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On Mountains high Altitude and adventures.

Altitude and adventures: (Not the name of some crappy fantasy game I'm writing.) yet I have a second Blog, I started it last wee...

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

This a cool way to treat the Bard class.

I just read this and wanted to share it (and not loose it)
So yes this post is a single link to the Sword and Scoundrel blog.
Just one link, but I think it's a good one.

-Mark.

Monday, August 8, 2016

The best part of D&D 5th edition is that it's so darn breakable.

Let's break some  5th edition today.

Attributes are a great way to measure Characters against the environment:
(For most of these examples I'm going to use the "Strength" attribute because it's easy to quantify.)
"The wizard has a strength of 8 there is no way in  heck the wizard is going to beat the  cleric in arm wrestling  because the  cleric has a strength of 14.  Meanwhile, the  warrior who has a strength of 17 laughs at both of them."

I like to look at attributes in D&D almost the same way as the Amber diceless RPG did*. In my mind if a one character has a higher strength than another, even if it's only by one point, the character with the advantage is unequivocally stronger. A strength 16 warrior will NEVER beat A strength 17 fighter at arm wrestling unless they give themselves some kind of  exterior advantage.** 

Attributes are so useful as this kind of comparative standard I feel it would be a shame to ditch them altogether. *** What I want to look at are those modifiers. 

Here is my proposal.
In 5th edition :
  • Take attribute modifiers out of the skill check equation. 
    • This includes Hit rolls.
  • Take attribute modifiers out of the saving throw equation.
    • Leave the modifiers in the equations when figuring passive DC's such as perception, or for casting DC's.
  • Allow the player to take Advantage on a skill check or hit roll a number of times equal to their attribute modifier.
    • The points are reset after a long rest.
      • For example: A warrior with a Strength modifier of 2 is trying to  bash down a door. The player says "I want to put all my strength into it!" The player spends 1 point of his strength modifier and takes advantage on the roll. Now the player only has 1 point left to spend until the character gets a long rest.
  • IF the character has a negative modifier the GM can  force that player to take disadvantage on a roll that many times long rest.
      • For example Bard with a -1 strength tries to bash down the same door  the GM might say, "That's stout door and you don't think you have the strength to splinter it. Desperate times and all that, you have disadvantage on the roll."
      • A wise DM would do this  when things are most stressful for the characters.

What would this do to a game? 
Absolutely ruin it... no of course not, would I do that to the fine readers of this blog? ...........
(sure)

Below are the  effects I think this change would have.
  • It would  lower the modifiers on most roll the players make by an average of +2 and some times as much as +4.
    • This is the  biggest thing for me. I have a character currently who has a +7**** on investigation. High intelligence + it's one of my  trained skills + proficiency bonus. and so on. I feel that in some games having a few characters with high skill modifiers like that artificially inflate the  Difficulty class of  rolls. If the DC is a change to the character with  +7 then it's going to be neigh impossible for the rest of the party. Keeping the  modifiers on roll more level by removing the attribute modifiers from the  moment to moment rolls mitigates some of that
    • The way  5th edition has player building characters, it's rare to see a character without positive modifiers on their requisite attributes. Even using 4d6 drop the lowest and slotting the scores in order yields characters with at least two  positive modifiers most times. If your group are the "3d6 first roll in order" type of  masochists then this would be a particularly punishing way to run a game. Who knows if you're into that kind of thing.
  • It would make that "Give you character two attribute points or a feat at X level," less wonky.
    • Those two attribute points can quickly make a normal character into a brutal machine over the course of a few levels. With The proposed changes it may give them another two rolls with advantage after a long rest but not an additional +2 on every roll all the time.
  • It would make the Advantage / disadvantage mechanic more systematic and less about the GM just giving advantage when he or she feels it is warranted. 
    • In my games I find I give Advantage for player actions far more than I enforce disadvantage, which is my fault. Having a system that reminds me to use disadvantage would be nice.
  • It would give the GM a mechanic to poke players who uses some attributes as a "dump stat"
    • Nothing I hate more than that fighter who  drops a 6 on charisma because, "who cares I'll never use it." The player will care once that character starts drawing disadvantage on reaction rolls a few times a game. Especially if the GM makes sure it's the times that matter. The Gm generally does not have many mechanics to make a player use a particular attribute. If the Wizard is physically weak the player just tries to never have to lift heavy things or climb ropes. If a player makes a decision to  go into a situation where they might have to  lean on a stat they considered a "Dump stat" at character generation then  hitting that character with disadvantage seems fair. 
  • It does a nice job of representing the characters  having moments of great effort and exertion. Heroic moments rather than just a slow steady drip of awesomeness.
Well that's it.
I am more than  confident that there are a thousand reason why this idea would not work. No one is going to be hurt by giving it a shot. That's the nice thing about RPG's, (the best thing actually.)

Once a person gets the game and starts playing, they can play however they want, try whatever they want, ignore whatever they choose to.

Thanks for reading ..
-Mark. 



** By exterior advantage I mean things they come up with in the scenes narrative.  At this point I should just tell everyone my normal line of "This is just how I do things. Your mileage may vary. Not trying to tell you how to run your game." yadda yadda.
*** In our game Phase Abandon I ditched them, but D&D is a different animal.

**** Only +7 not +11 like I originally wrote, much/ many thanks to Douglas Cole for pointing out my error.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Where is that Darn NPC? (1d12 table.)

I,m not even giving an attempt at context.

Where is that damn NPC?
(1d12)
  1. Attending a viewing of an “orctopsy “or the autopsy of a dead orc at the local university.  Did you know Orc livers are bivalve in design and almost twice as big as a liver of a normal human? Did you know Orcs have a second smaller sub stomach used to store and slowly digest fibrous matter? Learn these things and so much more at the Ocrtopsy.
  2. The NPC is at the inn and has been drinking heavily. You find him or her gleefully chatting up a well-known local prostitute and about to make some bad life decisions.
  3. The NPC is out wandering the fields looking to catch a weasel. The NPC wants the weasel to train for rabbiting. Unfortunately, the NPC has no idea how to properly trap anything.
  4. The NPC is skulking around the dark corners of the local streets, trying to trail a lover who has recently spurned him or her.
  5. The NPC is at the town hall trying to get recognition for a lease that will grant him or her ownership of a land parcel. The lease was won gambling and is being contested by the current land holder.
  6. The NPC is sitting quietly at home mending some clothing. There is a pie in the oven, a cat asleep at the door…idyllic.
  7. The NPC is sitting at the edge of town, bull shitting with a gnome. The gnome runs off as you approach, the NPC plays it off like nothing happened.
  8. You find the NPC in the early morning traveling back into town via a game train in the nearby wood. The NPC is carrying a large sack. If asked about the sack he or she will be elusive

    The sack contains: 1d6
    1. Several pounds of snails.
    2. D4 severed heads
    3. Stolen gold candle sticks
    4. Three very large eggs
    5. A quietly sleeping baby cockatrice.
    6. Several pounds of strange wild mushrooms.
  9. The NPC is in the inn singing a raucous song, with no intention of leaving the party anytime soon.
  10. You find the NPC digging a large hole in the middle of a field.
  11. The NPC is in a church quietly reflecting. If you disturb the NPC, he or she begins to weep.
  12. You find the NPC on a corner, chastising his or her children for their bad behavior.
I hope all of you fine folks at GenCon 2016 have a great time! Happy gaming to all.
Thanks for reading.
-Mark.


Thursday, July 28, 2016

Packing it all Away.

