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Monday, 26 December 2016

Multiple HPs?

In continuation of my previous idea: what if a (d20-styled) adventurer had multiple XPs and multiple HPs, each named after different gods?

You're a Barbarian. You have X hp from god A, Y hp from god B and Z xp from goddess Z?
It seems hard to remember. Writing it down on a character sheet, however, would remove the problem.
Hmm...that raises some questions.
The god of Fighters, the goddess of Magic, the goddess of Shadows? How many gods should there be?
Do I want a god of Songs, a goddess of Fertility?
Split the god of Fighters in a god of Excelence (with his sub-aspect of Arts and sub-aspect of Crafts) and a god of Violence?

The important question, if I decide to go there, are two:
Does "gods' Vitality" apply to different body locations, making it a hit location system?
And do the NPCs get "demon HP", or can adventurers gain it by dealing with demons as well? How does it interact with the HP granted by gods?
Decisions, decisions!

Saturday, 24 December 2016

And now I almost want to write my own d20 game...almost

I'm still not sure whether I do.
But if I try my hand at it, we all know it would have a Wounds/Vitality split (and maybe Hit Locations...you know me).
In it, Vitality wouldn't be a matter of skill. Everyone has skill, including those that get disembowelled on multiple battlefields!

Vitality, however, is the semi-magical resource of imbuing your skill with magic. It happens at the will of gods and demons who enjoy watching the struggles of adventurers (and other, even more unwholesome, sorts).
Said resource is used for only one thing: to prevent deadly blows (Wound damage). It both gives them a better chance in another adventure, allows them to try more entertaining adventures, and makes sure a favourite "star adventurer" in the gods' reality show isn't going to be retired too soon.

Maybe I should try that? I could use some retroclone or with Fantasy Craft to begin with, and see how my players would react. I've got enough people in my group who dislike HP that it would be an interesting experiment if I can design a suitable character sheet that's not obviously related to the d20 system...

(The above idea was based on the fact that most people agree that if a Godbound or Exalted character has a crossbow pointed at him at point-blank range, what we can expect is him dodging to taking the attack on his chest and then disarming, knocking out or killing the attacker.
But the same people have an issue with an adventurer's HPs allowing him to do the same. Is the difference magic/divine power?)

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Which editions of D&D and related games I like most

What prompted me to write this was a forum thread on TBP. As it's my opinion, and reflects quite well my priorities, I might as well post it here, and check it back in a year or five.

1. DCC, because...well, if you haven't heard of DCC, it's got the best mechanics for S&S I've seen in quite a while (Mighty Deeds and Patrons FTW, baby!)

2. Crimson Blades, because it has the second best mechanics for S&S (I mean the Chainmail-inspired version, but whatever...summoning FTW!)

3. Low Fantasy RPG and The Nightmares Underneath, because both are great for a suitably horror-ish world, with mechanics that reflect this.

4. OD&D, because it started it all and can be great with a suitably open-minded GM (like TheWyzard was on this forum).

5. Mastercraft (the system behind Spycraft 2.0+ and Fantasy Craft), because sometimes you want to have all those modifiers on your character sheet...and because it was doing background packages before they were in vogue, and because it gave easy ways to keep the NPC stats simple even on 20th level - a major failing of 3e, if you ask me.

6. Beyond the Wall, because if you want to run Young Adult fantasy? That's the way! And if you don't want YA fantasy, it's still worth looking at the chargen, the magic system and the GMing chapter...also at the way the classes actually fit the archetypes.

7. Crypts and Things, because you can never have too much S&S rules, and it does nice things with the magic system and chargen.

8. Scarlet Heroes, because when you want a single-PC game, that's the way to go...and because it's got a kick-ass setting (Red Tide setting, which includes the best system for managing your domain across the OSR games I've seen).

9. ACKS, because the class-building and the abilities are great, and it puts more emphasis on the "endgame" (but it's behind Scarlet Heroes, because I like Red Tide's approach to domain management).

10. Five Ancient Kingdoms, because it takes inspiration from fairy tales like 1001 nights, and makes it fun to play.

11. Spellcraft and Swordplay, because its Chainmail-inspired mechanics are a thing of beauty for a world like 16th century Europe.

