Monthly Archives: July 2010

Mouseguarding Pathfinder- Beliefs and Instincts

Last week I mentioned that I had great success with using the goals and complications/twist/conditions mechanics from Mouse Guard. I was so excited about it I decided to incorporate the Beliefs and Instincts Mechanic from Mouse Guard as well.

I explained how it works, and there was little hesitation from my players. In fact most of them began writing quickly and had a belief and instinct before I was even done explaining it all! Awesome!

I know that using Beliefs and Instincts will take some getting used to for us, but I know it will be a success.

I haven’t started the session recap for Sunday on my Obsidian Portal page because I wanted to get this out there first.

Here is what my players came up with.

• Belief- Everyone can be saved.
• Instinct- Be prepared, be inquisitive.
• Belief- My home is where I belong and they need me.
• Instinct- Joke about the danger we are in.
• Belief- I believe everyone wants to know their future, even if they say they don’t.
• Instinct- I read a person’s aura when I first meet them.
• Belief- Stature is no indication of strength.
• Instinct- Stand up for those who can’t do it themselves.
• Belief- Anything can be done with some determination.
• Instinct- Draw my sword at the first sign of trouble.
• Belief- Love should never be messed with.
• Instinct- Always protect the children.
• Belief- Most truths are hidden, you just have to know where to look.
• Instinct- I always rely on my own resourcefulness first.

I was very happy after reading these. I know I can create challenges role-playing situations with these beliefs and instincts.

This session really didn’t have much to do with their instincts and beliefs, but was about them setting goals for exploring and interacting with the capital city of Galt, Isarn.

Next session they know where they are headed and I will be sure to snatch at the strings of a couple of the beliefs and see what kind of reaction I get! MWA HA HA!!

Allow Me a Moment to Gush

I’m very happy with my players. Each one took on this new role-playing mechanic ideology without any fuss or complaint. All of them were excited and have stepped up to all of the new options with enthusiasm.

So to them I give a heartfelt thank you for making our gaming table so awesome and a joy to GM!

Wrath of Zombie Beta- Addressing Changes and Additions! More Artwork!!

These have been updated as of 07/20/11. Here is the update notes.
Wrath of Zombie Survival Horror RPG v3

Enemy Sheets v3

Wrath of Zombie Character Sheet v3

Wrath of Zombie Character Sheet Merc v3

Wrath of Zombie Character Sheet Psychic v3

Wrath of Zombie Character Sheet Scavanger v3

Wrath of Zombie Character Sheet Scum Bag v3

Side Note 1: (Added 1/6/11)- I’ve noticed quite a bit of people downloading this, which is great! Please feel free to leave feedback on this so I can make it a better setting! 🙂

Side Note 2: (Added 1/6/11)- I’ve updated Wrath of Zombie and it is now located here. I know that the link will be changed soon on Savage Heroes as well!

I’ve gotten some really good feedback lately on my Wrath of Zombie campaign setting. I would like to give a big thank you to J Gregory who gave some really well thought out criticism.

So first, I have a new Wrath of Zombie Beta Test Book and Enemy Sheet that is complete with artwork. Thanks again to my girlfriend Angie, and my friend Anonymous who agreed to do artwork for this project!

I’ve also added a new Zombies archetype with three variant flavors to the Enemy Sheet!

I’ve done the layout myself, and would like feedback on the location of the pictures and etc, but be gentle because this is the first time I’ve really done anything like this.

I will be doing a printer friendly version soon as well!

All Wrath of Zombie files have been moved to here.

Now J Gregory’s critique was damned fine and I figured the best way to explain this was to break his thoughts down and explain stuff.

So here we go:

Character creation:
6 Attribute Pts – I like the mechanic, but find the justification far fetched (ie affected by radiation). Why not just say “only the fittest have survived this long”?

I never considered this. A good point and something I will consider. I guess I just went to the normal “comic book ideology” of radiation makes up stronger humans, etc.

Heroic End – this is a cool concept, but I think you need to flesh it out a little bit. How do you have a heroic end when you die from a failed Infection roll in a public restroom? Maybe this could be a (Background?) Edge: you were just destined to go down fighting (if you have the Edge and die from infection, the PC is allowed to play on until the next zombie encounter).

