Where is the Mixed GM?

I have not been too active on the blog recently.

Short version is that I am trying to do NaNoWriMo.

Once November is over, I will be back to posting when the mood strikes me.

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The PulpRev Sampler is Available Now!

The PulpRev Sampler is finally out!

I wrote one of the stories in here, “Danger on the Colony Ship”. If you want to read some short stories of pulse-pounding action and adventure, pick this up!

I am honored that my story was chosen to be part of the collection, especially with some of the big names that are in there. Also, I know you should not judge a book by the cover, but come on…that cover is great!

Explosion? Check

Awesome looking dudes with weapons? Check

My Pseudonym? Check!

 

Gamma World 1E… Why Did They Make A Second Edition?

The great Jeffro was kind enough to let me join a session of his ongoing Gamma World (1st Edition) game. If he does a session report on the Castalia House blog, I will update this post with a link so you can read about the shenanigans we got up to. (EDIT: Here it is!) Short version: It was a blast! Not just the game, but the system itself.

To someone familiar with D&D, most of this game is easy to understand. The attributes are basically the same (Mental Strength instead of Wisdom and Physical Strength instead of Strength). There is Descending Armor Class, which is the norm for pre-3E RPGs. Yet, there are some differences.

– The hit points for all characters are based on a d6 and you roll a number of d6s equal to your CON. 15 CON = 15d6 hp, 9 CON = 9d6, etc. You do not gain hit points as you level up (unless you increase your CON). I have been trying to rework hp, weapon damage, and healing in ‘Demons in Space’ and I think the Gamma World system may be the solution I am seeking. However, if I did it, I would add a small twist:

Each class rolls a particular die type for hp. Therefore, Combat Medics & Officers would roll d6s, Marines would roll d8s, Occultechs & Technicians would roll d4s, etc.

– There are no classes, just one of 3 character types: Mutated Humans (my character), Pure Strain Humans, and Mutated Animals.

Mutated Humans get to roll 1d4 for a number of physical mutations and 1d4 for a number of mental mutations. Some mutations are good and some…not so much. I rolled a 4 for both numbers and some of my mutations were not helpful, to say the least. For example, while I can use my mind powers to create a force field, I also take double damage. I also have extra fingers. Lots of extra fingers.

Pure Strain Humans get no mutations, but get a bonus to Charisma and can interact more easily with security robots, because they have not been affected by the irradiated wasteland.

Mutated Animals can talk and interact with people, but they may not have opposable thumbs. That can make manipulating weapons difficult.

Andy the Talking Hedgehog

Possible character concept for Gamma World

– Because there are no classes, when you gain enough XP to level up, instead of gaining a class ability, you roll on a chart to see what you get (such as +1 to an attribute or +1 to hit). There is something freeing about the random rolls for almost everything. In other systems, if your character is garbage, it is your fault that you did not properly optimize your “character build”. However, in this game, if your character is awful, it is the dice. It isn’t your fault. But, through clever play, you can overcome the limitations of your character.

– Your chance to hit is based on the quality of weapon, not fighting skill. Higher quality weapon = higher chance to hit.

This system is so simple and flexible. I love it! I was able to roll up a character from nothing and be playing in about 20 minutes. I probably could have done it faster, but there was some pre-game chatting / making sure the microphone was working.

Even if you don’t like post-apocalyptic settings you can use the mutation tables to spice up your fantasy monsters with strange new powers. I know this system has gone through several revisions, but I really don’t know why. This system is fine just how it is. I honestly don’t know how to improve it. Maybe add a supplement for more mutations or monsters, but not a complete overhaul of the system that a new edition usually entails.

I am really in awe of this system. 1E Gamma World is well worth your time.

Alternative Media

Pulp Revolution
Castalia House
Self-Publishing
OSR
Indie Games
Small Publishers

These alternate media groups have little in common, other than the fact that they are not BIG. And I think they should all be supported.

I have discussed elsewhere that I have been dissatisfied with a lot that is coming out of by the big media companies. A lot of science fiction / fantasy, whether in print or on the screen, is just plain awful. Not just books and movies, but video games and roleplaying games. Names you once could trust…not anymore.

Lately, the interesting ideas, splendid stories, and good gameplay are coming from smaller outlets. It seems that the bigger companies are more interested in pushing a leftist political narrative than good stories / gameplay. This is a political narrative that I disagree with, so that may color the rest of this post. Consider this a fair warning.

I have a theory that there is only so much time/energy/budget a creator has. Inserting political stuff (especially modern politics) into media seems to use a lot more time/energy/budget than you might think. Part of my theory is that there is only so much time/energy/budget that a creator has, so adding political stuff means that story and/or gameplay will suffer as a result.

In a printed product, this is especially egregious, because pages are a cost. Each page costs money. Mo’ pages, mo’ money. In order to be optimally profitable, publishers must try to keep what they print within a certain page count, or else they will need to raise the price. Every word, sentence, picture, and paragraph is critical. The writer and publisher should not be wasting words on worthless ideas or story elements.

