6/24/2014

Published on 6/24/2014 Written by 0 comments

Casting the Dungeons & Dragons TV Show

Last week +Patrick Stuart wrote about randomly recasting Star Trek over at False Machine. I thought that sounded like a lark but as I'm not much of a Star Trek fan (please put down your pitchforks), I decided to do the same with the cast of the as-yet-imaginary Dungeons & Dragons television series.

The idea of a D&D series is kind of a joke and yet at the same time I can't image another period in the history of media when - if done properly - this could actually turn into a real thing. With shows like The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Once Upon A Time, and more superhero-inspired programs than you could shake the corpse of Thomas Wayne at, why couldn't a D&D show work? Hell, it looks like a Magic: The Gathering movie is in the works, and I cannot possible imagine that not sucking. So why not throw some money at a few episodes of Dungeons & Dragons? Someone thought Dads was a good idea.

Warning: My vision of a D&D show is going to be pretty dark and gory, veering into Splatter-Elf territory. It will be on a major cable channel with more sex and violence than you could ever get away with on network television. This is not going to be a Xena: Warrior Princess or Hercules: Legendary Journeys type of deal (though both were fine shows that I enjoyed very much). And it's certainly not going to be whatever the hell those crap licensed D&D movies were that have come out the last few years. I didn't even know there was a third movie until two days ago when I went to look up the name of the second terrible film.

I decided when casting that I would not use anyone who has appeared on Game of Thrones. That would be too easy. I'm also trying to avoid anyone from the Harry Potter movies. I don't want everyone to have quasi-English accents, whether real or imitated. Like any good game of D&D, this should be a hodgepodge of weird stuff.

MAIN CAST

Jonathan Banks as Sir Brador

Brador is The Leader of the Badass Crew, an old knight who has fought in more wars than he can count. He's a Tragic Hero who once knew fame and glory but has fallen on hard times, and is now little more than a beggar and a drunk. He has a Dark Secret - some terrible crimes he committed in the past that he refuses to speak of but for which he also holds no remorse. He is called back to action by the Baron of Gutslinger to defend the realm against an usurper king with promises of great wealth and a restoration of some of the old man's lost prestige. The Baron may also hold some secret over Brador's head that he uses to manipulate the gritty warrior.

Brador is gruff, fearless and cold. He refuses to pick up a sword but will stab a man in throat with a dagger in a heartbeat. When he finally does don his full armor and wields his sword late in the first season, it should be a huge moment of bloody glory.

Emily Blunt as Tasty Sugarbush

Tasty is an Action Girl who swerves dangerously close to a Dark Action Girl. A master thief and assassin, she sometimes plays the Femme Fatale to get close to her targets, but she never becomes the Damsel in Distress. She's usually the one who has the save the rest of the group when they get into a tight spot.

Tasty has a weird and uncomfortable relationship with Brador, where there is both romantic tension and a grudging father-daughter relationship. This should provide lots of fuel for twisted fan fiction until they hook up in a later season (if they both survive that long).

Joe Manganiello as Bluto the Berserker

Bluto's job is just to fuck stuff up. He's like the Hulk in the Avengers, the embodiment of Unstoppable Rage they don't unleash unless they have to, but when the shit hits the fan the party just points him at the bad guys and tries to avoid the blood spatter. He'll get all the best action scenes, and lots of bad puns and one-liners when he lops off heads. He'll of course also get lots of sex scenes, where he fucks like a stallion in heat.

Noomi Rapace as Bainthaureth the Elf

While elves in most stories are arrogant and act slightly superior, Bainthaureth is a full-on elf supremacist. She knows that elves are better then everyone else and is not afraid to remind everyone she meets. She is a fierce warrior and killer that can also use magic and is completely oblivious to the emotions and well-being of others. She's a Dark Chick and Racist Grandma all rolled into one.

She is forced to join Brador's cause in episode 2 or 3 when the Big Bad invades her forest and murders a large number of her clan. She tries to kill the rebel king on her own but can't get close to him, and thus has no choice but to become an uneasy ally to the party.

