Monthly Archives: September 2010

Mouseguarding Pathfinder- Spicing up Combat

Wayne Reynolds is the man.

Aww… Combat that wonderfully exciting part of role-playing where swords dance and cut down enemies, arrows fly and strike with amazing efficiency, and spells are cast, protecting allies and raining down doom and fire on foes.

Aww… Combat that extremely frustrating part of role-playing where players fumble attack rolls and their eyes twitch, blank stares greet the Game Master as players attempt to figure out their action, and Game Masters shrug as a casters spell is rendered ineffective for so many various reasons.

Combat is both a blessing and a curse for both players and Game Masters. For some it is the planning that goes in to an encounter, only to have it not be as epic as planned, or simply go awry. For others it is the sheer amount of options, decisions, and rules that seem to bog them down and can make it difficult for a player to go with a plan of action. Or it could also be for a player to wait patiently for their turn, an awesome idea in their head about what horrors they are going to inflict on an enemy, to roll and miss their attack or their spell to be overcome by Spell Resistance or a really high Saving roll.

It is this last part that I would like to touch on today. I know that at my table and from posts I’ve read on RPGBN this is something that happens quite often. From my experience, players don’t mind waiting 20 minutes for their turn in combat if something happens during their turn. Nothing is more boring and pointless than for a player to wait, go to attack, miss, and then boom, that’s it and we are moving on to the next player. I think this is increased when a player is having an off night in rolls and constantly misses or has their ideas shot down by poor rolls, or other players killing or overshadowing their ideas.

I have been talking at length with Chuck over at Geek Life Project and both us are planning on running Dresden Files games using the DFRPG/FATE Rule system. I am speaking just for myself, but I think that Chuck and I both really enjoy the Aspect system of FATE. Put simply, it is amazing. And DFRPG takes it to a whole new level. Aspects allow for players to really make characters their own. Aspects provide for very cool unique, strategic, and clever ways for the player to do things both in and out of combat.

I have mentioned in a previous post that this is something I want to incorporate into my various other games. The way Aspects are used make is so things can be done, even when a player doesn’t get a great roll.

Then it dawned on me, what about using the Mouse Guard mechanics I have already placed in my games: Complications/Twists/Conditions. Now first I’ll admit I don’t know how this will play out, it is not something I have gotten to play around with yet, but I’m thinking it would add a new layer of fun to combat.

To Miss or Not to Miss

Complications/Twists/Conditions (C/T/C here on in) is an awesome mechanic that I have had great fun with in the past. I think that adding this mechanic to combat would create new situations and fun for the players. Even if they miss an attack something would happen for better or worse.

If a fighter makes an attack and misses- go to C/T/C philosophy. Maybe he slips on rubble on the ground and now he’s prone. Perhaps the fighters sword does strike home and impale the enemy, but it get stuck in the creature and it yanks it away.

A spell caster could cast a spell and instead of it just going bye bye due to spell resistance it could go off course and strike the building, causing structural damage- or exerted so much force that it has fatigued the caster.

I think that this could be enjoyable and keep the battle field moving in a much more fluid motion rather than just on successful attacks and actions. It causes players to have to adapt to changes that they didn’t see coming.

Any thoughts, ideas, comments?

A Villain with… Heart?

Villains with dimensions are important. They add emotion, motivation, and a sense of believability to the world.

While there’s plenty of room for the mad gunman, enraged and begrudged worker taking out his frustrations on the helpless and innocent, his motivations aren’t something that we can empathize with.

A Bad Bad Man

Let’s take a look at the Joker, one of the most beloved Villains of all time. Why do we love him? Is it because he is crazy, unpredictable, and has no morality whatsoever? Because he is a true Agent of Chaos? I would say that is a big yes to the character, but I really think that we love Joker so much because he is the antithesis of Batman. Joker represents everything that Batman isn’t. It is the dichotomy of the two characters that we respond to. If Joker was a villain in a different comic, he probably would be no where near as popular as he is.

Now let us take a gander at a Villain that has a motivation that we can empathize with.

A Bad Bad Man... With Heart.

Dr. Horrible:

“Anyone with half a brain can see that mankind has gone insane. To the point where I don’t know if I’ll upset the status quo if I throw poison down the water main. Listen close to everybody’s heart, and hear that breaking sound. Hopes and dreams are shattering apart, and crashing to the ground. I cannot believe my eyes, how the worlds full of filth and lies and it seems to me evil inside of me, is on the rise.”


