Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Dude, where's my garage?

Apocalypse World: 9th session
click for previous session

Spector returned to town and her crew, Cullen and Whitehead, learned about how their gang got slaughtered by the Swampys. Whitehead was really pissed but he kept his cool, and he even managed to make contact with the last surviving Baller, Gray, and she joined Spector's garage crew.

William H. Esquire Esq. returned to town, and saw some Slavers pouring cement and building what they called a "pit stop" across the road from Arcade, which William H. Esquire Esq. now christened as Arcade Esquire. The Slavers met him and his gang with hostility but rather than start a fight he backed off and returned to town. Many of the people in Arcade Esquire were startled at his return and started talking about fighting the Slavers.

Boy Esquire stayed behind and tried to work his way into the Slavers' gang, but got bored before their leader Onyx would make time for him.

Dremmer, a twister, was preaching of the glories of the Dark Twist in the marketplace and flinging the dark slime oozing from his pores onto anybody who came near him. William H. Esquire Esq. tried to approach him and got hit in the face with some of the black slime, then Marlowe shot at Dremmer wounding him, Dremmer ran and before Marlowe could kill him William H. Esquire Esq.'s gang arrested Marlowe and threw him into a cell. In the cell, Marlowe found a poster listing the Rights and Articles of the Free People of the Shop.

Snail wiped the slime off of William H. Esquire Esq.'s face then took it the Household and Orchid instructed Snail to infect people with the slime before he would hand over a cure.

Spector finished the portable tunnel and gave it to William H. Esquire Esq., who asked her to set up the guns they scavenged from Montana around the perimeter of Arcade Esquire, but half of them turned out to be missing from the armory.

William H. Esquire Esq. confronted the Swampys about their cannibalism in his absence and negotiated for them to have a "fake" fight between the diehard cannibals in their group and the ones who wanted to reform to William H. Esquire Esq.'s way of ... eating. Their leader, Gnarly, agreed to the idea. Afterward William H. Esquire Esq. released Marlowe with the understanding that he can't just attack people.

Boy Esquire tried to help Snail get some new clothes, but Snail was insistent that he was going to keep wearing the dress. They both went to Rags'es goat trough to clean themselves off, and Snail managed to infect a few people with the Dark Twist along the way, but Boy Esquire seemed to be immune.

Morticia found Gams smashing up her bar in the Stax. Gams looked tough and had a mouth filled with razor-sharp teeth, but Morticia met him with violence regardless. Though she was deeply injured Morticia prevailed and got bandaged up by Rags.

Snail confronted Orchid and demanded to be let back into the House but Orchid explained to Snail that they were one and the same, Orchid was just a shell that the House spoke through, and Orchid further explained that the House no longer wanted him to be a part of it. Instead, he should consider himself part of the Garden: the growing group of children and teenagers that reverentially followed Orchid.

Marlowe caught up with Dremmer and forced him to promise that he would leave town, but in the course of the conversation he learned that Dremmer had been infected with the Dark Twist by people in Hanford and they were holding Dremmer's wife and three daughters as hostages in exchange for him coming to Arcade Esquire and infecting the populace. Marlowe enlisted Snail's aid and they cured Dremmer of the Dark Twist.

Spector's garage was inexplicably in a new location very close to the Tree and the fighting arena. Spector was trying to deduce how her garage got moved across town while she was inside of it with her crew, some people seemed to think it hadn't moved at all, but others agreed that it was in a suddenly new position in town. Snail was convinced the Tree had somehow done it. When Boy Esquire was asked about what he knew of the Tree he tried to leverage his knowledge for sex with Spector and through the course of negotiations a small orgy happened between Boy Esquire, Spector, her assistant Cullen, and Morticia

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Third Verse, by Johnstone Metzger & Tony Dowler

The Third Verse is the third of Johnstone Metzger's Dungeon World / Labyrinth Lord series, and like the previous adventures before this one the River Knife runs alongside the area where this module takes place. I think this is pretty cool because it allows a GM to use all of these adventures as part of a larger campaign and use the River Knife as a constant feature and returning point for the PCs. Either the river is their main method of navigation, or imagine a three-segment artifact that needs to be put together and each piece is found somewhere in all of the adventures. This isn't something that is suggested in any of these modules, it's just my own flight of fancy after having read all of them.

This module has the PCs being asked by a venerable sorceress to complete an ancient song that will banish the monsters the plague this region. There is a short description of the town of Springvale and the sorceress Liniakatra, and the rest of the adventure is a dungeoncrawl. The players presumably learn the first two verses from Liniakatra and then they must venture into the underground temple housing portals that spring forth a variety of monsters to learn the third verse and seal the infernal portals forever.

This is a fun adventure, but short. There are some interesting conundrums and encounters inside the dungeon itself, but some GMs might be turned off by the simple dungeon design. The whole structure of the dungeon and it's denizens reminded me very heavily of playing Gauntlet when I was younger, but it's different enough that most players might not notice the similarities. There is a lot information here to build off as well, with the portals that disgorge otherworldly monsters to the shrine in the last level.

You can purchase both pdf and print versions of "RK3 - The Third Verse" at DriveThruRPG or just a print version at Lulu
Johnstone Metzger also has a blog and a Patreon campaign for writing up monsters in Dungeon World and Labyrinth Lord stats
Tony Dowler also has a blog and a Patreon campaign for creating maps

Monday, August 25, 2014

Evil Wizards in a Cave, by Johnstone Metzger

Evil Wizards in a Cave is the second of Johnstone Metzger's Dungeon World / Labyrinth Lord series, and in a change of pace from some of the other modules this one is a hexcrawl. Those familiar with the previous adventure will see that the River Knife features prominently in the landscape of the setting.

This book has a fairly straightforward sounding adventure: some monks in a monastery, nestled in a mountainous territory plagued with extraordinary monsters, have had a sacred artifact stolen from them by some wizards who are using it to power a far-reaching and nefarious ritual that will affect every living creature in the surrounding region. Find the wizards, stop their ritual, and get the artifact back. Pretty simple really, but not quite.

The thieving wizards have to be tracked down and because the adventure is presented as a hexcrawl this adds a level of anxiety to stopping the ritual. The worst aspect of this is that there is nothing specifically in the adventure to tell you the ritual is happening. There are suggestions on how to impart this information to the PCs like prophetic dreams or insidious rumors, and there is even a suggestion that you just describe an impending supernatural feeling coming from the mountains where the wizards are hiding, in this way it's left very open for the GM to construct their own method of spurring the PCs to action, but not having anything concrete to give the players right away is a huge detraction from the rest of this module.

There is also very little in the way of clues to guide the PCs to the cave where the wizards are hiding, but the map puts the hexes at 2 miles across so it would be fair to give the players an eyeline to the mountains and hills on the map, thus narrowing their search. There are a few magical beasts prowling the area and there is even a dragon, and every hex has some kind of feature that ties into the local population of humans or beasts. The monastery even has it's own twist going on, but the twist seems unnecessary and I suspect this was added on for players who might find the hunt for the wizards too easy.

