Category Archives: talk

Pathfinder 2e Playtest First Impressions

I was in my FLGS (Friendly Local Gaming Store) the other day and saw the printed copy of the Pathfinder 2e playtest.  Paul had been talking about running a one-shot for us so I decided to go ahead and pick it up.

I’m a long time Pathfinder player (as long as you can get, I migrated from Dragon/Dungeon to Paizo APs in 3.5 to Pathfinder Beta to Pathfinder as it happened).  I’ve been a superscriber for all that time so I have every Player’s Companion and rulebook and everything.

As a result I wasn’t chomping at the bit to look at 2e – I have more Pathfinder stuff than I can probably use in my lifetime, and my gaming group is mainly playing other games nowadays, but this prompted me to pick it up and read through it.

Overall it’s good. It’s different than Pathfinder/3.5e.  I’m not sure how many of the changes are really better or worse instead of just being different, however.  More on that after the details.

The book is beautiful, it’s full color and pro layout and no typos; better than most non-playtest RPGs (and definitely levelled up over the initial printed Pathfinder Beta I still have a copy of).

Overview

Intro

It starts with the usual RPG intro, which is fine.  They go a little overboard on the nearly page worth of SJW-speak in the beginning.  I want gaming to be inclusive and fun for all too, but they drone on about “safe space” and how GMs should be “pay[ing] careful attention to players’ body language” to police anyone being “uncomfortable.” Yes, job #1 of a GM is to carefully monitor everyone’s emotional state and make sure everything’s light and non-challenging in 2018 I guess. But, whatever, the book’s 432 pages long already why not pad it out.

Basic Concepts

The basic concepts are the usual, and you’ll generally get AC, HP, and so on. You get 3 actions (and a reaction) per round from general inflation, I wish it was more like 1e/2e – do one thing and the action will get back to you quickly, instead of doing 4 things and then waiting an hour for your next turn. Though there’s one real problem I had  – the new icons to indicate action types.  It smacks of trying to IP-protect your trade dress for the sake of it, and they are not more concise than just using a letter or whatever.  For 2 actions I need two little baseball diamonds instead of a 2?  Making a character sheet or spell cards gets to be a non-plaintext exercise now?  Boo.

Anyway, then important concept, Proficiency Modifier!  Like D&D, you have a proficiency modifier that applies to everything (weapons, skills, etc.) that is based on your level. It can be slightly less than your level or slightly more than your level if you are untrained or master or legendary.

In the book, untrained is level-2 and legendary is level+3.  That is terrible and let me explain why.  It means there’s only a 5 point spread, on a d20 roll, between the most hapless and the most skilled of a given level.  This means that when faced with the nearly ubiquitous adventure option of “do some skill challenge, or fight them,” it’s a sucker bet to try to beat them at the skill challenge because a 5 point spread on d20 is very, very failable, where if you differ enough levels you’re basically guaranteed to beat them in the fight because of how many things stack onto making you better and it’s effectively a complex skill check of many many rolls and not just one.

But all is not lost!  Paizo listens to their playtesters, and in the current rule update, they change this so unskilled is level -4.  It still means “trained” and “legendary” is only a 3 point spread though, which isn’t great, but it’s nice to see it iterating in the right direction.  It does mean “mommy taught me the guitar” can beat Robert Johnson 34% of the time in a straight roll-off, which kinda sucks. At least untrained at -4 only beats him… 20% of the time?  That’s not excellent.

Character Creation

Then you get a summary of character creation. It’s straightforward, though they hide how you determine hit points in the middle of a long “Apply Your Class” section and I went past it and it took me a while to find it – I’d think that would at least merit some bold or a header or a sidebar or something; it’s more complicated than previous because you have an ancestry set of hit points and then a class set of hit points you add together.  (And it’s here instead of in the definition of Hit Points with a header in the previous section why?) There’s a lot of formulas like that that are only explained in this section (AC calculation too) that really should be set out to look like

AC = 10 + Dex modifier (up to armor cap) + armor proficiency modifier + armor item bonus to AC + other bonuses/penalties

instead of just being text inline which is what they are.  You’re Mathfinder, own it.

Alignment is skimmed over pretty much in passing.

Ability Scores

Next we do ability score generation.  It’s the usual 6 D&D stats, but the generation is a little tricky. You start with 10 and then do a bunch of iterations of adding ancestry ability boosts (boost = +2), two background ability boosts, four free ones, a class one…  But you can’t double up in a given iteration, but you can stack them across iterations. OK, fair enough, though I suspect we’ll always be seeing the same Backgrounds for the same classes since it’s the only way to min-max your stats to 18. Or you can roll if you’re a real man.

