Monthly Archives: February 2012

No one cares that you are beautiful and unique snow flake except your mom

We Know.. Mama Said You Are Special

I love role-playing games and I love having players come up with awesome cool characters that make the game interesting, fun, and interactive.

What I don’t give a shit about is convoluted and complicated backstory.  In my gaming career I’ve had many a player who would write PAGES of background story.  I’d warn them not to, but they would persist and then get butt hurt when I A) didn’t read the whole damned thing; and B) Not incorporate much of it in to my game.

Which brings me to my point– “You are not a special and unique snowflake.  You are the same decaying matter as everything else” (Tyler Durden).

I consider (and I think rightfully so) that role-playing is a group activity and the stories that are important and matter are the ones that come from what HAPPENS at the table, not what is on a piece of paper.

For my current Old School Frankengame I have asked my players NOT to do a backstory because there is the possibility of death at any moment and I care what they do in game and I don’t care about their past.

To paraphrase a George Carlin bit to the subject at hand, “No one cares about your character… because it’s YOUR character.”  He actually said children, but the point is valid.

Zak S. did a post some time ago talking about the importance of emergent stories:

In OD&D characters carve out an emergent history action by action, roll by roll, with some awareness that they might be snuffed out at any time by the rules or a fickle DM…This creates a gameworld which is strange, does not conform to many bread&butter narrative tropes, and is often senseless in a cause/effect kind of way.

This is of key importance for me when I run or play in a game.

The other problem you have when players think that their characters are beautiful and unique is you get problems like this.

Role-playing is a group activity that has moments of “character” exploration where your character grows and develops, but it generally has nothing to do with what is on the paper that you scripted for yourself.

In my D&D game I generally handle backstory by asking the player to come up with 2-3 bulleted points and that’s it.

Example:

  • Raised in orphanage and was a street rat
  • Afraid of the dark
  • Angered local crime boss

That’s all I need to know, anything beyond that is superfluous info.  The player is more than welcome to create a few NPCs that go along with this, but again I want small detail, not a deluge of info.

I sometimes work in a mechanical bonus to help represent a backstory.  In my current game I told my players to give me two points- either one word or a quick phrase.  If applicable they receive +2 to a roll that can fall in with characters knowledge.  So a character that was a street rat would get +2 to local city or streetwise checks.

I handle it the same way in games like Savage Worlds, which have Hindrances that give way to the possibility of a rich background.  If a player takes Dependent, Secret, Debt, Wanted, or whatever I want a one or two phrases bulleted and not a paragraph.

Again I care how these hindrances affect the game and the situations they create and not what it says on paper.

What about you?  How do you handle or like backstory and character backgrounds? 


WrathofZombie’s Stab at the Monster Manuals- F

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Flesh Crawler [Castles and Crusades]-

 

This is a pretty badass enemy.  I can see it freak players out as they fight a body that is moving fluidly and attacking and suddenly this large maggot with sharp mandibles burst from the mouth or eye of the host and starts snapping at the player.

The only thing I’m going to change is the Paralysis.

Paralysis– The mandibles of the Flesh Crawler contain a poison that causes the victim’s muscles to spasm painfully.  The victim must make a Constitution based save or take 1d6 Dexterity damage.  Once the targets Dexterity reaches zero they are paralyze and helpless on the floor.  If no other threats are present to the Flesh Crawler they will skitter over to the target and begin feasting on their innards and make its new home in their body.

 

Frost Worm [Castles and Crusades]-

I really like the CC version of the creature.  The Monster Manual version explodes and sends ice shards at everyone for way too much damage and really doesn’t make that much sense.  I mean fine, it can freeze when it dies, but to have it explode is just an unnecessary part of the encounter.  This creature is pretty cool and scary on its own.  Pretty much keep it as it is.

Possible World Knowledge

  • A Frost Worm is a natural enemy to the Remorhaz.
  • The Frost Worm’s hide is thick making arrows almost ineffectual.
  • A Frost Worm is immune to all cold effects and damage.
  • The Frost Worm is extremely intelligent [F].
  • The Frost Worm’s ice/blood restores vitality when consumed [F].
  • The Frost Worm is terrified of open flame [F].