I have mixed feelings about hexcrawls and that might be why I am not as excited about this adventure as I was of the previous ones Johnstone Metzger has written. There is a lot going on in this adventure and plenty of interesting encounters, but the most interesting part of the module is the ritual the wizards are performing. It's too bad the players are set up to prevent the ritual because I think it would be a lot more fun for the PCs to enter this hexcrawl after the ritual has just been completed.

You can purchase both pdf and print versions of "RK2 - Evil Wizards in a Cave" at DriveThruRPG or just a print version at Lulu
Johnstone Metzger also has a blog and a patreon campaign for writing up monsters in Dungeon World and Labyrinth Lord stats

Saturday, August 23, 2014

magic-users

I once wrote about how I had been toying with this Apocalypse World-inspired magic system of success/partial success/failure results. Recently I've been looking at Dungeon Crawl Classics magic system a lot more, because I like the varying power levels of spells despite the overload of paperwork. The way I've been thinking of spells now is that even on a "miss" the spell would be cast, a character who can use magic will cast the spell regardless of choices or rolls. After the spell has been cast the magic-user would roll again to see how powerful the spell is, potentially all of these dice could be rolled together since the power roll would use different die types.

Using the DCC RPG spells as a standard, here's how I have it written so far.

when you cast a spell, roll+spell or choose 1 option, on a 15+ choose none, on a 10-14 choose 2, on a miss choose 3 and you draw attention to yourself:
- spell lost, you can't cast the spell again until after you rest
- the spell corrupts you
- the spell misfires and does something unexpected
- your magic dwindles, -1ongoing to magic until you rest

Power (2d10+magic)
Under 12: Spell works as normal
12-15: +1 enhancement
16-18: +2 enhancements
19-21: +4 enhancements
22+: Critical!

Corruption
Under 10: Minor corruption
10-14: Major corruption
15+: Greater corruption

Charm Person
The magic-user charms a humanoid to become friendly, they will regard the caster as a friend and ally but not do anything against their own nature.
Range: 40 yards, Duration: 1 day, Corruption: 1d4+magic+spell
Enhancements: affects +1 target (multiple), add +1 day (multiple)
Critical: affects 2d6+magic targets, lasts one month, and caster has complete control over targets (will perform suicidal or contradictory tasks)
Misfire 1d4: 1) caster also falls in love with target(s), 2) two randomly determined nearby humanoids fall in love with each other, 3) caster inadvertently puts target(s) to sleep, 4) target(s) are repulsed and angered by everyone nearby except the caster

Slow
The magic-user impairs the ability of a target creature to move at its normal speed, to such a degree that it's attacks are easily avoided. Attack rolls must still be made to hurt the slowed creature.
Range: 30 yards, Duration: 1 turn, Corruption: 1d8+magic+spell
Enhancements: affects +1 creature (multiple), add +1 turn (multiple)
Critical: all creatures that are actively hostile to caster within range are frozen in place for 3 turns
Misfire 1d4: 1) caster slows one ally within sight (if no ally in sight then caster slows themself), 2) caster slows all allies within range (if no allies in range then caster slows themself), 3) caster ages 10 years, 4) a nearby animal or insect develops the Slow spell as an innate ability (usable once/day)

Polymorph
The magic-user transforms himself or another into a different creature, assuming the creature's form and manner of movement as well as the creature's ability to survive in it's natural habitat.
Range: touch, Duration: 1 hour, Corruption: 1d10+magic+spell
Enhancements: affects +1 creature (multiple), add +1 day (multiple), grant all of the natural & magical abilities of the new form
Critical: caster can transform themself and +magic+spell targets into a new creature with all of the natural & magical abilities of the new form for up to one week
Misfire 1d4: 1) target is transformed into inoffensive domestic animal, 2) partial transformation of changed head and normal body or vice versa, 3) target's skin changes to new form but that is all, 4) also summons 1d4 creatures of the intended transformation to the caster's location and they are angry or hungry

Pretty simple in comparison to DCC RPG, but still requires a bit of paperwork.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Doom-Cave of the Crystal-Headed Children, by James Edward Raggi IV

The Doom-Cave of the Crystal-Headed Children (DCCHC) was the Free RPG Day release for the Lamentations of the Flame Princess RPG. If you were really lucky, your FLGS isn't run by a douchebag who refuses to carry LotFP products and you got a print copy earlier this year. Unlucky souls can still pick up a pdf copy of the adventure. DCCHC was initially funded on Indiegogo and that is the only way I was able to procure a print copy of the module.

James Raggi IV has a reputation for writing adventure modules that are basically traps for the PCs. Another blogger coined the term negadungeon to explain this kind of module, an adventure that is meant to destroy the PCs rather than to entertain or reward. I personally find assessments like this unfair, but I will say that he manages to craft adventures which seem uncompromisingly difficult from a cold reading.

The premise of DCCHC all by itself is weird and horrifying. All of the women in a small town are convinced that they gave birth to a son four years ago, named him Andrew, and yesterday he disappeared - despite the fact that nobody else remembers these multitudes of Andrews and there is no evidence that these Andrews exist except as a mass hallucination of the women of this town, one of these boys is seen outside of town, and... you'll have to read the adventure or play through it to find out who and what these Andrews are.

Having read that last paragraph, aren't you intrigued to find out what is going on? I know I was!

DCCHC is a great module because there is a ton of weird and dangerous stuff inside a dungeon complex that is authentically creepy and strange, but the real charm of this adventure is that the main hook that brings the PCs to the cave could all be resolved in the very first rooms. The plot involving the many Andrews takes up about 6 pages of a 36 page adventure. Everything else around the crystal-headed children is just icing on the cake!

Even though it was a Free RPG Day offering, you can still get "The Doom-Cave of the Crystal-Headed Children" for free (or purchase it as a pay-what-you-want pdf) at DriveThruRPG

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

"I would prefer not to"

It occurs to me that some OSR grognards regard any game where the players are given some sort of narrative control over the action as a "story game." To put it another way, some people think if you're not recognizing Rule Zero as a fundamental aspect of playing role-playing games then they don't consider it a role-playing game.
Rule Zero was always a stupid concept to begin with. The best D&D games I ever played in were ones where the GM built off of things the players handed them, and the worst D&D games I ever played in were the ones where the GM completely ignored the other players' desires and ambitions for his own plotline or slavish devotion to his setting. When I hear other people talk about their best and worst experiences at the table I hear the same kinds of stories, except when somebody is targeting a particular game. I try not to declare something is bad simply because I had a bad experience with it, or didn't have fun. I try to explain exactly what it was I didn't like without falling into generalized descriptions.