Ancestries and Backgrounds

Next we do the races, except it’s racist to call them races so they’re Ancestries I guess?  You get the venerable Dwarf/Elf/Gnome/Halfling/Human and can do half-orcs and half-elves as variant humans. All pretty cool, and instead of a standard set of abilities there’s “ancestry feats” you can choose from both at start and then you get more every 4 levels. Not sure how you explain “suddenly I can do that thing that I learned growing up I guess” story wise, but eh, everyone likes more powers.

Only humans have ethnicities, which is weird because in Golarion there’s elf ethnicities and stuff.

And the big bad in this chapter is goblins as a playable race.

Look man, I’ve played all the goblin modules too and I love them.  The goblins are some of Pathfinder’s most recognizable IP. But in Golarion, goblins are crazed spazzes that are in no way compatible with other people.  And people already use gnomes and sometimes halflings if they want to play a little spaz.  By them being a core race instead of just in some later race guide, that means 1/6 of characters, especially in Pathfinder Society play, get to be disruptive illiterate arsonists.  Great. Needs to be pulled and put into some later more optional thing, even if it’s the first AP, with some warning text.

Backgrounds

Then we have two pages of Backgrounds, which give ability boosts and skills usually. Acolyte, Criminal, Warrior, and so on.  (I wonder which map to which classes?) There’s not that many but I assume they’ll get the shit splatbooked out of them eventually.

Languages

The next chapter is Languages, which generally works like you’d expect except for a weirdly complicated full half page on sign language (every language you choose normal or signed and if signed you get the Read Lips feat for free and blah blah see page 301)…  It also weirdly assumes that every language/race has sign language and that they’re tied to languages?  So gnoll sign language is different from celestial sign language?  Plus IRL sign language wasn’t developed until post-Renaissance so it’s all just kind of weird and overwrought. Like, the sign language section is larger than the entire alignment section.

Classes

Classes.  The first class is Alchemist because they’re alphabetical and it really threw me, I started reading it and my reaction was “what the hell is this?!?”  I had to start looking up bunches of other game concepts (“Resonance?”) and it was super confusing. I punted and went forward to Fighter to figure out the game.  Turns out they published a massive revision to the Alchemist in the errata because I guess that was a common reaction.

Anyway, the classes go to a pick-and-choose set of feats, you know, like every video game skill tree. I approve.  So many archetypes in 1e were just to basically move around things you didn’t really want for things you did, so going to “pick a class feat” is more elegant.

But I speak too soon.  While most items are turned into class feats, there is still a level advancement table with some things built in (Barbarian gets rage and totem at level 1, “juggernaut” at level 7, and so on). It’s not clear why these aren’t just class feats with that level as their level restriction, so you could take some other thing at 7 and then juggernaut at 8 if that floated your boat.

It’s the normal core classes plus alchemist, a solid list with no surprises.  Without actually playtesting them it’s hard to tell, but they seem to generally do what they did in previous editions.

Skills

They combined skills into a semi short list of 17 skills. They are still complicated because they basically pasted the rules for each more granular skill under them, so in Acrobatics you get a long ass thing about Balance, Escape, and the 5 other uses each of which has its own ruleset.

You don’t have skill points any more, it’s just those untrained/trained/expert/master/legendary levels. Everyone gets skill advances that boost your skill ranks pretty frequently.  Even the wizard, which starts with 2 + INT skills, gets one skill every 2 levels so can have 11/17 of the skills (barring mastery, but each level of mastery only gets you +1, so they’re a poor investment).

Each skill, like many of the feats in the class section, have these little “Traits” associated with them.  Some are defined here, like Secret.  Some are off in Appendix 1 in the back; I’m not sure how you’re supposed to know that.

The organization of this book starts to fall down about this point.  There’s a lot of inconsistency.  Take classes and their class feats.  OK, those are described under the class entries, not lumped into the general feats chapter.  But then “powers”, like the monk’s ki strike, aren’t in the class section, they are lumped into the Spells section!

I know in a complex game you can’t always have it where you read the definition of something before you have rules using that something, but at least have a consistent design philosophy of where you’re going to squirrel things away.  Do class things go under the class or sorted into other categories? Do traits and such get defined in the relevant section or in the back?  On p.144 it explains what a Secret skill check is.  Secret is in the traits section in the back but there it just says see p.293. Where it has the exact same text as on p.144 duplicated.  What?!?

Anyway, organizational gripes aside – they’re skills.  They let you do the normal panoply of stuff you want to do in D&D/Pathfinder.

