Friday, April 30, 2010


No this is a rambling post (OK maybe it will be) but it is a post about randomness and its place in gaming. GMs are given random charts all the time, but are they any good? We believe that d100 random charts get old about the third time their used; not necessarily the third die roll, but the third mission or session in which they are used.
So are they useless? Well no. You’ve seen our opinions about “all you need is a spark of imagination”. Well, random charts are good for that. Roll a bunch of times. See what makes sense; throw out the rest. You can also keep them a little fresher if you cross out everything that comes up. Then, when the chart is half crossed out, just get a new one.
We are working on three separate d1000 charts. We’re testing and modifying, but we are hoping that a d1000 chart might not get old. The time between similar results should be distant enough that it doesn’t seem like the “same old same old”. Will d1000 be enough? Even if our earlier guess of three times and old news is true, then does this mean that it would take 30 times in order for it to get old? Well, that seems OK. How many campaigns run more than 30 missions anyway?
We’ll keep you informed. Of course, its likely to kill us to try and legitimately format a d1000 chart.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Teleport Tunnels

I’m looking at the enclave sorcerers in the Book of Wishes and I have a question for you active game masters out there: Can the principal spell caster pass through the teleport tunnel or will his movement into the tunnel cause it to collapse? Here’s what it says in the book:
Teleport tunnel is a very useful tool for the enclave sorcerers. It creates a tunnel (the size of the area of effect) with one end at the principal caster and the other end at the auxiliary caster. Only two spell casters can be involved in the casting of this spell. The principal caster is the one who initiates the spell. This caster begins casting towards the other. After one turn of casting, the other sorcerer becomes aware of the teleport tunnel and has to open his or her end. The principal caster must use four power levels, while the auxiliary caster only needs to supply three. If the auxiliary does not respond, the principal will begin taking sustaining fatigue, even though the spell has not yet been cast.
Once the tunnel has been successfully opened, anyone or anything can pass through the tunnel and instantly be transported from one end to the other. Through these means, large amounts of people or products can be transported. This tunnel works much like the other teleport spells except that it is maintained. If either of the casters drops the sustaining of the spell, it will fail. The spell cannot be resisted.

By the description, it sounds like he could take a free walk into the tunnel as long as he was sustaining it. I would collapse the tunnel behind him, because it is “between” the two casters, so it cannot be behind the principal caster. Well, for that manner, could the auxiliary caster enter his own teleport tunnel? The rules don’t specify, but I have always assumed that they couldn’t. What do you think?
For those of you not familiar with the Book of Wishes, it is only currently published in hard copy. It has been re-edited, but the layout work has not yet been done to convert it into a pdf. Since the book has a lot of art, the layout work is pretty intense. We hoped to have it on our distributors’ sites reasonably soon.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Magical Theory

So hopefully those of you who have been reading this blog are starting to understand our theory on role-playing. Basically we believe that the adventurers should be out there doing wild and wooly things while the rest of the world moves forward on its own. That means that mundane stuff is going on all the time and the adventuring somehow fits in the cracks and gaps. We don’t have to dwell on the mundane stuff, as long as we know that there are NPCs out there doing it.
An Example: Just like in our culture, there are tons of people spending their lives debating things that the rest of us couldn’t care less about. In the game world, it would seem most likely that other than religion (well religions because there are so darn many gods), magical theory would likely be one of the most debated things. Take a comet ball for instance. The spell description itself says that the mage rips a fiery stone from the heavens and hurls it down at the mage’s will. I don’t want to get into the physics of it, but to actually rip a meteor or asteroid from space and hurl it down to the Earth in a matter of 10 second or less would likely be moving the rock at light speed or faster. Of course, not everyone (in fact probably no one) in the fantasy world would understand meteors or the speed of light, so they might argue this is possible. Others might argue that the comet ball was moving at magically fast speeds. There might be angels who anticipate the need for comet balls and set them in motion hours before they are needed, and the mage is simply guiding them. Maybe the comet ball is coming from the elemental dimension of earth. Maybe the comet ball is traveling through hyperspace or using space folding techniques. Maybe hyperspace and the elemental plane are the same place.
Do you as a GM or a player, care which of these is true? Well, not really. Do you need to debate it during one of your gaming sessions? Absolutely not! So does it matter? It doesn’t matter, but if you know that there are people employed by magical universities to research and try to figure out silly theories like this, than you have just built a better, more realistic, and even more interesting game world for your players. Well, and for you!
Will these ever matter? They might. If the debate is which is more powerful divine magic or sorcery, well those kind of arguments have a habit of spilling over into feuds, duels, and other civil unrest. Even if the comet ball debate ended in a fist fight, it would likely only be interesting and not important. Yes, we’re all picturing two weakling mages arguing over whether comet ball angels exist while they wrestle on the floor of an empty lecture hall. OK, maybe that was just me.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Stable/Inn Campaign