I don't like the Shadowrun system and I have only had bad experiences playing it, but that doesn't make it a bad game. I love a lot of things about Shadowrun despite my bad experiences and my distaste for the rules. I would definitely try playing it again with a fresh GM.

I don't like 4th edition D&D because it requires a map to play it, I think of it as a glorified board game, but that doesn't make it a bad game. When I get done playing a game of 4th edition D&D I am left thinking about the tactics I could have used rather than the story that was happening around, plot is incidental to the action on the table. It's just not a game that appeals to my sensibilities.

I don't like Paranoia because I have only ever had bad experiences with it, yet when people talk about what has happened in their games of Paranoia it always sounds like a lot fun. It's like when I hear about a sketch on Saturday Night Live and it sounds really funny when somebody describes it to me, but when I actually watch it it's not that funny. I could probably try playing it again if I was with the right group of players.

I don't like Monsterhearts because the playbooks are each individually defined to promote a very specific style of playing that particular character and I want to be able to have more freedom with my character then following a guided playstyle and narrative. I probably won't play it again.

I have probably had more bad experiences than good ones while playing 1st and 2nd edition D&D, but this always came down to a GM who either ignored what his players wanted to do or a GM who took possession of the campaign world in such a way that it limited the fun players at the table were having. The level-based system of D&D no longer appeals to me, but I would still play it as long as the GM didn't quote Rule Zero as a maxim for how they ran their game.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence, by Venger Satanis

The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence (IPHP) is an OSR hexcrawl over a gonzo science-fantasy landscape populated with strange creatures, unique challenges, and deranged populations. IPHP was initially funded on Kickstarter and was one of those rare gaming projects that actually saw an early delivery.

The first half of the book consists of background information about the islands as well as lots of useful tools for inserting weird ideas and background data for the PCs. I would think of this part of the book as a grab bag of inspirational ideas and useful character building tools. Some players might balk at having a randomly generated flashback to their childhood or having a random personal connection to the islands, but with the right group of people this can be really charming and adds the to astronomical creepiness of the island's history. My favorite part of this section are the purple stones, a mechanical method to reward players for acting in the islands' interests (yes, you read that correctly), and the mysterious crystals native to the islands, powerful but nonmagical artifacts left behind by the decaying corpses of ancient wyrms.

The second half of the book describes the islands, hex by hex. There are lots of weird diversions scattered across the three islands, but there doesn't seem to be alot of effort made to connect them together in any discernible way. A constant theme is aliens from another dimension/planet who have crashed/landed and are up to some kind of mischief, or just minding their own business. There are pop culture references appearing just as often but are obscured in ways to not be immediately noticeable or recognizable, and some of the treasure includes items that might be found in our modern world which I found amusing, but some gamers might find distracting.

Some things I don't like:
1) There are sometimes multiple encounters listed for a single hex, but the map itself doesn't have distance marked so it's difficult to know exactly how big each hex is. One of the islands is said to be over 1000 square miles and a rough estimate means each hex represents about 30 square miles. A simple map key would have saved me the time to try and figure this out. This isn't egregious, but a lot of sections probably could have used some proofreading from a fellow gamer because there are lots of little things like this that seem overlooked.
2) There are lots of encounters that result in a save or die scenario, and I personally dislike these because I would either never use them or feel the need to rewrite them.

Some things I really like:
1) It's almost like having two sourcebooks because the first half is written with a general approach and many of the ideas can be used outside of a IPHP adventure. But hen you have the second half, which can be used as a straight up hexcrawl or as a collection of ideas to throw into your own games.
2) Despite the randomness of each encounter, each has enough detail to build off of and potentially create a whole session worth of adventure around. Played right, and this module could make a campaign last for months or years.
3) The artwork is great. There's a lot of great talent inside and I would love to see more of it!
4) Amazing Larry in hex 016

This book is a lot of fun! I don't see myself running it as a straight adventure but I can definitely see myself taking things from it frequently (and perhaps randomly) in order to spice up my own OSR games.

You can purchase both pdf and print versions of "The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence" at DriveThruRPG

Saturday, August 16, 2014

It's like that old saying "fourth time's the charm"

Apocalypse World: 8th session
click for previous session

After William H. Esquire Esq. was driven away in the Slavers' trucks, Boy Esquire, Marlowe and Morticia cleaned themselves off in one of Rags' water troughs. Snail appeared, naked and slimy, and revealed he had been ejected from his House (changed to the Last Child playbook), he seemed agitated and afraid and looked very young now that he was no longer inside the thick leather shell of the House so Boy Esquire tried to help him by finding (stealing) new clothes for him from inside the Arcade.

Morticia seduced one of the Slavers, Queen, the apparent leader of the bikers, and brought him back to her house, a storage container that once housed many of the arena gladiators but now belonging solely to her. The Ballers and Swampys started fighting again, and gunfire could be heard across town. Morticia intervened and convinced the two gangs to fight in the arena where spectators wouldn't get injured and could bet on the fight. Left to their own devices, the Swampys won and with William H. Esquire Esq. seemingly no longer in charge they began to feast on the corpses of the Ballers.

The House took possession of a spot underneath the Tree and a small group of people started to pray to the House. Snail led Boy Esquire back to the House and they discovered a new person was sitting inside of the suit, Orchid. Snail demanded to be let back in, but Orchid ignored him and shut him out of the group forming around them, the Household.

Marlowe eavesdropped on Rags and Toyota, discovering that Chief had been muscling Rags for drugs and medicine without paying, but then overcharging Toyota. Toyota was having a withdrawal fit and seemed on the verge of violence, but Marlowe threatened him and he ran off.

Meanwhile, William H. Esquire Esq. accepted his new role as "slave" for the most part. The guard that was left on him, Robot, made promises to check in on Arcade and suggested he might abandon his job in the City by the Sea. William H. Esquire Esq. was taken to a cell at the Courthouse and was told he would be assigned a job the next day.

was once Mercer Island near Seattle

In the morning William H. Esquire Esq. could see the ancient skyline of an abandoned city, overgrown with weeds and flowers and plants that towers alongside the old world's skyscrapers and office blocks. He was given a work assignment in the Field and escorted there by Robot who then left. Another guard, Fleece, began to succumb to William H. Esquire Esq.'s charms and was soon promising to take William H. Esquire Esq. to see either Lala or Bill, the two top people underneath Sweet.

Morticia arrived at the Stax the next day and saw Chief taking over the business now that Braille was dead. She took two steps behind the bar and met with immediate resistance from Chief and so Morticia killed him with one quick blow to the head with her club. She then announced that the Stax was hers and nobody protested.

William H. Esquire Esq.'s gang was warily passing the Slaver bikers as they headed west toward the Fishers' Place and both Marlowe and Boy Esquire followed the gang. Birthday detailed a rough plan they had of hiking along the riverside until they found the City by the Sea and looking for a way to sneak in and break William H. Esquire Esq. free.

