Monday, April 28, 2014

Local Moron Puts On Airs, Goes To Symphony.

General observations about seeing John Williams conduct the Oregon Symphony tonight:

  • It is impossible to avoid mentally superimposing The Crawl above an orchestra playing the Star Wars theme.
  • John Williams anecdotally refers to Yoda as “The elder wizard character from the second film”.
  • The theme from Close Encounters is badass.
  • The moment when the Eliot’s bicycles takes flight in E.T. is so emotionally tied to the score that hearing it live sans picture actually had the same effect as when I saw that scene in the theater at age 7.
  • Don’t worry about not seeing Indiana Jones listed in the program. There will be an encore.
  • John Williams is not the sort of Maestro who is afraid to follow the Indiana Jones encore with the theme from the NBC Nightly News.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Save vs. Chris Perkins' Wig

The Wig of Perkins is a new magic item compatible with the World's Most Popular Role Playing Game. It confers the following abilities:

+15 skill bonus to Exposition

+5 to resist any player's attempt to control their own character

Once per day, the Wig can create a distraction to convince a humanoid subject that the 5e rules will be ready by GenCon. No saving throw is allowed.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Dungeonpunk, and Why Rat Queens is the Most D&D Thing Around

Sometime in the mid-2000s, I started seeing the term “Dungeonpunk” being thrown around online to describe some of the art style of 3rd edition D&D. It seemed to be used to denote “adventurers dressed in spikey leather fetish bits carrying potion bandoleers” as often as it was meant to say “I miss the old art and therefore this is terrible

I’m not going to debate that it’s terrible (much of it was), and I’m not going to rant about the fact that adding the –punk suffix to a noun and calling it a thing is about as punk as the one thousand t-shirt variants of the Black Flag logo that have been bombarding us the last few years (seriously graphics peeps: the Black Flag bars are the new Keep Calm And ______ of tired-ass design jokes).

So, Dungeonpunk. Sounds pretty dumb. In what sort of world would such a thing exist? I suppose Dungeonpunk would become a thing when the Youth get sick of kicking around bumfuck Hommlet and start sneaking off to house parties in Nulb. Checking out dungeons is what amounts to Teenage Kicks in Fantasyland. Like drugs and skateboarding and listening to Slayer, you get into it because it pisses old people off. When all medieval parents want is for their kids to take over the family Serf-ing business, any imaginative teen is going to sneak out of the house, dressed in the leather or wizardly robes that symbolize their rebellion, and hit up the Caves of Chaos for a good time.

By that metric, my game world is pretty dungeonpunk. See, when my players talk about what being an adventurer means, I always say it lies somewhere between being a professional athlete and a rock star. It manages to look glamorous while serving almost no actual function in society. At early levels you’re on the road, sleeping on floors, scraping up whatever gold and experience you can get your hands on. At mid levels, you have fans (and haters) in every town. Kids hang posters with the name of your crew on the walls of their hovels. You might even find a groupie willing to carry your lantern. And at high levels it’s all armor endorsements and a signature line of potions and a fancy home with an entourage.

The Adventurer takes a chance because dying in battle in some ooze-infested shithole still beats the relative-but-guaranteed comfort of gongfarming. They’d rather run away from home and wander the countryside as desperate heroes, dressed like an asshole, killing monsters and busting slave rings, because stuff like that will get you laid.

The Image comic RatQueens captures this philosophy beautifully. The only epic quest the Rat Queens are on is to PARTY BALLZ, which occasionally means killing a troll or casting Evard's Black Tentacles or defending a city from attack. And all that leads to a story, in the same way that rolling on a carousing table can sometimes turn into a great, memorable gaming session. In spirit, humor, and dialogue, Rat Queens is the closest thing I’ve found to what playing D&D is actually like at the table.

I mean, sure: the DM spends all this time building his world and adding arbitrary apostrophes to all the names and making it all cool and dark and perfect, but the moment the PCs finally meet the arch-villain Y’oth the Devil Binder, the party wizard yells “I'ma cast Magic Missile at his nuts!” and it's dumb and funny and everyone cracks up. And that moment is really good, because it took all of you to make it happen, and that’s why you play.

(belated) Scene Report: International Table Top Day

Guardian Games, April 5th 2014

It’s been about two weeks since I sat in on +Jobe Bittman’s playtest for his next DCC RPG module. I had a great time bumbling my way around as the urchin wizard Fantastic Frank, and will be looking forward to running the final release of the module. I’m not going to say much about a work that isn’t published yet but I think it’s okay to say that what I saw of the adventure would’ve felt right at home to both Doctor Strange and Rhialto the Marvelous.

The setting of wizardly intrigue dripped with a far out Jack Vance-meets-Bronze Age Comics atmosphere. Jobe was a great DM, rolling with our bad ideas and adapting (seemingly without effort) when those ideas took us to places that may not be fully prepped yet. In truth, the fact that I wasn’t able to tell what was a fully fleshed out area and what was just a sketch in the DMs head is a good example of Jobe’s ability to stay on his toes.

