Monthly Archives: August 2010

Looking Forward to Dark Sun

Oooh Dark Sun


First off here are three great reviews about Dark Sun.

Here is one on RPG.Net.
This one is by the awesome NewbieDM.

And here is one by Points of Light.

I have to say that I am really excited for the Dark Sun Campaign Setting?

“Gasp!” you say? “How can this be?! You do not play 4e! Poser! Heretic! Sinner! Atheist!”

Well I am a Heretic, Sinner, and definitely an Atheist… but that isn’t the point of this post.. or is it?

Focus Mike Focus

Yes.. Dark Sun.

I really didn’t get to play much of the original setting when I was younger, but what I did get to play and what I heard of the setting made me really appreciate it and want to play more of it.

With the 4e setting release I plan to take it and convert it to either Savage Worlds or Pathfinder.

I may not like the direction that Wizards has taken DnD, but I am not against purchasing a product from them if I feel that it is worth while or has something cool in it. That is why I got the DMG 2 (here’s a review I did for that- Part 1 and Part 2).

Honestly there was quite a bit of useful stuff in the 4e DMG 2 for any aspiring or veteran DM/GM, as is the case with the Game Mastery Guide for Pathfinder having something to offer any DM/GM who doesn’t play Pathfinder/3.x.

From what I’ve read, it sounds like WotC has done a good job (for the most part) preserving the feel of Dark Sun, and I think my players would like to be in a world that tends to be one of gray where the moral compass is pretty low.

I can already tons of adventure in this kind of inhospitable world where the players have to have their wits about them to survive.

Systems

I can see Dark Sun being fun with both Pathfinder and Savage Worlds. I just need to debate on what kind of feel I want for the game. I think that the setting would be particularly brutal using Savage Worlds.

I can also see it being fun to do Pathfinder and utilize all the yummy goodies that have been incorporated into the system with the addition of the Advanced Players Guide.

I’ll just have to see after I read the book fully which system jumps out at me.

What about you? Are you looking forward to Dark Sun? What system would you convert Dark Sun to, if you so choose to?


Challenge- An Emotional Response

Oh Passion, fill my heart...

First off I updated my the Glory that is Me page a lil.. It needed it. And there is a really sexy pic of me up there now. Damn.. I’m hot.

Note: The pic here and on my Glory Hole Page are from Otakon 2010 🙂

Not too long ago I talked about eliciting an emotional response from players.

Well we shall go down that rabbit whole even further.

I have heard many GM’s comment on having a hard time getting the players to engage in the story aside from kill mode.

I’m gonna throw one thing out there right now about player responses. DnD and Pathfinder really have no mechanics to guide player towards an emotional response. There are no rules, soft or hard, there are no mechanics, and there is no real guidance.

Games like DnD and Pathfinder put that responsibility solely in the hands of the DM/GM and the players. The players have to want it, desire it, and pursue it themselves.

So how do we get players to react and interact with the story?

There are some games, like Mouse Guard that excel at getting the players to elicit a form of emotion and depth. Then there are games like Savage Worlds, World of Darkness, and the like that have Edges and Hindrances (or Flaws) that give the player a comfortable structure to use to build an emotional response from.

These mechanics/options are great because it helps a player think outside of the box. It gets the creative juices flowing in the chargen process.

Even with these mechanics in place though, it isn’t guaranteed that there will be any form of emotional attachment to the character, the world, or the NPC’s.

So what do we do?

We challenge them. Again, this is something that Mouse Guard really excels at (for my full gushing works on that- here, here, here, and here. And here are two posts by Roles, Dice and Fun about the same subject. Here and Here.)

“Mouseguarding” aside, you push your players. Make it personal. One thing I like to do is have the players create an NPC at chargen and put them in every so often, or whenever the player calls upon that person.

Player A creates a kind old man who used to tell them stories when they were a child. This man is gentle, friendly, and a veritable fountain of information. So the group always goes to him for historical knowledge.

He has become a staple in the game, and is almost a member of the party.

How will the players react if they find out he was murdered in the crossfire of a local turf war? And to complicate the matter, the city/town guard knew about it, and didn’t act because they were hoping the thugs would kill each other off? Just from that you have two potentially emotionally charged hooks/vendettas.

Instead of killing him, he’s taken hostage. The group needs to rescue him. What if they fail? What if they are sneaking through the gang’s base and the rogue fails a sneak check- (utilizing the complication/twist/condition Mouse Guard Mechanics) they suddenly hear a gunshot or the twang of a crossbow, etc, from the next room.

They find the old man tied to a char, dead, with a bullet or bolt to the head. There’s a huge emotional response. Not only were they too late, but due to a slip up in the group the world reacted.