In the City by the Sea William H. Esquire Esq. had already made waves. He managed to get a meeting with Bill and then convinced Bill to take him to Sweet. In Sweet's company, William H. Esquire Esq. tried to convince her that slavery was wrong but she explained that two towns nearby once tried to institute democratic rule and both failed spectacularly. Sweet also explained that her sister used to run Arcade but back then it was called the Shop. William H. Esquire Esq. admitted that Sweet's rules seemed logical, but he made a mental note of trying to thwart them later. Bill revealed that William H. Esquire Esq.'s gang was spotted hiking along the river and Sweet offered a new deal: he would be returned to lead Arcade as long as he accepted and facilitated the first deal that Ritchie had offered, or he could keep being a slave in the City by the Sea and any resistance from the Arcade would be wiped out. He took the deal.

Later on Bill piloted a boat down the river for William H. Esquire Esq. and when they met up with his gang there was fighting happening between them and a large underwater plant with tentacle vines that floated on the water's surface. Snail managed to kill the plant, and in the aftermath Bill made sure everybody got safely back to Arcade.


Also, this is what William H. Esquire Esq. looks like (Antonio Fargas with a face tattoo)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

"Call-Me-Kenneth and the Sonic Pigs" would be a great band name

Apocalypse World: 7th session
click for previous session

A new character joined our cast:
the Spectacle - Morticia the Magnificent has been fighting in the sinkhole that everyone calls the Pit for several weeks, the last fight she won was to the death

After returning from Montana and settling back into town William H. Esquire Esq. decided to sell the Arcade to his former employee, Betty, and establish his hold over the town, by throwing a huge party to celebrate. This activated everybody's sex moves. Boy Esquire became a Skinner, Marlowe got pregnant, Morticia had an orgy with her fans, and Snail took a closer look at William H. Esquire Esq. with his acquisitive eye.

When Betty took over the Arcade she kicked Boy Esquire out and he had to find a place to sleep, so he dug out a small pit behind the Arcade. He had been offered a role as a fighter in the Pit but turned it down, and Pit the Elder told Morticia to start antagonizing Boy Esquire so that he would want to fight her in the Pit.

Uncrow had stayed behind after Gau led his tribe members back to their hidden grotto, but had been murdered and nobody had done anything with his body. Boy Esquire decided to loot the dead body and took the late Good Deal tribal's armor and weapons. Marlowe showed up to investigate the murder and in the midst of questioning Boy Esquire saw movement in Uncrow's tent. The two of them approached with weapons drawn and were confronted by a sonic pig. Their immediate reaction was to try and kill it, but not before it screamed and compelled the two to shit themselves.

picture by Logan Knight

Another scream was heard in town. Marlowe and Boy Esquire went to investigate, while Morticia met with Betty about a job offer and discovered that Betty wanted Boy Esquire killed. William H. Esquire Esq. was told about the sonic pigs and he escorted Marlowe and Boy Esquire to the Arcade so they could get cleaned up. Boy Esquire snuck away and cleaned himself off in one of Rags' troughs for his goats. William H. Esquire Esq. discovered Betty's job offer and convinced her to let it go, but Morticia had already set up a fight with Boy Esquire in the Pit.

William H. Esquire Esq. met with both Pit the Elder and Pit the Younger and bribed them into changing the fight at the last minute. Morticia won her fight, and Boy Esquire was stepping into the sinkhole to dance artfully & graciously for the crowd, but was interrupted by some slavers who had moved into town...

This is when the sonic pigs showed up.

Four sonic pigs were unleashed upon the crowd by four slavers wearing ear plugs. While fighting the sonic pigs, Morticia was attacked from behind by a slaver and started to be carried out of the Pit. Marlowe came to assist Boy Esquire but they were overwhelmed by the sonic pigs shrieking. William H. Esquire Esq. took steps to capture one of the sonic pigs but gunfire could be heard outside of the Pit and the crowd was obviously being corralled by more slavers that were in town. Snail assisted those fighting the sonic pigs and desperately opened his brain while touching the weird tree at the edge of the Pit and saw a vision that the tree was "in control" of the Arcade but that his hoard was stealing power from the tree and that's what drew the slavers' attention to town.

William H. Esquire Esq. managed to get to his house hanging above the center of town. The leader of the slavers, Call-Me-Kenneth, walked into the center of town with a retinue of armed guards and demanded recompense from William H. Esquire Esq. A brief showdown with Braille occurred, but she was killed by Call-Me-Kenneth's enforcers. William H. Esquire Esq. made a deal with Call-Me-Kenneth to surrender himself publicly in exchange for releasing the citizens of his town, and so they did. Morticia and many of her fans were released as William H. Esquire Esq. was bundled into a truck and driven away...

Monday, July 28, 2014

Apocalypse World: Nobody's Home (6th session)

click for previous session

William H. Esquire Esq. awoke in his Arcade with a little memory loss. He was sure that he had been knocked out by a couple of Ballers but he wasn't sure why. There was some discussion about the gunfight that had just happened while Gau's tribals tried to figure out how to operate the motorcycles. Gau prayed to his ancestors to find the nearest source of fuel to fill the gastanks of these motorcycles and sensed it was north of Arcade, in the ruins of the Big 90.

William H. Esquire Esq. didn't want to use the motorcycles and preferred using a car to drive over to Montana and used fingers in every pie to get it, and that's when Lamprey showed up with his brother Philo Foureyes who was willing to hand over his dump truck in exchange for a job. Philo Foureyes is a Fisher and thus he is also a mutant.

image from Nate Marcel's Make Your Own Mudmen Eye Types

Kidboy announced that he would no longer answer to that name, now he should be called Boy Esquire.

Snail was off studying Silver's Meno Moon Array, and the rest of them hopped into the dump truck, Spector took her crew, Cullen and Whitehead, while William H. Esquire Esq. brought his guard Tango. They headed north, with Boy Esquire driving. When they reached the ruins of the Big 90 they found the decaying buses and vans that made up the walls of the Big 90 and two smashed up cars with people tied up and staked to the hoods, a crowd was gathered around listening to a preacher wearing an old and tattered American flag as a robe. As the group warily approached the crowd they could hear the words of Father beckoning to rebuild the America that was once forged in flames, and that the fires of redemption would burn away the fat of decadence and evils of idleness. William H. Esquire Esq. took issue with this, and tried to compete with Father to convince the crowd that the Arcade was a better place to make a home for themselves. Father's flamethrower-wielding guards, June and Birthday, defected to William H. Esquire Esq. and so Father declared him to be a devil, an agent of the apocalypse that laid America low.

