3/28/2014

Published on 3/28/2014 Written by 2 comments

A (Kinda) Review of World Wide Wrestling

World Wide Wrestling
by Nathan D. Paoletta - ndpdesign.com
I love professional wrestling (which you probably know).  I love role playing games (which I hope you know, since I'm writing this on an RPG blog).  Fun fact you may not know: I hate writing reviews.  When someone puts professional wrestling and role-playing together though, I do have to talk about it somehow.

To be fair, this isn't a true review: the game is currently in "Beta Test," so there will undoubtedly be some changes between now and its final publication.  The rules are available right here, so check it out.  You can also support Nathan's endeavours at Patreon.  But since it's still a work in progress I don't think it's fair to be too critical - not that I can find much wrong with it anyway.  Personally I think this is an awesome game.

World Wide Wrestling is a fairly straight-forward yet surprisingly in-depth simulation of the wacky world of professional wrestling.  It is based on the Apocalypse World engine, which I admit I'm not really familiar with but works very well for a quick and simple mechanic to resolve actions.

At its heart this is actually more of a story-telling game than a competitive one. The premise is that the wrestling in WWW is, like pro-wrestling in real life, predetermined and "choreographed" by the participants.  You work WITH your opponent, not against him, to put off an entertaining match, just like in "real" wrestling.  The game master, called "Creative" here (a term that comes from the "Creative Department" of World Wrestling Entertainment, which you might also call the "booker" or the promoter for the company) sets up the interview segments and the matches, and decides who will win, but the players/wrestlers have to decide exactly what happens during those interviews and matches.  The goal is not to win the match, but to entertain the crowd and impress Creative to ultimately gain popularity with the crowd and advance your character's career.  This is great concept because most games portray professional wrestling as legitimate combat, but I want to experience it the way most Internet-savvy fans do these days: entertained not just by the action in the ring but by the goings-on backstage, both in-character and out.

Your wrestler has 4 basic stats: Look (his appearance and gimmick - very crucial to a wrestler), Work (his ability to make a match look good), Power (his strength and toughness) and Real (ability to work real-world story and emotion into the action).  Each one is equally important in its own way - you can gain fans and become famous in more ways than one.  The immortal Hulk Hogan would have a great Look score and pretty good Power, but an absolutely crappy Work stat, whereas someone like Bret Hart would have a very high Work score, but his Look and Power are middling.

Sadly, today all of both men's stats have gone to shit.  Oh, how our heroes have fallen.

Another important stat is Momentum, a measure of your wrestler's energy over the course of the session (or Episode).  You use Momentum to increase your die rolls to pull off better moves, or to trigger certain special moves taking place. You gain more Momentum by performing certain other moves and having a high Audience score.  Obviously it's good to have a lot of Momentum because it will improve your actions throughout the show, and allow you to have longer and more entertaining matches.

During a match, you could decide you want to mess with your opponent by showboating and flexing your muscles.  This is a perfectly valid move that you can use to gain Heat with your opponent.  (Heat is a measurement of your relationship with your opponent, that can ultimately affect how much the audience gets into your match - the more they think you hate each other, the more they will enjoy the bout.) You would make a "Look" roll, and based on the result you would gain or lose heat.  Or perhaps you try to pull of a complicated and impressive maneuver or series of holds to wow the crowd - you would use a "Work" move with success again gaining the audience's approval. I love how there are different ways to "win" - it's not just about rolling initiative and attack rolls.  You can gain just as much advantage from doing interviews and how you interact with your bosses backstage.

You're ultimately trying to entertain not only the imaginary audience but the other players as well.  Since you're not competing against each other (at least not directly, though everyone is fighting to be the top dog in the company), a lot of the fun comes from watching what kind of creative characters, matches and interviews the other players come up with, much like watching real wrestling (wins and losses don't matter, it's how you get there!).

Obligatory Kenny Omega picture.

A particular mechanic that I love is that whenever a match is taking place, a player who is not involved is given "the microphone" (the rules suggesting using a prop, maybe even a real mic) to act as the announcer and call the play-by-play action.  The microphone itself has Momentum that the announcer can spend to "put over" the participants in the match and improve the action.  I think this is great because not only does it give someone who is not immediately involved something to do, but it adds an extra layer of strategy and gameplay as well as reinforces how important the commentator is to the wrestling match.

Finally, I'm not sure if or how much of this will be included in the final product, but the art-in-progress is fantastic as well. Gregor Hutton provided these cool, simple black & white sketches of wrestlers performing moves that are used throughout the manual that remind me of illustrations from old-school RPGs.  Ramon Villalobos provided beautiful drawings for the character templates which have a much more modern, comic-book type of feel.  Top notch stuff from both guys.

I'm not sure how much this game will appeal to non-wrestling fans, but for the niche market of wrestling-fans/gamers have got to check this out.  There have been a few other wrestling RPGs over the years, but none this slick that so captured the feel of a modern wrestling performance.  Even if you're a casual or a lapsed wrestling fan, give this game a try.  The test rules are still free to download, and if you like them then send a few bucks Nathan's way to keep this project going (or follow him on Google +Nathan Paoletta or Twitter @ndpaoletta.  Definitely pick it up when the final version drops - I know I will.
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3/25/2014

Published on 3/25/2014 Written by 6 comments

6 People I Want to Play D&D With

This is not a list of people that probably play D&D and I think would run a good game (Dan Harmon, Wil Wheaton, Felicia Day, The Wachowski Bro- er, Siblings, Chris Hardwick, John Williams).  Nor is this a list of famous people I want to meet under the pretense of playing Dungeons & Dragons just so I can hang out with them (that list would have guys like Hugh Laurie, George Lucas, Trent Reznor, Hayao Miyazaki and Rebel Wilson - which, to be fair, might also be an awesome game).