Originally Heroic End was an edge, but after discussion on the Pinnacle Forums there was debate on who would take heroic end as an edge, and also the fact that Wrath of Zombie© is a tad more dangerous and brutal than a normal Savage Worlds game and as such, the players deserved one last action to be a bad ass.

I feel that this is a way to make up for the player never really getting to hold on to a character. This mechanic lets every player have a cinematic moment before biting it big.

While I think J Gregory’s example is valid, I think that would be a minority of happenstance. I also think that the GM would be more than willing to work with the player to allow them a proper Heroic End in this example.

Dead Weight – This seems like a pretty unattractive Hindrance to me (maybe it’s the name – it feels hard to care about someone if they’re just a dead weight). You could soften this to ‘Dependent’ (ie wife, child) and allow them to have some useful non-combat skills, just not quite useful enough to offset the strain of looking after them day-to-day.
*Note – I’ve just read that this actually was Dependant, and was changed. Oh well, to each their own…*

Ahh.. Sigh.. This hindrance does need some reworking and I haven’t gotten to that yet. As noted it originally called Dependant, however I was notified by Pinnacle that it was too close to the Dependant Hindrance from another of their licensed products, so it needed to be altered.

This was a suggestion that was given to me as an alternative. I liked the feel of the Hindrance, but it may be a little too brutal. As far as the name, I think that it was chosen more for humor than anything, much like calling a spouse a ball and chain.

Chits – I don’t really see the need for this: in a post apoc world where most are reduced to foraging, would we really revert to using currency? I’d be more inclined to stick to a dollar value for items, but make all transactions either traded or worked for.
It’s hard to imagine ordinary metals being that scarce that they would become a currency unit.

Or, you could make the bullets themselves the currency. This could create some interesting choices for PCs: do I barter away the resource that I need to protect my life? Likewise, petrol: maybe a gallon of fuel = 10 bullets.

I honestly thought about doing the bullet route when I was creating Wrath of Zombie© or haggling. I think I would be more inclined to go the haggling route rather than bullets. I can see many players getting frustrated (beyond what is necessary) by having to give up bullets for something.
Haggling and missions and favors would add quite a bit of flavor.

Invisibility/Obscure – these are just too Arcane/Fantastic for use in this setting, IMO. Psychic powers like Telekinesis and Telepathy are okay, but making things invisible? You’d have to come up with a fairly solid technological rationale for this, and even then, you risk losing a lot of ‘grit’…

Invisibility was one that I was tossing around in my head for a bit and just decided to add it. I do think that it may go the way of the Dodo. Obscure however could be redone to be more of like a blinding spell. Won’t work on undead, but for critters, varmints, and bandits. I don’t think that would be too bad. A Weird Science could create a flash bulb or grenade, and a Psychic could “WILL” you not to see, force you to close your eyes, etc.

You started off by saying that a zombie bite is as good as a death sentence, but the infection rules mean that you can take several and keep on going

Example – Vig d6, bitten (and failed the Vig roll) 5 times = 5 infection points – but at what in-game penalty?
And if you can heal from the infection and lose the Infection points, why is the world in such a dire state?

I think these rules are far too lenient. You want players to always take fighting zombies seriously? Make Infection a single Vigour roll – they’ve got Cleansing Pot, and if they fail they can always spend a benny and reroll…

While I can agree and see the validity of this idea, I worry about it making the game TOO deadly. If players and GM want something like this, I’ll be more than happy to make it a variant rule.

The way I justify this is by separating Wild Cards and everyone one else. Only Wild Cards get the Infection Rating. When you think of a settlement that has 45 people living in it and it begins to be infected and only 4 of those people are wild cards, it’s still looking pretty bad for them.

The Infected Rating acts as a slight buffer to give the players a little more umph than normal. The odds are already stacked against them, they are squishy, and a good zombie bite can end their day, the rating, while shows the spread of infection and the harshness of the world, allows the players to survive a bit longer.

Wilds – This could be confusing (i.e. is it a contraction of Wild Cards?). Easier (and more evocative) to just call them ‘Ferals’.

This was something I already changed on the Enemy Sheet, but forgot to get in the Campaign Setting. Thanks for catching that!

Brutes – why an exo-skeletal shell? Here’s the place to use your ‘radiation-affected’ idea – they are mutants, thickly layered in coarse muscle: strong and tough.

The exoskeleton shell was what I envisioned as a reaction to the radiation. The description above was my first thought when I was designing Brutes, however I thought it was too close to Tanks in Left 4 Dead.