Many times in “epic” campaigns that are world spanning there is a sense of terror, stress, etc, because all of life is at state and the world may end… but those campaigns sometimes forget the microscopic things, like a characters grandmother, baby sister, spouse, best friend. The players and the GM/DM may lose sight of those for the “big picture.”

Harry Potter, Batman, Buffy, Firefly, and Star Wars

The reason that these shows, comics, and movies are so endearing and wonderful is that they are personal. Each one of them puts the main character(s) in a position that threatens, time and time again, to take away what is dear to them; friends, family, possessions, life, reputation, sanity, etc.

My above example of NPC’s isn’t the only situation. A living world is important for an emotional response. What happens if the group is asked to take care of a crooked constable who has been bulling the populace, but instead they rush off to a tomb to retrieve a powerful magical weapon that could be disastrous in the wrong hands?

The party comes back to town with the weapon and feeling victorious, but the town is in shambles. The people attempted to stand up to the constable, and he killed, raped, and pillaged.

In several games I’ve played in, and hell ones I’ve GM’d, the other plot (the constable) just goes to the back burner or once they return, even if the town had been ransacked, everyone would be happy for the heroes because they have the big bad weapon in their safety.

But really… are people honestly that understanding? If you think so just watch how the asshole in front of you drives, thinking he owns the road (oh yeah.. I’m bitter). Most people can’t see past their own pain, even if it is so much smaller than what others are facing.

Having them come back to a town that is suffering and in pain due to their lack of action will make the adventure have that much more impact, and make the world seem much more real.

You can reverse the scenario and have the group stand up to the constable, but someone else gets the weapon and now the group has to deal with that threat before it becomes too large.

I know that nothing I’m spouting is new or novel, but it’s worth mentioning. Creating adventures and stories that are on the personal level for the players will bring out an amazing emotional response.

How do you challenge your players?


Pathfinder Session 4- Behind the Scenes

Ok, so I’m changing the way I announce my recaps for Obsidian Portal. Instead of announcing each one as I put it up, I will just do one post with all the links, and the next day post the Behind the Scenes for the session.

The reason is I don’t want to flood RPG Bloggers with 2 sentence posts just saying, “Here it is” 1-4 times. One time is enough for people to get the idea.

Soooo.. “Here it is”- Session 4, Part 2.

I will say that this was a good session. We had fun and I got to freak my players out with the unknown. It was cut short because Angie was not feeling good and really wanted to go to bed. However she paid me great compliment before passing out, “That was actually a good session sweetie. You did good job scaring us and freaking us out.”

WIN!

This was a great session because there was so much response from all the players. We were all engaged and having a great time! The moments of this session were ones I always strive for. Maybe not in the horror and disgust department (although that’s a close second) but the emotional and initial responses.

Annnnddd now.. On to Behind the Scenes

The group follows Leo upstairs where an ugly Orc bouncer holds up his hand. Leo looks at him for a moment, eyebrows raised in surprise. “Just checkin’ it’s you, Leo.” The guard shuffles out of the way letting everyone pass.

Neteela is sprawled on a finely crafted couch smoking a hookah as a woman running her hands through her hair and a man rubbing her legs.

“Excuse me, Neteela?” Leo asks quietly.

Purple smoke leaves Neteela’s mouth as she exhales, “This better be good Leo, I’m paying good money to be pampered like this.”

“We’re here on business.”

Neteela laughs, “Of course you are. Nothing but business brings people to The Bordello

“Not that kind of business.”

Neteela raises up, “No I know not for you. What do you need?”

This was a fun start to the game because Elmer’s mother is the Mistress of The Bordello, and Elmer does a good job portraying the strained relationship of being the illegitimate child of Nym.

This was also a good way to introduce this incarnation of Neteela.

Aside: I have several characters that are my “Cid.”

I can see the players getting along very well with her.

Growing bored Laila makes her way outside. As she breathes in the night air a scream goes out from a nearby alley, “No! Let go! This is mine! Somebody help!”

“You stupid bitch! Let go! This is mine! You owe me!”

Laila slowly makes her way to the alley and pokes her head around the corner to see a man pulling on a satchel clutched tightly by a woman wearing rags. A young girl with a swollen face lies at the woman’s feet, clutching her face, blood oozing from her nose, crying.

The man pulls a dagger out of nowhere and slices open the woman’s throat. “Bitch!” He grabs the satchel and runs out of the alley. Laila attempts to tackle him, but trips on the hitch to a wagon, falling to the ground. Looking up she sees him disappear around the corner.

“Mama…” the words come from the young girl, now clutching the corpse of her mother.

Laila begins to talk to the girl, but has trouble removing her from the corpse. Suddenly guards appear in the alley, baring down on Laila and accusing her of murder. After several minutes and some rather smooth talking, Laila is now the ward of the child and the two of them, covered in blood, beaten, and tired make their way back to The Bordello.