This started as a few divergent G+ conversations. I started thinking about it... and now this post is here.
If you are not into the  rambling personal type posts I toss here every now and again, this will not be the post for you.

There is a rule in my home. Self imposed but I can assume my wife appreciates it. 

The rule is "If something comes down, something goes up."  
It's my RPG's in the  attic rule. It  means if I bring a book down I have to bring at least one up so that my  stuff doesn't start to take over the living room.


A few days ago, I went up  to the attic to  bring down the 2nd ed Mysteria box set. I wanted to read how they  dealt with the flying ships which were such a big  part of the setting. 
So  down it came and up went the following titles:
2 Fate books. (Core, and Worlds,) The  savage worlds core rules, The big dungeon crawl classics book, and Fate of the Norns.

I get mysteria down, and  leaf through for what I need to look at. The  box content is all high on production value, with  heavy card full color ship statistics, and glossy covers. The box is still in one piece, though some of the glue is getting loose. After 23 years that's not a surprise.  I wasn't so impressed by the  actual content. To be fair TSR put out a huge volume of  settings and material and I feel some of it suffered under it's own weight. (That might be another post for another day.)
I also found a long forgotten pamphlet type module about bi-plane flying gnomes stuffed in the box. The content of which was so goofy as to be embarrassing. The dog fighting rules looked pretty solid and might prove useful.

Let me come around to my point:
There is so much available, and I still end up coming back to D&D.
So many games that I own or have read that I will never play. All these years later on Sunday mornings I'm busting out the 5th ed players book.
To be clear I'm not lamenting my lack of time. To be honest I have the time.  It's not about that.
I'm also not dumping on the other games. Fate, DCC, Savage Worlds, Numenera, all games I own and have read and think would be fun to play. I just don't. I don't want to get into D&D is "better" and that's why I go back to it. I don't believe D&D has any intrinsic trait that makes it "better" than other games.

I'm starting to wonder if it's not akin to the human brain's propensity to  enjoy the  music  we listened to during our formative years over current music *. D&D is a mental comfort zone. It's not that I don't have time for new games, it's that I have already developed a mental comfort zone. I can make quick judgements for D&D, I have a feel for it. That's not bragging because the other side of that coin is I don't have that ability for say Apocalypse World. With other games I spend time second guessing myself, which slows everything down. 

Perhaps this corollary to the music of our youth is why  4th edition did not resonate with many long time players? It was to different. 


I can hear the  question, "But I have written about 5th edition on this blog, thats a new game, doesn't that go counter to what I'm writing in this post? "
When I read through the PHB the first time  I didn't feel there was that much to learn. This was sort of D&D the way I have been playing since 3rd ed came out. Meaning that I know how  "Roll D20 add your modifier and try to beat a Difficulty" works. Anyone deep enough into the hobby to be reading this obscure little blog could probably run 5th edition D&D 15 minutes after cracking the books. There are differences of course. Things I would change even **. Still the  5th ed version of the game seems to  fire my brain the same way the older versions of the game do.

Is this why OSR games are so popular among long time players? Is it just that the games resonate in a more comfortable way? 
It's an interesting question. 

I for one would like to think  I play the RPG's I do because I picked the systems that are best for what I want to achieve at the table. What if I'm wrong? what if it's just about some nostalgic dopamine bump making the  decision for me? 

As time goes by and it becomes crushingly clear that my gaming days have a shelf life, how many really good games will I skip due to a middle aged mental inflexibility?

Does it matter as long as everyone is having fun doing what we do?

I would love to hear what people think about gaming as we move into our 40's (and 50's or even 60's assuming the reader was 20 in the  early 70's)




* Even if at 41 years old I's starting to feel like Rage Against the Machine is now singing about me not to me...
** I'm looking at you Cantrips... and  "Alertness" feat don't think I've forgotten about you you little bastard... Ohh and that +2  Attribute points at some levels thing is another one.

I'm going to write about video games (Micro-transactions Part 2)

Give me three bucks and you can see the rest of this post..

..
Just Kidding..
Never pay for my writing, I'm a hack.

Back on 10 /26/2013 I wrote about Microtransactions ruining my love of video games. To this day that's still my 4th most viewed post on this blog. It's even more viewed than my post about  Trials of passage in Orc society, which for the record, no one read.
This is brief post is in effect a revisit of the subject, a part duex. The duce.

In rereading my old post I realized that on one hand it was completely disorganized and  scatterbrained. On the other hand  it was also quite naive. Three years have gone by since that post and no I have not given up online gaming. Microtransactions have not gone anywhere, and it hasn't  seemed to have made any great difference to my habits. Or for that matter how much I spend on electronic games.

Then two games come along that seem  to be tied at the hip. Two games, while very different still  share enough similarities that they are often compared to each other.  The games I'm talking about are Overwatch and Battleborn.  These two games were released relatively close to each other. They are both team based shooters. They were both put out by extremely well regarded studios.
This post will not be about the pro's and cons of each of those games. Suffice to say they are very different, I play them both, and I enjoy them.

What I will talk about are their approaches ton in game microtransactions.
Overwatch has a system of  Loot boxes which contains a variety of things. Logo's which your characters can spray around the environment, Skins which change how your character looks, voice acting, and various poses. The player can unlock a loot box via game play once per level, or by purchasing in game currency to buy them in bulk. I'm ok with this.
What you will notice is that I never said "guns" or  "skills" or "equipment" are in those random loot boxes.

Cosmetic microtransactions, meaning  pay to make your character look different, but not perform differently are absolutely fine by me.

Let me state that again a slightly different way. If an addition to the game does not give the player an advantage and they choose to pay real money for it. That's on the player.

If a player can't live without that skin which makes Mercy look like a Valkyrie? (which is awesome BTW) Fine, buy loot boxes and get it.

That's where things break down however. On Overwatch Players don't buy items, they buy Loot Boxes, which contain random items. There is a chance the player may not  ever get that Skin they want and may have to  buy  a high number of loot boxes before they have enough in game currency (randomly found in the boxes) to buy the in game object they want. Like everything else this is by design. So a high priced item will be very very rare to see in a loot box. Causing the player who wants a rare item to buy loot boxes until they have enough currency to buy the  item.
Again this would all be voluntary a player would have to choose to obsess

Battleborn has a similar system, in that they have skins which a player can unlock through ingame progression and then separate elite tier skins and taunts which  a player must purchase using an in game currency called Platinum. Platinum is naturally only purchasable with  real life money.
When the  platinum system was introduces some players went a bit bat shit.
They shouted,
 "Eh Ghads, How dare they charge me for a taunt or a skin? I already paid for the game! Incomprehensible! Unforgivable! HURUMPH!"


What they are failing to see is that the items which  make your character better, can only be bought with  ingame points earned through play. The loot boxes in Battleborn which contain  equipment upgrades are not purchasable with platinum. (...for now...) If that changes I will be right there with the  complainers, being able to  unlock all teh characters or buy loot boxes for battle born with platinum would truly ruin the  proverbial soup.



The other skins and taunts are given to the  player as rewards for leveling up a character. The platinum system is reserved for non game changing  cosmetic additions which are designated above and beyond the normal rewards. Skinns that glow and have some added textures... WEEEEEEE! The only thing locked behind a paywall are cosmetic bits which will not help the player win a game.   It's like some people put  Vinyl decals on their  sports cars. The  decals don't make the car go faster, they just look cool. Nothing at all in battle born makes a player have to buy Platinum. 


Infact for my buck the  Battleborn system is more acceptable in that there is no random factor. A player likes a skin they buy the skin, done. No stupid loot boxes to open, no chance that they will have to buy 100 such boxes before they get what they want or enough in game currency to finally make the purchase they originally intended to. 