 

Fungus, Violet [Pathfinder, Castles & Crusades, Monster Manual]-

Oh Violet Fungus how cool you could be…  Yet how boring you are. I dig the acid melting flesh stuff…  but honestly we have Gelatinous Cubes and Oozes for that shit and they are much cooler than a strange gargantuan version of Athlete’s Foot.

When I pondered the Fungus I thought of the Xbox Live game, Limbo and also the creepy ass Zombie fungus of the Amazon (see video below).

The Violet Fungus attaches itself to any surface and releases (or spews) a mucus-like glob that attaches itself to the target.  The target must make a Constitution based save or begin taking 1d6 Con damage per day.  Each day that passes the target acts more erratic and possibly violent.  Once the target’s Constitution score reaches four or less they march, mindlessly, out into the wilderness or into a cave and die.  Once dead the fungus consumes the body and eventually creates a new Violet Fungus.

A Violet Fungus is mindless, but does have tendrils covered in a sticky acidic substance that it uses to defend itself.

 

 

 

Froghemoth [Pathfinder]-

There is nothing scary about this monster.  It looks like something from Ahhh Real Monsters!  The only place this thing could really work is in Weird Fantasy, and there are so many other ideas that are so much cooler.  Nix.


Music Videos By Tool for Weird Fantasy Inspriation

I love Tool and their videos are always really strange and a good source of creepy or strange ideas to throw at your players.


Wrathofzombie’s Stab at the Monster Manuals- E

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Elementals [Pathfinder, Castles & Crusades, Monster Manual]-

I really do agree with Zak that Elementals aren’t scary.  Not only are they not scary but they are not indicative of an interesting encounter.  They are neutral beings that have low intelligence.  In all my years of gaming I don’t think I’ve ever had players fight or encounter elementals.  The only time they come into play is as a druid spell so I think that is the only way I’ll handle them.  A Druid or Sorcerer can summon an elemental and use it as guardian or worker.  End of story.

Ethereal Filcher [Monster Manual]-

I’m having a hard time pondering why this creature was created.  It looks boring, it attacks boring, it smells boring..  It is boring.  Nix.

Ethereal Marauder [Monster Manual]-

 

Unlike the Ethereal Filcher, the Ethereal Marauder is pretty bad ass.  I’ve used the creature to great effect several times.  A creature that pops into existence right above a characters head and tackles them to the ground and worries them like a rag doll in a dogs mouth and them disappears again before showing up somewhere new to attack is a fun encounter.

I like thinking of the Ethereal Marauder as a Wizard eater.  Wizards shine brightly on the ethereal plane and are mighty tasty.  The Marauder can sense a wizard for several miles and will stalk their prey and toy with it before finally making the kill.  If a Wizard has expended his magic the Marauder may disappear and wait till his prey has replenished his magical ability.

Ettercap [Pathfinder, Castles & Crusades, Monster Manual]-

I think that the Ettercap can be a cool enemy but, personally, it should be linked to something rather than just an anthropomorphic spider creature.  For the purpose of this project and my game setting I will link the Ettercap to the Drow.

Certain Drow are favored by Lolth and given the great gift of immortality by becoming a Drider if they survive the transformation process.  The Drow that prove to be unworthy end up an abomination.  These disgusting creatures called Ettercaps and show all Drow what happens when you’re heart is not dedicated completely to Lolth.  Where the Drider shows the perfect merging of spider and Drow, an Ettercap is little more than a grotesque bipedal spider-like beast.  Its body is covered in course wiry brown or grey hairs and its flesh has a burned angry look.

The Ettercap contains fragments of its former self, but for the most part is just a barely aware creature.  To mock the creature further Lolth bestows them with the ability to realize that they have failed and are unworthy.  This is the one constant emotion an Ettercap is tormented with.