This is most noticeable when the politics are shoe-horned into a pre-existing property. For example, I don’t follow comic books much, but lately there has been a lot of hubbub about changes being made to established characters in the Marvel comics. The “old” Iron Man and Thor have been replaced by completely different characters. Apparently, Captain America is a Hydra agent now (not in a “what if” one-issue scenario, but a change to the “standard universe” character). And sales are tanking.

Let’s look at roleplaying games. More and more, the big RPG publishers are concerned about making sure that characters in a pseudo-medieval fantasy world fit into modern notions about sexuality and gender than in creating great adventures or game systems that will stand the test of time. At the table, what is more important, a detailed explanation of the mayor’s sexuality/gender identity or how the mayor’s gambling debts tie into the hobgoblins’ plot to enslave the village? In order to check all the modern, politically correct boxes, the creator must write at least a few sentences, which, in a printed product, are important because space is limited. Also, in order to be kind to the minority, the non-cisgender / non-heterosexual character must be perfect and without flaw, otherwise that means the creator must hate everyone who is that type of person. So that takes more time to write, to make sure that the character is explicitly made out to be a paragon of virtue.

Does this kind of a thing really add to the adventure at all? Or would this be better served by GM improvisation at the table?

“Just ignore it,” I can hear you say.

That is a fair point. I can ignore it. I can change every lesbian character into a tradwife. No problem. That is not my concern.

My concern is that the focus has shifted from “fun” to “meeting modern political sensibilities”. People will play B2-The Keep on the Borderlands because it is fun. I don’t think there is a late 70’s / early 80’s political statement in the Keep. Will people play modern adventures that shove their modern politics down their throat in 10 years? 20? 30? Politics change. What is acceptable today is verboten tomorrow. Fun is fun.

This isn’t to say that everything must perfectly match my political views or my ideas on sexuality / gender identity issues. I just want it to be done carefully. Here is how you could do it:

“Countess Connie loves to stir trouble up at court and will flirt with anyone. If a character flirts back, this, of course, makes the Count upset and he will not support the characters in their endeavors in his realm.”

There. I just made a bisexual character with a flaw that might actually affect gameplay.

Am I saying all bisexuals will flirt with anyone?
Am I saying that all non-heterosexuals are huge sluts?

Not in the least!

All I am saying is that Countess Connie will flirt with anyone for the purposes of enhancing the social interaction in this part of the game. And that is ultimately what matters. Not checking off all of the boxes in the latest Ministry of Truth checklist for the expression of human sexuality and gender.

TL; DR, when it comes to overbearing leftist politics in media
stop

So what about the alternative media I mentioned at the top of this post?

Most of it is fun. Just plain fun.

Sure, some if it is political in nature, like Castalia House’s Alt-Hero. But a lot of it isn’t. The Pulp Revolution does not write political works. OSR games generally don’t have evil villains named Prime Minister Tromp written into the books. Those fun indie games on Steam are more about fun gameplay than explaining how socialism is utterly evil.

So support the fun. Buy alternative stuff.

Vikings for ACKS!

Sometimes I get in a creative rut. The way out of it is to try and create something else. So, here is my attempt to Viking-ize the Adventurer Conqueror King System (ACKS for short).

stolefromvidya

Someone is about to take and hold some territory.

“Why limit yourself?” I can hear you asking, “Why not embrace all kinds of characters? Surely there is room for a ninja to fight with a Viking and a hoplite in a fantasy roleplaying game!”

To that, I would answer, “Absolutely! However, there is a time for a more thematic game and in those kind of games, limitation is important.”

Also, I would also point out that my experience with 3.X and 5E has colored my thinking. “Anything goes” can lead to multi-classed half-demon / half-catgirl abominations with 3 different prestige classes. When I look back at some of the characters I played / saw at the table, I am ashamed. Maybe an OSR person can straighten me out and tell me that I’m over-correcting.

Now, if you like weirdness in your dungeons, nothing is stopping you from pulling out Expedition to Barrier Peaks or something similar even with a themed-game. Imagine the roleplaying opportunities of a Viking going on a raid with a ray gun. People might think the character is Thor! Jarls and thanes from all over would be seeking the favor of that character. And more powerful beings might fix their gaze on the party…

The first thing to Viking-ize your ACKS experience is class limitations. If any character class (like the Witch and Barbarian) have variants based on location, choose the Jutland option.

Here are the classes allowed, based on what is available in the core book and the Player’s Companion.

Fighter. Female Fighters would be called Shield Maidens.
Cleric. Re-flavored as Warrior-Priest of Thor. Naturally, they should use a hammer.
Mage. Re-flavored as Loremaster of Loki. I’m not happy with this, but it is the closest thing I could think of for a mage.
Thief. Re-flavored as a Scout, for more “noble” Thieves or leave them as is for more troublesome types.
Assassin. Work for Jarls that are not 100% honorable.
Bard. Re-flavored as a Skald.
Explorer. Leave as is.
Barbarian. Re-flavored as a Berserker.
Nobiran Wonderworker. Re-flavored as Follower of Odin. Odin supposedly had an aspect of a wanderer who wore grey. These Followers of Odin must wear grey and they go about righting wrongs and learning lore.
Priestess. Re-flavored as a Christian Priest. Obviously, they must be male, they are forbidden from working on Sunday, slaying humans (monsters are fair game), and they must be chaste / celibate.
Venturer. Many Vikings were traders not just raiders!
Witch. Re-flavored as Wise Woman.