Marlowe used the distraction to free the the two people who were tied up, discovering that they were doused in gasoline, and Gau took advantage of the distraction to circle around the crowd and attempt to bushwhack Father from behind. Marlowe succeeded, but when he climbed up onto the car that Father was standing on Gau slipped and his gun went off, killing a kid in the crowd. William H. Esquire Esq. attempted to comfort the mother, but she was having none of it. Gau beat Father to death before he could rally the crowd, but they began to move toward William H. Esquire Esq. with violence in mind. William H. Esquire Esq. commanded everyone to retreat and they quickly got back into the dump truck and fled. William H. Esquire Esq. wanted to get back to Arcade but Boy Esquire insisted that they were going to Montana.

When they arrived, they found abandoned farm fields with tree stumps along the edges. The house of Montana was in ruins, with smashed windows and peeling paint, the barn behind it looked in a similar state of disrepair, and the field between the two buildings was ringed by a thick wooden wall with one closed door, big enough for a medium-sized car to drive through. In the middle of the compound, a 40-foot tall antenna stood, lights along the antenna blinked betraying that an active generator was inside the compound. An almost perfect circle had been cut out of the surrounding woods and the circle was lined with the bodies of dead animals and a few dead humans, their flesh left to scour in the wind and weather, no scavengers or carrion feeders had even touched the decaying corpses. As Boy Esquire and William H. Esquire Esq. attempted to approach the compound on foot, gunfire erupted from slats in the walls.

William H. Esquire Esq. made repeated attempts to convince or bribe the occupants behind the wall that they weren't a threat, but the gunfire continued against anyone approaching within the circle. Spector found one route where the guns had difficulty aiming, and managed to run up to the dilapidated house while others distracted the mute gunners. Gau and Boy Esquire both got severely injured by gunfire, and Marlowe took it upon himself to drive the dump truck up to the wooden wall, he wasn't going fast enough to plow a hole through the barricade but he did manage to seal up one of the gun slats. As William H. Esquire Esq. worked his way around to the garage door, Tango, one of his guards, was killed by another gun, and Spector managed to get inside of the compound, but set off a mine attached to a door in the process.

Everybody but Gau made it inside, while he waited outside of the circle, weeping over his wounds and the terrible events f earlier in the day. They searched the compound and found it nearly abandoned, an ancient computer connected to the antenna was hooked up with wires and cables to unmanned machine guns placed along the slats in the walls of the compound. They unplugged the entire device from the generator, and a beeping noise could be heard coming from the antenna. Spector found the harness she needed to finish making her Secret Portable Tunnel, while Marlowe and Boy Esquire searched the barn and found many dead bodies that had all apparently been poisoned. They found a few medical supplies and took them out to Gau to heal his wounds.

Leaving Spector and her laborers behind to go over the abandoned equipment, they dismantled the guns and drove back to Arcade. Gau vowed to return his tribe to their secret grotto and made plans to protect them from these crazy outsiders while retiring to safety.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Apocalypse World: Sonic Pigs

I have decided to adapt Patrick Stuart's Sonic Pigs into a custom threat for my Apocalypse World game.

In the City by the Sea slaves are forced to tend the sonic pig pits, feeding them and corralling them until they have grown fat from sucking on semi-nutrient mud. They are more than just a food source though, when the slavers want to demoralize a populace they will release the runts and mutated babies of their litters around the perimeter of a town they want to subjugate, herding the pigs toward the populace with sticks and whips while protecting themselves with earplugs or scavenged headphones. The sonic pigs will search for food amongst a town's refuse but react with terror when confronted by crowds or loud noises.

When you scare a sonic pig, roll+sharp. On a 10+, pick two. On a 7-9, pick three. If you are deafened or have a way to cancel sound, then pick one less:
  • you shit yourself (you are +messy and prone to +disease if you don't clean yourself)
  • you are dizzy (take -1ongoing until you get +far away)
  • you are disorientated (act under fire or else stay where you are clutching your head)
  • you are filled with despair (the MC holds 1, they can spend this hold to prevent you from gaining experience)
On a miss, all four are true, even if you are deafened - the vibrations from the sound rattle your bones and make your intestines hum.

Click the pic for linkage

Picture drawn by Logan Knight

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Hexcrawls

I have mixed feelings about hexcrawl adventures.
On the one hand, a hexcrawl has the potential to be a fun puzzle box adventure with geographical locations serving as evidence for larger schemes or ancient histories waiting for the players to discover.
On the other hand, I have never seen a group of players embrace the exploratory nature of a hexcrawl adventure.
Maybe I handle the adventures wrong when I attempt to GM them, but in the past the best experiences I have gotten out of hexcrawl adventure modules is in using them as a treasure box of resources to throw into a campaign. Maybe this is how most other GMs use them too?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Apocalypse World: Weirder & Weirder (4th and 5th sessions)

click for previous session

The Cast of Characters

the Maestro d' - William H. Esquire Esquire owns the Arcade, a bar and brothel with a few working video game cabinets. The town it's a part of has also come to be referred to as Arcade.

the Tribal - Gau is a member of the Good Deal tribe, a hardy and pragmatic people who reside in an isolated grotto.

the Hoarder - Snail lives inside of a giant spherical suit of advanced technological origin called The House.

the Kid - Kidboy is an orphan who has been taken in by William H. Esquire Esq. as a protege.

the Savvyhead - Spector has set up a garage in the middle of Arcade

the Marmot - Marlowe has been in Arcade long enough to solve one murder, and realize that nobody is really in charge.

The Map


click for bigger


Gau returned to Arcade with some members of the Good Deal tribe. He has been selected by Blind Blue, the leader of their tribe, to decide whether the tribe should fortify where they live or look for a new place to move on to.

Kidboy manages to steal his lucky charm, a safety pin, back from Snail while he's sleeping. Betty's Sister begins to mother Kidboy and tries to encourage him to toughen up, assigning him to guard the door to the Arcade with Tango.

Happy ran into the Arcade missing two of his fingers and bleeding profusely. They stopped the bleeding and Happy was reticent about what happened but managed to reveal he had a confrontation with the Fisher Family, one of them had very sharp teeth.

Some of the Fisher Family showed up just as Ritchie returned to town. Ritchie explained that he worked for Sweet, and she wanted to offer William H. Esquire Esq. free food in exchange for free passage to Sweet's Army. Sweet is the leader of some group from the north and they were going to move through the Big 90 and Montana, but nobody in Montana will even talk to them and Ritchie reveals that this is where he lost his eye. The Arcade is an alternative for them where they feel they wouldn't have to fight anybody to travel through. William H. Esquire Esq. decides to hold a feast for everybody in Arcade and declares he won't make a deal unless he can talk to Sweet face to face.

There are rumors of a talking rat in town.