Jordan Prentice as Hamhock the Dwarf

(I kinda wanted Warwick Davis here, but I had to give a Canadian a job.)

At first Hamhock seems like a dwarf stereotype, drinking and fighting and spitting, but he ends up playing against type and turns out to be a genius inventor and cunning intellectual. He's the "Q" type character the other characters turn to when they need special equipment or tricks for getting into the enemy stronghold.

Hanhock can also keep up his end in the fight, and becomes good friends with Bluto as the brute takes a liking to the little man and looks out for him. Of course this will lead to a heart-wrenching moment when one of them dies in the other's arms at some point before Season 1 is over.

Steve Buscemi as the Baron of Gutslinger

The Baron is charged with keeping the king's peace and putting down the Big Bad (the true King himself is never seen on screen in Season 1). The Baron the head of a Decadent Court, a creepy, sniveling and physically weak Caligula-type, which is why he hires our "heroes" to do his dirty work for him. He's also a sexual deviant and has an unhealthy obsession with at least one of the female leads, and a secondary plot line through Season 1 involves him coming up with convoluted schemes to try and hook up with her.

Christopher Lambert as Thromboné the Wizard

(Yeah he's not a great actor and he's made some terrible movies, but he will never burn up the goodwill from the original Highlander in my book. Not even the Highlander sequels did that.)

Thromboné is the wise old Gandalf-style Eccentric Mentor that provides guidance and insight to the party and may-or-may-not cast some awesome explosive spells depending on the budget. He's kinda shady and untrustworthy, not to mention a blood relative of the Big Bad, so all signs point to him betraying the others in the first season finale. The big twist of course is that he doesn't. He saves that for season 2.

Colt Cabana as The Fitzbibbons Brothers

(You knew I was going to include a wrestler somewhere.)

Colt plays the Big Bad's flunky, a bumbling but cruel and shockingly violent thug. Sort of a one-man Quirky Miniboss Squad, he provides some comic relief but will surprise the audience by successfully murdering one of the main cast in a gruesomely brutal way in the mid-season finale. The joke of course is that Colt will get killed himself every two or three episodes and keep coming back with a different haircut as another one of the Fitzbibbons Brothers or cousins (and possibly even a very homely sister in one episode).

John Leguizamo as the Big Bad

Leguizamo is the rebel king of Dyzkovenia, an Evil Warrior Prince rousing the unwashed masses and inspiring a revolt against the Crown. In public the Rebel King is charming and silver-tongued, but around his closest advisers he is a bloodthirsty lunatic and sadistic monster. Leguizamo would be encouraged to chew the scenery like a motherfucker.




SEASON ONE GUEST STARS

Bruce Campbell as the Warlord Autolycus

Autolycus appears in a couple of episodes as an old, curmudgeonly barbarian warlord who controls a swath of land near Gutslinger and Dyzkovenia. Both the Baron and the Big Bad try to sway him and his army to their side, and his decision will determine the outcome of the final battle at the end of the season.




Taye Diggs as Sylverius

Sylverius is a rival mercenary who has an antagonistic but grudgingly respectful relationship with Brador. He'll cross paths with the party a couple of times, but mostly we just want to introduce him as a potential regular cast member for Season 2 if (when) we kill off some of the main cast.

Katee Sackhoff as Gothweniel, Bainthaureth's Mother

Unfortunately Gothweniel will have to die in the second episode, but maybe we can get Katee to come back from time to time for guest spots as a ghost.

And of course, she's going to go down in a bitchin' blaze of glory.




Marilyn Manson as the Voice of the Grumblesnatch Shaman/Chief

Sure, why the fuck not?

Grumblesnatch is the place holder name for the goblins/orcs/trolls/bugbears/whatever will be the cannon fodder baddies in the first season. Hey, maybe we'll just go with Grumblesnatches for the hell of it. Brador's party will kill ALOT of these little bastards over the course of the season, eventually culminating in a battle with the Shaman/Chief in the later half.

Jewel Staite as Mistress Brumhilde

Brumhilde is the owner of the tavern often frequented by Brador's band, The Violent Mime. She's also the madam of the local whorehouse and has her fingers in seemingly every criminal activity in the area. Yet despite her shady background, she's surprisingly sweet and harmless. Or at least appears so. She always shows up with several fluffy pet cats. More of her background may be revealed in Season 2.

