Thursday, September 30, 2010

Hall of the Fallen: Sturik

Ah, another hero fallen.  Well, not exactly a hero, I suppose.  Sturik was a devious little guy with a parrot on his shoulder.  He was pretty good at exacting extra fees out of the party members whenever he was asked to do something above the normal torch-bearing, even having to be told at one point, in the heat of battle, "One extra gp for everything you kill, Sturik!"

Alas, even as he began to pull his weight a bit, a large Rhagodessa was able to attach to his head.  The next round it found its mark, with it's powerful mandibles delivering a crushing squeeze to his pinhead.  Ever turn the blender on high without covering the top and all the margarita squirts out of the top?  Yep.  Sturik's head 'sploded.

(One player asked, "Is he, like, just unconcious? Or dead dead?"  Dead dead, dude.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Character Backgrounds and Skill Bundles

The following are some of the backgrounds that can be chosen for a PC.  Basically, rather than note down slavishly every skill you have, you will be generally good at things that are associated with your background.  If you were an academic and you want to find a book in a strange library, you’ll be twice as likely to pull it off.  You needn’t note at the outset that “Find Books in Weird Libraries” is a skill you have, it is assumed.  In play, you merely state a case to the Labyrinth Lord as to why you should be able to do something, and he or she will make a ruling.  The skills should not translate to combat bonuses, but might be useful in combat for creative players. 

All backgrounds are assumed to be “light”—you were an apprentice to the trade, or spent a good deal of your childhood practicing—rather than a full-on professional.  Obviously, at some point in time you focused on the vocation of adventurer, and the specific character class to which you belong.  That’s why these are backgrounds and not foregrounds. J

Animal Trainer
Specific Lore (e.g. religious history)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Yay! Call of Cthulhu 4th Edition!

I've been eyeing a copy of Call Cthulhu for a little while now.  I had mentioned it several times to my newbie players and we'd even talked about taking a week off of Labyrinth Lord close to Halloween to try it out.  And is in my possession again!  Thanks to crafty ebay dealings, I've gotten a cheap copy of 4th edition for my own grubby hands.

Now some of you are no doubt saying, "No, no, Monk...4th edition kinda sucks!"  But have no fear, brothers.  The Monk knows about the suckage.  I know that Call of Cthulhu has like 7 editions, that the rules are practically identical in each, and that 4th edition is known for having less than perfect organization.  For those unfamiliar with the system, Chaosium uses the term "editions" in about the same way most publishers use the term "printings".  The content is almost always the same, save for a different adventure included here, or some more spells there.  The main difference is the art and layout.  In 4th edition, they decided to include the content of 2 sourcebooks with the core rules.  And basically they seem to have just pulled the bindings off and physically stuck the sourcebooks to the rule book.  No cohesive blending of chapters or anything.  Mish mash.

But beautiful, eerie, mish mash, brothers.  This edition is the first I owned, when I was 13, so I'll admit to some nostalgia, but I remember even at the time that I far preferred it to 5th edition.  Call of Cthulhu is a game that gathers much of its awesomeness from setting and mood.  And to me, 4th edition art and layout, even because of its choppiness, delivers that mood perfectly.  This is a manual hastily put together by investigators on the run.  Cartoony art?  No time for that when you've heard that another tiny New England town has dug up some nasty secrets.  

Lastly, CoC editions after the 4th all contain source material for playing the game in the modern setting.  I know I'm probably in the minority here again, but I hate modern setting CoC so much that I don't even want it in my rulebook at all.  As a 15 year old I wrote a long rambly note on the "feedback" card that came with the 5th edition, indicating numerous philosophical reasons why the modern setting sucked juebos.  In retrospect, while I stand by those reasons, I hope whoever got that feedback card just copied down the address and tossed it in the garbage.  Lots of people love the modern setting and that's totally cool.  I'm not one of them, so I'm the perfect person to enjoy a 4th edition scored from ebay!

More on CoC later, as I check it out again after all these years.  Anyone have a favorite edition?  One that you think sucks?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Fiddling with Character Classes

For the Labyrinth Lord campaign I've been running I've presented the character classes as archetypes, the essential representation of a particular way of overcoming obstacles, achieving goals, etc.  This begs the question of whether there are other archetypes--one that's not easy to answer.  I see perfectly valid reasons for allowing the negotiation of lots of other classes, and for restricting characters to one of the basic ones.