No, these are not necessarily people I would like to hang out with in normal day-to-day activity or even necessarily want to meet.  These are people I think would honestly be fascinating and fun to play D&D with, because they bring a strange collection of skills, personalities and backgrounds together that would (I hope) coalesce into a melting pot of awesomeness.  Either that, or everyone would be at each other's throats in under fifteen minutes.  Which could also be fun.

(FYI - I went back and forth for a long time about whether I should title this post "6 People With Whom I Want to Play D&D." Still haven't figured that one out.)

#6 - Pope Francis

Who?

Jorge Mario Bergolio was born in Buenos Aires in 1936, the eldest son of an Italian accountant. He loves soccer (his favourite team being the San Lorenzo de Almagro football club), tango dancing and traditional South American music.  Also, he’s the head of the Catholic Church and the Supreme Sovereign of the Vatican City (known for their ridiculously-dressed but ass-kickingly well-trained Swiss Guards).

Bitchin'! I just rolled an 18/00 for Strength!

Why do I want him at my table?

My favourite clerics are the ones who yell awesome, silly, over-the-top dogma while they smite their foes.  “BY THE NAME OF THOR!” or “MEET THEE THY MAKER IN HELL!” or “YOUR RELIGION IS A MOCKERY FOUNDED ON THE RAMBLINGS OF DRUNKEN HIPPIES AND YE SHALL BE JUDGED NOT ONLY FOR THINE SINS BUT FOR THOSE OF YOUR FATHERS AND ALL YOUR HEMP-SMELLING SHAMAN WITCH DOCTORS!” and shit like that.  Usually it’s just goofy stuff made up by guys based on gibberish Friar Tuck said in movies or that they think remember from church when they were a kid.  Now imagine a guy running a cleric who knew every scrap of history, teaching and dogma (both public and private) from the most powerful religious organization in the history of mankind.  Can you imagine the kind of crazy holy mumbo-jumbo he would come up with about how, when or why to fight and/or kill your enemies?  Pope Francis would play the most fascinating and frustrating cleric you can imagine. He would probably want to actually recite all of his cleric’s morning, noon and night prayers, as well as the words to his magic spells (in Latin, of course).   And can you imagine trying to get anything done with him in the party? His stances on the hot-button topics of abortion, homosexuality and so on are well publicized, but where does he stand on goblin genocide?  I can’t wait for the inevitable player arguments over whether or not to kill the prisoners.

Also, I want to see him roll 11 critical hits in a row. You just know Jesus will have his back.

5. Kenny Omega

Who?

Canadian professional wrestler who works primarily for the Dramatic Dream Team promotion out of Japan. A man who walked away from a potential contract with World Wrestling Entertainment and a shot at fame and fortune to wrestle midgets, invisible men, offensive homosexual stereotypes and little girls in a third-rate Japanese wrestling company.  And it was absolutely the right choice.

Redneck American audiences would not have appreciated this guy.

Why do I want him at my table?

Omega is my favourite wrestler, not because he does a sweet tope-con-hilo and a picture-perfect standing Shooting Star press (however he does both beautifully), but because he knows wrestling is ridiculous and he embraces it wholeheartedly.  He's very athletically gifted and highly charismatic, but instead of trying to be a cool, serious wrestler like 99% of guys in the ring, he just goes out there to make a fool of himself.  He wrestles in brutal hardcore matches with tables and dives off of balconies not because he's a sadomasochistic psychopath (like most Japanese wrestlers), but because it's hilarious.  He doesn't pretend anything is real and openly acknowledges to the audience that he's a performaner putting on a show, and does it all with a wink and a smile.

He uses moves from the Street Fighter video games and has had extended, competitive matches with a blow-up sex doll:



Can you imagine the kind of crazy character he would run in D&D?  He would find a way to kill his PC during the character creation process.  He would swear a blood feud against his 10-foot pole for failing to detect a pit trap, and then spend the entire campaign fighting it in epic duels.  I can't even begin to guess what kind of crap he would pull off, and I don't want to.  I would rather be surprised.

4. Michael Winslow

Who?

Comedian and Sound Effects Savant.  If you were a child of the 80s, you know him as Larvell Jones from the Police Academy movies.

You knew shit was getting real when he put the bandana on.

Why do I want him at my table?

Oh, come on.  Who wouldn't want to spend an evening with this guy:



Sure, it would get old after about 6 minutes, but those first six minutes would be the most glorious tenth of an hour ever spent gaming.  Every aspect out of the game would come alive in a blistering soundscape - every soft footfall through the forest, every drop of murky water in the deep dungeons, every sword crashing against steel and every wounded goblin's painful death wail.  You think your mom tells you and your smelly friends to keep it down now?  Wait'll she gets a load of this guy...

3. Christopher Lee

Who?

Count Dracula.  Saruman the White. Sith Lord Tyranus.  Intelligence officer for the British Air Force during World War II. Married a Danish supermodel. Bond villain. Commander and Knight in the Order of the British Empire. Death Metal musician. Willy Wonka's dad.
This is the least cool picture of him I could find.  And it's still better than any picture that will ever be taken of me.

Why do I want him at my table?

Besides the fact that's he's one of the coolest people alive, you have to believe that of everyone on this list, Sir Chris would be most up to a game. A rabid fan of Tolkien and Scandinavian Death Metal, I wouldn't be surprised if he already has a regular Sunday night game.  Probably not though.  He would have cooler things to do, like wrestling polar bears or something.  