This was an adventure hook that I had written previously to be able to throw in randomly, and I decided to put it in when Sammy told me she was going outside. I did this because Sammy chose the instinct of “Always protect the children.” So it was fun to see this play out.

The Hands begin to discuss what this could mean when a plump woman walks up to Laila, her eyes are glazed over and her face slack, “Alice got in trouble yesterday” she says tonelessly and then walks past Laila.

“What?! Hey hold on! You!” Laila grabs the woman by the arm and spins her around to face her. “What did you just say?”

The woman’s eyes are wide with surprise, “What? I said wel-welcome to Old Castro and to enjoy the lovely weather.”

The look on Sam’s face when I did this was priceless. Alice was a newly introduced character, but because Sam had to go to lengths to protect her and now there was investment, her reaction was awesome.

Dieter begins digging into his stew and muffin with zest. He suddenly grabs his jaw as he feels a sickening crunch in his mouth. He moves his tongue around and finds something hard mixed in with the chewed up muffin. Dieter spits and a molar clinks on his plate. He spits out another molar. Horrified he looks down at his muffin and sees it packed with teeth.

“Gods!”

“What?” asks Pharmakia.

“Look at this!”

“At your half eaten muffin?” Pharmakia asks perplexed.

“What?” Dieter looks at his muffin again, and there are no teeth. The two he spit on his plate are nothing more than soggy chewed up pieces of dough.

This was a good moment, because as I described the teeth being spit out, I got a couple small groans. When I described the muffing being packed with them, there was a communal moan of disgust. Priceless.

“You’re boring.. and weird” moaned Laila. “I’m gonna go bug that lady again. See what she says.” Laila gracefully landed on the floor and made her way to the kitchen where Janet was beating eggs in a frying pan and her husband was hacking at a dead skinned calf with a huge cleaver.

“Why hello again dear. Is there anything you need?” Janet chimed cheerfully.

The three of them bantered about the history of Old Castro and their lives there. “Interesting,” mused Laila. “I’m Laila, by the way.”

“Oh what a lovely name!” Suddenly Janet’s face goes slack and her eyes glaze over, “Named after your grandmother.”

“Ho-How did you know that?!”

Janet suddenly points over Laila’s shoulder, “Oh no. Your half-orc friend is choking! I think she needs help!” Laila turned around quickly to see Pharmakia sitting, bored, her head resting on one hand as she played with her stew absent mindedly.

“She looks fine. Anyways, how did you know about my name” Laila said forcefully as she turned back around to face Janet. What greeted her eyes was an abomination. Screaming and cackling in her face was Janet with waxen skin, broken and pointed teeth, long tentacles dripping with slime and puss poke out from underneath her dress.

Before Laila could even react, a hot frying pan connects with her head and sends her skidding on her back out of the kitchen.

“Umm guys!”

Pharmakia and Dieter look up as there is an explosion from the wall and a dead calf carcass goes flying through the room and lands by the group spraying them with wood, flesh, and blood.

This was probably the best moment in the game, for me at least.. Maybe not so much for Sam.

So things pretty much happened as described, but the difference was Sam said she looked at Angie’s character. “Is she choking?”

“No.”

“So she’s not choking?”

“Nope.”

“Ok, I turn around to talk to the lady again.”

Right when she got done saying that, I just stood up and lunged at her screaming as if I was gonna hit her with something. Sam’s eyes got all big and she sank back in her seat. Awesome.

I sat back down and described what I had just “demonstrated” to her. It really added to the moment.

A ripping, gurgling noise filled their ears. Suddenly there is the sound of something heavy hitting the ground behind them, followed by the plodding of several feet as something runs away, and the rustling of bushes.

Leo and G-4863 spin around, weapons drawn. On the ground, in a crumpled heap, is the skin of the guard, his back completely torn out.

The duo form up back to back, “Come face me creature!” G-4863 shouts bravely.

“Let’s not get dramatic here, G.”

Without warning the creature leaps out from the bushes and lands on G-4863. The sound of wood splintering and cracking rings out in the stillness of night. Leo looks at his comrade, phosphorescent green liquid leaking from G’s ribs.

This was also another golden moment. I also described the creature flittering just out of their torchlight. This really got Elmer and Drew nervous.

When combat started and they began to take a beating, Drew got worked up (in a good way) and said, “This monster sucks! I want to kill it.” This, again, was awesome!

Session 5 won’t be till September sadly. However we are doing a one shot Star Wars game this Sunday, which I’m sure will be full of debauchery and stupidity. I’ll recap it Monday!


Pathfinder Session 4 Recap

Part 1.

Part 2 will hopefully be up tomorrow and the Behind the Scenes on Friday.

This was a good session. Quite a bit happened and I got to scare my players. What more can a GM ask for!?