Feats

Feats feats feats!  Only 13 pages of them. They are almost all skill feats and then some general feats, there’s no like metamagic or combat feats, which are just in the classes I reckon.

Equipment

They go to the silver standard, which I like. Gold is just for magic items and super expensive stuff, normal folks use silver for conventional expenses.

Armor is mostly like armor used to be, although with AC and touch AC (TAC) stats.  Shields are weirder and more complicated, you have to use an action to get their AC bonus.

Weapons, predictably, are like they used to be except we love traits now so every single weapon has 1-6 traits on it. Axes sweep, mauls shove, bows are deadly and propulsive… Entertainingly they define all the traits but not any of the weapons, I guess if you don’t know what a main-gauche or guisarme is, your hapless noob ass can google it? Maybe that’ll be added in the final book.

Gear is gear, but encumbrance has changed to a more abstract Bulk system instead of weight, with all the complicated junk about well this is negligible and this is Light so 10 of those become 1 Bulk and so on. Not that anyone uses encumbrance anyway.

There’s item qualities, like “masterwork” was but they can go up to +3 if you spend about x10 more money for each increment.

Spells

We’ll pick this up next time in a Part 2!  I’ll discuss spells and then the actual gameplay rules, which are hidden behind everything else. And then GMing and treasure if I reach it.

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Pathfinder Second Edition!

Hey all! Real life has been getting in the way of blogging, but luckily not of gaming (at least not too much).

Paizo came out with Starfinder late last year. It looks nice, but I’m not really interested. I like hard sci-fi, I like fantasy… But the “Spelljammer” type of crossover always leaves me flat.

I’m still running my super long Pathfinder pirates campaign, Reavers on the Seas of Fate. Other than that we’ve kinda stopped playing PF and have been playing a variety of other games – one shots, a number of Powered by the Apocalypse games like Dungeon World and Masks, and now a campaign of Unknown Armies second edition.

But then out of the blue, news of a second edition of Pathfinder! They’re dumping info now on paizo.com and a playtest version of 2e will be available for free in PDF on August 2. Or, you can buy it in book form! We played a whole campaign using the original Pathfinder beta playtest, so that should sell well I bet.

So am I into it?

Some random thoughts.

Well, most of the changes they’re mentioning are good. A couple of the ideas don’t seem well baked (“resonance” to power your magic items? Lame and gamey. Goblins as a core PC race? Ridiculous, given the flavor of Golarion goblins.) but in general I will bet it’s a better Pathfinder in the end. They are smart, they are playtesting, many of the changes promise to reduce complexity…

I didn’t care about extreme 3.5e compatibility with PF 1.0 and I don’t care now. On the Know Direction podcast, Erik Mona was talking about the new version and said that it’s not about slavish devotion to a ruleset, it’s about being able to tell the kinds of stories we want to tell with D&D (something D&D 4e scuttled hard). And while some of the more autistic Pathfinder people can’t understand or accept “winging it” (some of the host comments on that podcast really made me wince), I’ve run previous edition adventures with PF just fine even if they’re not 3e. It’s not hard. Rules compatibility isn’t important, storytelling compatibility is, I’m totally with Mona on this.

I own nearly every single Pathfinder product – I’ve been a subscriber to all the lines except like minis and trinkets since the beginning – every AP, every campaign setting and player book – just not like special editions and cards and whatnot. But I don’t mind my investment taking a hit, the campaign setting stuff is the best and it’ll all be usable.

But am I excited? I don’t know. Erik clearly says it’s still going to have the complex rules detail PF does now. And as I get older, my patience for the OCD min-maxing crowd goes nowhere but down. I don’t mind having more character options per se (Paizo’s classes are all brilliant, unlike the muddled mess of 3e’s Complete series…). And I can get being an “Advanced” Dungeons & Dragons – in a way, 5e is the Basic and Pathfinder is the Advanced, in old D&D terms. But… It’s just so God damned fiddly. And then that attracts the fiddlers, and then they cater to that more and more in their products. I played Pathfinder Society once… Once. No one gave a single crap about roleplaying or story, it was all a tactical exercise in optimized combat. I mean,even RPGA organized play events came off better (Living City in D&D 2e, Living Greyhawk in D&D 3e).

It’s definitely time for it. I was just about to cancel my Player’s Companion subscription – I held on for a long time but now it’s like “I need another dozen random feats why?” +2 to something, whoop de fucking do. So it’s possible to recapture my attention. I mean, I am still running a PF campaign.