Christopher Lee as the Voice of Trogdor the Dragon

It's a crime that Count Christopher, Lord of Death Metal wasn't the voice of Smaug. We will rectify that here. And this time the dragon will actually kill some of those fuckin' dwarves.







So that's my dramatis personae for Season 1. Who would you cast in a D&D TV show?
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6/17/2014

Published on 6/17/2014 Written by 0 comments

SPLATTER-ELF Playtest #2

Last week, appropriately enough on Friday the 13th, we played the second-ever session of SPLATTER-ELF: The RPG. I had a new group of three completely different players from the first session, which works out well to get new perspectives on the game. It was also great for me because I got to reuse the same adventure!

In the first session we had three people who game just for fun and didn't really care about the rules. They had a good laugh though, and really enjoyed hacking the shit out of everything they ran into and accidentally choking out enemies with their own intestines.

The second session had two guys who were more familiar with and comfortable with game mechanics so they went out of their way to try different things, which from a testing perspective was very helpful. The third guy hadn't gamed in years so he was just having fun being there.

It was interesting to see how the two groups reacted to the same situations. In some instances they did the exact same thing (both groups had at least one player try to sneak out of town to bury their treasure, only to get attacked by violent lepers). Both groups had a player who tried to lower his encumbrance by spending money on whores. The second group (wisely) did their best to avoid the lake monster, rather than trying to kill it like the first group did. Subsequently no one in the second party got any boobs bitten off.

The most beautiful moment of the second session came when the party was negotiating their price for uncovering the secret of the disappearing cows. The cattle rancher offered three methods of payment: coin, cattle or one of his daughters, to which the Uff character replied: "Only one?" The sleazy rancher pointed out that he could only marry one of the girls. The Uff shrugged and said "I don't want to marry her. How many do I get if I only want to fuck them?"

(For reference, they eventually settled on 500 pieces of gold and 2 daughters.)

We played a more stripped down version of the rules than I presented here a few weeks ago. I've been going back on forth on the finer details of the game (I have no less than three versions of the rules now!) Last night's version did away with levels, a lot of the skills, and the damage calculation. It uses the same basic mechanic (roll a d12 for all actions, opposed by your opponent's d12). If you beat your opponent, you "hit"; each character can sustain a certain number of hits before dropping. Of course, each hit is described in as much gory and bloody detail as possible.

We used Roll20.net which has it's own set of quirks to meander through, but once we got over the bugs it worked pretty well. Jason Salvatori recently convinced me to stop making elaborate maps and detailed encounters and it's much less painful now. Instead of huge maps and battlemats, now I just use the tabletop as a whiteboard to sketch out battle details as necessary. If it's not a large complicated battle I'll just throw up a picture of the area or monster to help set the scene. It saves me a lot of time and headache, and feels way more organic than fiddling with all the tokens and map components like I used to use.
It may not look like much, but this the aftermath of a pitched and heated battle where both sides fought with the fervent lust of crazed dervishes and no quarter was given. The fields are fertilized with the blood of the fallen, and the blades of the victor drip crimson gore that is their trophy. Did I mention this fight was over five gold coins?

So how did it go? Pretty good I think, considering we started late and then had to stop early because real life pulled people away. The two hours we were actively playing moved along at a good clip despite using new rules that no one was familiar with and having one player who had never used Roll20 before and hadn't played an RPG in over a decade. The system is pretty straight forward and nothing flashy - I really think the fun in this game stems from how willing everyone is to be over the top and ridiculous.

This. This is the level of ridiculous you have to be willing to go to.

I continue to be encouraged that this might actually work. The best part came out of the discussion we had after the session, debriefing and going back and forth about what everyone wanted to see in the game. A few lights went off in my head and I'm going to have to go back to the drawing board, but I am excited. The final game is probably going to look way different than where I started from.