Yet the  community consensus still seems to be that introducing even these voluntary  microtransactions to a game (Battleborn) which has floundered in the  PC gaming market is a huge mistake by  Gearbox the studio who put the game out. I agree that from a marketing standpoint  it does seem ill conceived. Perhaps a bit of overreach by the  game company, but again no one has to buy those skins. 



These cosmetic micro transactions are transactions done right. I have total control over not choosing to buy them and at the end of the day it will not effect my experience in the game. Hopefuly more games adopt this model over the  pay for  advantage or pay to win model I complained about in my first post. Anyone still complaining about microtransaction expenditures that they can freely avoid, is like someone complaining about the cigarette tax. We know the deal, game companies are trying to wring some extra money out of the playerbase any where any way they can. Cigarettes cause cancer. Don't give them hard earned cash.
Unless the player decides the ramifications don't mean anything. In that case "smoke em if ya got em."


"What's my conclusion"" you ask.
I'm so glad you did.
The video game industry has changed drastically in the  past 10 years. Microtransactions in games of all types are here to stay, and even a video  game grognard like myself has to see that. the  way I look at it is this, we have a few choices. 


  • Purchase only games that have zero premium for for cash content. This will exclude most "triple A" titles and most online multi player games. It will however save you money. The player must accept that there will be content produced that they will never have access to. Even so there are many games a player can enjoy for  hours and hours without ever spending another cent.
  • Be offended. Give up on electronic gaming. Keep all your money and live happily ever after. This is a totally viable, non-sarcastic solution. Come play D&D with me on roll20. (Which for the record, has it's own microtransactions.)
  • Embrace the beast. Realize this is the industry circa 2016. A person is free to make intelligent choices about what they buy and what they don't. The system is here to stay, players need to learn to navigate it. Getting salty on twitter about avoidable expenditures will not change anything. I mean does a player really need every character skin? Are they entitled to it? 
    It's up to the player.



Thank you for reading:
-Mark.



HERE is a negative view of Overwatches Microtransaction system:
And


HERE is a less negative view of Overwatch's Transactions.



Some Video's
Here About Battleborn Microtransactions (2:35)
A different take:


Here on the same subject, among other subjects (8:12) (Microtransaction talk starts at 4:20)
And  a long  talk about  Microtransactions in Overwatch 

Here (Like 40 minutes..)
*For the  record I'm not connected to,  nor do I subscribe to any of the above youtube channels.*



Some More stuff:
If you want to watch me suck at Battleborn: Here
You can watch me be even worse at Overwatch: Here


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Exploration: D&D question.

To both of you who read this blog...
you know who you are.

How do you  inject a feeling of true exploration into an RPG?
I'm asking.

I'm going to give some examples of what I mean from other mediums.

Video games:
Far cry Primal:
I'm walking through the  woods I come across a cave.. I have no idea what's in it, but I know every thing in the game is out to kill me so i'm nervous as hell about going in. I mark it on the map and walk on .. saving it for latter. These are set pieces in Far Cry.

Terraria:
I am completely addicted to digging around underground and just finding cool things. There are houses built down there, and mine cart tracks and traps and all kinds of strange things. I love the  feeling of breaking into a new cave and finding something I haven't seen before. Terraria procedurally generates the world,... so things are always different.

Real Life:
My wife and I went hiking the other day  by our local river. We round a corner walk down to the river bank and sitting there is a huge piece of weathered concrete. Part of some long forgotten dock, or other bit of now defunct industry. I love that. I'm semi obsessed with the remnants of old industry that still exist in our area. There is a mystery to such things. Why is it there? Who built it? What was it used for?

I'm looking to inject just a bit of exploration into my D&D game.

The party has gotten their hands on a magic item that will allow them over time to build a sky ship roughly Mysteria style. I assume they will use it to move around. Exploration is going to become a  theme if I'm ready for it or not. I have my hex maps I know what kind of land will be below the players, and what kind of places they will be walking into when they decide to land. Sometimes just knowing  what's in an area concerning, random encounters, flora, and resources is not enough.

I want to inject a bit of mystery.

Any thoughts?

Friday, July 22, 2016

RPG Thoughts from the twitter-verse: D&D experiance.

Forewarning:

I have learned a bit on the  internet over the past few years, making statements like this is one example:
This post is about wrecking the advancement system in D&D. This post (this blog in fact) is NOT me telling anyone how the game should be played, or what you personally should do. It's just me throwing ideas around. If these ideas somehow offend you please do not use them, offense is not my intention. I have seen how sensitive some folks can get about D&D ...


First things first there is a ton of RPG "stuff" on twitter.
I highly suggest going on the service and seeking out others who enjoy the types of role playing games you enjoy and joining a conversations. I find that on twitter it is easier to engage in a conversation when I find the subject interesting. On the flip side, I also find it easier to disengage with a twitter conversation than I do on Google Plus.

A week or so ago I got involved in a tread with @thedicenerd about playing D&D without using the standard typical level up reward system. the  conversation was basically about how long could a group hang together knowing they were going to be playing at level 5 or so in perpetuity.
I have always held the view that my DM-ing sweet spot is 2nd edition D&D somewhere between levels 5 and level 11. Anything lower and death is too easy, anything higher and the stories tend to balloon into other planes and overwrought world sweeping events. I hate to see players make disposable characters. That one person who shows up at the table with a notebook of  10  first level characters. The  player's thinking, most of them having met some horrible death will be crumpled into balls by the end of the game. I also hate Having to make  adventures too grand, I know that sounds counter intuitive, but I like nitty gritty adventures. I like characters fighting to save their home town rather than  dealing with  demigods eye to eye. That's a matter of taste.

So the question becomes why don't I just stop character progression at say level 9? ("name level" if you're old.)
I have two answers, first the players in my game will tell you:
" He fucking slows down progression to a crawl at level 5, he never gives out magic items' and we hate him"
That's good, it's all true and in response:
 "Now, release your anger. Only your hatred can destroy me."

In reality  D&D and most Rpg's in  the same vein are one way or another built around progression.
The the characters face a situation and use their skills and their guile to overcome that situation. If they fail to overcome, the character must grow somehow and improve in hopes of then being able to overcome. An Ogre spanks a level 1 fighter, but by level six that same fighter  has learned enough and improves enough as a warrior to where that single Ogre is no longer a threat. Players and DM's know this, it's how the game works, it's how the game has always worked. Remove progression and it's like pulling the pistons out of an engine.

That means in my thinking some kind of reward system should remain. The characters should improve somehow. In this vein I have two thoughts.

Minor Boons:
A bit by the seat of the  pants for the DM's pants, reward players with bonuses and abilities based on their characters actions. I call this the catch wrestling of Role Playing Games.
Minor Boons should be small mechanical bonuses based on the persistent actions of the  characters. Rewards of  playing a character consistently.
Boons should not stack, the player should know that if they are using a boon, they must choose one boon which applies to the action.

Examples:
Your player that is running a cleric is adamant about  having the character pray every morning?
To the the point where the player is roleplaying scenes where the other characters are saying  "C'mon we have to  GO !" and  the cleric is resolute about not breaking camp until prayers are over.
Give that character a boon.
"On days that you personally sacrifice in order to pray (Ie Hold up the  party, fail to eat, stuck outdoors in harsh weather) you get one extra 1d4 level spell for the day."
Will that create a situation where the Cleric is  fishing for  reasons to make his morning prayer in convenient?  Yes. I'm 100% fine with that. Why am I fine with that, because ti rewards a situation that the  player has already  established about his character.