Ettercap’s tend to serve as slaves and servants to the Drow, and more specifically a Drider.  An ettercap is incapable of disobeying a Drider’s direct order.

Possible World Knowledge

  • An Ettercap’s venom forces a target to relive the beast’s constant sorrow and doubt.
  • Ettercaps have the ability to communicate (empathically) with spiders.
  • Ettercap’s have can spit webs from its mouth and climb walls just as a spider.
  • Ettercaps are immortal [F].
  • The curse bestowed to an Ettercap can be removed [F].
  • Eating the brain of an Ettercap bestows the consumer with forgotten Drow rites [F].

Ettin [Pathfinder, Castles & Crusades, Monster Manual]-

I like the idea of the Ettin, but I fail to see its worth as a separate species or encounter.  See Ogre (when I get there).


You Can’t Talk About Politics, Religion, Abortion, and… Role-Playing?

First off…  Watch the video.  A) It’s hilarious and B) It is relatable to this post- just change the context to role-playing.

With 5e coming out the drums of war have already begun beating and multiple groups are setting up to destroy one another, bring down WoTC, defend it, soil themselves, or just rant and rave about end times and role-playing being smothered like an unwanted infant in a back alley.

Some people make some good points and are honestly curious about WHAT a person would want in a 5e to make it happy and even posting nifty reading material for people to contemplate over.

Then there are other people who rant and rave and piss and moan (forget it I’m not giving links to this shit- peeps can find that on their own) about 5e and also about every other edition except the one that they like.

This constant bickering as well as a few experiences have lead me to believe that role-playing is akin to talking about religion.

As Chuck states, you don’t see people berating one another for their opinions on harmonicas.

Example: The other day I was in a comic book store that opened near my house.  The employee and his friend (who looked like Captain Sweatpants, I shit you not) were talking as I walked up to the counter.  I heard Captain Sweatpants mention “feats.”

I asked if they were talking about DnD.  Got a intrepidatious yes.  I asked what version they played.

“4th.”

I said, “Oh cool.  I’ve tired it.  I play Pathfinder and retro-clones.”

From that moment on I was treated as though I was scum.  It was weird.

After we left my girlfriend commented on how uncomfortable that was (and for her I bet it really was).  She said Captain Sweatpants wouldn’t stop glaring at me.

The whole point of this is who gives a SHIT what version of DnD you play..  Who gives a shit WHAT game you play…  Our niche is too small for all this constant retarded infighting that is counterproductive to a fun and collective gaming experience.

As the brilliant Patton Oswalt has shown above I fall into the there’s dessert enough for everyone category (gaming wise, religious wise I’m a staunch Atheist… which also gets me amany dirty look and treated like scum, but that’s a pondering for another day) and I’m just happy to talk to people about gaming.

You can write a blog post about WHY you don’t like a certain game or that you do, but don’t rant or be disrespectful.  I’m honestly interested why people don’t like certain games, because it offers me a different view point on the matter (or if I’m looking at purchasing that game).

If you love a game and sleep with the book under your pillow and write soppy poems akin to Shakespeare that’s cool too, but don’t get butt hurt when someone doesn’t agree with what you like.  Diversity is the spice of life.

Ok I think I’m doing soap boxing for the day.


Wrathofzombie’s Stab at the Monster Manuals- D

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Demon [Pathfinder, Monster Manual]

Honestly Zak S. put so much thought into this and his random demon generation chart is spot on!  There is a part of me that doesn’t like standardizations of Demons, but I understand the need for them.  One of my favorite demons is the Succubus.  I like the fact that it has machinations and is able to manipulate those around her.

Devil [Pathfinder, Monster Manual]

Again I really can’t put it any better than Zak S. already has.

Devourer [Pathfinder, Castles & Crusades, Monster Manual]

When I first saw the picture for this creature in the MM, I immediately thought of the Ghost of Christmas Future in Scrooged (excellent movie by the way).

I like the description offered in the Pathfinder Bestiary, but I’m not sure why the creature needs to be 10 feet tall.  Just because something is tall doesn’t make it necessarily frightening; often times tall things boarder on comical.