Side note in closing: I've run this adventure twice and I still haven't gotten all the way through it (and it really isn't that long). Neither group has been able to find out the secret behind the "mysterious disappearing cows." I'm also trying to find a better name for it than "The Secret of the Mysterious Disappearing Cows." I've come up with a few possibilities:
  • Cattlegate
  • Cowbotage
  • Rustlemania
@sethdrebitko on Twitter also suggested: The Bovine Boost

@allforjury suggested: This Adventure is No Bull

Any thoughts on those? Anyone have a better idea?


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6/03/2014

Published on 6/03/2014 Written by 13 comments

Splatter-Elf RPG Update

I've been rather surprised by the feedback for Splatter-Elf: The RPG so far. I've had people approach me asking for more info about it (someone even wanted the rules so they could play it!) and I've seen it discussed on forums completely without my prompting. It's pretty nice to have a circle of supporters (as small as it is) and it encourages me to keep tinkering with these rules to create a full-blown game. Of course, no discussion of Splatter-Elf is complete without mentioning Philip Overby, the Godfather of Splatter-Elf himself who coined the term and gave me the idea in the first place. But that's all Philip gets: one quick mention. The rest of today's post is about some ideas I've been kicking around for the game.

The Core Mechanic

For those of you who have been paying attention, the basic mechanic for Splatter-elf uses a d12. If you want to attack something you roll d12 and add applicable modifiers. The target rolls d12 and adds his modifiers. If the defender rolls higher, the attack misses. If the attacker rolls higher then it hits and does damage equal to the difference between the rolls, plus a bonus based on the weapon used.

A couple of points to remember here:
  • Armor Class is not static. The defender rolls his AC every time he's attacked. This leads to a lot of randomness and unpredictability in combat. It also let the player whose being attacked feel like he's involved in the defence - he gets to roll to see if the attack is parried, dodged, etc.
  • You do not roll for damage. To streamline and avoid unnecessary extra rolls (because the defender is already rolling against every attack), weapon damage does not require an extra die roll. Each weapon (or spell) simply adds a damage bonus to the difference between the attack and defence rolls (for instance, a long sword does +4 damage). A variable to the damage is already built in because the attack roll already adds to the damage. The "better" your hit, the more damage you do.
  • There are no special rules for critical hits. Because of the swingy nature of how damage is calculated, large variations in damage are already possible without doubling or maximizing damage on certain rolls. For instance, if the attacker rolls a "12" to hit and the defender rolls a "1" on his AC, that attack is going to do a lot of damage even if the aggressor is only wielding a dagger. This represents how (in both real life and fiction) sometimes a single weapon strike will kill a normal human outright, while at other times they can take a number of hits from the same weapon before dropping. 
  • There are no saving throws. If an attack is something other than a weapon (a spell, a trap, a poison, a fall, etc), an attack roll is still made (plus modifiers as the situation determines), and the defender instead rolls one of his other "Defences" to try and avoid it. Fortitude for physical trauma and poisons. Reflex for traps, explosions and effects that can be avoided through speed and agility. Willpower for attacks that target the victim's mind. Currently there are no saves for overcoming ongoing effects - once the attack hits you must suffer through it until it ends. However in many cases (and at the GM's discretion) you may be able to use certain skills (such as Mettle or Sawbones) to counter harmful effects.

The Old School/New School Divide

Why can't I love you both, but in different ways?
Not to open a can of worms, but I think we're all aware that most RPGs can be divided into two categories: Old School and New School (or Modern). (There's also a "Post-Modern" style of weird dice-less and group storytelling games, but I'm not touching that with a ten-foot pole). 

Old school games tend to have less codified, more open-ended rules. Classes are fairly basic and (usually) straight forward and it's up to the players to create the setting, flair and flavour through their imagination. Modern games are heavily influenced by video games and tend to have more involved, detailed rules. The flair and flavour is built right into the rules. In an old-school game, your fighter can hit with a sword, and it's up to you and the GM to describe what that hit looks like. In a modern game, your fighter has many choices of how to attack, each with specific advantage and disadvantages based on the situation. Players of either edition will claim the other version is boring and restrictive.

