Category Archives: Adventures in Gaming

Sometimes we get together and play an RPG.

Thinking About White Box

Somebody says that you can’t wear white after Labor Day. Whatever. Nobody says you can’t play White Box after Labor Day. So yes. It’s been a long weekend and for some strange reason my mind has wandered into White Box territory. Sure I touched on it a bit on my Swords & Wizardry Retrospective post but I want to rant a little more about it.

I think there’s a couple of things driving my mental wanderlust. First of all the retro-clones out there this (IMHO) has the easiest and most flexible rules which means fast play and fast character generation. A lot of times I look at games as a blank canvas that let’s me tweak to whatever happens to strike my fancy at the time. When the rules are efficient, the possibilities are nearly endless.
Part of the ease of the game is that it doesn’t use a lot of dice. Only d20’s and d6’s. How simple is that? Of course, there’s nothing that says the DM can’t use others if the situation applies.
Another thing that makes it a fun alternative, the light rules means that it’s a breeze to run and if you’re experienced with old-school games then it’s even easier. And if you’re breaking in a new player. Well, they don’t have to fumble around with a pile of strange dice and the rules for their character are pretty straight forward. A long time ago, I had this crazy idea for a campaign. Just start with a city or village for an adventuring base and just make up the rest as we went along like we did in the days of yore.
I may be preaching to the choir here but hopefully this post might snag a few new fans or at least draw a little bit of interest in the White Box style games.
You can find more over on Seattle Hills Game’s site, pick a hard copy of Swords & Wizardry White Box on Lulu, or if you just want to dip your toes a bit into it then grab up Swords & Wizardry Light which is available for free on DrivethruRPG and Frog God Games.

No Gaming But Lots of Ideas

Circumstances put me into place where there’s absolutely no gaming. Sure lot’s of folks are in the same or similar situation. But I’ve been totally idle on the gaming front. It’s a good time to sit back and plan about future campaigns. Our little group at least had a little time before every thing went crazy to do a little discussion. So I figured what the heck, why not share some of those crazy ideas on the old blog.
Cyberpunk Just for something different. Way back in the day, I ran the hell out of Shadowrun. I still have all my books. I ran a bunch of Cyberpunk 2020 too and have them as well. However, both of them have the same problem for my purposes. The hacking rules aren’t that great and it pretty much turns into one character going off on their own adventure while everyone else sits around and waits. The other problem is that there are so many options when it comes to gear especially weapons and cyberwear, that even character generation would take a couple of sessions. On the off chance of doing a straight up Shadowrun campaign, well, the magic system is cool but it’s probably going to be a pain for a modern newbie to learn. Once again. we’d be using old books so a player’s ability to their own copies would be limited. But hey if they really want to then I’m game.
We also talked a bit about Carbon 2185. This little gem is a 5E take on cyberpunk. It’s a pretty expensive PDF and the reviews have been good. But deep down I just don’t have a great feeling about getting that gritty cyberpunk feel with 5E. I’ve also got the old editions of Interface 0 for Savage Worlds. But once again, it just doesn’t hit the right vibe for me.

That leaves with the new gem that I found, Zaibatsu.I did a review of it a short while ago. In a nutshell, character create is pretty quick. Game mechanics are easy to learn. And the hacking game mechanics are pretty cool and quick. So that’s what I’m leaning towards but then I’ll see what the players say whenever we get back together.

Cthulhu I’ve had the urge to run a Cthulhu game for a while now. The “simple” one would be around Delta Green. But instead of all sorts of Federal Agents, I’m leaning towards something that’s more of a cross between Twin Peaks and True Detective (Season 1). But I’ve got other ideas.

Cowboys: I’ve thought about an Old West horror game for a while then I discovered Down Darker Trails and started listening to Ain’t Slayed Nobody. So Cthulhu is a natural choice. Of course there’s Realms of Cthulhu for Savage Worlds and it wouldn’t be that hard to add in the Old West elements to the game.