So, I’ll definitely check out the playtest. As for whether I’ll then play it… I don’t know. Like, I like D&D 5e, I think it’s better than 4e by 100% and probably better than 3.5e. But I’m not playing it, because it’s still complex and time consuming. “Ooo look at me take my 5 actions in my turn.” And PF is doing some of the same things in 2.0 – 3 actions instead of 2 per round. Bah. 1e/2e were great, you took one swing and on to the next guy and then your turn came back around in less than 30 minutes.

In general I’m buying Pathfinder for the great adventure paths, interesting class and monster ideas, and the great campaign setting and its lore. I read the comics and the books (which I guess have stopped? I subscribe to Pathfinder Tales but haven’t gotten one in quite a while). But Moar Powerz and more minigames are not interesting to me. And I don’t know if that’s really the majority of their customer base, or just the ones that then spend their time spamming their message board all day, but they seem to think the money lies that way.

TL;DR – I’m ambivalent. I think it’ll be better, and I’ll definitely check it out. Can they re-fire my desire to play it? We’ll see, I’m open to it!

All Those Lovely NPCs

In a recent comment on a Reavers session summary, flyboy1986 asked:

I’ve marvelled at how each of the crew seem to have a distinct personality (besides being murder-hobos). How do you keep track of everything??

Great question.  Thanks for noticing and I’m glad it comes through!  One of the things that I believe is the most important in an immersive RPG campaign is putting effort into well realized NPCs and bringing them to life.  I would venture to say it’s near impossible to put too much work into that aspect of a campaign.  In our Reavers game, besides the usual crop of villains and lovers and whatnot, they have a crew of over 60 people on their pirate ship.

Some people would have you “abstract that out.” Those people suck. Think about well done movies/TV shows.  They have even minor characters be memorable – even people you don’t hear their names.  To take a naval example, movies like Pirates of the Caribbean or Master and Commander, you feel like you recognize and know a little bit about random ship crew – there’s the ones that get more play than others (the two guys who were soldiers and became pirates in Pirates, the old Hold Fast guy in Master) but the more you see some random swab and remember them and think “oh yeah that’s the flute playing guy” the more realistic a world you get.  And realism of your game world is the table stakes for player investment in the world and NPCs.

Now, I don’t rely on tooling for much of it – here’s the actual documented list of crew on the Teeth of Araska:

Crew

PCs and Command Crew

  1. Captain Sindawe H’kilata Narr, the fist-punchin’ Mwangi monk (Chris).
  2. Quartermaster Ref “Serpent” Jorensen, the staff-bashin’ Ulfen druid/ranger and his snake Saluthra (Paul).
  3. Master Gunner Wogan, the pistol-packin’ celibate cleric of Gozreh (Patrick).
  4. Bosun Tommy Blacktoes, the staff-slingin’ sneaky halfling rogue (was Kevin, now an NPC).
  5. Ship’s Wizard Samaritha, the wand-blastin’ serpentfolk wizard in the guise of a pretty half-elf; Serpent’s wife.
  6. Ship’s Surgeon Hatshepsut, monk and high priestess of a lost civilization and her cobra Naja.
  7. Lavender Lil, a buxom tiefling ex-prostitute, and Tommy’s girlfriend.

Araska Pirates (all have gunnery, a silver plated weapon, and a clw potion)

  1. Gunner’s Mate Stoke, Ftr3, gunner’s mate, married to Tegan, breastplate +1, potion alter self, heavy mace +1
  2. Carpenter Tanned Hank – Ftr3, really, really tanned. Swim skill. Ship’s masterwork spear, breastplate +1
  3. Second Mate Tasty Mike, Ftr3, former Chelish navy, studded leather +1, +1 heavy mace
  4. First Mate Big Mike, Ftr3, from Sargava, part owner of the Vile Fish, studded leather +1, +1 shortsword.
  5. Third Mate Klangin – Ex-Chelish prisoner, half-orc rog4/barb4, some magic
  6. Coxswain Gareb – Ftr3, Andoren, swim skill, ship’s long bow, ring of swimming, cloak of resistance +1, horn of fog
  7. Orgon – Ftr3, short, bald , battleaxe +1
  8. Slasher Jim – Ftr3, knife expert. Azlanti amulet of natural armor +1, trident +1
  9. Dum-dum – Ftr3, simpleton + masterwork wooden shield, shock net

Freedmen (Ex-Chelish slaves) – leather and long spear if not otherwise noted, one silver plated weapon

  1. Bel, ex-eunuch slave – War3, masterwork chain, silver heavy mace
  2. Pirro, porter – Com3, charged spear, mwk heavy shield, potion darkvision
  3. Ori, cook – Com3, ring of protection +1
  4. Sevgi, ex-harem slave – War3, studded leather, cloak resistance +1, +1 longsword, belt incredible dex +2
  5. Kahina, ex-household slave – Rog2, amulet natural armor +1
  6. Karomander, fine craftsman – Exp3