William H. Esquire Esq. asks Spector to start work on a secret portable tunnel so that he'll always be able to escape the Arcade if it gets attacked. Spector goes back to her garage to work on the project and sends out her crew to scavenge for tech and finds out that Silver is in Arcade and trying to finish his Meno Moon Array. She helps him finish it and as it turns on she makes the thing speak and has a vision of what the Meno Moon Array does; it sends a laser signal to a base on the Moon so that the inhabitants there, sentient uplifted dolphins, can pinpoint coordinates for landing back on the Earth.

William H. Esquire Esq. then goes to confront Braille whose been moving in on his business. Rather than convince her that they should work together, he hypnotizes her and she begins to follow him around. He discovers that she's being supplied by Gams, somebody who wants in on William H. Esquire Esq.'s business.

The next day Ritchie and his gang leave town. They offer William H. Esquire Esq. the opportunity to punish one of their own, who had previously tried to kill one of the Arcade's regulars Lamprey, but William H. Esquire Esq. lets them go.

Gau prays to his ancestors for guidance and they reveal that a key component for Spector's project, the secret portable tunnel, is in Montana. William H. Esquire Esq. begins making plans for a trip to Montana when Betty's Sister is killed, apparently by Kidboy's safety pin. A few people witness it, but any who are told what happened remain skeptical. Kidboy insists he only punched Betty's Sister and didn't kill her.

William H. Esquire Esq. orders his crew to clean up the bar and fetch the undertaker, then goes back to Braille's place, the Stax, to work out what she'll do for him while he travels to Montana. He gets ambushed on the way by a few disgruntled Ballers.

Marlowe walks into the bar while people are still debating whether Kidboy's safety pin could have killed Betty's Sister and a long investigation of Kidboy's safety pin ensues. At one point Kidboy swallows the safety pin to make sure nobody can get it, but he begins to feel ill and is convinced to vomit it up. Gau has a vision of pools of blood around the Arcade all circling toward the tree on the edge of town and funneling down into the safety pin from the trees' roots.

Snail finally gets Gau's hat, apparently just by asking for it.

There is a shootout just outside of the Arcade. Marlowe and Gau's tribal gang makes short work of the six bikers. They are all wearing a similar kind of leather fatigue outfit that Marlowe has seen on the road coming to Arcade from Cellar Town. When the fighting is done, somebody discovers William H. Esquire Esq.'s body. He's alive but unconscious.

Another Map


click for bigger

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Apocalypse World: Power & Glory (3rd session)

This is my first blog post about this game.

William H. Esquire Esquire is a bar and brothel owner, he stumbled across the Arcade and has made the most of it, but now is looking to upgrade the business. There were once games on the second floor but most of them are in various states of disrepair. He spent a week traveling south to the Barges with his custodian, Lovelace, looking to hire a technician to bring back to his Arcade only to find that he had permanently soured his relationship with Rolfball, one of the Barges leaders. As Rolfball's men hunted William H. Esquire Esq. another local stirred up dissent against Rolfball, and a gang war ensued. William H. Esquire Esq. slipped away from the Barges and when he returned home from his journey found that a technician had already settled in the makeshift town around his Arcade. Now he seems to have no worries, as a few small gangs followed him back to the Arcade and seem to be bringing some much needed customers back to his part of the world.

Gau is a member of the Good Deal tribe, named such by others since they always seem to give good deals on the food they trade. Gau has been working for William H. Esquire Esq. for several weeks now, acting as a guide on his trip to the Barges and sometimes as a guard at the Arcade. Gau is an excellent tracker and survivalist, and his skills seem to be going to waste while he hangs out with William H. Esquire Esq. which is perhaps why he has taken up a drug habit. Except the drugs that Lovelace supplies give him visions of things that were and things that are and things to come. It's all very unsettling. In the meantime, Gau's tribe is also branching out...

Snail is a scrawny man hiding away inside of a giant spherical suit of advanced technological origin. He calls the suit the House and seems to have a unique connection to it that allows him to communicate with it's mechanical brain. He followed William H. Esquire Esq. back to the Arcade with the promise of assisting the business, but now that he has arrived the House has other plans and has coerced him to settle into the town underneath a tree. This tree just appeared one day as a sinkhole swallowed part of the town and nobody seems to question it, but nobody in town wants to go near the tree either. Except for Snail and Kidboy.

Kidboy was orphaned in the Barges when the fighting first broke out between Barker, Rolfball, Gnarly, and Jackabacka. In the wake of another fight that left Rolfball and Jackabacka dead, Kidboy followed William H. Esquire Esq. back to the Arcade under promises of games to play and style to be learned. Kidboy was instrumental in getting power back to the second floor of the Arcade and now spends his time playing an old beat up Ms.Pac-Man cabinet.

Spector is good with her hands and has an uncanny technological knowledge that lets her build or repair just about anything. She's new to the Arcade, having fled the increasingly theocratic reign over Hanford from the Church of the Reformed Autumn. Spector was once a member of the church, but is not old enough to remember when Autumn returned to the facility underneath Hanford. She is old enough to remember the last time cultists from Montana traded in Hanford, and spoke of the Arcade to the west, where their once and future prophet The Truth died. Lamprey's occasional visits to Hanford helped embolden her decision to leave when he arrived with news that William H. Esquire Esq. was looking for somebody to repair his games.

Clyde followed William H. Esquire Esq.'s group back to the Arcade, but once there he stayed out of sight and was never seen nor heard from by anyone.

In the last session
William H. Esquire Esq. was very happy that Rolfball's old gang, the Ballers, and Jackabacka's tribe, the Swampys, followed him back to the Arcade. It could only mean he would have more customers! Within one day the Ballers spoiled that illusion by burning down half of the still-standing warehouse where Spector was sleeping, and the Swampys continued to exercise their cannibalistic dietary practices when they found the freshly killed body of Twice, one of William H. Esquire Esq.'s prostitutes.
Spector spent her waking hours drinking booze, looking for a place to set up home (twice), and trying to fix the Arcade's second floor power issues and while there was no lack of supplies, she found Kidboy's assistance invaluable due to his thin arms.
The tree on the edge of town seemed to grow in the night and turned over earth and dirt as it grew. Kidboy grew bold and tried to climb the tree with little difficulty, but when he plucked a leaf from one of the branches was thrown to the ground by the branches of the tree itself. While he was dazed on the ground, Snail opened up the House to Kidboy and the House searched Kidboy's mind and soul. After this, Snail offered a deal. If Kidboy would deliver Gau's gnarly hat to Snail then he would offer Kidboy anything he wanted from the House.
Gau had his hands full after taking some weird drugs, having visions of a gun fight in the Arcade and then falling asleep to visions of the previous owner's love life. William H. Esquire Esq.'s bouncer, Happy, kept trying to take Gau or Kidboy back to his home but was thwarted by William H. Esquire Esq. at every opportunity.
The next day, when William H. Esquire Esq. faced off with some of the Ballers trying to wreck the mobile crane in the center of the yard, he noticed some of the Swampys feasting on his missing prostitute Twice. He called his gang over and ordered them to force a halt to the cannibalism, during the fighting a few people died and Gau was hurt, but the Swampys promised to stop eating people.
A visitor to the Arcade, a one-eyed pimply-faced teenager named Ritchie, brought some good barter into town, but he left as soon as the fighting died down.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

0206 Rhodesia (Empire)

Atmosphere: Breathable
Surface Water: 80%
Weather/Climate: Temperate/Normal
Biosphere: Miscible
Population: 2 billion (Tech 4)
Tags: Psionics Worship, Pilgrimage Site

Rhodesia is a wealthy and powerful Imperial system; most Imperial Naval officers and commanders hail from Rhodesia. It has an unusually dense core but surprisingly little tectonic activity. The population of Rhodesia generally revere psionic powers, and anybody who shows a genetic predisposition toward the development of psionic powers is given academic patronage by the state. The rest of the population works in the shadows of the psionic elite, scrabbling an existence as farmers on the rocky slopes of the many landmasses or fishing the vast oceans.