The fighter always tries to parley before fighting?
Give the fighter a +2 bonus on persuasion, or charisma checks.
Alternately grant the character an attack bonus of +2 during a fight if their attempt to parley fails.

The thief loves to finish off opponents with a flourish of some sort?
Have the player describe his finishing maneuver,  apply a penalty of -2 to hit but inflict backstab damage. The move automatically fails if  the target has more hit points than the charters maximum backstab damage. Limit the move to one use per target.
Will the thief try to land that big hit to early in a fight, and wiff horribly? YES! Will that set up interesting situations? Damn right.

Is this 100% satisfactory? No not realy. For some games it could be a fun way to give characters some progression in power that is based on their actions without having things spiral out of control. Unless players having a list of   Boons they can invoke is "out of control. I think it's pretty vital to the whole concept that the players understand the minor boons don't stack with each other. As stated above, If more than one boon can be applied to an action then the player must pick which one they wish to apply.

Goals and à la carte:
Warning: Once this starts your game will not even look like D&D after a few sessions.
Set a Goal for the  party, whatever it might be. "Find the lost Prince", "Plan the invasion", "build the ship", " negotiate the contract." The goal  can be up to the  DM's discretion and may even be DM only information, or set by the party. Whichever works best for the group is the right choice.
DM leg work:
The prep for his techniques is all in the background. Before a game where the party will most likely achieve a goal the DM will have to go through the player's handbook and make a list of  level up bonuses from the different classes. the list should include whatever level up the  DM feels are appropriate. Let the  game do some of the work for you. Look at each character class and develop a list based off of the options already built into the game system for you.

For example a list might include:
(using  5th ed as an example)
  • Fighting style Duelist
  • +1 Hit die
  • +1 Proficiency bonus.
  • Immunity to disease.
  • Divine sense
  • And so on... 
When a goal is achieved by the party let each player pick a Goal Reward from your painstakingly curated list. The DM should cross the  rewards that players pick of the list. No two characters may recieve the same reward. Create a new goal for the  party  (or several.) Just so the DM will be ready when the next goal is achieved they should write a new list of rewards and keep it handy.

Will this get crazy? Yeah probably.
Is it possible that after a few goals have been achieved one of the characters will end up a healer that goes into  rage during combat and  dual wields maces? Possibly.
Do I personally care if that happens? No, not so much much.
What I am saying is that this idea askew's any balance built into the game.  Any  reader who has been  scanning this blog for a while knows I am not a huge fan of "balance" as a concept in role playing games.
This kind of advancement system would force each character to be very diverse from the others. No two players can take the same goal reward. It would give the DM control over what gets into the game and what doesn't. The DM makes the list of rewards after all. Finally it would give the players some autonomy over what their characters end up being able to do, during their adventuring career. As it is (Again using 5th ed as an example) the player makes choices at level 1 creation and again at level 2 and  is pretty well tracked into what kind of character they are going to be from then on. This sort of lunacy would change that dynamic.

Well that's that .
I'm sure these ideas are not for everyone, perhaps beyond broken in some ways.
However I like taking a fundamental part of the game and mixing it around a bit. The process alone can lead to better ideas down the road.

Thanks for reading.
-Mark.





Thursday, June 16, 2016

A mini Review for one of Osprey Publishing's war games series.

First off a few things to get out of the way:
I don't work for or know anyone  at Osprey Publishing. I paid for the book I'm going to talk about. This "review" was not solicited. In-fact the good folks at Osprey will probably never know it exists.

On with the fun.
TLDR version:

It's good, the text is a bit dry, but SUPER COMPACT AND FUNCTIONAL.

It's right in my wheel house, and  I heartily recommend the game.

I'm not sure how I first stumbled on Osprey Publishing.
This time I was looking for  a small book about Roman naval vessels. Since I own their "Fighting Sail," a book about fighting ships Circ 1775 to 1815, I thought they might have more like it for other time periods. (they do.)

However being  of short attention span I noticed and  jumped on a section I did not previously know existed. The Osprey Wargames series. What I learned is Osprey seems to have a small traditional style war game for every occasion.

With the books ranging in price from $9.98 USD to $19.98 USD I decided to pick up two of them. The first being "Black Ops" because it might be useful as reference material for my current Loot Box project. The second being "A Fist Full OF Kung Fu.," It's a tabletop mini's game based on Kung Fu moves.. How could I not buy it?

This review Will focus on that "Fist Full of Kung Fu" Product.

About the Book:
  • The book is small, perfect bound, with a glossy cover. The pages are bright white with clear printing. On my first read through I did not see any printing errors such as ghosting or smearing.
  • The  total page count on the  book is  64 pages.
  • It is available in Print, PDF, and Ebook versions.
  • Was Published in 2014.
  • The author and designer Andrea Sfiligoi (also of "Song of Blades and heroes" and much more.)
  • The interior pages are color and  semi glossy. The picture plates are spread between very nice miniature dioramas (way better than Ever make it to my table,) and art works of good quality. (I think digitally painted.) One nice touch each diorama photo is credited with eh company  who produces the  pictured miniatures.


What's in there?

The book dives right in. A table of contents then a brief introduction explaining the goals of the game. Including the phrase "skirmish rules reproducing on the tabletop the wild, extravagant action seen in Hong Kong movies." The right into the "what you will need section."
Here the first sign of the game's flavor peeks through, the  author advises three measuring sticks one for short range 7.5 cm, one for medium range 12 cm,  and one for long range 18cm. To my eye this smacks of a traditional style skirmish game. I was looking forward to seeing how the author would meld that style of mechanics with The goal of  kung fu action.
By page 5 figure types (Protagonists, Bruisers, and Extras) are being defined.  figures are built based on points and  have two major statistics. "Quality" a measure of  speed, strength and, durability is the first stat. secondly there is Combat which is  measure of  how well the figure fights. Individual figures may also have Traits which are like special abilities and gangs as a group will have chi points based on the total groups point values.
Each figure involved in the game can be defined by one small row of information. Simple and straightforward.
By page 6 we rereading  rules, and are well into the game.
Interesting system points include:
  • When a figure is activated the player rolls vs the figures Q score, higher than the Q score is a success, the number of success determine how many actions the figure can take. Failures on the other hand may grant free "reactions" to the opponents protagonist "Main Character Bruce Lee type) or if enough failures are rolled can  turn control of the turn to the opponent (A turn over.) The trick here is the  player activating the  figure gets to choose how many dice  (up to 3d6) he or she will roll for actions. It's a nice risk reward mechanic, and giving actions to the opponents protagonist, so that  it may move around the battlefield  wreaking havoc is a nice touch.
  • When attacking the attacker chooses from list of effects which cost success to apply. For example, if I rolled three successes I could inflict three minor effect to my target or one big effect. I  like this very much. It's through this system of rolling for success then choosing effects to apply to your target that the game infuses the kung fu action into the play at the table.The possibility of knocking out an extra (Mook), having him crash into a giant brass bell (A prop) then using said prop as a weapon next round.... That makes me smile. 
I'm not going to go through all of the rules, I will say the whole system fits between pages 6 and 24 and  even still covers a lot of ground.

Pages 24 to 36 contain the possible traits you can purchase for figures. There are plenty of them (81 I think?) covering most of the things we have seen in various kung fu movies. From "Iron Shirt" to  just being "Giant," I can picture most of these traits cinematic inspirations.

From there there are "stunts" Like chi Leaps, breaking things, and wall jumping . 