Bunyip Crew (gunners have 1 less rank in Stealth; all have 1d6 SA, 2d6 if flanking with each other)

  1. Billy Breadbasket – Rog1/War2, cook, gay
  2. Feissian Hareskinner – Rog1/War2
  3. Dario – Rog1/War2
  4. Samuel – Rog1/War2, hand axe +1
  5. Taunya – Rog1/War2, master gunner
  6. Clubbreaker Cordell – Rog1/War2
  7. “Sexy Beast” Sapier – Rog1/War2, master gunner, belt giant strength +2
  8. Tiberiu – Rog1/War2, belt giant strength +2
  9. Hovax Littlehands – Rog1/War2
  10. Prand – Rog1/War2

Wandering Dagger Crew (War2 Str +1 Dex +1 Con +1 Prof (sail) +5, Toughness, Power Attack/various AC 14 HP 20 BAB +3  Melee +4 Dmg 1d8+1) mwk flail + mwk wood shield

  1. Thalios Dondrel, son of Mordekai (was first mate)
  2. Blacktop Bill (was quartermaster)
  3. Crazy Jake (was master gunner)
  4. Courtland Breeden
  5. Eamon
  6. Stormy Sherman (allegedly her real name)
  7. Wekk the Cloven – Shoanti

Recruits

  1. Mitabu, the keel-breakin’ Mwangi rogue
  2. Zoamai, the elf-hatin’ half-Mwangi, half-elf sorceress, headband of mental prowess
  3. Olgvik – Bar2/Rog1, Ulfen low-level barbarian with a greataxe, captured at sea, potion expeditious retreat
  4. JJ – seamunculus of a wizard refugee from the Sun Temple Colony
  5. Claxton, Exp3 from the Sun Temple Colony
  6. Nemo – Shipmate
  7. Melella – half-elf druid 1 from Magnimar, druid’s vestment, treant seeds
  8. Rucia – fledgling Desnan ex-waitress from Nidal, cleric 1
  9. Arsonee – a heavily scarred Nidalese fisherwoman
  10. Luca Caletti – Ex-Chelish marine with a black powder sniping rifle
  11. Brancis – Ex-Chelish prisoner
  12. Phamas Harcey – Ex-Chelish prisoner, high profession(sailor)
  13. Aelia – aasimar bedwarmer for Big Mike
  14. Flavia – aasimar bedwarmer for Gareb
  15. Volcatia – aasimar bedwarmer for Little Mike
  16. Said – Rahadoumi cabin boy
  17. Narbus “Lefty” Smeet – Exp2/War1, lad from the Sun Temple Colony
  18. Kutaamo – tengu Rog3
  19. Mandohu – lizardfolk warrior, hat of disguise, ring of feather falling
  20. Chidike – Mwangi ex-slave off the Boastful Shaman
  21. Kunto – Mwangi ex-slave off the Boastful Shaman

Passengers

  1. Marr Eiderson – Ulfen skald (bard).

That’s it. 61 people (including the PCs).  A hefty challenge – but heck, I need to push my own abilities while GMing to get better!

Thalios Dondrel

Thalios Dondrel, Son of Mordekai

Of course all 61 of them didn’t just airdrop in one day. This campaign’s 6 years in. So what I do is, when they’re introduced, try to make sure and include something interesting about each one.  The first crewman they ever met was Thalios Dondrel, son of Mordekai, and besides his name he was butt naked on a ghost ship when they met him, and he speaks in a super-piratey accent all the time. When they met him again much later, they remembered him.

The ex-Chelaxian slaves they rescued, settled on an island, and later went back to recruit as pirates – there was an illustration in the module of Bel, Pirro, and Sevgi. Bel was bald and heavy so I decided he was a eunuch, and he and Sevgi had this weird relationship that then made him really want to go to Druid Witch Regeneration Island to get his gear regrown.  Having actual goals other than “serve the PCs” adds realism and thus

Kahina, Bel, and Pirro

Sevgi, Bel, and Pirro

remembrance. Pirro was human but the PCs kept thinking he was half elf from his picture. Some people say “always go with what the PCs say!” but you have to mix it up – often it’s great to grab onto something the PCs say and add it to the NPC, but in this case I contravened that by saying “nope, human!” so they decided he was pretty metrosexual.