Pathfinder Session 3 Recap

The Hands of Reliant Justice

So I wasn’t going to do a session recap of session 3 since it was mostly players achieving personal goals and not progressing the story, but there were a few points that are integral to the storyline, so that is what is included in this recap.

I mentioned previously that it was a good session, albeit a little difficult with a large group.

Here it is on my Obsidian Portal Page.

Tomorrow- Session 4 Recap Part 1


Summoning Cthulhu With a Care Bear Stare

You Just Died

I’ll just let that soak in for a moment while you wipe away the drool from your mouth.

I’ve been big into Cthulhu mythos, stories, and inspired movies, so it’s no surprise that many of my games have that feeling of horror, dread, etc.

However.. And I have a confession to make… I’ve never played Call of Cthulhu and the like.. Which is something I am looking to rectify…

So I’ve been looking at the different games to try and find one to play.

Here are the books:

Call of Cthulhu
Trail of Cthulhu
Realms of Cthulhu

I am not familiar with the system of Call or Trail. I love and know Savage Worlds. However I have read that Realms is more of a conversion with a few rules and etc and that it is handy/better to have a copy of CoC on hand.

I would be GRATEFUL to any advice, opinions, etc. Thanks!


I’ve Seen the Future of 3.5, It’s Pathfinder, and It’s Good

First off I was planning to do a review of the Pathfinder Game Mastery Guide… However Newbie DM did a wonderful review on it, so I will just point that out to everyone.

I will go out and say that the Game Mastery Guide and the new Advanced Players Guide are BOTH only $9.99 for the PDF, which is an AMAZING price for a product of this quality. Do yourself a favor and buy these products.

Ok.. On to the Players Guide.

Tasty Munchy Crunchy

The Geek Life Project has a short and sweet review of the Advanced Players Guide. Check it out.

I’m going to just say something that everyone already knows.. Paizo knows their shit. The products they come out with are gorgeous, packed with tons of great ideas and useful information, and more importantly a true love for the game and product they are creating.

Gush Gush Gush

I’m not going to cover all the feats, spells, and magic items that are jam packed into this book. For two reasons, one- there are a lot of them and two- I’ve only skimmed through them and haven’t had time to get down and dirty and do a real in depth reading of em..

I will say that the new feats and spells, from the little peaks I’ve taken, nothing seems truly game breaking or really over powered as some of the stuff that came out in the Complete Series books for DnD (the Complete Arcane comes to mind here) where a spell was ridiculous or a feat allows a level 4 caster to be casting as though they are level 8.

I will say that it is possible this stuff is in there and I just didn’t notice it.

The thing I REALLY like is the variant rules for the classes.

I really like that they created variant abilities and feats that can be switched out for ones of the standard class, rather than creating a whole new class.

Two Examples:

One– In 3.5 a Swashbuckler was a variant starting class in the Complete Fighter with its own level progression.

In Pathfinder you play a Rogue and progress down that level path, however you choose the Swashbuckler Variant you lose Trapfinding as a class ability and instead gain Martian Training which allows some goodies that make sense for the type of character you are wanting design.

Two– In 3.5 a Drunken Master was a Prestige Class that you had to plan far in advance as a player to achieve, and while it was fun and had great flavor text and abilities, many of my players who got there expressed a complaint that it was too much of a pain to get there.

No longer..

You choose Drunken Master as a Variant Monk Class at level one.. BOOM. You are a monk with an alcohol problem who somehow still kicks major ass.

The Monk at 3rd level gets the ability Drunken Ki, which replaces Still Mind.

As The Geek Life Project put it so eloquently, with this one book Pathfinder basically made it so you can toss away all those pointless Splat books.

Seriously, there are TONS of variants:

Barbarian- 10
Bard- 9
Cleric- A huge amount of new Domains.
Druid- 11
Fighter- 12
Monk- 10
Paladin- 6, plus a new class called the Antipaladin
Ranger- 8 and several new combat styles
Rogue- 12
Sorcerer- 10 new bloodlines
Wizard- 4 elemental styles and 16 new school specializations

This is wicked sick crazy! Bat fucking nuts!

I love it!

I love the route that Paizo has gone with this book. I would rather see the options done like this than tons of variant classes with tons of their own progressions.

Now I know Pathfinder is not the first company to due this. WotC did it in Star Wars: The Saga Editions, with each class having three variants, and 4e DnD does the same thing with the classes.

The book also contains more info on how to utilize Combat Maneuvers and something called Traits.

Add a Small Dash of Salt for Flavor

Paizo released a small PDF back during the Core Rulebook Beta test with something called Traits. These are little “mini feats” that add small bonuses to skills, saves, attack and CMB/CMD and flush out the character more.

These are awesome and are not game breaking or require more bookkeeping.

This book is amazing and for only $9.99 PDF, or $40 in Dead Tree version, it is a must have gem!