I'll give an example.  One of my players wanted to play a character along the lines of Han Solo, so we started him as a thief.  We figured that Shawn Solo (yes, that's his name) was sort of a shady guy who outsmarted enemies more often than whacking them with something.  That went well for a while, and the player (being a newbie to RPGs) did an excellent job of roleplaying Shawn Solo.  In other words, rather than conforming his character to the stats and mechanics of the thief class, he played him the way he thought that character would act and behave.  This is where the thief class became a bit cumbersome.  We realized that Shawn Solo was no more likely to pick someone's pocket than the fighter, and that he would actually be conking somebody on the head almost as often, especially if that someone was a nasty creature. He just happened to want to use a combination of stealth, trickery, and combat.

So...I broke my own rule a bit and we made a Bounty Hunter class.  I don't feel that it fits the "archetype" explanation of what a character class should be, but I realize also that there's no reason why that has to be the only explanation.  The Bounty Hunter we created is basically the thief class (saving throws, hit dice and 4/7 of the skills; no heavy armor, etc.), except he uses the fighter attack matrix.  This seemed to fit with my player's understanding of his character, and was a fair trade-off, in my mind.

Now another dilemma has struck, though.  I just read and loved Trey's description of the exterminators on his excellent blog--loved it so much I cut and pasted that bad-boy and read it to one of my players (he works on the other side of the wall from me).  We both loved it and thought about how that would work as a PC.  The character would need some special skills, but could really be of any class.  The dilemma may not be completely apparent here, so let me explain.  I HATE SKILL SYSTEMS.  I've played a bunch of games with 'em, from Call of Cthulhu to TMNT, but I still hate 'em.  I hate picking them during  char gen; I hate watching players scour their character sheet for a skill instead of just describing how they're going to pull off an action, and I certainly hate updating skills as you level up.  I know this animosity is disproportionate, but hey, I never said I was normal.  So the fact that I'm getting close to coming up with another skill bundle makes me very unhappy.

Anyone got an idea for me?  How do you modify character classes, or create new ones?  Do you even mess with them at all?  I'd love to hear more on this.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Campaign Update...

In a previous post I introduced our intrepid party, five characters exploring the Lost Continent and being caught up in the strange happenings after Starfall.  As I'm beginning to write about them in mid-campaign, I'll add a little background and catch you up to date.

Our party started out in the tiny town of Crossroads.  Hardly a town at all, it was truly only a large caravan that had dug in and begun living on the site of an ancient ruined town.  The mayor/sheriff/innkeeper/barkeep was and is the affable Drotik.  The party met him first and he has figured in to their adventures many times.

Ichi the cleric and Shawn Solo the Bounty Hunter first awoke in Crossroads after a disastrous run-in with bandits.  Their caravan was destroyed and only a few survivors made it back to the safety of Crossroads.  Having made each other's acquaintance on the caravan, they decided to stick together, accepting a job from Drotik in repayment of his kindness (and a need for some cash!).

Through various deadly traps and numerous battles, from the Temple of the Rat Shaman (no he didn't look like Splinter) to the sewers of Crossroads, Ichi and Shawn have survived on wit and a consistent strategy of having the torch-bearer look into all dark rooms first.  Along the way they have twice fended off the wicked Rat Shaman, slain an Arachnosquid, and helped to foil the plans of Yog-Sothic cultists.

Now they have stumbled upon what might be the greatest conspiracy yet: a chance job-offer turned into a meeting with time/space travelling aliens.  The Pahreen, as they call themselves, were on the tail end of a failed mission to recover a powerful artifact from the Lost Continent and remove it to a safe time/place. In their brief discussion with the alien, they discovered that the mission was one of mercy--to go back and stop the terrible rise of the Starchild, an event that would lead to the enslavement of the entire continent and the return of at least some of the Old Ones.  With the last alien lost in battle to a peculiar band of Ogres, the mission, with all its loose ends and missing information, has fallen into the hands of the party.

Who is the Starchild?  What information will they find in the Great Library of Ki'hago, magically preserved four levels down a mysterious dungeon?  What of the curious dwarven hammer that was mentioned by the Pahreen, and the map to its resting place?

Time will tell.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

My Newest Purchase...