When Rhodesia and Elizabeth reunited there was a brief culture clash, but Elizabeth have integrated Rhodesian psychics into most positions of political or military power. Only the reigning monarchy of Elizabeth seems to be the only remaining bastion of leaders without psionics, but Rhodesian officials have plans to integrate their own nobles into the royal lineage.

In the wake of exploration and expansion, a hardscrabble band of rebels (terrorists?) have arisen on Rhodesia with the sole aim of limiting psionic power and deposing the psychic leadership in favor for civilian democratic rule. They are incredibly unpopular but have so far eluded capture and elimination in most levels of government where they work their sabotage.

Law: Repressive
Starbase: A class, in orbit; A class, on surface

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Ghostwood Haunts, by Johnstone Metzger

Ghostwood Haunts is the third of Johnstone Metzger's Dungeon World series, and while it's the third in the series it doesn't directly follow the events of either of the previous two modules. It does, however, focus on a town called Knifesbridge and Metzger's other series of modules is named River Knife. Crossovers are definitely possible, but don't seem expected or necessary.

I have to say that I wish all adventure modules were written like this.

None of Metzger's previous works feel like traditional adventure modules in any sense of the words, there is never really a central plot or story but you're given an environment, perhaps a mountainous valley or an island or a riverside town, with all of the tools for introducing a series of events that can lead to really bad things happening. In Ghostwood Haunts, if the players neglect or ignore any one event than the greedy brigands or undead things lurking in the shadows will quickly take control of or destroy the township caught in the middle.

In this adventure an unscrupulous mayor holds sway over the town of Knifesbridge where the populace is being terrorized by bandits calling themselves the Wolf Pack. This threat, though formidable, almost seems like a red herring compared to the coven of witch-ghosts that populate the town and the Ghostwood surrounding it. While it takes some work to free these witches from their undead prisons, one careless player could conceivably do it while searching for the Wolf Pack, and one NPC will definitely do it if the players spend too long attempting to smoke out the Wolf Pack from their hideouts.

Metzger illustrates many connections and details between the NPCs and threats, but even if a piece of info seems useless it's still usable and can feed back onto the adventure he has outlined in some way. The names of some of the NPCs seem contrived or lazily written, and maybe that's because he expects you to change them, for example there is no way I'm ever going to refer to the mayor as Old King Cole. But otherwise, I really enjoyed reading this and plan on using this the next time I GM as there is plenty of wiggle room to file off the serial numbers and place this town into any fantasy setting.

You can purchase both pdf and print versions of "DW3 - Ghostwood Haunts" at DriveThruRPG or just a print version at Lulu
Johnstone Metzger also has a blog and a patreon campaign for writing up monsters in Dungeon World and Labyrinth Lord stats

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Island of Fire Mountain, by Johnstone Metzger

Island of Fire Mountain is given the code DW2, it's the second Dungeon World adventure by Johnstone Metzger though it doesn't directly connect to or follow the events of "DW1 - Lair of the Unknown" and after the scenario presented in that first adventure you could be forgiven for assuming that this module is a callback to another famous D&D module. It definitely has some similarities but the inhabitants and plotline are wholly original.

There is no railroading and there is no predetermined mission for the island. If this adventure had been published as a Labyrinth Lord (or any other similar OSR rule system) module then it would probably be classified as a hexcrawl. The booklet consists of five parts; an introduction laying out the island with ways of landing the PCs onto it along with two fronts for creating conflicts with the colonial inhabitants and the tribal natives, a section on the colonial fort that has been practically abandoned but is still occupied by desperate ne'er-do-wells hoping to find a way off the island, the middle part describes the island proper with all of its natives both humane and monstrous, the fourth part describes a ruined city at the base of the island's central volcano in the heart of the jungle, and the last section is a collection of custom rules and a new class to introduce to your game if you feel they're appropriate.

This book is brimming with possibilities. There is no central plotline or story, but there are conflicts that could arise and there is plenty of legroom for a creative GM to take what is here and mold it to fit around her PCs. I kept finding parts of the adventure really inspiring and I repeatedly found myself wishing I was running a game this weekend. Many of the monsters are unique and provide plenty of healthy challenges even before the stories of the NPCs might warp or twist the goals of the players. I love-love-LOVE the Cyclopeans and their strange connection to the cannibals on the island, I would probably use them outside of the adventure if I could get away with transplanting them to multiple environments.

The elementalist class at the back of the book is very cool and interesting, but many aspects of it are vaguely written and I think it's the weakest feature of the book. There are eight tables of grim portents scattered throughout the module and I can't tell you how many times I flipped through the book reading the portents, looking at the NPCs, and studying the map. I was really taken with this adventure, perhaps because I like the idea of stranding some hapless adventurers on a wild and savage island with little to no hope of escape.

You can purchase pdf and print versions of "DW2 - Island of Fire Mountain" at DriveThruRPG or just a print version at Lulu
Johnstone Metzger also has a blog and a patreon campaign for writing up monsters in Dungeon World and Labyrinth Lord stats

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

hit points

I was thinking about how much I hate hit points. When I was playing D&D as a kid and earning levels it was the first thing I latched onto as a symbol of power. Lots of hit points meant you could survive fights longer so in kid logic it meant you were tougher. When I started looking at how the classes had different rates of earning hit points I started to question the rules, my first finagling doubts that D&D wasn't perfect. About the same time I started reading Dragon magazine and if the pages of Out On A Limb (and later called Forum) are to be believed it was a subject of much contention that hit points made no logical sense. That some PCs could achieve triple digit amounts of hit points only added fuel to the fire. It's also a bit of a joke, a 1st-level wizard can be taken out by a housecat due to his abysmally low starting HP.

