Team, Star Trek (The Original Series is the best example), and similarly nerdy things.

Now, look at these teams: For the most part there aren’t any characters that can’t pull their own weight, and have some talent they lend the group. Sure, they are usually fairly competent on their own, but they really work best as a team. Kirk is awesome, but he’d be lost without McCoy putting him back together, Spock advising him, Scotty running the engines, and so on.

So, when making a D&D character don’t think of how you can make them awesome. Think of how you can make them help the team. You aren’t going to be fighting the monsters by yourself, so why should you focus on doing things yourself?

I’m going to try keeping my posts to a reasonable length for the next bit, so I’m going to give examples of some do and do nots next time. Until then, stay geeky.

—Canageek

Published in: on May 13, 2013 at 8:40 am  Comments (4)  
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Things I learned at my last gaming convention: Don’t have fun at the expense of the party

Alright, so in my last post I covered what happened in my Sunday morning game. Now we are going back a little earlier, to Saturday Afternoon. Due to a cancellation we wound up playing D&D 4th edition, which I’ve not played in several years. It isn’t my favourite game, and I know the person I was playing with isn’t found of it, but hey, we decided to make the best of it.

So the DM hands us out characters, and I grab a half-orc ranger, and the guy I’m playing with gets an old, knight (Paladin) at the end of his career. Now, each character has a secret mission: Mine is the simplest: I have to either slay or bloody the head orc, or a certain number of other orcs…or betray the party, embrace the orcs and slay or bloody at least one PC. An interesting choice, I think, and carefully watch how the rest of the party treats me as we roleplay. My buddy had the mission to refuse all healing (Note: The DM pointed out that if he was unconscious he couldn’t refuse healing) and then die in battle, and being the only one to die in the adventure. Someone else’s mission was to reveal to my mentor (a half-elf) that she was the Elven mother he had never met, and I don’t know the rest of them.

Now, it being a 4 hour con game the DM cuts out a lot of the roleplaying to fit it in, which makes a lot of the missions pointless, since we have no time to get to know one another.

Then comes the first fight: It turns out there this is the fight with the leader of the orc army: I don’t have any reason to betray the party; no one has treated me badly, so I don’t have any animosity towards them, and we are winning, so why would I switch to fighting on the losing side?. So I stay with the party, and we easily win the fight. Not even many tense moments. Cool, lots of healing left, the Paladin is in rough shape though, but whatever. We go into the next fight, with a red dragon. A big red dragon.

I go nuclear and do 84 points of damage in the first round, but that taps me out of my daily and encounter powers, and I don’t really have much other then sit there and whale on the dragon after that. The fighter works his way around to flank the dragon with me and the paladin, so it takes a penalty if it breaths on us. None the less, it does, killing the paladin outright. Now, we’ve still got 5 people, and our tank is pretty much unharmed, and the cleric has all her daily and encounter healing abilities.

Now earlier in the adventure the fighter tried to leap through a window, as he liked to do odd and unexpected things. So, at this moment, when the best thing he could do was stay there and distract the dragon and try and draw fire, he decides that isn’t what he is going to do. What does he do instead? He leaps through a nearby window (gets a 20 on acrobatics) then runs past the dragon towards the party, leaps through another window (another 20) then as we all hold our breath and wait to see what he does….he runs off to safety, abandoning the rest of the party to die. So he did his odd, unexpected thing, which I’m sure he greatly enjoyed by leaping through two windows as a full-plate fighter, and abandoning the rest of the party.

Was surviving so he could see his wife and kids part of his mission? NOPE. He was an exiled knight whom hadn’t been back to the capital for years. A knight who was sent out to this monastery to learn humility due to his overwhelming arrogance and pride. A knight who was mentioned on all our character sheets as having grown into a brave and noble knight in his time here. So yeah, the DM is confused, the party is confused and now we have no tank (Defender in 4e parlance). I’ve got the most hitpoints, so I try, but I don’t have any abilities to draw fire or anything, just to hit the dragon harder. Meanwhile the dragon is breathing on us, everyone else is tapped out, and there are only 4 of us, so our damage output is way down.

We lose. At the end the dragon had 7 hit point left. If that guy had played his character at all like he was supposed to, or even stayed around to hit the dragon ONCE more, we would have won.

What makes this more of a demonstration of this principle is the game he did it in: 4th edition D&D, a game that, love it or hate it, is all built around teamwork. This is true in most D&D games, but 4e just plain doesn’t work if people don’t work together. As Penny Arcade and Weregeek point out, D&D is surprisingly like sports; everyone has to work together to win. He didn’t play as a team, we lost as a result, and it was really, really boring and frustrating.

My stance is always that you shouldn’t have fun at the expense of the group. This one guy decided to have fun, and as a result, 5 people were bored and frustrated. This leaves me conflicted: Would it have been OK to betray the group if they’d treated me badly? I think it may have been, if the adventure had been set up better. If I’d had the oppertinity to betray them in the final fight, and had motivation to do so (they’d treated me badly) I think it would have been a cool story we could have all enjoyed. Also, I get to keep playing, instead of having to sit out the rolelpaying between fights and the final battle with the dragon. As it was, they’d treated me well, so me betraying them, killing one PC and then running away in the middle of the adventure, leaving them to die against the dragon would have been really boring, as we saw.