Still, he's mostly retired now, so he would have plenty of time to prepare for the session, and you know he would show up with reams of backstory for his character, a custom-made solid-platinum mini painted by some famous European artist, and probably dressed in his wizard costume from LotR to help him get into character (you just know he took that shit home with him after the shoot).  And I don't care in the slightest if he wanted to recite his character's long and convoluted family tree before we sat down to play so that everyone could really understand the depth and gravitas of his gnome illusionist.  I would listen to Christopher Lee recite the goddamn phone book for three hours and love every minute of it.

2. Kevin Siembieda

Who?

Siembieda is an American author, designer, illustrator and publisher of role-playing games (most notably for Palladium Books since 1981).  His notable works include Palladium Fantasy, Heroes Unlimited, The Mechanoid Invasion, ROBOTECH, Rifts and Dead Reign.  He is probably one of the most famous and prolific RPG still alive and working today.

Just reprint pages 45-122 from the last book.  Do I look like I fuckin' care?

Why do I want him at my table?

Because I don’t believe he’s played a goddamn role-playing game in 30 years and want to prove he’s an utter crackpot.

1. Cormac McCarthy

Who?

American novelist, playwright and screenwriter.  Multiple New York Times Bestseller and award winner.  His books have also been turned into Academy-Award-winning films, and despite being 80 years old he can still make women pregnant just by looking at them.

Sorry ladies, the 'Mac don't pay child support.

Why do I want him at my table?

I don't just want him at my table, I want him to DM.  The man can write description and poetry that will make you weep.  Literally.  I've only read two of his books (Blood Meridian and The Road) because I don't think my brain could handle any more. Both of them were like a Crane kick to the nuts. His writing is dark, brutal, and remorseless, yet beautiful at the same time. He's so over-the-top with his description that it goes waaaay past the fine line between poetry and parody, then turns around, rides back and fucks the line to death before carving the brains out of its head and then using the skull as a bedpan. Reading Blood Meridian was like reading Poet Laureate murder-porn artistes trying to top each other again and again with progressively more horrendous atrocities. But I couldn't put it down. I cannot imagine what it would be like to hear him describe the haunting, filthy and disgusting underbelly of a vile goblin warrens, or to witness first hand the majestic, terrifying and mind-melting horror of meeting a dragon face-to-face.

You can keep Peter Jackson's The Hobbit.  I would be content listen to Cormac McCarthy rewrite the flavour text to Keep on the Borderlands.

“Once there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains. You could see them standing in the amber current where the white edges of their fins wimpled softly in the flow. They smelled of moss in your hand. Polished and muscular and torsional. On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again. In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery.” 
-Cormac McCarthy, The Road


That's my top 6.  How about you?  Who would YOU like to game with?


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3/23/2014

Published on 3/23/2014 Written by 3 comments

City Street Name Generator - Because Coming up with Street Names Sucks

http://www.fantasticmaps.com/
Map from Fantastic Maps, where the maps are fantastic
Street names are a great way to add a bit of depth to any city setting, but aren't really worth detailing in full - unless you're boring, or obsessive, or both. I happen to be lazy, and find that coming up with names on the spot, is kind of annoying. I've been running a city based campaign for a while now, and after using the name Smith Street for the 100th time, I decided to come up with this handy little random table.

Now I just detail the main streets, and consult the table for the names of any side streets I might need. So far it's worked pretty good, and I figured maybe some other people might get some use out of it.

Here is a link to the pdf you can download.
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3/18/2014

Published on 3/18/2014 Written by 6 comments

5 Rules that Should Be Included in Every RPG

Some role-playing games have a lot of rules.  Like, A LOT of rules, and hundreds of source books to add even more rules, and then errata to fix it when the new rules mess up the original rules.  On the other hand some role-playing games are very rules-light, where the only real instruction from the writers and designers is “make it up,” to which I respond: Then why the f*ck am I paying you for this game? Making shit up is your job.

No matter what volume of rules is included within those mysterious, ancient covers, there are a few that should be included in every gaming book ever produced.  And no, it isn’t “HAVE FUN.”

I will freely admit that this post is very much stolen inspired by 5 Crucial Rules of Every Game (Not Found in the Rulebook) by Chris Bucholz at Cracked.com, but I’m taking this in a completely different direction.  The illustrious Mr Bucholz primarily focused on sports (you know, those athleticy-kinda things where they hit balls with sticks and what-not) and classic card and board games, like poker and Monopoly.  He didn't dare touch RPGs, which I will now dive into with unrestrained abandon.

5. Do-Overs

We’ve all been there.  We fought our way through the deepest levels of some mysterious dungeon, through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, fighting our way to the castle beyond the Goblin City to take back the child that was stolen by a macho rock star.  We know the Big Bad and all the rewards and the climax of the campaign are just beyond that final door, with weeks or months of game time all building toward this exact moment… and then one of the characters fails a saving throw and gets killed by a mold.

First of all, that’s a pretty mean GM that would put a trap like that right there (10 points to you, sir!).  You can rationalize it because it is supposed to be dangerous and difficult to reach that point, except… what do you do now?  You’re suddenly short a character heading into the big encounter the entire campaign has been building towards.  That character was an integral part of the close-knit team that got this far.  That character may have powers or abilities critical to facing the final battle.  Worse, the player who just got shafted now has to sit out the Final Dance, unless they roll-up a new character and throw them into the mix, which is just a terrible idea on so many levels.

Hello, my good fellow. My name is Gam Samgee.  I know your last companion was just killed by that ginormous spider, but I will help you finish your quest carrying that gold ring-thingie up this hill!

So do you do-over?  Does the GM secretly fudge some rolls behind the screen?  Does the game come to a screeching halt?  There could be quite a bit of argument over this situation, so everything would be a hell of a lot easier if Mike Mearls or Kevin Siembieda was so kind to write into the book: “You know what? In this situation, just fuck the rules.  Do it again.”