Pirates: Because everything is better with pirates. This idea has bounced around inside my head for years using Savage Worlds. There’s Tales of Solomon Kane, Pirates of the Spanish Main, and Realms of Cthulhu. I’ve got all those and it’d be easy to kit bash them together. But then I could also use Blood Tide from Chaosium.
For both Cowboys and Pirates, I’ve the idea to make the campaigns so that mortal vs mortal combat is slightl cinematic and not as deadly as the core CofC rules. But when the monsters come out they better run. So that’s why I’m leaning towards the Savage Worlds versions. There’s a few nobs and dials that I can tweak to make it like that. Of course, the CofC system is pretty simple and I do love doing house rules so maybe I might do some tweaking there.

There’s other ideas bouncing around inside my head but these are the major ones. And of course, we shall see
And remember folks. Sometimes the monsters kill you and take your stuff but still have fun.

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The Blighted Coast

Just because the current situation has put my game on hold, it doesn’t mean my imagination has been sitting idle. So when Frog God Games had a huge sale, I just had to take advantage of it and grabbed up a copy of Razor Coast. I’ve been running The Blight and I’ve always had an interest in Razor Coast and I thought why mix them together a bit and The Blighted Coast does sound kind of cool.

I’ve already written a lot about The Blight and it’s Gothic horror and weird fantasy influences. I didn’t touch on the nautical themes in the book. Parts of the Levee campaign adventures take place on the Unsea and the Between. There’s a large dock/merchant district in Castorhage. So yeah there’s some nautical stuff there. Now, Razor Coast is Pirates/Polynesian/Caribbean influenced setting. So it sounds like they may not have that much in common.
From a rules standpoint, Razor Coast has much more robust rules for swashbuckling (especially gear), black powder weapons, and ships than The Blight. While ships play only small role (depending on how you are playing it). Black powder is mentioned as option and I think it fits well. Moving the Blight setting technology more along the Age of Sail rather than Medieval. Which is a cool thing. I like switching between various campaign settings with various levels of technology and still being able to use the same rules. It’s easier on me as the GM and the players. The Blight setting book also has some bits about Castorhage’s attempts to become a world power (and even a power in the Between). Once again, this prime for adding in pirates.
Finally, if you’ve been hanging around the blog or the podcast, I’ve mentioned that I’ve had an itch to run a Pirates Vs Cthulhu type campaign. I’ve thought about using the original Chaosium system or hacking Delta Green but then maybe this might work too. And it would be fun.
And of course. Everything is better with pirates.

Faraway Land Totally Awesome Revisted

Not only am I thinking about what run next for my group but it’s a good time talk about some pretty cool games that you may not be hearing much about.
Faraway Land is a rules lite and pretty darned gonzo and original fantasy RPG. If you’re a fan of Adventure Time then you’ll probably enjoy Faraway Land. The important thing to note is that Faraway Land isn’t Adventure Time with the serial numbers filed off. I see that way too many times. It has it’s own original setting but still has that some quirkiness and odd factor. I mean two-faced psychic nuns who ride grizzly bears into combat and worship the ancient robo-bear. Yeah, that kind of stuff. Way cool. But heck if want some more “normal” fantasy dungeon fare then you can do that too. No problem. The rules are lite and flexible.

Grizzle bear riding telepathic Agnun

About the rules. Just grab a few d6’s. That’s it. Characters have three stats: Brute, Dexterity, and Wits. Roll a number of d6’s equal to your stat and take the highest number. Boons let roll more d6’s. That’s it. Quick and simple. Characters are simple enough they could fit on an index card. This is one of those non-d20 based games that has a real old school vibe to it. COmbat can be very dangerous. Character creation and mechanics are quick, simple, and flexible. Monsters are weird and unique. It’s a game you could play with your kids, new gamers or grizzled grognards. This one gets a big thumbs up from this grognard any way.
You can grab it up at Drivethrurpg. Yes, pdf is a little on the expensive side for me but I thinks it’s worth it in this case.