I'm very excited about this!  I've just purchased my first product from Lamentations of the Flame Princess, the latest highly-rated adventure Hammers of the God.  My excitement, however, is not merely because of the great reviews this is getting or because I have played many short adventures written by James Raggi and have always been very impressed.  It's because Raggi seems to have done some sort of mind-meld with me (poor guy) and created a product that sounds like it fits perfectly with what's upcoming in my Labyrinth Lord campaign!  Yes!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Hall of the Fallen: Turgay

Every campaign has those PCs and NPCs who run out of luck, often at the most inopportune moments.  In this feature, you can take a stroll down the Hall of the Fallen, and celebrate the (sometimes very short) adventuring careers of these luckless souls.

First up is a man whose name was mocked at first utterance: Turgay the Arrow Magnet.

The party was deep in the underground lair of the Rat Shaman, negotiating tricky passageways and trying to avoid some nasty zombies, when Turgay bit the big one.  The heavy darkness was broken by the light of several pools of burning oil, and the stench of burning rat filled air.  Trapped in a back room, desperate to escape and dash up the stairs and out into the light of day, the party made a play to rush past the zombies and into a large main room.  Turgay led the way, only crying a little bit.  Success in avoiding the zombies turned to pain and sorrow for Turgay, though, as he tripped an arrow trap and took the pointy projectile directly through the throat.

Alas, he died quietly...except for the gurgling and moaning.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Lost Continent Campaign: The Party

The posts I've made so far are all the result of house rules and background for my Lost Continent campaign.  Started back in May or June, we've been going strong all summer.  Our daring party is made up of five characters (2 PCs and 3 NPCs), ranging from levels 2-3.

Ichi, the brave cleric, is a member of a religious order whose apostolate is thrashing evil.  He was originally sent on a fairly innocuous errand, but ended up as the Order's operative in a struggle with evil cultists.  Since proving himself a reliable adventurer, he has been inducted into a small, secret order-within-the-order.  This small group masquerades as pilgrim priests, but secretly wanders and watches the continent for any sign of rising power among the followers of evil.

Shawn Solo is a professional "obtainer" of things.  He began his career as a thief, but soon became a bounty hunter and adventurer (homebrewed character class that mixes some thief skills with some fighter attributes).  He joined Ichi on the road early on, traveling into the wild after a bounty: the mysterious Zoe, alleged murderess and former lover.

Zoe travels the continent, surviving by hustling and skill.  She's as dangerous as she is beautiful, and though unpredictable, often shows a soft heart, especially toward Shawn.  She stays far from the large cities, as she is still wanted for murder.

Bellor Ruthenia, a jovial warrior from the North, joined the party early on.  Despite losing his best friend, Dingler the Dwarf, he joined the party as a full member along with Zoe.

The final member is Tune, a torch-bearer with a secret.  He talks like a surfer dude, but appears to be more than he tells.  After surviving much longer than all previous Torch-bearers, he was allowed into the party as a partial member (doesn't get quite as much loot).

Besides these five, there have been numerous torch-bearers, guards, and men-at-arms, none of whom were able to survive too long.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Spell Point System for LC

I'm working on a new spell point system, which seems pretty smooth so far...

Each spell is worth a number of points equal to its level, and a character, cleric or magic-user, may select spells that equal his total spell points.

For instance, a 3rd level magic-user is able to cast two 1st level spells and one 2nd level spell.  His total spell points equals four [(2x1)+(1x2)=4].  So instead of memorizing two 1st and one 2nd level spells, he may memorize four 1st level spells.  He may not, however, memorize two 2nd level spells.  As he progresses in experience, this principal stays the same, being able to memorize more lower level spells than is normally permitting, but not higher level spells.

So, for a second example, Bushka the 8th level magic-user can normally memorize the following:

1st Level: 3
2nd Level: 3
3rd Level: 2
4th Level: 2

However, under this system, Bushka has a total of 23 spell points.  He may not use them for more than two 4th level or 3rd level spells, but may memorize more than three 2nd or 1st level spells, if he wishes.

Now that I'm writing this out, it doesn't sound so simple!  I'm going to have to test this a bit in real play and see how it pans out.  Off to the gaming table!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Shores of the Lost Continent

Colonists tread the strange trails on the Shores of the Lost Continent.