Taoist magic is covered, just in case you want to replicate Big Trouble in Little China style effects (and who doesn't?) The magic section is about 3/4 a page and is very general. In the context of the game it will do what the players need it to do.

Pages 40 to 44 contain seventy one individual two line sample character profiles. Each entry shows the profiles name and point value and roll. (Protagonist, Bruiser, or extra.) On the second The  Q and the C scores and any traits the profile has.  More than enough to quickly set up a game.

Pages 45 to 58 contain information about setting up scenarios and locations. Including very thematic location traits like hanging chains and improvised trampoline. 

The rest of book is made up of appendices about more than two player games, building gangs, and reprints of the charts form the main text. (thank you!)



Final Thought:
The rules, while very much classic miniatures rules.I am not familiar with  the other works of Andrea Sfiligoi. I do not know his normal writing style. Hence I do not know if the  very brief manner in which this game is written is just how he writes or a function of page count limitations. What I will say is I like it very much for this style game.

The rules are clear, the sections are focused, the text is concise, with only what you need to play  put in front of you. The book is in it's own way dense.
There are no lengthy explanations or digressions. Simply put this is an effective manual of how to play kung fu skirmish games using miniatures on your table top. There's no room for extras, no wasted space. If you are a lover of fluff and setting details this is not the  product for you. Even the scenario setup section is short on details about what traditionally makes up a kung fu scenario. There is no hand holding, just functional sections about how each setting element can be emulated within the game. That might turn some readers off.
It seems the  game is written from a stance of, -If you are buying this book you already like this genre, and have an idea about what kung fu action is all about.-


 I think the rules and the  features of the game show a well researched product. I don't doubt the author watched martial arts cinema  to come up with the  stunts and the  traits included in the rules.
Based on my read through, I think the system does a nice job of capturing the kung fu action as it set out to. I'm looking forward to getting it some quality time on my table.
Lastly, for me it hearkens back to another time when game rules didn't come with assumptions about how players would use them. These rules give you the tools, it is up to you to build with them.

I recommend this book.
Further I would  advise any who asked to check out Osprey's collection of short but concentrated tabletop war games.
(I'm going to buy a few more.)

Thanks for reading -
Mark.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The island: (adventure seed)

From the prow of your ship you see the island come into view.
At first it is nothing but a glint on the horizon, then a shining sphere.. a glar in the sun, rainbows, refracted and distorted views of the horizon beyond.
  • The island covers approx 93 miles (the surface area of a 6 mile per side hexagon):
  • The  island is conical moving from pure white beach to a 500 foot peak at it's tallest point.
  • The island is covered  in heavy, jungle like vegetation.
  • Birds can be seen flitting about the trees.
  • It is encased in a sphere of the  purest glass.
  • The  sphere is half full of water.
  • The craggy pointed bottom of the island can be clearly seen through the  glass.
  • Mid way up the  underwater section of the island several cave entrances can be seen. Holes dark against grey grey of the islands base.
  • The underwater portion of the island is encrusted with corals and plants.
  • There are no debris or any silt at the bottom of the sphere.
  • The water is a deep blue green, there are fish visible in the water.
  • The sphere hovers 70 feet above the rolling ocean.
  • The sphere is massive, slowly  turning on its vertical axis. 
  • The turning of the  sphere creates a circular counter clockwise current in the sphere.
  • The  only entrance in or out of the sphere is a five foot hole at it's very  top. 
  • The  top of the  sphere is  100 feet above the tallest point on the island. 
  • The bottom of the sphere is 50 feet from the lowest crag of the islands underwater section.
  • The inside of the  sphere is often coated with  condensation.
  • It is incredibly warm and humid in the sphere.
  • On a warm day it can storm in the  sphere, but rarely thunderstorm.
  • During exterior storm the slowly turning but massive sphere builds up incredible static charges.
  • On cold nights the sphere generates a plume of fog, the  whole interior becomes a cloud.
Questions:
The obvious one,  how the hell did this end up in the middle of the  ocean?
Why is it here?
Does anyone live inside of the sphere?
How old is it?
Can that static electricity be of some use to someone?
Are there any strange items, creatures, or commodities that can only be found in the sphere?
Why is this thing not on the captain's charts. It's HUGE.
How can we get in there? If we do how do we get out?

For better or worse this post was inspired by this image:
Unfortaunately I don't know who to give credit to for the image... ohh google...


Thanks for reading
-Mark.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Falling in D&D (the shortest useful post I will ever write)

Players fall quite often, because heroes are constantly leaping off things.
TLDR Version:
Here is how I do it.

  • I give heroes the first 10 feet for free.. Nice of me right? I figure Urkuk the 12th level fighter has learned how to tuck and roll. 
  • After 10 Feet, Every additional 10 feet causes 1d12 damage up to 8d12 at 90 feet. 
  • After 90 feet each additional 10 feet of falling simply adds 10 points of damage. (100 feet is 8d12 +10 for example)
  • After 90 feet the character still takes the damage and also has to save vs Death, or make a Constitution save (adapt this to whatever edition of D&D floats your boat.)
  • Modify the save with +1 difficulty for every 10 feet of fall beyond 90 feet. ( again adapt this to whatever edition of D&D you are using.)
  • If they fail the save they straight up die.
  • You fall 500 feet in one 6 second round.
  • The first 90 feet as described above assumes falling onto a hard surface, and the character not landing on their head. The DM can modify damage up 90 feet however they see fit for things like falling through trees or catching your self on a store awning. 
  • After 90 feet the character is traveling fast enough that bouncing off things doesn't help anymore.
  • Landing on one's head is what the saving throw is for.


O.M.G! YOU ARE THE WORST D.M. EVAR! THIS IS FAR TOO HARSH!

"No, not really. -Love, Me"


That's it the shortest useful post I have ever written. If you want to see how I got to the above conclusions read on. If not, see you next time.


Falling: 

If you are super interested, and I was, check this page out. This will not surprise any of you  but I'm not sitting here figuring out  physics problems. Let some one else do that. I just want something game-able. 



Q: Can I cast feather fall before I die? 



  • A 200 pound person forgiving the 2% (or so)  modifier for air resistance will fall around 100 feet in about 2.49 seconds.
  • Same weight would fall about 500 feet in 5.5 seconds.  
  • And finally  1000 feet in 7.8 seconds (roughly)



A: D&D rounds last 6 seconds. 
So in that time your  unfortunate character will fall something like 500 feet and a bit more. Most D&D falls will be much shorter than that, mostly under 2 seconds. Chances are you can't get that spell to fire if you fall off a 50 foot parapet. This is what the spell contingency is for. If you are using segments from an older version of D&D, then yes it might be possible for  shorter falls.


EDIT: After a comment by Anders “The Delver” Nordberg bellow I decided to go check some of the D&D versions of the spell feather-fall. And indeed in most editions it's some version of Instant. Though the 1st editions version has a very brief duration at low levels that could lead to a comedy gold.

Generally it makes the above point moot, and I should have done that reading before I wrote this.
Still, Don't fall. the wizard wont always be around.

http://www.d20srd.org/srd/spells/featherFall.htm
http://engl393-dnd5th.wikia.com/wiki/Feather_Fall 
http://pandaria.rpgworlds.info/cant/rules/adnd_spells.htm#Feather Fall


Q: Will my character die?
A: There is a good chance your character will die,  yeah.
So I read some things, and  found that most of the internet is obsessed with people who have survived massively high falls. They ignore the fact that people slip and fall from essentially 0 feet and die every day. For example, 

OSHA requires that fall protection be provided at elevations of four feet in general industry workplaces, five feet in shipyards, six feet in the construction industry and eight feet in long-shoring operations. Source
Basically Fair Sir Ghalafrumph should be secured via harness when he is on his horse. 