4. Gambling

In a game with a huge element of chance and dice flying all over the table, there is a terribly disappointing lack of gambling in the average RPG.  I don’t mean “bidding” mechanics, where you wager in-game resources to gain some advantage.  I mean people saying “I bet you five bucks you can’t make this saving throw.”  Imagine how much better D&D would be if your team mates were making wagers on whether or not you make a critical hit?  The life or death of your imaginary character is nothing compared to whether you lose or make an extra $20.  It raises the stakes, and thus the tension and suspense, a hundred fold. Hell, if spectators could bet on the outcome of encounters and adventures (“The party just ran afoul of a pack of owlbears – I bet $10 on the owlbears!”), role-playing games could become a nationally-televised sport. 

If darts, snooker and NASCAR are “sports,” then go to hell, D&D is a sport, too.

If D&D Next doesn't include odds and payout tables for wagering on the amount of damage your magic missile spell inflicts, I’m going to be seriously pissed.

3. Arguing the Rules

Arguments in role-playing games are about as common as Cheetos stains on character sheets and minis with bases sticky from spilled Mountain Dew.  That is to say, they are ever-present.  If you claim that you have ever played a single session of any game where there wasn't a least a minor disagreement or argument over the rules or a GM’s call then you, Sir, are a liar.  RPG instruction manuals should read “Requires dice, pencils, friends and an argumentative personality to play.” 

Every game manual that I've ever read says that in the event of an argument, the game master’s decision will stand, and “further discussion will be made after the game.”  The problem with this half-assed rule is that 1) Ninety-nine percent of the time, the argument is WITH the game master, so telling them they’re always right really doesn't help anything, and 2) It doesn't tell you how to actually resolve the argument.  Having your character die because of a weird interaction of rules is not going to be helped by arguing about it after the game is over.  That shit needs to be dealt with, and you’re going to want satisfaction.

I propose putting rules for arguing about rules right into the game.  There should be rounds and initiative checks to determine which player or DM makes the first argument.  The other players should score each side based on their logic, rules knowledge and vindictiveness.  In the case where all else fails, each side should roll a d20, modified by various factors (owning the house you’re playing in would give you a huge bonus, as would going on snack runs) to determine the ultimate victor.

We ain't savages, people.  There are better ways to resolve our differences.

2. Timeouts and Time-Ins

If you’re playing street hockey when an SUV rumbles down the street, you yell “CAR!”, move the net out of the way, and pause play until the speeding metal death machine safely passes.

Sally didn't heed this unwritten rule, and to this day now lives with a VW logo embedded in her forehead.

But what do you do if one of your players needs to go to the bathroom in the middle of an encounter?  Do you tell them to suck it up and hope they don’t soil themselves on your davenport?  Do you make everyone wear a diaper to avoid this situation?  Do you pause the game like civilized adults and wait for them to come back?  Or do you keep playing, and the guy will just have to evacuate his bowels as quickly as possible so his character doesn't die while he’s on the toilet?

What I am saying is that there should be codified rules and etiquette to handle these situations, because everyone has different requirements and limits as to “what’s an acceptable reason to stop the game.”  I once played in a session that ran something like 18-20 hours straight.  Only the DM, myself and one other player made it the whole way through, and by the end of it I was delirious and hallucinating.  The other four players had to take at least one nap each to get them through the night.  One guy fell asleep with his face right on the table.  I think he woke up with a d20 stuck to his cheek. But the game just kept going whether you were upright or passed out on the couch. I don’t know what the DM was on but he did not take a break or a time-out for anything.

1. How Much Wrestling is Too Much Wrestling?

I don’t mean Pro-Wrestling.  You can never have too much pro-wrestling in RPGs.  I am referring of course to physically throwing down with your fellow players or game masters.

This is for those times when rule #3 (see arguing, above), just doesn't cut it.  Sometimes, you just need to smack a guy in the face for being a dick.  Sometimes you need to put him into a rear naked choke.  Dude touched your dice? That’s worth at least a side headlock.

There really needs to be clear, decisive instructions for how to handle this.  Imagine if the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition Player’s Handbook clearly stated, on page 10: “If another player fumbles a to-hit roll and his character shoots your character in the back with a crossbow, it is perfectly acceptable to punch him in the kidney. Only one (1) single, closed fist blow is permitted.  Additional strikes or attacks to other parts of the body is strictly prohibited unless said fumbled attack results in the death of your character, in which case a swift punch to the throat is also allowed.” You would never have to decide whether it was acceptable or not to punch your friend for being a git!  It was spelled out in black and white, right there in the rules.  Your buddy wouldn't be able to complain about it, either!  Imagine how civilized our gaming sessions would be. 


So what do you think of these rules?  Yay?  Nay?  Any others I missed?  Talk about them below or on Twitter (follow me @CDGallantKing), and pass the questions around to your friends with those handy little “Share” buttons below. Maybe we can start our own little rules argument in cyberspace…
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3/14/2014

Published on 3/14/2014 Written by 4 comments

The 6 Most Ridiculous Player Characters Ever (In My Campaign Right Now)

D&D Player Characters are by definition ridiculous.  They're elves and wizards and halflings and barbarians.  They are the absurd, the preposterous, the illogical and oftentimes the inappropriate.  You can make the coolest, darkest, bravest, most-brooding-est swashbuckling hero with a tortured past you want, but there comes a time when that dude is going to have a fight a slime and he's just going to look like an idiot. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. Our characters should be fun, over-the-top and a bit ridiculous.  That's what makes them memorable, and makes them a joy to play and to watch our friends play.