No, the Luchadore class I made is not appropriate for this kind of game.

Where are the demi-human classes? They can be NPCs (used rarely!), but should not be player characters. The players should meet dwarves and such, but they are far away and do not interact with normal Viking villages on a regular basis.

Here are some VERY appropriate monsters for a Viking campaign (not an exhaustive list), particularly if the characters stay relatively close to home:

Animals (like bears, boars, goats, wolves)
Dwarves
Elves
Giants, Frost
Herd Animals
Men
Sea Serpents
Trolls
Wights (call Wights and Zombies Greater and Lesser Draugr respectively)
Zombies

If you want to include dwarves, elves, goblins, and other traditional fantasy beasties, read The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson. Trust me on this. In fact, read The Broken Sword anyway!

I hope you find this helpful!

Building Up My Physical Collection of OSR Books

A while back, I blogged about a great sale on Adventurer Conqueror King System (ACKS) pdfs. You can view that post here. That was a great deal and if it ever comes again, I highly suggest you jump on it. I like what ACKS does as a system and I want to play it with some folks some time.

ACKS FOR ME

So I did this. Potentially personally identifying information has been removed, for obvious reasons.

I like pdfs because they are cheaper than physical books, but when it comes to face-to-face gaming, they are not always as helpful. Hauling a laptop or tablet to a gaming space, making sure it has plenty of power, not tripping over the cord, not being able to bookmark it like you can a physical book all contribute to pdfs not being ideal for face-to-face gaming. Apps like Roll20 are wonderful for connecting people across the globe for gaming, but there is still nothing quite like interacting with other people around a table.

In that realm, physical books win.

Without going into too many details of my personal life, I am not a very social person and I really should get out more. It’s hard for me to game with people you don’t know with pdfs because I am afraid that the people will think I pirated the pdfs (even though I didn’t!). Having more physical books should hopefully ease that fear and help me get out of my shell.

I already have a physical copy of Swords & Wizardry Complete and Shitlord: The Triggering, so I figured grabbing my two favorite ACKS books would be the logical next step. I don’t have all the money in the world, but hopefully purchasing these books will support the publisher enough to make more ACKS*!

It really is a great system that fleshes out higher-level play in a good way. Also, the proficiency system allows for customization of characters without the problem of 3.X feats / skills (too many choices). It is enough to distinguish one member of a character class from another without the player being paralyzed with indecision at hundreds of options.

To those of you that have run ACKS, any advice?


* I head a rumor of a potential book that would bring the fantasy world of Selenoth to the ACKS system. I do not know if this rumor is true, but if there is anything I can do to make that happen, I will!

No Reloading in ‘Demons in Space’

“Excuse me Mr. Handsome Mixed GM fellow, why isn’t there reloading in your incredible work-in-progress RPG, ‘Demons in Space’?”

’tis a question I field constantly from the adoring masses. But in all seriousness, it is a point I want to address.

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There is a reason ‘Demons in Space’ is not based onĀ Halo.

Reloading is realistic and while ‘Demons in Space’ is quite ridiculous in many ways, it still seems strange that guns do not need reloaded to people, because real-life firearms need to be reloaded. In game, I consider all firearms to be reloaded between combat or as part of shooting (similar to how many games consider pulling an arrow from the quiver is part of the action of shooting). This also allows players to imagine the weapons to be whatever they want. Is the pistol a revolver with an auto-loader or a semi-automatic? Is the shotgun a pump-action or a futuristic variation of the AA-12? I say, let the players decide!

Pink Desert Eagle

If you want your Pistol to be this, I won’t judge you…much. (image shamelessly stolen from http://orig13.deviantart.net/098c/f/2011/231/a/c/kitty_deagle_ae_50_by_dracu_teufel666-d473rsm.jpg)

Also, in DOOM, there is no reloading, well except the Super Shotgun of DOOM 2 (maybe). The lack of reloading keeps the action going and allows the player to not have to juggle to many ideas in combat. Maybe people have shorter attention spans these days, or maybe most of the players I play with don’t have the dedication to keep track of all the moving parts. In any case, I want to keep the game simple and not veer off into Pathfinder-level complexity.

In the same vein, I am re-thinking ammunition. I still want it to be “purchased” via the Loot Token system, but I am considering removing the weight requirement. I may put an arbitrary cap on the amount of each kind of ammunition that a character can have (a nod to DOOM). After some consideration, a weight system for each unit of ammo (bullet, shell, rocket, etc) does seem a bit excessive. Creating a fixed weight for a box of 50 bullets or something leads to issues of “well a box with only 25 bullets in it only weighs half as much as a box with 50 bullets in it” and then I end up with a weight system for each unit of ammo.

So now, in addition to tweaking gun / power damage, I get to re-work the weight system as well. In the end it will be worth it…I hope.