My problem is that I can't decide whether Splatter-Elf wants to be Old-School or Modern. It's really straddling the line right now, and it could go either way. Lamentations of the Flame Princess, a major influence on Splatter-Elf, is about as old-school as you can get. Simple classes, straight-forward combat, basic spells. The weirdness and horror comes from how you play and describe your story, not necessarily from the rules themselves. 

On the other hand, Splatter-Elf could easily borrow and adapt more complicated, crunchy modern rules. Rules for excessive blood loss, special attacks that allow you hit multiple enemies, cleaving through minions, weird movement abilities, ongoing effects for poison, slowing, stunning, etc. Not to mention Advanced Feat or Skill trees to develop more customized, crazy-powered characters, or even more complicated and specialized character classes. They could all work and fit within the wild world of Splatter-Elf. But do I want them to?

I'm currently leaning toward a simpler, more old-school base game. That's a big enough commitment, and I think would be a fine achievement if I could pull it off. Once that's finished, I would LOVE to do an add-on module to put in those extra-crunchy bits - more powers, more skills, feat trees, and so on, plus tougher and more dangerous monsters to go along with that. 

Am I way off the mark here? Anyone have any other suggestions for direction I should take?

New Magic Spells

The following are a few new spells that were created based on suggestions by reader (and big-time Splatter-Elf fan) Marcus Claudius Marcellus. Somehow I doubt that's his real name. Anyway, though these incantations are intended for Splatter-Elf, they can be easily adapted to other fantasy RPGs, especially if your game veers toward the twisted and grotesque.

I don't know why Tori would encourage people to nail her
to a post. She is pretty friggin' weird, though.
Crucify
Minimum Caster Level: 3
Availability: Rare
BP Cost: 4
Duration: 1 round / caster level
Range: 50 feet (10 squares)
The caster makes a gesture toward a target and telekinetically lifts the victim off his feet and holds him, suspended just above the ground with limbs spreadeagled. If there is a wall, tree, post or other suitable object within 10 feet of the target when the spell is cast, the caster may choose to forcefully fling the victim against the object and pin them in place for the duration of the spell. Crucify only works on humanoid creatures of Large-size or smaller.

The caster makes an attack (plus caster level) vs the target’s Will. If it succeeds, the victim is paralyzed and cannot move, even to defend himself for the spell’s duration. They cannot speak unless they make a successful Mettle skill check. If the blood mage chooses to pin the victim against a solid object, they also take damage equal to the different between the attack and defence rolls.

Excruciating Hemorrhage
Minimum Caster Level: 6
Availability: Common
BP Cost: 7
Duration: See below
Range: 50 feet (10 squares)
The caster selects a point within 50’ of his location and makes an attack roll (plus caster level) versus the Will of all living targets within 10’ of that point. On a hit, the victims immediately begin painfully and messily bleeding through all bodily orifices – eyes, ears, nose, mouth, anus – for a number of turns equal to the difference between the attack and defence rolls. Damage is 3 hit points per turn.

Victims also suffer a -2 to all rolls during this time due to the excruciating pain. Magical healing or a successful Sawbones skill check will stop the bleeding for the round it is applied, but the bleeding will resume and continue causing damage and penalties on the next and all subsequent rounds until the duration expires.

Funeral Feast
Minimum Caster Level: 2
Availability: Common
BP Cost: 3
Duration: See below
Range: 25 feet (5 squares)
The victim suddenly becomes ravenously hungry, and the only thing that can satiate them is the flesh of the dead. They immediately stop what they’re doing and will drop to their knees and try to consume the closest dead body.

The caster makes an attack roll (plus caster level) vs the victim’s Will. On a hit, the target drops everything he’s doing and moves to and begins to munch on the closest dead body for a number of rounds equal to the difference between the attack and defence rolls. The victim will not attack or move away from its meal, though it will defend itself (make defence rolls) if attacked.

There must be a visible corpse within 25’ feet of the target when funeral feast is cast or the spell fails. The spells works on both humanoids and animals. The corpse may be either fresh or long dead, but there must be flesh left upon it (skeletons are not tasty), and the corpse may not be animated (the spell does not work on zombies and other undead).