I was going to write a list of the craziest characters I've ever had the pleasure to play with, but then I realized that 99% of the characters I've ever run across are crazy and silly (and the other 1% are boring), so trying to rate them all was a waste of time.  Instead, I'll just tell you about the characters in the game I'm running right now.

The system is technically Advanced Labyrinth Lord, but since we're playing by email the rules are very much secondary to the story and the banter.  The setting is the high-seas, where the characters are trying to make their fame and fortune through adventure, exploration and trade.  It is heavily inspired by the awesome Uncharted Waters/New Horizons video game for the SNES.

Anyway, without further ado: 

Wicket the One-Armed Gnome Illusionist

Actual sketch.  The player scanned it
and emailed it to me.
Wicket Wizzbolt was the least surprising character submitted. His player - though he hadn't played for years - is a guy I've known for a very, very long time (since I was about 2 or 3 years old). He was one the guys involved in my first ever game of D&D. This time, like about 90% of the time, he made an illusionist gnome. He always makes gnomes. Even when he plays wrestling games, he runs a midget. I think one of his Star Wars characters was an ewok.  For the first several weeks of the campaign, Wicket fawned over a random prostitute he picked up at a tavern and dragged with him on the adventure.  After she had several limbs eaten by cannibalistic morlocks, he has since spent his days drowning his sorrow and guilt in wine.

FYI - Wicket didn't start with one arm.  He was crippled by an albino ape during the same adventure that butchered his lady friend.  I play with a house rule that when a character reaches 0 hit points, their player can choose to let the character die or to have a random body part maimed.  The high body count usually associated with old-school D&D is rapidly being replaced with a band of horribly crippled and disfigured misfits.

Ulrich the Unobservant Dwarf Cleric

Next up is Ulrich Brazenbottom, Dwarf Cleric of Momammut, Woolly Mammoth God of Thunder and Awesomeness (yes, that is the god's complete title). I am currently rewriting my campaign history to make room for Mommamut in the pantheon, because honestly, who wouldn't? Following the theme of "always plays the same type of character," we have the guy who always plays the cleric (bless his heart). He was also a doctor in Battlestar Galactica and ROBOTECH. As if being a Cleric of the Woolly Mammoth God of Thunder and Awesomeness isn't a good enough reason to make this list, Ulrich also has the distinguished feature of seeming completely senile because his player never pays attention to what's going on.  Even though this is PBEM and he could get the names of people or places by simply scrolling up in the message thread, his conversations often start "Good Evening, Mr. [INSERT NAME HERE]" (That's exactly how he writes it).  He has also been known to ask blind men for directions.

Hetford the Singing Swordsman

Hetford Gar is a human fighter, 47 years old (his player assures us THAT'S NOT THAT OLD!). A gruff and slightly unhinged former soldier who has been dubbed the Singing Swordsman due to his penchant for breaking into song all the time, including (especially) in the middle of battle, regaling the rest of the crew with such ballads as The Ballad of a Lover's Disease, You've Got Flies in Your Panties Dear Liza, Singing in the Pain and Meine Milz ist zufrieden (an aria).  He's also been known to bite enemies' faces and laugh hysterically when disemboweling foes.  He's not exactly sadistic per se, it's just the defence mechanism he's developed to deal with the horrors he's witnessed through years and years of fighting.

"Women, women, fule of plaig, 
Make bare purs with some men, 
Some be nyse as a nonne hene, 
Yit al thei be nat soo!
    some be lewde, 
    some all be schrewde; 
Bit all ar fule with goo!"
- Ballad of a Lover's Disease

Hetford started play with a pet chicken that died in the first encounter, and ended up as breakfast the next day.

Hagen the Cowardly Carpenter

Hagen Eadberht is a carpenter's son from a small village, which we know because he never ceases to remind the rest of us. Every time he opens his mouth, he begins with "Back in my village..." Or "When I was a carpenter..." Or "My father..." Usually some combination of those. He briefly had a bitter rival, a huge pirate name Bunny that Hagen stabbed in the back in a tavern, then ran away before the pirate could retaliate. Bunny tried repeatedly to get revenge but Hagen kept running away. Eventually the rest of the party ganged up and straight-up murdered Bunny's ass without Hagen so much as lifting a finger.

Hagen has a grown more mature and tougher over time. He now spends his days competing with Xaric for control of the ship, and calling dibs on all the magical weapons the group finds.

Locien Kitail, Misanthropic Ranger

None of my gaming groups would be complete without an arrogant elf. There's a small twist this time though, he's a HALF-elf. (Same player, though) And instead of constantly telling everyone they suck because they're not elves, Locien tells them they suck because they're not nice enough to trees (he's a ranger). He has also argued against every single decision the group makes. I don't know if he's just contrary or if he's realized that most of the group's decisions are terrible. I suspect it's just so he can say "I told you so" afterwards, because you know that virtually every decision the players make will be the wrong one.  It's my job as GM to make sure of that. Still, he's a pretty mean shot with a bow so they keep him around.

Xaric the Pirate

And then there's our fearless captain, Xaric Greyghost. This elf was originally envisioned as a dark brooding rogue who never spoke, dressed like an Emo vampire wannabe and let his knife do the talking. When the player realized we were running a seafaring game, Xaric suddenly turned into Captain Ahab. Seriously, his speech is so full of Yarrs and apostrophes it's nearly impossible to understand what he's saying half the time. 