But wait you want to stick to something that’s more OSR. Something with rules that you’re already used to. Got you covered.
So in case you missed it, there was a Kickstarter for an OSR version of Far Away Land. Far Away Land has been out for quite a while and uses it’s own system which is pretty cool.
It’s pretty sweet. Setting-wise it’s still the same but many of the creatures, races, and spells have been converted over to an OSR system. And yes I know there are many OSR systems. In this case, Dirk used White Box or more specifically Swords & Wizardry Continual Light as a base for the rules. So most of the rules should be pretty much familiar to many.
The biggest change for FALOSR is the magic system. It’s pretty simple in a useful sort of way. First, there technically aren’t clerics in the game. There are Light Mages which are sort of like clerics and Chaos Mages which are more like your standard blow-stuff-up Magic-User. Spells are broken down into three categories White, Gray, and Black. Gray spells either of the classes can cast. However, a Light Mage casting a Black Magic spell takes a penalty to casting. And vice versa for the Chaos Mage casting White Magic. They can do it but there’s a penalty. Also, the number of spells a mage may cast is simplified. It’s Level+3. And no preparation of spells. If you know it then you can cast it. Basically. Once again there is a little exception and difference. Spells are broken down by level which corresponds to character level. This makes what level a spell is totally different than other OSR games that mimic the original sources. So a 2nd level character can safely cast second level spells. They can try to cast higher level spells but it’s pretty dangerous. Like I said, the actual spell levels have changed because of this and FALOSR’s own internal logic. A prime example is that Sleep is an 8th Level spell. You read that right. But there’s plenty of new and interesting spells to play around with.
So in case you were wondering, the other two classes are Fighter and Thief. That’s it. Just the classic four classes. For races, you have the standards less Halfling and then the Far Away Land specific races: Agnun, Blonin, Clockwork,Exions, Glacerian, Numan, Orka, Poomkin, and Simian. Plus there’s a few of the monsters you can easily convert. FALOSR has a whole host of little rules tweaks and mini games as well. Want to do 0-Level funnel. No problem. Collaborative wording building? It’s there too. Plus there’s vehicles and naval combat. Special weird powers and training montages. There’s a ton of little useful bits in there.
And yes. It’s on Drivethru too.

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Write Adventures Like Lester Dent

I know I don’t mention it very often but I’m a big fan of the good old 1930’s pulps. This is fiction that I spent so much youth devouring and of course one of my favorites was Lester Dent’s Doc Savage. According to Wikipedia, Lester Dent cranked 159 of the Doc Savage stories and they averaged around 6,000 words. On average he wrote about one a month. That’s a pretty tough undertaking. But he had a formula that’s been widely published on the Internet. So why not take that formula and apply it writing adventures.
Published adventures are great and like rules I use them as guidelines and as starting points for adventures that the player characters get interested in. So that means coming up with a lot of adventures on my own or on the spot. Now, let’s look at this formula with my own little annotations and thoughts.
1. Villain is killing somebody/something in a odd way.
2. Villain wants something special.
3. An exotic location: Dungeon, ruins, pocket plane.
4. Personal threat to the player characters.

Just ask yourself these questions: Who’s the villain? What’s special about them? What weird thing do they want? Where is their lair and why is it cool? What allies and minions does our villain have? Does the villain have some connection with the player characters or an NPC that they are fond of?
Pull in at least two of these ideas. Maybe the villain wants something that the PC’s have? Maybe the villain is killing villagers to gain magical power to summon some boss monster. Maybe a strange monster is stalking the area and everyone thinks that it’s something else. Mix and match.
Now the normal formula breaks the fiction down into four 1,500 word blocks. Since as GM, you’re not really thinking about word count. We’re grab up the handy Four-Act Movie formula.

Start in the middle of things and introduce the main players of the adventure as soon as possible. You’re laying the foundation for the rest of the adventure. Make sure you end ACT 1 with some sort combat encounter.

Add complications for party. Use traps or other obstacles that party has to overcome that aren’t combat encounters.
Throw in a plot twist based on The Hook. The villain might take a hostage. Maybe a rival party. Or how about betrayal by an NPC?
And of course, another combat encounter.

The PC’s make some progress at resolving the plot.
But there are even bigger obstacles and/or complications than in ACT 3.
And as before. Another combat encounter.

The final conflict and obstacles and plot twists.
Keep the players guessing and heap more challenges on the PC’s until the very end.
Resolve the plot hooks.

And that my friends is a wrap.

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