It is insanely easy to die from falling. Any fall from a paltry 16 - 20 feet or more while landing on a hard surface will cause internal injuries and broken bones. 
The Panel recommended transport to a trauma center if any of the following are identified:

falls adults: >20 feet (one story = 10 feet)
This which has a bit more detail, is from that documents supporting documentation: 

Liu et al.[*] reported a mortality rate of
22.70% due to falls from above 6 m, while Lapostolle et al.[12]
reported a mortality rate of 33.80% due to falls from above
3 m. In our study, the mortality rate due to falls from above
10 m was similar to the figures derived from those studies. Source.
That quote above is only talking about 3 meters! or 9 stinking feet! Here's some more info  From a Dr.s Blog on the same subject.

All this adds up to:
Realistically falling from  from 50 feet is fatal most of the time. by then your  200 pound cleric is traveling  40 MPH with no air bag. At 85 feet your Poor cleric is falling at 52 MPH. That's like a bad car accident with  zero in the  way of  protection. It is not a good look when your only "crumple zones" are your legs. Falling form 85 feet or more is widely considered "statistically fatal" meaning some lucky folks land on  mattresses or have some other fit of luck. but pretty much everybody dies.
A true story from the game table.
I once played in a 2nd edition game with a player who had a super jacked fighter. This fighter also had one of those strength adjusted bows so when we were about to engage in ship to ship combat he decided to climb the main mast, sit in the crows nest and pick off targets with his huge F'ing bow. He did that for a few rounds, tagging priority targets up until we came into boarding range with  the opposing  ship.
When he told the DM he was coming down from the  crows nest the  DM said it will take you five rounds to climb to the deck. Hell, I thought that was generous, (30 seconds? what is that mast a fire pole?)
The player said,, "nope I'll Jump." 
The DM  said "It's over 100 feet you know."
The player replied unconcerned, "I still have over 100 hp it's only going to be 10d6 damage max. I'll be fine."
The morale of the story:
That's horse shit.
Falling should be one of the most threatening environmental hazards Players have to deal with. Not something that can just be brushed off based on the number of hit points a character has.


Thank you for reading 
-Mark.

Another Link This one is the aptly named "Splat Calculator" Used to get some of the fall speeds in this post.


* Reference, Lapostolle F, Gere C, Borron SW, et al. Prognostic factors in victims of falls from height. Crit Care Med 2005;33:1239–42.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Revoke my "Old School" card (10 year anniversary of my favorite game)

A bit of click bait title, but fitting.

In fact I never had an Old school Card. Though at 41 I have certainly been around the hobby long enough to be considered old.
These days being "old school" does'nt  mean having been round to play the original car wars, or knowing that a war-hammer with flamers is a hot-hammer. No to be really old school a person needs to ascribe to a certain gaming aesthetic, one rooted in play-styles from days past. Which is cool. My favorite D&D is 2nd edition, I can still figure THAC0 in my head, and I carry bat guano for my fire balls. I'm still not old school however.


Here's why.
I have written a few games for my friends* and I to play.
My favorite of all of them is not any of the Classic format RPG's we have kicked around. My favorite is a story game. Plain and simple.

That game is getting closer and closer now to celebrating it's (hold on guys) TEN YEAR anniversary no less.
How is that a thing?
It kind of depends on how you measure it.
From The  Wikipedia :
"On August 15, 2007, Wizards of the Coast announced the development of D&D 4th edition."
As a group we had been playing D&D edition three. None of us were excited by the Wizards announcing another edition. Frankly at the time none of us wanted to spend the money on more books. (how times have changed ehh?)
We car pooled out to Russ's back then, it's about  45 minutes and during that trip Jay and I had a discussion that was basically, "Fuck the man, let's write our own game."
So I think it is fair to say I started working on what would become our game in August of 2006, about two months from now. The game had been in conversation for around a year by the time the wizards  4th edition news broke. We choose to actually start running our own system full time sometime in 2007. The new game became known as Phase Abandon.  I'm not even sure how or why that name stuck.

My single minded goal when I started writing was to makes something that was first absolutely not Dungeons and Dragons. My secondary goal was a game that could handle whatever setting we wanted. This was long before I had heard about the  OSR, story games,  RPG blogs, or OSRIC style reboots. I stumbled on most of those resources while working on Phase.
In effect, the game we pieced together was surprisingly free of outside influences, truly our creation. The  funny thing now, reading the text of the game as I have been, I see that the ideas in phase are not strikingly original. Others had done them before. I wonder how many designs that came out a decade ago were actually, "Lets get as far away from D&D as we can" reactions to years of Dungeons and Dragons**.

So we wrote and, tested, and we played.
There were hiccups naturally. One of my favorites was the original version of the game had whomever sat to your left as the  player who would narrate your failures. This lead to jockeying at the table  involving people trying to sit to the right of whomever they were in the mood to mess with  that day. We changed it to a system involving chips that move around the table, to determine who gets to narrate failures.

We have changed from a game mastered to a non-game mastered system several times. Presently the rules are written as a game where the game mastering responsibility moves around the table, but it can be played either way.


Regardless of the problems we have had to write out of the  system, we have played an awful lot of it.

We played a gothic horror setting in a place called Londonia.
We played  Straight fantasy in my Aleria campaign setting.
We played Sci Fi.
We played one shot games that I truthfully / sadly, don't remember everything about.

We used Phase for everything from 2007 until about 2014, in the past two years we have taken a break to try out the cypher system, the new 5th D&D, and a few other fresh faces. Each time we play a new game, invariably one of us says, "we could do that with phase," then we nod, laugh and  move along.

That might be true, we might be able to do that ("that" being whatever we are currently doing with another game,) with our game. Other games are good to though so why is Phase my favorite?

The characters.
Somehow we got lucky, and stumbled on a system of   group goals, character goals, and  skills that creates characters that grow over time.  Not "you get a +1 proficiency  bonus and an new cool power." growth , but honest to goodness growth.

You completed your goal "Find my brother," wrap up the  scene and tell me what happens.
Sounds so simple right?
What if that goal gets completed while you are locked up in prison? How does that help you find your brother?  Well he could be in the prison to, or he could be a guard, or a judge, or a dead body in the corner... It's up to the  player.
Once that goal is  done the  player has to create another goal, so if he found the brother dead in jail, his new goal could be to avenge his death, or of the brother is a prisoner the next goal could be to escape with his brother.
The game makes stories, long interesting, fun stories that the players are always engaged in.

Rik was a D&D thief, Reggie was a D&D paladin. I remember them as such.
I remember what they did as phase charaters.
Melvyn
Muhaddin, massive,  orphaned, former slave, muslim. Retired to a farm near one of the cities in our game. Why? He had answered all his questions, it just felt right. He was free of shackles and the scars they left.
Volodya Taras. The near vampire of Londonia.
Harley Burke.
Carry Cross

So many others.

I am not selling a game here.
I think the latest draft  isn't playable outside of our table. In fact I had a phone conversation with a game designer*** who  was pretty clear that the style of play was not very clear based on the game text. My answer was, "Yeah I know but I never intended the text for public consumption."
It's more like a 38 page codex of how we do things, not what the end result is supposed to look like at the table. I'm not a competent writer, nor am I any one who should be trying to publish books. I'm a guy who games and that's about it. I don't push and agenda with my games, I don't try and prove a point. I simply write what I enjoy.