Looking for something a little different? Here’s my newest idea for a new campaign. Feel free to steal it for your own use (but come on, no publishing it OK).
The party is related to each other in some way - probably cousins. They are all contacted by someone that their mutual grandperson has passed away and left them a piece of the family stable or perhaps inn. As they all return to the ancestral home, they begin to work to at the run down inn hoping to rebuild it to its former glory. Sounds dull? OK, here are some adventure ideas:
* A horse in the stable escaped and the party must go out into the wilderness in the dark of night to find it. While they likely will not encounter dangerous animals, walking around a forest in pitch black is a dangerous thing (traps, holes, branches, streams, etc). They need to get the horse back before dawn in order to avoid the bad publicity of having lost the thing in the first place.
* Rustlers stole the cattle the inn planned to butcher and serve. First the party needs to hunt some game to serve, then they need to hunt thee rustlers.
* A guest turns out to be a werewolf, but how do they determine which one and how do they stop him/her.
* An elderly guest dies at the inn and they bury him, only to learn later that they buried him with an important item that other people are now searching for.
* The barmaid has been kidnapped - was it the jealous boyfriend or the group of bandits nearby?
* Someone left a horse at the stable, promising them that if they could sell the horse, he’d let them keep X%. Of course, the horse was stolen shortly thereafter. Was it stolen? or was the “seller” the thief?
* An escaped slave has found his way to the inn, but the slave hunters are right on his trail. Hand him over or help him hide? If they help him hide, do they become part of an underground railroad that pits them against a major slavery group?
* The ghost of grandpa is now haunting the hotel - how to get rid of him without destroying his eternal soul?
There is a strong part of me that feels that this has a Scooby Doo feel to it. Adventure just keeps finding the poor owners of this hotel, but that is true of a lot of campaigns. No, there likely won’t be any major battles with dragons or flaming broad swords, though of course a dragon could decide to move in nearby and need to be killed or chased off. This could be a very fun campaign. If you need more adventure, have the inn become very close to the battle lines of a major war. Maybe it would become the field HQ for a large military unit, and then maybe a hospital for the enemy after they take the region. The players would likely be caught up in the fighting, but do they want to takes sides or simply try to preserve their livelihoods while the two distant governments fight all around them.
Need more? Know all those “The City Alchemist needs a special ingredient in order to make a special antidote” quests? Now they are “The cook needs a special spice or the special of the week will fail” quests. Quest givers, like the poor woman who lost her husband to the goblins while he was carrying a map of a gold mine, now stumble into the players’ public room instead of a miscellaneous bar somewhere. All sorts of interesting people will pass through, many of which will need help.
Off the wall can often be the best campaigns. Making the characters worry about their home also has a way of anchoring the players to their characters and making them incredibly memorable.

P.S. Sorry for the late post - tech glitch over the weekend. Last time I try an automated update.

Saturday, April 3, 2010


You know, more and more of these posts are coming out of me trying to teach my young sons how to play. One of my sons was reading the book Castle by David Macaulay. I told the older one that he too should read the book. “But, isn’t that...informative?” Gasp! No! Not that! Heaven forbid! Ok, enough of that. Yep! It is informative. In fact, I would go so far as to say that if you don’t have the information contained within that book, you should not be running a fantasy role-playing game that in any way mirrors feudal Europe, which, let’s face it, most of them do.
I’m not saying that this is the quintessential book that must be read, but the information in that book is needed. The book Castle is just the easiest way I know to gain that information.
So forgetting the book - how much research is required to run a game? I do tons of research; probably way too much. Other guys are running things with absolutely none. Where’s the happy medium? I’m interested in your opinions. I think it depends on the education and personalities of your players. Some re-enactors need to have everything exactly right, and the slightest coat of arms out of balance ruins the game for them. I’ve even had arguments a couple of times where I insist that Fletnern (my game world) is NOT Earth and therefore the development of certain technologies would not have followed the same course. For some realists, that isn’t good enough. So again, where is the middle ground? Does it matter if you place a swamp next to mountain and a desert? Maybe not. Does it matter what the mass of the planet’s moon is and how that mass would affect either the gravity while standing on the moon or the rise and fall of the tides? Probably not. Should there be some sense of realism? I think so.
Here’s a big one - If 10 coppers = 1 silver and 10 silvers = 1 gold, does that make sense compared to our modern sense of money? No way. Does that mean its wrong? Maybe, maybe not. This is not the planet Earth we’re dealing with here, and maybe the supply of gold and silver are completely different on that planet. So is game balance and ease of monetary conversion so important that we can ignore this sense of reality? Yeah, I think it is.
Here’s my completely unscientific answer to how much research is needed: Enough that your players believe that within that world, this is reasonable, but not so much that you feel like you have homework every night just so you can have fun one day a week.