Eating a long dead, rot- and disease-infested corpse may infect the diner with disease at the GM’s discretion.

Self-Eviscerate
Minimum Caster Level: 3
Availability: Common
BP Cost: 4
Duration: Instant
Range: 25 feet (5 squares)
The caster looks at the victim and speaks words of dark foreboding. The target suddenly feels deeply forlorn, as if all hope is lost. He knows that his life is pointless and worthless and has no other choice but to end it all. He immediately tries to run himself through on his own sword, realizing only too late that it was all a trick. The magic and the despair lasts only a moment, but the wound remains…

Make an attack roll (plus caster level) vs the victim’s Will. On a hit, the target automatically strikes himself, doing weapon damage (plus applicable Strength bonus). Worse, he opens a horrible bleeding wound in his abdomen that will cause him to lose 3 hit points every turn until cured by magic or a successful Sawbones skill check.

This spell only works on intelligent humanoid creatures that have a weapon at hand. Creatures of animal intelligence or lower and supernatural inhuman beings do not understand despair and are not affected by self-eviscerate.
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6/02/2014

Published on 6/02/2014 Written by 4 comments

How Did You Start?

If you are reading this blog, you're probably a gamer. You may have been playing for years, or this may be a new hobby (obsession) for you. What usually stands out is what first drew us into this world.

I flirted with RPGs for a while as a kid. My first attempt was in grade 4; a friend said: "Let's play d&d." And I said "play what?"
We had no clue what we were doing, no rule books, and no story.  What we did have was imagination and a drive to play.  My friend drew a map and made up a reason for me to get through it. I would try creative ways to get past the obstacles he described. To see how well I did, we'd roll d6's and compare opposing rolls (All we knew was d&d needed dice...).

My next exposure was when my sister, who is 8 years older than me, would let me tag along with her when she went to play with her high school friends. She would have been about 17 or 18, and I was 9 or 10.  Most of the time I would just watch them play, but sometimes the DM would give me one of the NPC's he had rolled in prep of the adventure and let me play along.  This is where I first saw polyhedral dice, first heard rhyming puzzles, and first got truly hooked on the magical world of d&d.

Just a tiny sample of my shelves.
I'll admit that a lot of the puzzles went over my head, and I made some foolish choices with my characters, but this is where I learned all about elves and wizards and halfling thieves. I immediately started reading Lord of the Rings, and as soon as I finished that, I devoured every Drizzt adventure R.A. Salvatore had written up to that point. 20+ years later I still have about 30 feet of bookshelf filled with forgotten realms and Dragonlance books.  I have moved on to what I hope is more sophisticated literature, but fantasy and sci-fi are still my main draws.

Unfortunately my sister left for university a year later, and so my RPG gaming stopped for 10 years. I still sucked up everything fantasy I could get my hands on, but I had no one to play with.
I am missing a d10 from this set now.
Fast forward to when I met C.D. and we worked in a theme park theatre together.  I didn't realize how much I missed gaming until we started that 2E adventure.  It was like coming home after a long time out of town.  I took the time and inkjet ink to print out a 2nd Ed PHB (369 8.5x11 pages!), bought my first set of dice (red speckled;  C.D's right, you never forget your first) and we spent countless hours at work, in my parents basement, and at C.D.'s place playing. I was still very green as a player and needed some guidance along the way, but that first adventure rekindled my love for gaming.
Perhaps 5th Ed. will be joining these.
This was all just as 3rd edition was released, and so I went out and bought all 3 core books, and our next adventure was 3rd edition.  At this point I had the gaming bug pretty bad, so I also picked up every used 2nd edition book I could find.  We began mixing in board games, and we even ran one game in 4th edition before deciding we hated it.
 
Now we are more than 8 years after that and all of our gaming group has drifted apart, at least in distance. We still Play By E-Mail, our current game using Advanced Labyrinth Lord rules (yay free!), and I don't see us quitting gaming in general any time soon.  What I am finding though is that I still miss the live RPG feel that comes from sitting around a table with good friends, a couple of beers, and some great imagination.  Maybe soon I'll see how my board game group would feel about trying out an adventure...
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