I have been working on a rewrite I'm calling Phase 2 with minor changes, (AKA, I finally dumped the  attributes.) and  some clarifications, why not get back on the  horse?
Why not play Phase?
Phase can do that.

How does this apply to game design in general?  How is this relevant to  anyone who has never played, or heard of Phase?

Like this.
Design what you like to run or play. Share your game with who you want, play it with who you want. Love your design.
Be proud of your creativity.

Do not let anyone on the internet  tell you your design is crap. Don't let anyone tell you  it's not  old school enough, or it's not narrative enough, or it's to this or to that. Nothing good ever comes of following the mob. 
You will know if it's crap and you will adjust it accordingly, because that's what creators do. If you are having fun with your own game, then damn it it's good. 
The human brain is  wired to  remember negativity and criticism. We take it to heart, it  burns itself into our minds so we will avoid doing the things that caused the disconfort in the first place. A great bit of evolution if you want an organism to not eat poisonous jelly fish, but it sucks for creative types. 
Criticism, intelligent constructive criticism, is useful. Unfortunately intelligent constructive criticism is rare on the web. Here in cyberspace what we get are people calling each other names, harassing each other over perceived elf game inequities, or generally calling each other stupid. It's extremely wasteful, both in terms of time and energy.
If you are reading this and you like to create and share the negativity is going to happen, eventually. It happens to everyone. It has even happened to me here in my  tiny  rarely traveled corner of the web.
Move past the negative. Find those people who can be critical and supportive. Game with your real life friends who you know won't be brazenly rude or cruel just because the  internet protects them with it's anonymity, it implied privilege, and it's assumed distance. 
Design what  you want, where  you want, how you want and don't be put off of your creative vision because some one tells you, "Only wankers play that sort of game." 
The best game I have ever played is a Dm-less story game no one has ever heard of, and I'm not only cool with that, I'm proud of it.

I dedicate this  post,  (post number 301) to Phase Abandon, the folks who have played it, and the good times we have had playing it.
Trust me it's not dead. 10 more years are coming.
****


Thanks for reading
-Mark.




*(My long suffering friends who have put up with more bad ideas than good. Toast them when you drink, they have earned it.)

** (May or may not hold some truth, good topic for a future post.)

***(Who didn't give me permission to talk about him directly, so I'm not going to. However if you read this you might be happy to know I took the attributes out of the latest version because you were right and I 100% agree.)

****(Why did I write this post 2 solid months before the actual 10th anniversary of the game? The reason is I don't know of this blog has 2 more months in it, and there were some things I wanted to get down just in case)

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The punch bowl of absurdity.

Here use these three charts to make a stupid place.

Terrain at present location:
  1. Rocky: This is a hard scrabble place, covered in boulders rock and shale. Tufts of hard grass cling to meager soil wherever they can. Move like the  goats.
  2. Verdant Meadows: Rolling hills dappled with sunlight. Good grazing, lush  grasses. Occasionally  violent storms lash the hills
  3. Deciduous forests: Tall Trees which lose their leaves over the winter. A thick layer of  old leaves covers the ground making worn trails easier to see.
  4. Fungal Grotto: A vast cave system featuring an underground lake, water system. Large tree like  fungus are the  dominant flora.
  5. A vast city scape. Dark, Cramped, Old, Overpopulated. Deep sewers, tall spires, rats, and refuse. Built on the ruins of it's own past the  homeless and the  hungry sleep in the superstructure of  brickwork bridges.
  6. Jungle: Soaring canopy, dark undergrowth, vines everywhere. Monkeys and birds chatter from all directions. It seems like everything is alive and  half of every thing is poisonous. This brush is thick enough to hide anything.
  7. Ice floes: Living on the  eidge of metabolic tolerance. It's always cold, it's always  dark. Salty water below freezing will kill you  more quickly than falling into a fire. Giant sea mammals are you  food, you  shelter, your gods.
  8. Shadows: you land is made of shadow stuff. You live between the waking and dreams. Filtered light in hews of blue and purple streak all around. capturing swallowed impulses from those in the waking  world sustain your people.
  9. The living land: You live inside of some organism of unknowable size. You exist in tunnels and caves of membranes and vascularity, it all pulses it all throbs. Living organic matter.
  10. Desert: Arid , Dry, vast. The  dunes cover everything eventually, your home is built to ride the dunes, to move with the sand. You are a wanderer not by choice but by construction. Food water shelter are primary. Giant Scarabs, tunnels in the sand, those who dwell below the sand, frigid nights.
What is locally most valued as a trade item:
    1d6  then 1d6
  1. Gold: (Or any other metal) Gold: is mined and  used as currency in the form of.
    1. Treads, length = value.
    2. Small Beads, strung on ropes.
    3. Coins, which can be broken down to make smaller values.
    4. Small figurines, usually in lustful poses.
    5. Kept in a liquid state on a  household's sacred flame. Intricate family hot boxes are used to transport liquid gold for transactions. Transporting the  molten gold is only done on festival days, at all other times debts are recorded in complicated ledgers and with detailed receipts. Possession of  cooled gold is a high crime.
    6. Stitched into clothing as fine thread. Parts of  scarves and sleves can be ripped off and used as currency.
  2. Rare snails: 
    1. The snails secrete a mucus which has a very soothing almost narcotic effect. They are exchanged for goods and services. Most of the population are addicted to snail mucus, but this is a cultural norm.
    2. The  shells of the  snails are an iridescent orange. they are broken into chips, polished and used a currency, often while set into jewelry.
    3. It's the snails themselves that represent wealth. Large snails eat small snails, the larger a family's largest snail the greater the family's wealth, the more  they can ask of other  community members. If there is ever any dispute the  family with the larger snail simply takes the lesser snail and feeds it to their own. The  now snail free family a has to find a replacement.
    4. The snails are the  community's only source of  Vitamin C. in the form of an odd jelly that collects under their shells. Without the  snails the community would  all die of scurvy. The wealthy sect control most of the  sails and use them as trade items for goods and services.
    5. The straight exchange of  snail shells. The bigger the shell the more valuable it is. Well to do members of the populations often wear "shell bandoliers."
    6. Shells are traded and valued based on the  purity of  sound which can be made by blowing through them. Some breeds of snails produce a better sound than others. Great expeditions are mounted to find and harvest these, "Snails of purest timber."
  3. Water:
    1. Potable water is rare and as such can be exchanged in  measures as large as a  gallon and as small as a dram, (about 1/8 ounce.) These measure are corked and waxed in glass vials of various sizes. A rich  person is known as a "clinker" due to the  sound of vials knocking together when he or she walks.
    2. Water is collected and stored in large rain bassins, each member of the  population gets their share of water each day. These being the only fresh water in the area it has become a commodity  used in exchange for goods and services.
    3. This is a land of a thousand streams each snaking it's way through the valley. A faimlies wealth is judged by how many small streamlets they have diverted to travel through their  farm lands.
    4. Simple, a script as old as movies, one group controls the  water, everyone else trades for it. Usually the trade is in the form of food, or manufactured items. Sometimes it's in the form of  slaves and sins of the flesh. Either way it's a system of exploitation and the  populous is getting damn tired of it.
  4. Magical Energy:
    1. Siphoned from the earth Dark Sun style
    2. Captured in Gems.
    3. Siphoned from people turning them into  depressed, emo wraiths. The energy is contained in thing crystals.
    4. Contained in small balls of energy  which are held in the eyes.
    5. which can be traded by spilling some of ones life force into another. those who earn more live longer. Those who have to pay out too much wither and ... die.
    6. The energy is harvested from caves containing a type of lichen that can  extract natural magical energies from stone.