Mix it up.  There’s a handful of crew I use voices for (I don’t use voices for everyone, but JJ the perverted seamunculus gets a Gilbert Gottfried voice), a handful I use body language for (Lavender Lil most notably), others with specific habits (like Slasher Jim the serial killer or Stoke who is kinda deaf and talks loud). Some I’ve got a good picture for that I use, too – just Google it up, or rip pics from gaming PDFs (or even take cell phone pics from print ones). There’s Big Mike and Little Mike, whose names and dynamic I stole from two old gaming buddies I had in Memphis.  A NPC from Nidal has different flavor from a NPC from the Sun Temple Colony in sunken Azlant, or an ex-Chelish military recruit, or an escaped slave. Remember that different players remember things differently – they may be a more visual person or may like Cheliax a lot or whatever, so they’ll glom onto some things another player doesn’t.

And then there’s just incidents of luck.  I roll randomly when they’re in port to see what good and bad things happen, and once one guy gets robbed by a bunch of hookers that becomes part of his character. There’ll be a fight at sea on the ship and I’ll roll some dice and determine that Tanned Hank rushes a monster while others are hanging back, and suddenly the PCs are like “that guy’s crazy, which normally would be good but he’s our only carpenter so we really need to manage protecting him better…”

Then once there’s anything memorable about a character – you double down on it.  Whenever that NPC is involved in something – maybe it has to do with that.  Oh that pirate’s a junkie, so if some random encounter happens to her it is while she’s trying to buy drugs.  A little reinforcement goes a long way. Wogan accidentally said something to Klangin the orc when they found her, so now she’s continually pursuing him romantically (as is the meek Desnan, Rucia), so the chaste cleric is in a weird love triangle.  It makes the NPCs vivid to him and the rest of the PCs (since egging them on has a lot of entertainment value).  I try to never say “a crewman says X.”  It’s always someone specific. I roll 1d61 (computers, it’s easy) and when it tells me Dum-Dum is the crewman on watch, and then I roll a Perception check to notice another ship and he botches it, the PCs are like “Well… He isn’t the brightest, I mean, it’s right there in his name, you can’t really blame him that much.” In the real world, people start interpreting input to reinforce preexisting assumptions they have about people.  This is problematic in the real world but it’s your friend as a GM.

You’ll notice I don’t have much of that written down in the crew list.  It’s in session summaries, but in general when done right people just remember. If it has to be written down, it’s already unsuccessful.

Sometimes I wish I had a more rich relationship mapping tool, and have considered a bit more of a morale/mutiny kind of system – but more tracking or mechanics isn’t strictly needed.  I’ll have one of the PCs make a Diplomacy check if I think the crew’s opinion is at stake over something to see how they take it.

And besides that – just give NPCs some initiative.  I mean, I’ve played in so many games where all the NPCs just sit there like it’s World of fucking Warcraft waiting for PCs to ‘activate’ them.  My PCs know if they leave their pirates around for too long unsupervised they’re going to definitely try to steal, snort, screw, or deface something.  They’re pirates!!!  And they get ideas of their own. Like when they were on Firewatch Island and went on shore considering looting the local monastery.  The PCs found out about zombie attacks and called a boat over from the ship, with a monk in attendance.  They told the crewmen “tonight, there may be a zombie attack…” in kind of a weird leading way.  So the pirates decided that was their captain trying to subtly communicate to them, and rowed back that evening dressed and made up like zombies to “attack the monastery.”  The PCs weren’t sure whether to crack up, be upset, or be impressed with their plan.  NPCs run off, they get married, they drown in a ditch when drunk. They’ve got their own agendas and ideas, they’re racist against elves or are kinda OCD about stuff or are always talking about the inn they’ll buy when they retire rich.  Just take some random thing that comes to mind from a real person or a book/TV/movie character or whatnot from the last week and stick it onto an NPC and watch it grow.

And it pays off.  A number of times they’ve had some random crew member – and not one of the main ones – get into a fix to where I kinda assume they’ll just sail on and let them rot in jail or be kidnapped by a rich pervert or whatever.  But they absolutely don’t, and go out of their way and to great expense and/or danger to rescue them, even if it’s objectively deserved and/or their fault. They’ve invested thousands of gold in magic items into their crew. They trust some, distrust others, enjoy the company of some, not so much of others…  All of the ingredients required to be realistic and memorable.

 

Weather Generation For Golarion

The topic of weather generation is popular among sim GMs.  The answers boil down to either random tables or using an almanac to find relevant weather from a place/time similar to the campaign’s.

Since I run a naval campaign, specific temperature, wind, etc. is an important part of the game to me and my PCs. I was using a random table method (using tables cobbled together from several sources because no one source has tables that are complete and don’t suck) – but I think I have a new plan along the almanac method line!