It is labeled as undead (and I plan to do something with all undead in a separate post) but if I were to keep it as a separate entity the only thing I would really change is Devour Soul ability.  I’m not a fan of “poof you failed a save now die!” with enemies (except under certain circumstances).  I’d rather it be a Constitution based save, and failure means target takes 1d6+1 con damage.  When the targets Con is reduced to zero the body disintegrates and the target’s face is seen in the stomach of the Devourer.  I think that this would be great to describe as people are fighting.  The person starts looking peaky, sweaty, hallowed cheeks, etc and then they crumble to the ground.  Kinda like Donovan at the end of The Last Crusade.

I like the CC and MM version on having Spell-like abilities that feed off the trapped soul.  Very cool and morbid.

Dire Animal [Pathfinder, Castles & Crusades, Monster Manual]

When organizing this project I decided to go the MM route and lump all Dire Animals together.

Part of me debates back and forth on WHAT a dire animal is exactly.  All of the books state it is a natural, just larger and more aggressive version of its lesser brethren.  All the books state (roughly) that the lesser kin is not short tempered or dangerous..  Yeah..  Get in between a female bear and her cubs or try to pet a moose and we’ll see how not short tempered those animals are.

I start thinking what makes these creatures so much bigger and pissed off?  What if they are infused with the essence of nature?  What if Mother Nature, Gaia, or whatever blessed, created, or whatever route you want to go these creatures to be natural guardians of her realm?  I wouldn’t make them Fey because there are enough of those and it diminishes what a Dire creature is.  What if the killing of a Dire creature is a serious crime?  Does that make you an outlaw to a Druidic circle?  Are you being hunted for your crime?  Keeping the creature “natural” is jake with me, but I personally want a further explanation as to why these bad ass beasties are more “primordial.”

Doppelganger [Pathfinder, Castles & Crusades, Monster Manual]

I think the Doppelganger has been way too “humanized” (well truthfully so have many of the monsters in the various books).  CC comes to closest to how I have always viewed Doppelgangers.  When I think of this bitch I see The Thing.  A creature of totally alien comprehension and understanding that infiltrates civilized dwellings for whatever reason.  Does it want fame, fortune, power, love, etc?  It’s possible, but no one is sure.

You could go The Thing route and have the creature pretty much invulnerable to everything but fire and acid (and magic in general maybe).  When you are attacked the Doppelganger drains either HP or Constitution, when you reach zero of either, you are fully absorbed into the creature and it can now change into you (or any earlier forms for that matter).

When absorbed the Doppelganger gains all the creature’s memories, abilities, etc. This makes the Doppelganger dangerous to pretty much every other entity out there.

Addition: Thanks to Jez over at Giblet Blizzard for pointing out this comic strip to illustrate my point.

Dragons [Pathfinder, Castles & Crusades, Monster Manual]

 

Again Zak S. kicks ass with his spiel about dragons-

And then there is this piece of awesome (again- thanks to Zak for putting this link on his blog).

 

Drider [Pathfinder, Castles & Crusades, Monster Manual] with attachments of the Drow

I love the Drider.  I think this beastie is cool visually and its has an interesting story to tell… that is until you read the description and all you get is “they are the exiled failed priestesses of Lolth..”  Wait, what?  I thought Lolth was a spider goddess?  Isn’t this the exact opposite of what you think would be considered good for a race that worships a spider goddess?

We see a different take on this in 4e where the Drow worship and revere Driders.

So here we go- Part of my idea here has been altered after reading some inspiration from Disorientated Ranger

Long ago the Elves lost their gift of immortality after angering their gods with their audacious behavior.  A cult was formed by the gifted sorceress Lolth who, so obsessed with her youthful beauty, began delving into lost and forbidden arcane knowledge in an attempt regain her immortality.  Eventually she and her followers were exiled to the wastes and underdark of the world.  It was in the twisted reaches of darkness that Lolth plotted and schemed and experimented until she was successful.  Her immortality was assured, but the cost was high.  So twisted and mutilated was her soul, and that of her followers, it manifested outwardly, darkening their skin to that of pitch and whitened their hair the color of sun-bleached bones.