“It’s not about making money. It’s about taking money. Destroying the status quo, because the status is not quo.. The world is a mess and I just need to rule it.”

Dr. Horrible is the main character of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog. He’s the main character and he’s a villain. Not only that, but you route for him through the entire movie.


We watch him and realize that even though he is a villain, he is motivated and has a believable set of goals. Now while many of us may look at his various courses of action throughout the show as extreme, we can’t help but find a ringing truth to his words about the current state of the world.

Blatantly corrupted politicians making shady deals right in front of our faces, a completely gutted and shit economic system that takes advantage of the lower classes, global warming, terrible health insurance coverage, meager wages for hard work, or apathetic people with uncaring attitudes wandering around like zombies. The list could go on and on.

All of these are something most people feel somewhat strongly about or have some vested interest in. This is why we like Dr. Horrible. He isn’t a terrible person. He just is misguided on how to bring about change.

A great villain will challenge the players, not just in combat and intellect, but socially and morally as well. Playing in those shades of grey is a great way to have the players really look at the foundation of their character and realize that while the villain is wrong in the planning and execution, their idea, and the basis of it, is maybe a bit too close to the players heart.

To bring it back to the Batman example: There have been many times that Batman has stated the reason he doesn’t kill is because he knows that darkness is within him, and he’s afraid that if he were to cross that line, even once, he himself would end up just like the Joker.

National Wrathofzombie Holiday- My 30th!!

Oh yeah.. Still saucy.

Wow.. Another milestone.. I wish I had something more profound to say like, “Every existing thing is born without reason, prolongs itself out of weakness, and dies by chance.” – Jean Paul Sartre. Sadly I don’t though.

To use another quote, “I’m a 30 year old boy.” Jack (Fight Club). I love my video games, role-playing, Star Wars, and cartoons (I have Spongebob boxers and Homer Simpson pajama shorts).

The one thing I will say is that I am very happy with my life. Fuck knows I wouldn’t say no to a little more financial security, but I think I have about as much chance of that happening right now as I do of getting into heaven with my being an Atheist.

Other than that though, I love my life. I have a great job, kicking ass in school, and have an amazing girlfriend. I’ve also made some great friends thanks to RPGBN and this handy dandy little blog…

Oh what I’m trying to say is, “I don’t wanna grow up cause if I did…” It wouldn’t be very much fun.

Happy Birthday to Me! (Wow. That doesn’t sound egotistical.)

Pathfinder Playtest- Magus Review

Real Badass Caster

Here’s a link to download the Playtest.

I really like what I’ve read about this class. It is a spell-slinging swashbuckler.

This class has quite a bit of versatility and I think I have FINALLY found a class that works with the vision I’ve had for one of my favorite NPC’s that I’ve put in my games for years (my version of Final Fantasy’s Cid).

The only thing I can see as being a negative is that the power creep is definitely in this character, as happens when you start introducing new classes. This isn’t a really horrible negative because I know Paizo will make sure it is as balanced as can be (hence the playtesting) and weed out what is broken.

A really gross ability is Broad Study, which a Magus can take as their Magus Arcana at level 6. This gives the Magus the ability to choose any other casting class (now this is the beta and this may be clarified later, but as of right now it doesn’t say arcane casting class- so that means druid and divine spells are free reign here). I can see this being gross because a Magus has a pretty decent attack bonus, can charge in and begin beating the hell out of creatures with his/her sword and then cast a heal on themselves.

Something Wicked This Way Comes.. For Halloween…

I always do Spooky Survival Horror One Shots for Halloween. So this year I decided to add something awesome (well I hope it is, at any rate). Here is a little video I did. There is a little fine tuning I want to do to it, but it’s pretty much done.

Enjoy! Feel free to leave feedback.

House Rules Cheat Sheet

So I wanted to point out three really cool posts over at Roles, Dice and Fun.

House Rule: Loose and Lazy Initiative
House Rule: Minor or Spontaneous Flashback
House Rule: Major Flashbacks

Each one of these is a great House Rule and I liked them so much I have incorporated (with some minor changes, mostly to Major Flashbacks) to my Pathfinder Game.