So yeah, long story short: Think about others when you decide your characters actions. Is what you are about to do going to ruin the game for everyone else? Are we going to walk away from the table thinking “What a dick!”? Or will you’re betrayal read like an epic tale, spun by bards?

Anyway, I hope I didn’t meander about this too much.
Until next time, stay geeky
–Canageek

Spelljammer and Clerics

Clerics represent how the desire to limit change to the existing settings and/or establish a distinctive setting identity limited roleplay possibilities.

The settings that SJ connected to have dozens, and in some cases, hundreds of gods. They limited clerics ability to get spells if the sphere they were visiting didn’t contain a following of that god. There are workarounds —You could store spell levels in a portable alter, worship a pantheon or the gods of a plane to increase your chances of finding a god belonging to it in that sphere, or worship Celestian or Ptah, both of which allow clerics to get spells as long as they are not on a planet. Therefore you are going to get lots of clerics of pantheons, planes and Celestian and Ptah, but not much else.

I think this is a great missed opportunity. First off, it makes it much harder to bring groundling clerics into SJ. This makes it harder for players to scoop up groundling NPCs they encounter on the way, or to transition from groundling games to SJ. Secondly it limits the number of religions present in SJ, which I don’t think is a good thing.

You have a culture made from the bits and pieces of a thousand other cultures from a hundred worlds. I think of Lankmar’s Street of Gods, with a selection of constantly changing temples from all over the world, many with only a few followers. Another model would be Lin Carter’s Gondwane Epic with its innumerable religions, cults and heresies from 900 millennia of civilization. Both have the feeling of a mishmash of different things, which I think is what Spelljammer should feel like. Also this would open up religions to more abstract things like the Church of the Silver flame or the Ancestor Worship of the elves in Eberron.

The easiest way to encourage this would be to take a page from Eberron and remove the gods as anthropomorphic entities. None of the faiths can be proven to be correct, so a multitude of conflicting religions exist, coexisting, clashing, getting spells no matter what. This matches the riot of colour I see in my head, which would be more similar to what we see in the first episode of Firefly, the Star Wars cantina scene. Luke, a groundling walks into a wild space bar and is just stunned by the riot of different people and colours. There are many ways to do this, but I think the easiest starting point is religion.

 THIS is the Spelljammer I want to play in.

 Until Next Time: Stay Geeky.

–Canageek.

Published in: on September 5, 2011 at 5:43 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Code of Conduct for my game

So I have decided to make this weeks post on what I’ll expect out of players for my game. It is pretty simple, and I’ve never had a problem with it in an online game.

In the words of TheWyrm from IRC:

  1. “You get to role play your character.  You are still responsible, as a player, for the behavior of your character if it disrupts the game, because you chose that character personality and can freely modify it.  As such, claims that being ‘in character’ is an excuse to behave in a way that lowers enjoyment of the game for others is unacceptable.”
  2. “The game does not occur in a vacuum.  Your behaviour outside the game, in the D&D community and towards the other players, will impact your ability to play the game.  If you pick fights with or troll other players outside the game, just like with a real life game, don’t expect a place for you at the table at the next game.”
  3. “You have two main responsibilities in the game: Have fun, and help others have fun.  If you’re not having fun, talk to (not gripe at) the DM or find a different game.  If your enjoyment of the game comes at the expense of others enjoyment, D&D is not for you.”

I think these points are very eloquent and relevant and would like to see what other people think of them. I’m not running D&D- I’m currently looking at GORE and OpenQuest for my summer game, but I think they still apply.

I’d also add

4. “It is the players responsibility to contribute to the party. If you make yourself more effort then you are worth by stealing from the party, getting them into repeated trouble or other such antics asking your character to leave the party is a valid option”

Sorry for the short post, I’m not feeling that inspired this week. So, what do you think of those guidelines?

In other news, no one I emailed about my change of system has emailed me back, so if you are intrested in a weekend OpenQuest or GORE game (Both d% roll under systems) please let me know!

Thanks for reading! Until next time, Stay Geeky!

–Canageek

Published in: on May 15, 2011 at 11:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Update on my online summer game

So as you may have guessed from my review of Dungeonslayers, I will not be running a game of it this summer. I’ve gotten into a GURPS game on Wednesdays, but well, I have weekends free. However, I forgot how much 1.5 hours in transit and 8 hours of work a day took out of you, even if you have free time, so I’m going to have to limit what and when I’m capable of running.