When a Drow babe reaches one year it is fed a mixture of spider venom and herbs that consumes and mutilates its soul, corrupting it and making it a follower of Lolth.  Through these alchemical and magical experiments the Drow have extended their life span, but only true immortality is obtained by those who swear undying loyalty to Lolth and can survive the Rite of the Spider.

In an ancient Rite Lolth herself created, Drow who prove themselves worthy undergo a terrifying and painful magical transformation that merges their bodies with that of a gigantic spider.  These beasts, called Driders, are so rare and awe-inspiring to Drow they are worshipped as demigods.

Driders are horrible creatures that care little for those that worship them and even less for outsiders.  Possibly due to the strange rites, transformation, or something else that is unknown a Driders consciousness, while resembling their former self, is alien and makes little sense to those who serve it.  However questioning a Drider is not tolerated or conductive to a long life.


Weird Movies- A List For Inspiration

Here is a list of cool Weird movies to inspire people.  I asked a bunch o’ people to contribute to the list and got some cool titles.  I am awesome because I went and found links to IMDB for each movie (if possible) AND I am DOUBLY awesome because I went to Netflix to see if the movie is available (which will look like this- Movie Title- Yes or Movie Title- No.  If there is a * next to the yes, it means the movie is streaming currently)!

If you have any other suggestions for Weird and cool movies let me know!

Bram Stoker’s Dracula– Yes
Pumpkin Head– Yes
Rocky Horror Picture Show– Yes
13th Warrior– Yes
The Thing– Yes
Labyrinth– Yes*
Dark Crystal– Yes*
The Blob– Yes
Sleepy Hollow

The Fly– Yes*
Pans Labyrinth

Hellboy– Yes*

Hellboy 2– Yes

Alien– Yes

Cowboys and Aliens– Yes
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory– Yes
The Reanimator– Yes

Hellraiser– Yes*
Tetsuo the Iron Man– Yes
Samurai 7 (Anime)- Yes*
Claymore (Anime)- Yes*

Zardoz– Yes

THX 1138– Yes

Berserk (Anime)- Yes

Puella Madoka Magica– No
Wizards– Yes

City of Lost Children– Yes
Big Fish– Yes
Edward Scissorhands– Yes*
Corpse Bride– Yes

Eight Legged Freaks– Yes
Cloverfield– Yes

The Mist– Yes

The Burbs– Yes

The Journey to Melonia– No

Big Trouble in Little China– Yes*

Brotherhood of the Wolf– Yes

Dark City– Yes

The Brothers Grimm– Yes

In the Mouth of Maddness– Yes
Dune (esp. before the desert bits)- Yes

Devilman– Yes
Shuten Doji
Youma

Anaconda (for the backwards waterfall)- Yes

The Frighteners– Yes

Idle Hands– Yes

Evil Dead 1– Yes*

Evil Dead 2– Yes

Army of Darkness– Yes

AM1200– No

300– Yes

 Six-string Samurai– Yes

The Crow– Yes*

Naked Lunch– Yes
The Cube– Yes
Lair of the White Wyrm– Yes
Event Horizon– Yes

Bukaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension– Yes
Gantz (Anime)- Yes
Repo Man– Yes
Existenz
Videodrome– Yes*
Dagon– Yes*

Chinese Movies-

A Chinese Ghost Story 1– Yes

A Chinese Ghost Story 2– Yes

A Chinese Ghost Story 3– Yes
A Chinese Ghost Story (2011 remake)
Mr. Vampire series– Yes
Spooky Encounters– Yes
Black Magic 1– Yes & 2
Ghost Legend- No
Ginseng King– No
Demon of the Lute- No
Ghost Lantern- Possible
Seeding Of A Ghost– Yes
The Eye– No
The Sorcerer and the White Snake– No
Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame– Yes