I talked to my players about all three of these House Rules and all of them seemed to really like them. We got to try the Initiative Rule first hand last session and I have to say that I really like it, and the players were more excited and apt to help one another and think of cooperative tactics.

We did not get to try Minor or Major Flashbacks, but when I described them, everyone seemed to like sound of them quite a bit.

So with all these inclusions into my House Rules I decided that it is time to create a House Rule Cheat Sheet for quick reference for my players.

I wanted to post it because maybe some of you may like the sound of some of our House Rules. Feel free to ask me some questions or post comments!

Role-Playing Group House Rules

In Our Game(s) You Can:


Initiative is rolled every round now. All Monsters go off of one initiative. This is the defining mark of each round. Players roll their initiative and are then broken into two groups, those who go before the monster(s) and those who go after. Players can go before others in the initiative, so long as it is ok with the person that they are cutting in front of. This allows the players to come up with a fresher brand of team work and camaraderie.


Aspects are simple words, concepts, sayings, etc that the player uses to define their characters. Words like stronger, clever, angry, or disruptive all work. Even sayings like, “In the nick of time,” “Leave no one behind,” or “Always gets what he wants, but at a price.” All work. These are activated by burning an Action Point.
Each character starts with two Aspects and may gain more as the campaign continues. Aspects can only be used once per session save for the Major Flashback Mechanic (See Below).

Plot Twist

A player can burn three Action Points once per level to create a plot twist that aids or hinders them in a special way.

Minor Flashbacks

The player burns an Action Point, and can then utilize this mechanic. Minor Flashbacks are used to describe something small in a characters life.
• Describe or play a brief moment from your past that demonstrates why you have experience with this situation. Afterwards gain +2/+4 skill bonus to your skill check or +2/+4 to Save.
• When describing the player simply tells a brief anecdote, describes an event or plays a monologue that relates to the situation somehow. When playing the past the player sets the scene and appoints other players to be NPCs and then the scene is played out. Such a scene is played without any dice rolls.
• The scene is something that has happened in the past and it helps us to learn the back-story of the character.

Major Flashbacks

Players start with 3 Major Flashbacks and gain an additional per level. These are major events in the characters history. The reward for playing the scene some of the following:
• A flashback refreshes an Aspect or one Action Point
• An automatic critical success roll on a skill or attack.
• Changing a fatal result into successful result.


Goals are created by the players after GM gives overall session goal. These goals are inline with the main goal and are used by the GM to craft a richer more engaging story for all involved. Some sessions some players goals will not be achieved. This is not due to lack of interest on the part of the GM, but perhaps the goal doesn’t really interact or connect with the story, or lack of time to get to everyone involved. If your goal has been realized you gain an additional Action Point.

Complications, Twists, and Conditions

No longer can players reroll a failed skill roll (Action Points cannot be burned either). When a player fails a skill check the GM decides whether to implement a Complication, Twist, or Condition.
• Complication– This is something that adds more to the scene. This could be an additional combat encounter, a trap on a door, etc.
• Twist– This changes the pace and outcome of the original intention. This could be finding the person party was attempting to save dead, or a magical item being cursed instead.
• Condition– To either keep the game moving the game forward or if the player comes up with a really cool idea, the GM can decide to allow the player to succeed, however it comes at a cost. This could be a Ranger who attempts to track something and finds the trail, but has over exerted themselves and is now Fatigued or Exhausted.

Action Points

You regain Action Points by various ways. Some of them are cool ideas in and out of game, help me remember a rule or correcting me when I make a mistake, telling a funny joke, doing some great role-playing, using Major Flashback Mechanic, GM activates your Aspect in a negative way against you or party, etc.
These are used for several different things in the game:
• To gain a healing surge (which is 25% of total HP).
• To add 1d6 to any non-damage roll (attack, saves, skills, or difficulty class).
• To add 2d6 to any damaging attack or spell (including healing spells) or Healing Surge (this would cost a total of 2 AP- one for Healing Surge and one for this mechanic).
• To reroll a failed attack roll or failed save (save for critical failures).
• To activate an Aspect.
• To activate a Minor Flashback.
• To activate a Plot Twist (cost 3 AP).
• To take an extra action in a round (cost 2 AP).

New Wrath of Zombie Pic

Here is a new lovely zombie pic o’ myself..

Hopefully this will get you through the weekend 🙂

Have Pathfinder tonight! Expect a recap sometime next week (once I get homework out of the way).