1) I have been looking at what system to use. So far I’ve looked at FUDGE, ‘Warrior, Rogue & Mage’ and both Red Box Hack and Old School Hack. None of them have seemed to be quite what I am looking for, though I would like to place some FATE & FUDGE. The current front runner for my summer game is GORE. GORE was designed to be an eldrich horror game, in the sprite of another game I play a lot. However, it uses a more D&D like magic system and is freely available, so I think with some house rules it could make a good, if high danger, dungeon crawling game. Additionally, it is simple enough that I think I could convert old D&D monsters to it- Since it is % based I could just make a D&D character of the appropriate level and see what that monsters chance to hit would be, then use that.

2) I’m still interested in the following ideas from my planning post– I’m having less energy after work then I thought, so some of them are not as feasible. Basically I don’t know if I have the energy to run the Dimensional Hopper game and Tangents is definitely out- I don’t have the energy for the planning either of these would take. I’m also less sure of the Megandungeon based ones until I get my feet under me- I’m thinking I could start a standard game with smaller dungeons, and if it goes well move it into a megadungeon. On the plus side, if we use GORE then we could include guns in the X-Crawl based settings if we wanted.

I know what times I can do this at now: Friday night post 7pm, any time Saturday, or Sunday night, ending no later then 9pm, all Pacific Time. I don’t get hope from work until 6 most days, later on many, and that leaves me just enough time to shop, eat and relax a bit before I have to go to bed.  This allows me to move things along a bit, as I have narrowed down the times to the point I feel fine taking applications to join in and suggestions on what to run.

3) I think Google Wave, Maptools, IRC or similar is more my speed right now. I don’t have a webcam or a decent mic, so yeah, voice seems like a bad choice.

So yeah, there are my current plans for an online game. I’m willing to look at other free gaming systems, and if I do use GORE it will be with some houserules (Probably more skills, might use pointbuy. It has rules for gaining HP already, but I will have to look at the system more. I also might tack on a simple XP system, as ‘when you finish the adventure’ doesn’t work in megadungeons.

So, is anyone interested in playing? Leave a comment! Ask questions! Please!

–Canageek

DJ Elemental

I’ve been thinking of my old modern dungeon crawling idea more, and have thrown together a couple of DJs for an XCrawl like event. I found that the information on the DJs in the xcrawl book was a touch bland, with a couple of very interesting DJs, but most of them rather bland. I find that this is one of the most interesting ideas of XCrawl as the DJ designs the dungeon. I think that every DJ will have some sort of trademarks and themes they like to place in the dungeon, to let the fans watching instantly recognize them. This will also help make each crawl feel a bit different, so that the players don’t encounter dungeon after dungeon of 10×10 rooms.

The first idea I had was DJ Elemental. Elemental themed dungeons are not a new idea, I mean, look at the Temple of Elemental Evil, so it struck me that someone in the dungeon crawling league must enjoy elemental themed dungeons. They would have a very distinctive visual element, allow lots of dramatic special effects, and have a number of very obvious monsters. So without further ado: DJ ELEMENTAL!

(more…)

Just a short post

Sorry for the lack of posts in so long, I’ve been insanely busy with class, working from when I wake up till 2am type of busy. I will hopefully find a little time during my exam break, but really you should be looking for new posts after Christmas.

So a couple of updates:

I’ve talked to my group and they want to stick with BRP/CoC for now, largely due to liking their characters. However, I’m planning a big finally for the campaign, as one of the 2 remaining original players is graduating, and the others has a plan in mind for retiring her character. That means I am on the lookout for non-horror BRP adventures if anyone has any recommendations. Oh and they want more combat, in CoC as well. This should remove many characters very, very quickly.

Secondly…. I’ve started planning my next online game. I might run some maptools, IRC or skype or such over the Christmas break, failing that I’ll set up a play-by-post in April, after the end of 2nd semester.

Anyway the idea is…. a dungeon crawling game loosely based on XCrawl, with bonus experience for narrating your actions like a sports commentator, and a 2nd thread for non-player commentary. Since part of the game would be to please the crowd at the end of every adventure there would be a vote for the best character by the observers, with an XP bonus for amusing the audience.

To make this more silly your game states would be your stats in world, tracked the same way that they do baseball stats. My Dad likes baseball because of all the stats you can track and the weird things that happen (For example there is one play, don’t as me what it is, that has only happened 3 times. 2 of them were on consecutive days, as some player heard about it and thought ‘Shoot, I could do that’ and managed to do it the next day.)
Now instead of batting average you have BAB or THAC0, and so on (I was going to give more examples, but I don’t know baseball stats). Instead of some odd play with passes and runners you have “The last time a Young Adult Red Dragon was felled in 3 rounds by a 5th level party was back in 1996 by the ‘Sharpe Dressed Elves’….”

I’ve talked about this, and written about it so much that I want to give it a try. I’ll have to write an adventure, or at least convert one as I’m not running 3.5 or 4e online, they are both way too slow. I’m thinking of some retroclone or old edition since combat goes faster, possibly with a BRP style d% skills system tacked on (Very light weight: Like a page long in total).

Well, I have to go, until next time, whenever that is, Stay Geeky.

–Canageek

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?