12. 13th Age, because the One Unique Thing, the Escalation die and the Icons are great ideas...and also because the dagger dealing more damage in the hands of a rogue than in the hands of an warrior is an approach worth keeping in mind.

13. Lamentations of the Flame Princess, because nothing screams "Gonzo" quite like it, because it's got great adventures and because it started my interest in OSR editions.

14. Empire of the Petal Throne, which was the first setting...and what a setting!

15. Flying Swordsmen, because at least trying to make d20 wuxia should count for something, regardless of what anyone thinks about it being successful, or not.

16. AD&D 2e because frankly, it starts to lose the major advantages of the TSR/OSR games without much to replace them (or not until late in the edition, AFAIK).

17. Iron Heroes, which I've never played, but has a good approach to the classes, and suggests ways to resolve some of the issues of the edition it's based on.

18. 3.5/PF, because it's so broken it hurts...and it's trying to be a balanced game.

19. 5th edition, because it's current and it's somewhat better for my style than the previous one, but in trying to be all things at once it doesn't quite succeed at most of them.

20. D&D 4th edition, because it's the best edition that was made for a style of playing that's totally unlike the one I like.

At least it's a 20-items list...though anything over 15 isn't a good number.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Unfettered or Fettered: GMing styles and modules

"Before I learned how to play and GM with gamebooks and RPGs, playing pretend was testing whether you could deal with X, and ALSO was telling a story, AND the story had to make sense - that includes not violating what I know of munitiae like sword swings and your state of mind when someone is trying to push a blade into your skull*.
When I learned gamebooks, and later RPGs, I discovered the Three-fold theories (both of them!), and suddenly the game EITHER was about what you do to deal with X, OR about telling a story, OR about respecting and exploring munitiae like sword swings or conversational tactics, or whatever.
Now I understood Unfettered GMing, also known as Lazy GMing, and I'm just running a game that explores the munitae of details, and that produces a story, and people at the table treat it as a game."
Asen R. G., your host

Ok, that was a rather clumsy way to paraphrase well-known sentence ("Before I learned martial arts, a punch was just a punch and a kick was just a kick. When I studied martial arts, a punch was no longer just a punch and a kick was no longer just a kick. Now I understand martial arts, and a punch is just a punch and a kick is just a kick." - Bruce Lee, who was in turn paraphrasing Takuan Soho, AFAICT).
Anyway...
After reading Ron Edwards's Sorcerer (the annotated edition), I noticed that he's saying the campaign when he was "just playing the NPCs, and this generated the narrative" as one of his most successful ones).
I'm doing the exact same thing "the father on Narrativism" recommends - although I consider myself a Simulationist. Then again, I've heard the same advice from mainly Gamist players.
Yeah, the divisions in the RPG hobby are mostly BS, indeed.
I had discovered the "just play the NPCs" GMing approach in, more or less, the same fashion as Ron Edwards. I was running a game; the game was set up with interesting characters from both sides of the screen. There were conflicts and alliances between them to give a pause to any Vampire chronicle.
So I just asked myself "why the hell should I prepare it in advance, if the players aren't going to do what I expect anyway - and I find it fun to catch this kind of surprise shots and return them?"
The answer was "no fucking reason in Hell", and so I ran the next session... two hours after the one that had just finished.
At the end, I had more material than I had before, because no PC ran from conflicts. The players laughed, and cried - for real, not roleplaying - and were exhilarated.
Years later, I almost got a beating when I announced ending the campaign...
But all of this was because the players knew that risking your character is fun. To the PCs, that's no doubt the analogue of playing extreme sports...but then most PCs should be extreme sports enthusiasts.

The end conclusion is, to me: You need to teach unfettered roleplaying to the players, if it doesn't come naturally to them. After that, you can be the Unfettered GM.