"Arrr! Me tinks yer'ight! Me dammed missin eye be ach’n'up a'starm and I'm a bettin da gnomes arm be feelin it too...ders n'airn doubt dat Noror's aint too pleased wit us! ARRR! Me mateies! Let us make a run for da Cove! Batten down da hatches, secure all cargo! I best not see a restless hand on da deck or I be cuttin it off to apease Sea God Noror!"
- Actual Game Text

In his quest to become the stereotypical pirate, he's even lost an eye and a leg so far in the adventure (thanks to my maiming house rule). He's devoted to his craft, what can I say? Did I also mention his penchant for torturing prisoners (or helpless, defeated, foes)? Not sure if that's the pirate side or the dark evil elf side coming out...

So there you have it: Six original, well-developed and ridiculous characters, and I love every one of them.  I look forward to logging into my email every day to see what kind of crazy antics these "heroes" have gotten into.  

So what about you?  Do you have any fun, silly or awesome characters that you want to share?  Yes, I'm giving you permission to tell me about your characters.  Use it wisely.  An offer like this doesn't come along every day!

(If you don't share this using those handy buttons below, a penguin will be sad.  And there's nothing more pathetic than a sad penguin.  Except maybe a sad koala bear, which will be the result if you don't follow me on Twitter.)
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3/11/2014

Published on 3/11/2014 Written by 6 comments

The Most Annoying Gamer I’ve Ever Met

We've all met them.  Those socially-inept, obnoxious, possibly smelly people who you just can't believe can operate in normal society. In fact, they probably don't - gaming is likely the only function they regularly leave the house for. As for the worst one, I could go for the easy answer - there was a guy in my playgroup back in high school that rubbed everyone the wrong way. To be fair, he wasn't just annoying in-game: we generally found him a pain to deal with in everyday life.

I've often pondered if this guy was as bad as I remember.  I mean, kids are mean, right?  (He was the paladin in example 4 and the bounty hunter in example 3 from this blog post) Everyone says and does stupid things when they’re young.  But I think I've figured it out. With years of perspective and maturity, I have to admit that it probably wasn't all his fault I found him annoying.

I was a big fucking twat myself.

In all honesty, I am probably the first really annoying gamer I ever encountered. Obviously I didn't realize it at the time, but looking back I was a total dickwad in high school. I looked down on people, belittled them, and generally made an ass of myself. I loved to make snarky remarks and comments about people to get a laugh or make myself look smart. I got in trouble with teachers a few times for it, and I certainly didn't have many friends. I'm kind of amazed I had any.

I don't think I've ever flipped a table.  But I did punch a hole in my parent's ceiling during a particularly heated game of Baseball Stars for NES.

Those friends I did have were my gaming group. And I probably treated them the worst of all. I was the GM 99% of the time, and I know I lorded that power over them, and generally acted like a shit. I would treat certain players that I didn't like with disdain (see the first paragraph). I mocked people who didn't know the rules. I wrote adventures I liked, not that I thought anyone else would enjoy. Plus I did asshole things like borrow books and never return them. (If anyone is still missing their Castle Ravenloft box set or Jedi Academy sourcebook let me know and I'll try to get it back to you.) I have no idea why anyone put up with it. I guess there weren't many games in town.

Fun fact: my wife loves to remind me how much of a jackass I was back in high school. That's why I love her. She keeps me humble.

I am deeply embarrassed by my attitudes and actions when was a teenager. When I see obnoxious gamer nerds these days I shudder because they remind me so much of myself. I just don't understand why I acted like I did. Being an awkward nerd in a small town was bad enough - why did I try so hard to alienate those few people who had common interests to me?

I've got you, babe. Duh, duh. Duh, duh. I've got you babe.

So to anyone reading this who knew me back then (and I suspect there are a couple of you), please accept my heartfelt apology for being a douchetard. I was young, and I was an idiot. I'm not that much smarter these days, but I'd like to think I'm a little more empathic. Or at least polite.

If anyone else has regrets about being an annoying gamer, please share them in the comments so I don’t feel so bad. Or hit me up on Twitter @CDGallantKing and we can ruminate together.  If you forgive me (or feel bad for me) please share this post with those handy buttons below.


(A variation of this question came up in the February D&D Blog challenge.  I didn't get to it at the time but I thought it was an important conversation that should be revisited.)
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3/07/2014

Published on 3/07/2014 Written by 4 comments

Another Collection of +1 Magical Swords

So last week I stumbled across "On Magical +1 Swords" at the Hack & Slash blog, which was the latest in a series of a excellent posts on old-school magical blades (check out the rest: Different Magic Swords: A Proposal by JD Jarvis, Evocative +1 Sword Replacements by Gus L, and Weird Swords and Not Swords by Arnold K). 

The idea behind the series is to create interesting, colourful weapons with compelling stories, abilities and drawbacks.  They don't necessarily need to be insanely powerful - not every weapon will be Excalibur, Stormbringer or Shieldbreaker - but there should never be such a thing as "just a +1 sword" either.

I love me some magical swords. Magical swords are probably the reason I started playing D&D in the first place (greatest magic sword ever? The lightsaber), so I had to throw my two cents in here.  Or two feet.  Of steel, that is.

Some of these I've actually used in campaigns and some are brand new that I've just brainstormed this week, so I have no idea how useful or interesting they would be in actual play.  All of them are intended to be +1 or +2 weapons, though they would work just as well with no enhancement bonus at all.


Caitiff's Blade

A dark-grey or black bladed short sword that provides a +2 bonus to hit unarmed, surprised or otherwise unaware opponents. It deals double-damage on such attacks. If the wielder already has a damage multiple (such as a thief’s backstabbing ability), then increase the multiplier by one (i.e., from x2 to x3).