The game HOL, Human Occupied Landfill, had a rule that every living thing has 20 "hit points" and damage had different thresholds which were adjusted by size and damage type. Hit a bunny with a hammer and you'll cripple it if you don't kill it outright. Hit a man with a hammer and you'll do some damage. Hit a man in powered armor with a hammer and he'll laugh at you. In theory it made a lot of sense but in practice it tended to be wonky and weird and too much math, thus no fun. But the idea really appealed to me and has stuck with me ever since I first read it.

There's a need players have to gain in strength and power as they advance their characters, and there's also a need for some level of realism that allows a suspension of disbelief. It occurred to me the other day that it would be very easy to fulfill the two by returning to the idea that everybody starts with the same amount of hit points but relative to who they are they can increase, without the need to alter anything in the rulebooks.

Every PC has 5 hit points and adds their current level. Constitution modifiers now count as double, but are only applied once.

Let's look at it in practice:
1st level Wizard with CON 10 = 6 HP
1st level Fighter with CON 10 = 6 HP
1st level Wizard with CON 15 (+1) = 8 HP
1st level Fighter with CON 5 (-1) = 4 HP

Now there's a real incentive to NOT have a low Constitution starting out. But this equation does create one obvious problem: How do you compensate for monsters' hit points? All those stats with varying levels of Hit Dice? Another simple equation that can be done just by looking at HD under a monster's stat block. Monsters get 1d8 for HD, so their equation is MAXd8+level. But this creates another question: what about when a monster has a +1 or +2 next their HD number? Just add it to the total. A monster with HD 3+2 would then be 8+3+2 = 13 hit points.

How would this look?
Ogres have HD 4+1 = 13 HP
Trolls have HD 6+6 = 20 HP
Young Red Dragons have HD 13 = 21 HP
Adult Red Dragons have HD 17 = 25 HP

Armor Class becomes a much bigger factor at higher levels now. Ogres have AC 5, Trolls have AC 4, and those Dragons have AC -2 (Young) and -4 (Adult). This greatly enhances the perceptual value of seemingly "low powered" magic items as well. Having a +1 sword suddenly becomes really valuable to the PC wielding it. I haven't looked at books or tables beyond 1st or 2nd edition AD&D so I'm not sure how it work with 3rd edition books, I know some monsters are given different die type so I would have to account for that, and I think magical damage probably needs to be adjusted to compensate for the low numbers but for now I think this works pretty solidly as a simple and elegant system to build off of. Leaving it as is means that Wizards become MUCH more powerful earlier on (casting Magic Missile at 3rd level is possibly deadlyand 5th level Wizards basically become murder machines), and 5th level or higher Clerics can basically heal anybody instantly (maybe kind DMs would allow healing to "bleed" off onto multiple targets).

* - in 1st edition AD&D some monsters were given HUGE modifiers to their hit points, probably to ensure they were difficult to kill regardless of what the DM rolled

Sunday, June 8, 2014

fuck WATCH_DOGS

WATCH_DOGS is a game for dudebros. Steeped in manly male manmeat, the man character is a gruff take-no-prisoners antihero who will steal your money and shoot you if you're black. He might be one of those pansy hackers who would normally be sat behind a computer sucking on Mountain Dew and pissing into the bottle after it's empty because nothing can tear them away from their screens, but he wears a stylish hat and a trenchcoat, plus his voice is deep and gravelly, so you know he's a tough guy who don't piss in no bottles. But he's not really a hacker anyway, he's got an app on his cellphone which turns it into a magic wand, it lets him turn on all the traffic lights at an intersection, steal money from some bank accounts, steal any car including ones that look like they were produced before the internet existed, or pop steam tunnels in the road that conveniently disable cars but never ever stop spewing out cubic tons of steam.

In WATCH_DOGS, your man character will beat up gangsters, shoot fixers (which is an obscure way of saying hitmen), collect massive amounts of weaponry that all fit underneath his stylish trenchcoat, construct rudimentary explosives and mp3 players that are the size of a fucking light switch yet somehow will never be able to construct a portable camera or drone, and spy on any citizen, all in a way that totally doesn't rip off any other open world games with better storylines or more interesting casts of characters.

You'll meet Jordi Chin, a badass Asian hitman who should be the character you are playing but you're probably a white male and playing an Asian doesn't get you to pay $60 for games so he's relegated to smartass sidekick and for some stupid reason likes the man character and does favors for him. Jordi is the most interesting and likeable character, but since you're not playing him that means he will probably betray the man character in the second to last mission.

You'll work with Clara Lille, the goth hacker who serves as the nerdbait stand-in plagiarized out of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo but without all of that uncomfortably pesky rape storyline, or any storyline really. The man character's search for the hacker who is responsible for his niece's death will almost assuredly lead to her judging from the way she's always looking at Aidan like he's a walking dildo that she feels guilty about not cleaning.

There are other characters in this game, but they're so one-dimensional it actually hurts my psyche just thinking about writing about them. There are some missions you will probably enjoy playing, especially if you like getting chased by cops for 30 minutes at a time, or trying to disable somebody's car so you can knock him down to the ground with your nightstick while he's surrounded by a fucking platoon of soldiers with body armor and assault rifles, or playing poker where the computer opponents will say things like "Too rich for my blood" as they raise the pot because apparently they are all mentally disabled, or playing drinking games which are really just contrived quick time events.

I played the demo for Super Time Force for less than 10 minutes and had more fun than I had playing WATCH_DOGS for four hours. In summation, play something else!
But you won't.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Shadows of Umberto, by Joe Banner

Shadows of Umberto could be thought of as a city sourcebook, but there's enough detail here to turn it into a full campaign setting. Right away, I notice that it has a different layout and design than Joe Banner's previous module, the Green Scar. The maps are now in colour and the pdf has a wider 2-page spread. I'm not sure if this is more useful, because when I print it off now I feel like I need to bend all of the pages in half to make it a proper booklet.

"Shadows of Umberto" feels like Conan meets Arabian Tales, or sword & sorcery meets romantic political intrigue. It is divided into three sections, the first ("Shadows") details the brief history of the city and provides you with plenty of hooks and hazards to introduce to your players, the second ("Darkness") covers a very comprehensive detailing of local threats and monsters along with some choice encounters which have fictional triggers but could almost be used as random events as well, and the final section ("Dawn") introduces some custom moves for navigating Umberto along with some memorable NPCs that could be hired by the players. There is a wealth of details packed into a small space and I think I would find myself having a hard time using all of it.

My only real complaint about "Shadows of Umberto" is that it's too short. Yes, there's a lot of good information here and none of it seems unnecessary or unusable, but somehow it leaves me wanting more. I really like the simple layout of the pdf, but I feel like the 2-pages-on-1-page format of the pdf is best for reading from a tablet or laptop, and I would like to see something that is convenient for printing too. Again I'm stymied by a technical issue, but I am a picky bastard when it comes to this stuff.

You can purchase the pdf of "Shadows of Umberto" at DriveThruRPG