Most books teach you to be the Fettered GM. Take an adventure, self-made or not. Start the PCs so and so, says the adventure. X happens... After that, Y happens. After that, Z happens (and hopefully, that means you get to meet Zorro). That's how I began running games, too.
But right now, I only need a setting book and easily applicable rules. Everything else, including genre supplements? Yeah, nice, but largely unnecessary. "Just play the NPCs", and if it needed to be said, make them interesting. (Nobody is completely uninteresting in real life, either. If you didn't learn that in English classes, learn it now, and practice. Talk with a boring guy and find something that makes him non-boring).
I mean, the guy that makes your accounts might be a Combat Sambo champion (yes, I know such a guy!) The plumber next door might be an ex-convict, or just having had an interesting youth. You** probably have a hobby that's out of the ordinary for your profession - namely, roleplaying. And you're reading RPG-related blogs! In your FREE time! Seriously, do you have any idea how obscure that is to everyone else? (I guess you have an idea, indeed).
Yeah. People with no unexpected interests and skills are so rare, this makes them interesting. So, yes, it's impossible by definition to be boring.
Don't be afraid your sessions would be boring - just make them interesting.
You don't need pre-planned adventures for that. You just need to have the GMing tools internalised, too. And that means "playing the NPCs as logically as you'd play a PC".
And if your playing PCs is lacking, you should work on that.

Or maybe I should just write a module the way I imagine it should be done.

*Yes, that's for the kind of first-hand experience that I haven't asked for.
**The "you" that's reading an RPG-related blog.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Stunning Beauty Chronicles, part 3rd (WHoOG)

And there it is, we had another session.

Last time we left where the party, the head of our clan Two-Timing Cockerel (TTC) and the probably future clan head (his daughter, Yu Bijun) had summoned the fifth brother of the TTC, Bantering Peacock, to answer to our accusations of betraying the clan.
He did try to refuse. An actual peacock might have done a better job. I guess he didn't expect to be accused, and wasn't prepared.

(The GM rolled for his deceit the lowest possible result that's not a fumble. That wasn't the last time this night that the dice were showing a sense of dark and twisted humour).

TTC was quietly livid. I guess there's two kind of people he doesn't like: those who betray their family, and those that are more beautiful than him? That's purely my speculation, of course...
"So listen...those youngsters have a point..."
"But brother..."
"Shut up! As I said, they have a point...and I've got an year to live. If you can, until then, find proof of your innocence, we'll forget about this. If you can't find proof of your innocence, I'm going to expel you from the clan. And if in this year they can find proof of your guilt, I'm going to expel you and then tell Da Su Su about you. I'm going to fight her for your sake, she's going to kill me, then kill you as well. Now go. You can go as well, daughter dear."
At the end, TTC managed to find a way to die fighting an enemy with stronger kung-fu, after all.
Then he turned towards me, and gifted me with my own ghost teacher. It's the ghost of a scholar in a calligraphy brush.
"I need to give it to someone, and Yu Bijun isn't much about learning. You're my hope for a good owner of that pen. He can teach you a lot about the classics."
I bowed to him, bowed to the ghost, thanked them both profusely for giving me the opportunity, and then retired at the sign of the clanhead.
My wife later told me that he gave her permission to learn the secret clan techniques. "You seem to hate Da Su Su, and you're family."
"I think she's a crazy bitch!"
"Great! Someone will need to avenge me, after you find the proof. Study the clan's secret teachings until you can do that! And someone will need to help Yu Bijun in dealing with the clan...I count on you and your husband for that."
TTC has really thought it through.

Later, we met and spoke. Deciding that we need to find one of the two letters he had prepared for Da Su Su, and compare with his writing, I went to the clan's archives and confiscated two letters written by Bantering Peacock.
Then I went to find the place the fence had lived with other losers. I gave away several spades, and received access to his place, and their help in searching the room. We found a letter under a floorboard.
"Give that letter to an agent of the bitch. She'll reward you."
Well, as we know, her agent had actually killed him (because "he seemed shifty"), but Bantering Peacock had already achieved what he was trying to.
Then I went home, and summoned the pen-ghost.
"I'm honoured to be in your presence...but before we begin the studies, can we try some real practice? Can you tell me whether these three have been written by the same person?"
After a short study, the answer was:
"I'd say they are, though he tried to change his writing in this one."
Bantering Peacock, I concluded, was only marginally smarter than Da Su Su. That was enough for her, but she had actually hired us...and that sealed his demise.
So we went back to TCC, and I prepared a report with uncle Bantering Peacock's transgression.
I also wrote a date...two days before TCC's 46th birthday, since he needs to be dead by then. Almost a year from now, and he can enjoy it, knowing he's going to have his "beautiful death": killed by a worthy opponent that's NOT a family member.
(Readers of the whole saga would know why).