The wielder of the blade finds himself more and more compelled to take advantage of the weapon's cowardly abilities the longer he possesses it. He also begins to loath facing opponents in fair combat. After using the blade in battle for the first time, the wielder must thereafter make a saving throw vs. spell every time he faces an opponent of equal or greater ability in a fair fight, or be forced to flee in fear for 1d4 rounds. Each month the wielder owns the blade adds a -1 penalty to this save.

Also, the wielder's growing shiftiness and unsavory nature grants a -1 penalty on NPC reaction checks, and few people (if anyone) will ever trust his word.

Faeblight

This pure iron-forged long sword is dull grey and pitted.  It dents and nicks easily and will rust quickly if not properly cared for.  It was forged by pilgrims trying to clear native faeries out of a freshly-settled land. Its bare iron blade is anathema to faeries, pixies, brownies and their ilk.

Faeblight deals an extra 1d6 damage on hits against fae creatures, and its wounds are painful and slow to heal due to the metal fragments acting like poison in their blood.  Faeries are also sickened and weakened by the very presence of the blade.  When drawn, all faeries within 15 feet of the wielder suffer a -1 penalty to their attack rolls, saving throws and morale checks.

Fae-kind abhor the blade and will do anything, including fight to the death, to destroy anyone who brings the Faeblight onto their ancestral lands.

Depending on the campaign, the abilities of Faeblight may also affect elves as at the DM’s discretion.

Beaver Cleaver

Once upon a time, an evil wizard attempted to bring demonic servants from another world into our land, as evil wizards are wont to do. His summoning was flawed however, and the demons came through twisted and malformed. Oddly, they looked like ravenous beavers.

(The aquatic, wood-chewing, dam-building kind)

To combat this plague of tree-rending evil, the heroes of the land forged The Beaver Cleaver, a wide-bladed, dark brown long sword modeled in a style to resemble a beaver's tail.

Against demon beavers, the Cleaver acts as a +3 weapon, and banishes the creature back to hell on a critical hit. As a weird side-effect, the sword has identical effects against normal, dire and were- beavers, granting the additional bonus and disintegrating them on a critical hit.

When struck against a still pool of water, the Cleaver makes a resounding boom that summons all beavers (demonic or otherwise) in a 1-mile radius. They may or may not attack the wielder depending on their natural behaviour and alignment.  They will certainly be confused, as the sound generated by the strike is actually a beaver mating call.

Masuta Bokken

This thin, slightly curved wooden practice sword is surprisingly heavy - hidden inside the dark worn wood is a solid core of iron.

The weapon is so heavy that it grants a -2 penalty to hit, and in normal combat it deals damage as a club, though it is favoured by warriors as a strength-building tool.

The weapon was actually commissioned by mean-spirited swordmasters to teach harsh lessons to their students. Against an un-armoured opponent (such as a student in a training robe) the Bokken does twice the damage of a long sword (or katana, if such weapons are used in your campaign). Fortunately such damage is not lethal - a character reduced to 0 hp by the Bokken Masuta is merely knocked out, not killed.

Huo'ra Verimija

This leather scabbard, adorned with blood-red stones, is oddly warm to the touch though it has no other immediately obvious abilities.  A sword stored in this sheath for at least a week will unlock the rest of its powers.

Once per day, if the sword is returned to the scabbard with a trace of blood from a wounded foe, the wielder will regain 1d6 hit points. The next time the blade is drawn it will be perfectly clean.

If a day passes however when the scabbard doesn't taste the blood of an enemy, it will leech energy from its owner in the form of 1d6 damage.  This effect occurs even if the sword and/or scabbard is not immediately in the character’s possession.

If the wielder loses possession of the huo'ra for at least a week, the connection is broken and must be re-established.  If a different blade is stored in the huo'ra for seven days, it will create a new connection to this new master.

Art by Ethan Quin

The Laughing Edge of Effervescent Fate

This exquisitely-crafted katana was originally owned by a mad clown with a twisted sense of humour.  As he had no (legitimate) children, and no students who could last more than a lesson or two with him, the sword was not passed down to an heir as is usually the case with such weapons. Its location is currently unknown.  It seems to crop up from time to time when fancy takes it, and then vanishes just as unexpectedly.

The sword has a cross guard decorated with sobbing sparrows and laughing cats.  The handle is wrapped in intricately knotted pink silk cord, but the craftsman seems to have gotten bored part way through and the last half of the handle is just haphazardly wrapped and tied in a crude knot.  The pommel is shaped like a large smiling fish head, and a large pom-pom hangs off the hilt by a glittering red ribbon.

On a natural to-hit roll of “20,” The Laughing Edge has a 50% chance of inflicting triple damage and severing a limb as a sword of sharpness.  The other 50% of the time, it automatically misses and knocks its wielder off his feet, inflicting 1d6 damage to the wielder in the process.

On a natural to-hit roll of “14,” The Laughing Edge automatically misses, no matter what the target’s armor class.

On a natural to-hit roll of “7,” The Laughing Edge automatically hits and does double damage.

On a natural to-hit roll of “1,” roll % dice and consult the following table:
01-50 The Laughing Edge releases a brilliant flash of light and deafening cacophony of high-pitched laughter.  All creatures with 10 feet (including the wielder) must make 2 separate saves vs spell against blindness and deafness.  If the throws are failed, each effect lasts for one turn. 
51-99 The attack automatically hits and does half-damage.
00 The Laughing Edge vanishes, never to be seen by the wielder again.


So what do you think? If you like these weapons, let me know.  If you don't, then also let me know.  We'll have a good-old fashioned Internet flame-war.  Follow me on Twitter @CDGallantKing and we can continue our discussion over there.  Share this post with all your friends (using those handy buttons below) and get them to come gang up on me, too.  I don't care.  I'll take you all on!
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3/04/2014

Published on 3/04/2014 Written by 0 comments

Pro-Wrestling Tactics Game


I've spoken before about fantasy efed wrestling - where the players write promos, role-plays and matches in-character for their wrestlers. In many ways it's a cross between role-playing games and writing fan fiction - some players can create very elaborate and indepth character backgrounds and stories for the wrestlers, and that's pretty cool.