    GOVERNMENT TYPE: 
    Roll ((2d20 + 1d6) -5)  Result is -2 to 41 
    Use the D6 result in stead of any negative results.
    There are 41 government types listed.
    Government type list wholesale lifted from here. It's a good site though.
    1. Anarchism
    A form of government (or lack thereof) with no ruling hierarchy, instead decisions are made at a directly democratic level: laws are created by citizens alone, although they may be enforced by institutions that are not publicly controlled.
    2. Anarcho-capitalism
    A stateless society composed of sovereign individuals living within the constraints of a corporatist market
    3. Anarchy
    Anarchy is lack of a central government, as there is no one recognized governing authority; in anarchy there is no effective government (as opposed to an "ineffective government") and each (rugged) individual has absolute liberty. It is important to note, however, that the lack of a government to enforce laws does not automatically imply that there are no laws; anarcho-capitalism in particular posits a form of anarchy with a body of explicit laws.
    4. Aristocracy
    A form of government in which a select few rule based on inherited hereditary right.
    5. Autocracy
    A form of government in which the political power is held by a single, self-appointed ruler.
    6. Capracracy
    Rule by goats.
    7. Communist state
    A hypothetical stateless entity that follows after socialism as according to Marxist theory.
    8. Corporatocracy
    A form of government where a corporation, a group of corporations, or government entities with private components control the direction and governance of a country. (See USA.)
    9. Demarchy
    A hypothetical political system run by randomly selected deciders decision makers who have been selected by sortition (drawing lots). Think selecting a legislature or executive in the same manner that a jury is presently selected.
    10. Democracy
    Refers to a broad range of types of government based upon the "consent of the governed." In its purest form it is the same thing as mobocracy, but it is usually practiced in the form of a republic, which provides checks and balances and an establishment that is able to tap an unruly mob on its collective head.
    11. Despotism
    Rule by an all-powerful individual. A less polite term for "autocracy."
    12. Dictatorship
    Rule by a dictator instead of a despot. Political science is very nuanced.
    13. Epistemocracy
    utopian type of society and government in which people of rank, including those holding political office, are those who possess epistemic humility, whatever that is.
    14. Ethnocracy
    A form of government where representatives of a particular ethnic group hold a number of government posts disproportionately large to the percentage of the total population that the particular ethnic group(s) represents and use them to advance the position of their particular ethnic group(s) to the detriment of others. In Nazi Germany ethnic groups Hitler supported held all the power. Neo-Nazisoften accuse Jews of possessing an ethnocracy in the person of the U.S. government, which they call the Zionist Occupation Government.
    15. Exilarchy
    A form of government, usually theocratic or monarchic, that is established and constituted for rule over an ethnic or religious diaspora rather than over the place of origin whence the diaspora originated.
    16. Fascism
    Rule by a totalitarian and corporatist government. It has also gone by the names NazismBaathism, Corporatism, and Falangism.
    17. Feudalism
    Government by a usually hereditary class of military landowners, who exact goods and services from a peasant class in exchange for protection. Usually features complex webs of loyalties and ranks.
    18. Futarchy
    System of government proposed by economist Robin Hanson based on the idea of voting on a certain outcome and then figuring out how to achieve it.
    19. Geniocracy
    A system of government first proposed by Rael (leader of the International Raëlian Movement) in 1977, which advocates problem-solving and creative intelligence as criteria for regional governance.
    20. Holacracy
    a specific social technology or system of organisational governance developed by HolacracyOne, LLC in which authority and decision making are distributed throughout a holarchy of self organising teams rather than being vested in a management hierarchy. (from Wikipedia)
    21. Kakistocracy
    Government by the least qualified or most unprincipled citizens, "Government by the worst."
    22. Kleptocracy
    A term applied to a government that extends the personal wealth and political power of government officials and the ruling class (collectively, kleptocrats) at the expense of the population.
    23. Kratocracy
    Rule by those who are strong enough to seize power through force or cunning.
    24. Kritocracy or Krytocracy
    Rule by judges. See also judicial activism.
    25. Matriarchy
    Rule by women, or a government which regards female humans as entitled to rule and to exercise power over men.
    26. Meritocracy
    A government wherein appointments are made and responsibilities are given based on demonstrated talent and ability, usually incentivising "merit".
    27. Minarchy
    A political ideology which maintains that the state's only legitimate function is the protection of individuals from aggression.
    28. Mobocracy or Ochlocracy
    Rule by mob or a mass of people, or the intimidation of constitutional authorities; think Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail "witch/duck" mob.
    29. Monarchy
    Rule by an individual for life or until abdication, often hereditary. On a positive note, a monarchy usually possesses more checks and balances than an autocracy or dictatorship.
    30. Oligarchy
    A form of government in which power effectively rests with a small elite segment of society distinguished by royal, wealth, intellectual, family, military or religious hegemony.
    31. Panarchracy
    A political philosophy emphasizing each individual's right to freely join and leave the jurisdiction of any governments they choose, without being forced to move from their current locale.
    32. Patriarchy
    Rule by men, or a government which regards male humans as entitled to rule and to exercise power over women.
    33. Plutocracy
    Rule by the wealthy, or power provided by wealth.
    34. Republic
    Historical definition: Any of a wide variety of non-monarchical governments where eligibility to rule is determined by law. US definition: Rule by elected individuals representing the citizen body and exercising power according to the rule of law.
    35. Socialist republic or people's republic
    A state run by a communist party, or worker representative democracy, with a centrally controlled economy and resources distributed by need and produced by ability, where workers, or the Party, control the means of production.
    36. Stratocracy
    A system of government in which there is no distinction between the military and the civil power.
    37. Technocracy
    A form of government in which engineersscientists, and other technical experts are in control of decision making in their respective fields.
    38. Theocracy
    A form of government in which a god or deity is recognized as the state's supreme civil ruler. Since said god or deity is usually absent from decision making, a self-appointed or elected leader or leaders of the religion of said god or deity will rule instead through personal interpretation of the laws commanded by the god in that religion's written law.
    39. Theodemocracy
    A political system theorized by Joseph Smith, Jr., founder of the Latter Day Saint movement (Mormons). As the name implies, theodemocracy was meant to be a fusion of traditional republican democratic rights under the US Constitution combined with theocratic elements.
    40. Timocracy
    Either a state where only property owners may participate in government or where rulers are selected and perpetuated based on the degree of honor they hold relative to others in their society, peer group or class.
    41. Tyranny
    Rule by a selfish or otherwise bad single ruler

    Why am I doing this?
    No reason..

    Anyone remember Soul Calibur 2 on the PS2?
    First, when you lose in that game, then choose to continue. The  booming announcer voice says "The Fire Still BURNS.." Which I think is great and could lead me down a whole path of digression about why I still write this blog and play RPG's at the age of forty one. No one wants to read that shit.

    My real reason for mentioning a thirteen year old game is a bit more gamerly.

    Perhaps it was the weapon based fighting. Perhaps it was the  inclusion of the market and the  "conquest mode." I don't know why exactly but I have always thought that game would make a great paper and pencil RPG.
    I think that the setting is a sublime mash up of the year 1591, cursed magic swords, a samurai, magic, and whatever the hell this is..

    Voldo-rific-pantsuit
    My point being  settings are fun, settings are the  underpinning of  everything that happens at the table, and if a group is only going to use it once, settings can get odd.

    Enjoy !

    Thank you for reading.
    -Mark.