Again thanks to J Gregory for taking the time to give me some awesome feedback! I really am looking forward to more feedback from others!

Is it Only an “Essential” Reaction?

Note: This is a post to pose a question, not challenge what version of a game someone wants to play, or say that their enjoyment/choice is any less deserved or important. No trolling, only actual discussion please.

I’ve noticed many people on RPG Bloggers and others whom I talk to regularly via email seem to be unsatisfied with 4e Mechanics, especially once the players get to higher level. Some say that the easy prep and manageability of adventure crafting when the game was first released and at lower levels disappears once the game reaches Paragon level and beyond.

There have also been posts made about the clutter of errata, changes and fixes, etc.

Many people are wondering if the Essentials line is basically 4.5 using smoke and mirrors to hide its true purpose. Others say it is just another way for WotC to pull in revenue, and I am very inclined to agree with this statement.

WotC keeps saying that this game is a way to lure in new blood and refresh players who feel the game has grown too complex, overburdened and stagnant.

While I don’t doubt that WotC wants to pull in new blood and keep old blood buying their products, I think the real smoke and mirror here is to cover up what WotC has done.

They have errata’d and released and pushed till peoples eyes roll up in their heads, blood trickles down their nose, and they are found dead in their basements. Cheesy poofs still clutch in hand.. Oh so sad.

Mike Shea’s post over at Critical Hits had a couple of statements that really jogged my brain on this:

4e has changed a lot over the past two years. The mechanical design we see in later books is quite different from the design we see in the early releases. For DM’s, I think these design changes are clearly seen when comparing monsters at the paragon tier and above across all three Monster Manuals. I’ll talk more about this in a bit. For players, it’s seen clearly in the huge number of updates to the core classes and powers in the original Player’s Handbook. The core classes today are very different from those in the original Player’s Handbook. The recent change to Magic Missile is one such example.

The one thing keeping players sane is the Character Builder. Because it’s constantly updated, we don’t have to worry too much about keeping up with all of the updates. Of course, it makes us look at our core rulebooks and wonder why we bother to carry them around. I know I’ve stopped doing so. I might as well be bringing a Laura K. Hamilton hardback for all the good they’d do me at the table.


While current players have the character builder to keep them updated, DM’s don’t have it as easy. Unlike the Character Builder with it’s continued updates, WOTC never actually updated the original monsters with the updated math we find in the Monster Manual 3. Our first Monster Manual is pretty useless above level 10 and there’s no other way to update the monsters within other than to do it ourselves.

*scratches head* I like the idea of the character builder and can understand and appreciate the ease of it.. but to MAKE it essential to play a game and make the books you’ve spent your hard earned money on in just 2 years really just boggles my mind.

So I’m wondering if WotC is launching the Essentials line to combat this. To hopefully get players who are turned off by the whirlwind of information that has been placed before them.

What about you? Is Essentials more of a plan of action or a reaction to how 4e is now currently being perceived? Especially in light of Pathfinders success?

Mouseguarding Pathfinder Some More

Aside: I’m gonna take a moment to state that the Mouse Guard RPG is a great book to own. Even for just these little tidbits of info and inspiration. The book is gorgeous, with great artwork, and a fantastic layout. It is worth the Dead Tree or PDF price.

Today I’m going to talk about adding more role-playing mechanics from Mouse Guard to Pathfinder/DnD/or any other RPG that really doesn’t have its own “role-playing” mechanic.

The other day Chatty DM posted about his role-playing groups Mouse Guard Chargen session. Reading through it made me take another gander at the Mouse Guard book, more specifically Beliefs and Instincts.

Giving the Players More

Now as with the Goals Mechanic (which I posted here and here) Beliefs and Instinct has no “crunch” or hard rule. It is all abstract and all about giving the players some major control when it comes to their character.

The great thing about these beliefs and instincts is that it gives the player a jumping off point. Beliefs give the player a strong sense of direction and how they want that character to progress (and possibly change).

When I told one of my players about adopting this the other day, he stated he didn’t get beliefs because if you have a well developed character there isn’t a need for it. Aside: I am not picking on him. He is a good role-player, clever, and comes up with good characters- so this is no slight at him. It just works as a good example.