I’ve been thinking lately however, about a different sort of wrestling game experience that was a bit more, well, gamey. Instead of writing roleplays and having someone pick winners base on the subjective "best one," what if you could decide, definitively, who wins based on their tactics and strategies in the ring? There are simulators and software out there that use complex algorithms and chance to generate wrestling matches based on wrestlers’ statistics and attributes, but I wanted something simpler. I wanted something that anyone could pick up and learn quickly, and the better players weren’t better because they had farmed or grinded more points, but were because they were used to the system and better at playing the strategy.

This is what I came up with:

HOW TO PLAY

Technically this game would work best as a card game, with printed cards representing the four possible tactics you could play.  We’ve been playing it online at FedWars.net, an e-wrestling community page that caters specifically to the fantasy wrestling described above, but we’ve managed to modify the rules slightly to make it work in this context.  Basically the players PM the “referee” (me) their choices  by a set deadline before their match, then I reveal the results of all the matches at once.  It’s been working pretty well so far, and the site’s designer/administrator has been considering setting up an actual operational online version of the game.

These are good guys.  Go check them out.

THE SYSTEM

I wanted something that mimicked the play of combat in the old Game of Thrones boardgame.  You would have a variety of cards/tactics to play, as would your opponent.  There would be no random die rolls - if you played X and your opponent played Y, you would win.  But if you played X and your opponent played Z, you would lose.  You win or lose based on what you play and how well you can anticipate what your opponent is going to play. 

There are 4 possible tactics you can choose in the game:

Grappling – You take your opponent to the mat, try to keep him off his feet and in a position where he can’t hurt you, and you can hopefully make him tap out.

Speed – You focus on quickness and trying to land fast, often high-risk moves.  This includes dropkicks, dives, jabs so on.

Brawling – You get in there and fight hard, just trying to bludgeon your opponent into submission.  Punches, stomps, slams, maybe even dirty moves – whatever it takes to put your opponent down.

Conditioning – You rely on your stamina to absorb punishment and bide your time until you see an opening.  Roll with the punches and let your opponent tire himself out; then you’ll make your move.

The "Feline Cuddling" tactic will be added in the next expansion.

CHARACTER CREATION

Your wrestler has only 2 attributes:  His Specialty and his Weakness.  Specialty is something that he trains extra hard in, or has natural talent for.  Maybe he’s naturally quick (Speed), or his cardio is through the roof (Conditioning).  Weakness is just that, something he’s not good at.  Maybe he’s just not much of a striker (Brawling) or is technically inept (Grappling).  This becomes important to break ties when playing Tactics.

MATCH RESOLUTION


Matches are fought in three rounds.  Each round, each player (secretly) chooses a tactic and they are revealed at the same time.  The winner of the round is determined in a Rock-Scissors-Paper kind of fashion:

Grappling Beats Speed – You counter your opponent’s quickness by taking him off his feet and keeping him on the mat.

Speed Beats Brawling – You are too fast for your opponent’s methodical, rough and tumble pounding.

Brawling Beats Conditioning – Your opponent can run marathons, but all it takes is one solid punch or slam to knock him out.

Conditioning Beats Grappling – Your opponent can try to wear you down all he wants but you pace yourself to conserve your strength.

Pretty straight forward.   But what happens if you and your opponent play the same tactic?  Or if you play tactics that don’t interact, like Speed and Conditioning?  While ties are certainly possible, the Specialty and Weakness you chose during character creation will help to mitigate that. 

In the case of a tie, the wrestler who played his Specialty always wins (unless his opponent also played his specialty).  The wrestler who played his Weakness always loses ties.

THE SEASON

Individual matches are pretty short, and there’s not a lot to them.  The main goal of the game is to win as many matches as possible over time, to rise to the top of the standings and become the champion.  This leads to competition as guys work their way to the top, and rivalries against particular opponents you have difficulty beating.

Your goal is to end up like this guy.

STRATEGY

While the game seems somewhat random, there is strategy involved, much like playing poker or similar card games.  You have to minimize your risk, and you have to know your opponent.  If you’re playing a guy who loves to play his Specialty (Brawling, for instance), then it’s often a good choice to play the Tactic that trumps it (Speed, in this example).  But what if Speed is your wrestler’s weakness?  You’re taking a big risk, because even though he often plays Brawling, there’s no guarantee. And in this case if he plays anything BUT Brawling, you will lose.   It’s a game of taking chances and playing the odds.

EXTRA RULES

We’re currently playing around with other rules to vary the gameplay, including specialty matches that limit which tactics you can play, as well as rules for Tag Team and Three-Way matches.  I want to put in enough variety so you won’t get bored too quickly playing the same match over and over again.

WANNA TRY IT OUT?

If you’re interesting in giving the Wrestling Game a try, you can sign-up at FedWars.net and request to join my league, the COMBAT LEAGUE ASSEMBLY (my user name on FedWars is MookieBoots). 

If you’re interested in Wrestling and/or creative writing, FedWars is a great place to check out anyway to get your fix.

Drop a comment below and contact me on Twitter about what you think about the game (or suggest a name for it!).  Questions and comments about e-fedding and fantasy wrestling in general are also welcome.


(Please take a moment to "Share" or "Like" this using those funny little buttons below.  We all live and die on our Internet love. You should also follow me on Twitter @CDGallantKing.  It’s what all the cool kids are doing.)
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