Enter VentuSky. Frickin beautiful isn’t it?  An animated map of temperature, wind, etc. for every hour of every day. Wind… Waves… All the info you’d ever want.  And on Golarion most areas are “Earth-like” – my PCs are sailing down the coast of Garund, which can be easily mapped one-to-one with the African coast. In fact, use this very cool interactive Golarion map to set up equivalencies!

The only problem it’s a short window forecast instead of all historical data, so you’re kinda stuck to same time-of-year as current IRL, but I thought I’d share it anyway! I emailed them to see what the chance was of getting historical data in there as well… I’ll update you!

More One Shots!

Well, we’ve been doing one shots this whole year since Wrath of the Righteous wrapped up.  In February I reported on the first few in One Shots!  Since then we’ve played (I may be missing some):

The Gaean Reach, by Bruce.  A GUMSHOE game based on the writings of Jack Vance – yes, of course it’s authored by Robin Laws.  I missed this one, sadly.

Firefly, run by Paul.  I got to play Kaylee!  Trad system, but fun.

Monster of the Week, run by me. Another Powered by the Apocalypse game, went down well. Meant to be like Supernatural or X-Files or whatnot – you know, monster of the week!

Lasers and Feelings, run by Paul. A free one-page game where basically you have two stats, Lasers and Feelings, and they both add up to 6 so one goes up at the expense of the other. Fun, but very freeform.

Fiasco, run by me.  An interesting very narrative game where it’s more about building the story than looking out for “your” character. We did the wild west playset thing and everyone ended up sad and/or dead.

Nain for Reign, run by Tim. Reign is Greg Stolze’s current One Roll Engine game, and Nain is a Gormenghasty setting for it. We enjoyed this too.

Paranoia, run by Paul.  Who doesn’t love Paranoia!?!  I’m hazy what rules we used for this, or if we just used one of the random light systems we’ve been using for many of these one-shots.  In fact, I think maybe it was Cypher System.  Yes, yes it was. Good times.

Alternity Dark*Matter, run by me. We played a big Alternity campaign so everyone knew the system already.  I ran the demo adventure “Exit 23” and murdered nearly all the PCs.

Shadowrun using the Cypher System, run by Paul.  Everyone likes the idea of Shadowrun, no one in their right mind wants to bite off its huge rules system. (Even they have realized this and just rolled out some more rules-light engine for it.) So we did it with the Cypher System from Numenera et al, and it worked out well.  I’m mildly concerned whether that scales to a campaign just because of the “one-shot” nature of the cyphers… Shadowrun is usually aggressively sim.

ICONS, run by me. Random superheroes! The heroes did quite well in beating a time-travelling enemy, Tempus Khan, from  the RetConQuest adventure.

Gods of the Fall, run by Paul. More Cypher System, I missed this one.

Demon: The Descent, run by Tim. Some World of Darkness 2.0.  We had fun demoning it up, but as with all WoD games it’s more like superhero combat.

Unknown Armies, run by Paul – the third edition that we Kickstarted and got an early version of! Always fun, and we all had some magick. We got to play New Inquisition agents mainly because I love the Lawyers, Guns, and Money supplement for 1e so much.

Only War, run by me.  The Warhammer 40k Imperial Guard game!  I used a Free RPG Day quickstart adventure.  We ran out of time at the end and they got killed by Naval orbital barrage, which everyone agreed seemed fitting.  IN THE GRIM DARKNESS OF THE FAR FUTURE THERE IS ONLY WAR.

Savage Rifts, run by Paul . OK, some people manage to bother with the real Shadowrun system, but RIFTS?  Good lord. Luckily, there’s now a Savage Worlds version and I’m happy to report it’s very playable!  We had a glitterboy, a juicer, a cyborg, and a mystic knight and we romped on our opponents (the juicer died of generally being a juicer, but not till the end).

Paul kept trying to run Dramasystem but never got enough people to show (I missed once but not because I was avoiding it).  So, we didn’t get hands on that, but we got to mess with a lot of the cool new systems – Cypher System and Powered by the Apocalypse were the favorites.

We talked and said maybe we should get back to a campaign soon.  So after a 5e one-shot, Paul said he’d be interested in running:

  • Shadowrun using the Cypher System
  • Savage RIFTS
  • Dungeon World, using a Paizo AP

After some talking, the “Paizo AP” part swung us over to Dungeon World.  Pauls ent out a SurveyMonkey to vote on which AP and results will be in soon. We’re interested in how it’ll play out without the “level 10+ turns to shit” syndrome of using Pathfinder itself, and how we’ll balance being player driven with having an AP plot around. Feel free and share, if you’ve done so!