While I see his point, and can agree with it, I think that too much of what we envision for a character gets lost in all the data. Think of 3.x and 4e char sheets. There is a lot of info on there. Plus people have notes page, back story, ticks, habits, etc on their own char info pages.

So having a few paragraphs of description of a character, their life, family history, their personality, and why they believe that their kingdom is the most wonderful place to be and how they are going to convert everyone to this line of thinking is great and rich, I think that the belief of “My kingdom of Hynthral is a just and fair place, and I will not rest till the barbarians of the outlands see the light” gets lost in everything else.

Having that little bit right on the character sheet, and eloquently put allows it to always be in the players mind. Any time a situation comes up where a NPC, or a PC for that matter, makes a slight on the player’s homeland, BOOM there it is! It is in the PC’s mind and now he must react accordingly.

The other great thing about this clear and concise piece is that it allows the GM to SEE what the player is thinking and a great tool for adventures, confrontations, and other role-playing tidbits.

Again using the above example of a belief- what if I as the GM make that kingdom a fascist dictatorship that is oppressing the lower class or a certain race of people. How does this affect the PC when he makes this discovery? Will this revelation shake the foundation of his character?

Ok.. On to Instincts

Instincts give a character habit or reaction that oozes role-playing opportunities.

Having the player come up with an instinct, a gut reaction to a given situation, allows them to have that in the forefront and puts role-playing to the forefront.

Here are two examples using the character with the above mentioned belief:

#1) Instinct- Stutter and becomes flustered when confronted.

This is great because here is a person who believes that they are going to change people’s minds about his kingdom, but whenever he gets confronted about it, he stammers like an idiot, making his job so much harder.

#2) Instinct- Becomes overeager in combat and charges in.

Now this one does have two implications. One the player knows that their character is going to rush in before a plan is formed or before it is even fully understood what the party is facing (which could have the potential of frustrating players- more on this in a moment). If the character survives, in comes the second implication: Player Conflict.

So now the fight is over and the baddie is dead on the floor. The party is licking their wounds, which are more severe than if they had a plan. So now there is an argument between the character with this instinct and his party members. Beautiful.

Ok.. So the player conflict part… Eventually your group is going to get tired of you charging into every battle and ruining any chance of a plan. That is why instincts and believes can be changed. They should be changed when there is growth.

You should play as your character realizes the danger they put themselves and the party in and changes themselves. You could even have, after the altercation with the other party members the character goes to the other extreme.

Instinct- When in combat the character waits one round, observing, before acting.

There is so much potential for the Beliefs and Instincts Mechanic for role-playing purposes.

This is something I can’t wait to try in my Pathfinder game on Sunday 7/25!

Let me know if you’ve had any good experiences with these kind of mechanics!

Next WeekI’m hoping to do a full review of the Pathfinder Game Mastery Guide!

Pathfinder Session 2- Behind the Scenes- Mouseguarding

One Pissed Off Mouse

I’ve been excited to write this post all week. Quite a bit happened in our Pathfinder Session (Post 1, Post 2, and Post 3).

Today I’m going to focus on the behind the scenes info today (which is something I will be doing regularly now that I’m posting the session recaps on Obsidian Portal).

Last week I talked at length about “Mouseguarding” in DnD/Pathfinder (Hell or any game for that matter), and was able to try it out in my Sunday Pathfinder game. It went remarkably well and I am excited to try it again.

So not only did I incorporate the Twist/Complication/Condition Mechanic from Mouse Guard, but also the Goals Mechanic.

I have to say that this was awesome! Something really cool happened. Normally when I give my players a free “sandbox” like moment, some of them don’t really know what to do, or really don’t have the desire to stray from the main storyline very much.

I explained every player needed to choose a goal that complimented the main story goal and gave my players few minutes to think.

Yet this mechanic allowed them to add a goal to the adventure that was theirs and that they wanted to accomplish. This is something I will use every session now and I think it is something my players will enjoy and become better at more detailed goals once they get more accustomed to the mechanic.

Here is what they came up with:

After a few more minutes discussion it is decided that the 2 Rangers left, and the town guard will tighten security at the gates and two guards will go circle the outside wall. G-4683 offers to accompany them.

Leo is going to write a letter to his father, explaining the fate of James, and to Armoren Byranthos informing him of the situation.

Pharmakia wants to see Yessa Chen, the villages local Sooth-Sayer, and see if she can aid in shedding any light on the towns dreams.