I liked his previous DCC module quite a bit and look forward to more of his output. While I found some of the early DCC releases to be atmospheric but too linear, the most recent stuff seems to be more inspired, tapping into a primal aesthetic that’s somewhere between New Wave Fantasy and that stoned hesher carving band logos into his desk during detention. Also, Fantastic Frank survived and he and his “sexy-voiced Giant Cricket familiar” are now NPCs in my home campaign.

Also, looks like Jobe announced via G+ that he'd be finishing the writing for the posthumous release of Dave Brockie's Towers Two for Lamentations. Congratulations dude. You seem like the right man for the job. 

Look for The 998th Concord of Wizards later this year, and catch Jobe on Spellburn, the only RPG podcast that uses fucking Glitter Wizard as a theme song. Probably.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Wanted: Digesto

Digesto, Carcosan Sorcerer
Armor Class 4, 6HD

Powers and Attacks:

Digesto can fire Cosmic Radiation (Spectral Color: Ulfire) from his bracers for 3D6 damage. The left bracer has 19 charges remaining, the right bracer has 6.

Bigmouth: Digesto’s chest face has infravison 60’ and the mouth has a 15’ prehensile tongue. The tongue does no damage but can attempt to grapple an enemy, and if successful will pull any human-size target toward the mouth which immediately bites for 1d6 damage. A Bitten target must make a save vs. Poison or pass out. On a critical hit, the victim is swallowed whole and Digesto immediately begins digesting them, absorbing 1d4 HP per round (adding them to his own HP total) until the victim is dead.

The round after the victim dies, Digesto barfs up an animated skeleton with 2 hit dice, which serves him until it is destroyed. 

Digesto knows the following rituals:

The Ninth Tracing of the Measureless Void
Chaining of the Formless Aspect
Transmutation of the Slime God
The Ineluctable Name

Digesto has recently escaped the planet Carcosa. His current whereabouts are unknown. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Agents of A.P.E.

The Dungeon Dozen showed up early this morning. A 20-minute browse and a handful of dice gave me a pretty cool campaign pitch. Here are the pages and I results used.

Why The Ancient Empire Fell Pg 185
I rolled a 3: “Victims of first unexpected return of the dinosaurs.” The inclusion of the word “first” denotes a kind of cyclic cataclysm. Good.

Recent Edicts From The Usurper King Pg 131
I got a 2: “Based on horrifying reports, construction to begin on new giant anti-monster walls…” DINOSAUR SIZED WALLS?

Note: I almost cheated here and took a 12 - Miss Usurper Pageant to be held, entrants chosen by public beauty inspectors, because Public Beauty Inspectors is a great hook for an adventuring group but OH WELL. It’s definitely showing up as an adventure hook at least.

Enemies of the City-state currently at large pg. 55
An 11: “Ambassador from formerly secret subterranean kingdom: walked out of talks with human leadership in disgust, publicly declared human surface hegemony officially at an end.” Pretty good opening credits sequence right there.

Planets in the vicinity of the campaign world pg 121
A 6. “Fortress world: leftover death star from some ancient space war…” Not sure what it means yet but it sounds pretty groovy.

Gonzo class/race generator pg 71
A 1, which gives me “Badgermen: the anti-hobbit, vicious and relentless fighters.” Because that’s adorable and also fuck hobbits.

Campaign Pitch-elevating Amalgammator pg 18-19
(Roll on both tables and throw the results in the moshpit)

Table A: Appendix N
A 1: “REH’s Kull: Serpent men intrigue, campaign-ending catastrophe imminent.”

Table B: Pop Culture X Factor
Aaand another 1: “William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch: Interzone, disturbing creatures spewing hallucinogenic ichor.” Rolling a literal snake eyes here was pretty awesome and tied the whole thing together.

Shake it up in a cereal box and you get Dinosaurs Attack: the Medievaling ~ A breach of etiquette during a visit from a Serpent Man dignitary kicks off a cold war between the Underworld and the surface world. Rumors of sleeper agents infected by psychic serpent venom incite paranoia. The Overlord invests every resource in a literal Iron Curtain, unaware that the threat can rise up beneath his feet at any time. Or perhaps he is already one of them? Meanwhile a secret conspiracy within the government hopes to recapture the ancient orbital super weapon left over from a previous administration, just in case the cold war heats up. And there are Badgermen.

7 die rolls and I’m ready to run this shit. In my eyes that might make The Dungeon Dozen the most useable RPG book ever. It’s definitely one of the most entertaining— it’s packed with quality art and the writing is hilarious. It’s genuinely funny, as opposed to the sad kind of goofy you frequently get stuck with when game writers try to have an “irreverent” voice or whatever.

You could do a lot worse.

Here’s a quote for the back of the campaign guide I’m already planning.

"Again the apes outreach themselves. Never satisfied with the Eden that was our gift, they look to aspirations above their station with heresies of reading and ironwork. But no more my egg brothers! The sun has set on simian supremacy. The Great Herpetoid Crusade rides, to smack down the Ape as we did in the days or our great grandlizards! No more the world of Ape! To WAR!!!!"

-Brax Bloodscale, High Ectotherm of the Herpetoid Crusade.