Geek Recreation Day: Boozin’ and Streamin’

man_high_castle_tv_series_mapIn a somewhat-of-a-stretch Beastie Boys homage, I thought I’d bring you all a geeky report on the televisual marathon some of our gaming group just had…

  1. The last episode of the first season of Man In The High Castle, the “the Axis won” Amazon alternate history series based, as is everything else, on a Philip K. Dick story. The series is pretty good, we want season 2 to come out!  The finale was – well, not quite as murderfesty as the end of a Mario Puzo novel, but still reasonably dramatic. For this, we drank two Apple Brandy Spritzers (pronounce it really German-ey! Apple brandy and club soda.).  Last time we watched this series we went to the liquor store trying to find German and Japanese booze, and it was an eye opening experience, because they don’t have any that’s any good.  (Beer and sake don’t count). We’re not frat boys so we’re not drinking Jagermeister or Goldschlager, so some questionable German brandies and some sake were all we could muster from our friendly Twin Liquors.  Even in the show the Nazis drink “American brand whiskey.”  Perhaps their lack of decent distilled spirits was the bond that brought the Axis together (same deal with the Italians – Galliano?  Campari?  They all taste like ass juice.). The powers of gin, vodka, and whiskey came together to tamp their evil asses back into place. Let that be a lesson to you.
  2. Next, a shot of Patron Roca tequila and the pilot of the Amazon series of The Tick.  A lot higher budget and more actioney than the previous ill-fated Patrick Warburton live action adaptation.  Not quite as cool as the cartoon version – the actor for the Tick only 80% sold me on it. He was saying the quotes, but saying them and not feeling them. I’d like to see a full season, but with some Tick improvement.
  3. Then, some Courvosier and the Amazon pilot of Jean Claude Van Johnson, a weird show where JC Van Damme plays himself, but himself as kinda retired and washed up, both from movies and from being an actual black ops agent called “Johnson.” He gets back into both chasing an old flame, to mixed results.  It was entertaining enough but it was a very odd tone – and I don’t think that tone would be sustainable over a series, I think it would inevitably go goofy serial Burn Notice or something, so I don’t think it is a go.
  4. We decided to graduate to movies.  The Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse was entertaining since I was a Boy Scout in my youth, and zombies, and just enough boobs for an R rating.  Champ from Anchorman is the scout leader and the ginger from Workaholics is the first zombie kill, and Cloris Leachman is the crazy cat lady. That’s it for people you’ll recognize. Not quite Shaun of the Dead, but not Zombeavers or Zombie Strippers bad.  For this, more tequila, now sipping not shooting.
  5. Next up was The Sasquatch Gang.  Like Napoleon Dynamite but not as good, but vaguely entertaining. We had to turn on the closed captions since the blond shirtless guy mumbles the whole way through Boomhauer-style and the chick gets her jaw wired shut and then hiss-mumbles the rest of the way through. It has the kid from Live Free Or Die Hard and a bunch of other people you don’t know except for a cameo by Napoleon Dynamite. (The similarity to N.D. is neither accidental nor subtle.)  It’s about finding Sasquatch tracks and some small town geeks who do the foam-sword thing and Carl Weathers shows up in a cameo as some glory-chasing cryptozoological expert. For this we had to break out a custom drink I call the Krusty the Klown – it’s Southern Comfort and cherry juice.  Tastes like cherry cough syrup.
  6. And finally, P-51 Dragon Fighter.  This is a goofy made-for-SyFy type movie where Allied pilots in North Africa fight the newest Nazi weapon, dragons, complete with swastikas tattooed on their wings. By the guy who did Jack the Giant Killer and Sand Sharks (man, Sand Sharks sucked).  This was weirdly uneven.  Some of the acting was really good. The sound work was pathetically awful.  We had to turn off the closed captioning nonetheless since it lagged the movie by a full minute. The CGI was halfway decent.  But the costuming budget was approximately $200 total.  They managed to cobble together one halfway decent Nazi uniform and had sadly blank ones on the two other high ranking Nazis; none of the Allies wore anything other than a tan shirt as best as I can remember. Those who had to drive couldn’t drink for this one; luckily it was at my place so more Krusty the Klowns sufficed till the SoCo was gone.

All went according to plan – as we got more drinks in us, worse and worse movies were entertaining and not trying!  I am not sure any of those three movies are watchable fully sober, and I know the latter two certainly are not.  I feel like I’m not remembering some other drink we had, we did something else sippy with ice early on, but I fear the other 8 or so drinks have elided it from memory. This is over like 8 hours though, so it’s not like we were ultra-snockered. Some ice water and cheesesteaks were involved partway through as well.