Herger decides that the best course of action is to take a nap and see if he himself can experience one of the dreams the people have been having.

Laila decides to scout around the town and see if there is anything particularly useful that will be helpful (or valuable to steal).

You can read it in depth in Part 2 of the Recap. All of this was unplanned and improv and went really smoothly. It seemed everyone had quite a bit o’ fun.

Now moving on to Complications/Twists/Conditions.

This is from Laila’s adventure in Part 2-

She moved around the room and found that one of the pictures on the wall was hiding a safe. She began to pick at the lock when her pin broke. She started at the nub of the metal when the door opened. She whirled around and saw a female scooting in backwards quietly and closed the door slowly. When the woman turned around, she cried out, “What are you doing in here?!”

“Your father sent me in here to look for something. He said there was something important in the study.” Laila muttered unconvincingly.

This was really hilarious because when Sam (Laila) was sneaking about the room Elmer (Leo) said, oh if she fails a good twist would be the Mayor’s daughter walked in. Everyone laughed and Sam kept saying, “That’s not funny! Don’t jinx me!”

So when Laila attempted to pick the lock of the safe hidden behind the portrait, she rolled a 1. I cracked an evil smile and explained what is posted above. Sam just looked at everyone, “I hate you. I hate all of you.” It was good fun!

When Herger set to accomplish his goal of attempting to experience the dreams that the people of Iyopen were having he failed and I naturally started telling him that he was unable to have a dream and to try again. Then I caught myself mid sentence and realized that I was being a naughty GM and not in a good whips and chains and paddles sort of way…

I was keeping John (Herger) from having fun and accomplishing something cool. So I decided that he would indeed have his dream, but I would give him the tired (Fatigued) condition.

With a start Herger woke up groggy and disorientated.

Which he cursed me for, since it was -2 Dex/Str and it pretty much hindered his fighting ability as a sorcerer. Oh well can’t win em all.

Going for Fun and Cool

Pharmakia walks over to the wishing well and looks at the coins in the water. She looks back at the group, while unfastening her prayer blanket from around her shoulders. “I’m going to see the fountain.” She lays out her blanket, her gris-gris, and lights some incense. She bows her head and goes silent as the group gathers around her. She lifts her head up and her eyes fly open, milky white and unseeing.

The sound of wind and rushing water fills Pharmakia’s ears. Everything appears blurred and moving slow. She sees silhouette figures appearing in front of the fountain, dropping in a coin and wishing for something; “I wish my daddy would play with me.”, “Please let me wife get better.”

A figure walks up to the fountain and seems to stop for a few moments, head bowed. “Please let my husband return safely.” Then she tosses three coins in the fountain. Suddenly Pharmakia’s vision lifts her up and she is looking down into the fountain at the three coins tossed in by the woman, they glitter for a moment and then blood starts to leak from them, coloring all the water red.

Pharmakia’s eyes suddenly return to normal, “Something bad has happened,” she whispers quietly.

When Angie (Pharmakia) came up with this idea, pretty much everyone said that it was a really cool idea. However they are all level 1 and it isn’t like a Witch or any other class has any powers for this sort of thing. I caught myself before I said it, but I almost said, “Well you aren’t strong enough, so there isn’t really anything you can do.”

Instead I told her to make a Spellcraft Roll DC 15 to see if anything happened and started planning contingencies for if she failed her roll. Angie passed her roll however and the adventure moved along smoothly.

The session was quite a bit of fun. Everyone did something really creative and accomplished their goals.

Coming up tomorrow: Mouseguarding Pathfinder- Beliefs and Instincts.

Pathfinder Recap Session 2, Part 3

Part One, Part Two

And now Part Three

Ok. Finally done with the recap. I’m writing the Behind the Scenes piece for tomorrow now. Hopefully it will be ready. If not, oh well.. There is always Friday.

Pathfinder Session 2, Part 2 Recap

Part One Here

Here is Session Two

So I said yesterday that the recap would be two parts and the mechanics/behind the scene stuff would be posted on Wednesday. Well so much happened in the session that I have one more recap and the mechanics will be posted on Thursday instead. Sorry, but it was a really good session and deserves to be full put up on my Obsidian Portal page.

I’m looking forward to finishing up the recap and delving into the behind the scenes material. Some really fun stuff happened and we used the mouseguarding mechanic to great effect!