That done, we tried to second-guess what has happened 15 years ago, with TTC's help. My wife posited that whoever has killed their master, had his sword, and tried to usurp his clan, would try to start his own school once it was clear they wouldn't succeed getting the command of the clan.
So we went to the same region where the clan has been located. We only had to scour the environs and the neighbouring provinces! No work at all, right?
I also had a back-up plan. At least one of those guys has been beautiful. I assumed he was used to, ah, female company. So, with us having a bordello, I decided to talk to other "brothers of the Green Forests"/members of LuLin (the community of the criminals - entertainers also fit there, according to the separation in Ancient China). Maybe someone had noticed a client like this?
It was worth a try...

Well, long story short, there weren't schools like the one we were looking for.
But while checking for the description of the three, a client commented: "huh, looking for the Bitch, The Con and The Stupid, aren't you?"
I presented myself as a historian (true) looking to write a book on this tragedy (I am considering this, given that I expect to know a lot by the end of my employment). He was willing to talk, once I offered to pay for the wine.
The man, in his 50ies or 60ies, said the Con (the beautiful guy) wanted the power, and persuaded the Three Stupids and his mistress to kill their master. And they were gullible enough to believe. (Much longer story, as it was told at the table). It was sad, because the master had been a righteous man...but the Con just used this to trick his other students into believing he was too weak to head the clan!
I agreed that's sad, alright...
And since then, Da Su Su, looking for her father's killers, had been involved with demons. The man claimed her agents are actually zombies, like hopping dead...who marry her knowing what's going to happen, and then serve her.
Being the administrator of the Silken Robe Bordello, I was outraged. "What? We offer chicks like her for 10 spades the night!"
"Well, no, not like her..."
"Maybe not quite...but compare the price!"
"Anyway. She's rather strong due to the dealing with demons. The best advice is to not fight her!"
"Too late for me."
He was impressed. I told it as it was - I'd cracked her a rib or two, and then reasoned with her.
"You reasoned with her? That's impressive! A hard-headed one, she is..."
"The cracked rib helped, I think...but the arguments helped even more!"
Anyway, the man was getting more and more melancholic. He even asked me whether I believe there can be forgiveness for the five killers.
"For killing your master? That's like killing your parents. Who can forgive that?"
"Yeah, I thought so as well...", he drank again.
"And I see you're still Unkept...Lion."
The Unkept Lion, the last surviving of the Three Stupids, leaned back, suddenly much less drunk.
"Smart one. I'd advise you not to go to Da Su Su or her agents with that news."
I looked at his pitiful figure, knowing he can't kill me...not without revealing his location to Da Su Su.
"Smart? Yes. But I'm not going to go to her. I'm going to offer you a deal...I'd say to Da Su Su I've found your grave - and I know which grave to show her - and you're going to help me find the other two and the sword."
No rolls necessary. We had a deal, and I got whatever info he had.
And then I added.
"But I can't approve of your deed, Unkempt Lion! So no we'll go in the backyard of this teahouse, and I'm going to show you my best kung-fu!"
"You can't punish me more than I'm punishing myself, boy."
"Then go."
Which meant, in short, that he had to keep me alive in this fight. I was under no such obligation.
Of course, he was almost as good as TTC, who's almost as good as Da Su Su herself. There are many steps towards the top of the mountain called "Martial Arts Mastery", and I had barely begun my ascent.
In practical terms, he stunned me at the very start, but waited for me to recover. I'd have stopped at this point, normally, but this wasn't a fight. It was punishment for his sins - before I could forgive him...or at least, forgive him enough to work with him.
And the punishment was to last as long as I could go.
Still, it was a chivalrous thing for him to do.
Granted, all I could do is crack some of his ribs, using some of my magic, and then stress them by locking his hand with Qin Na, which then allowed me to throw him on the ground, hard.
My Iron Body proved inadequate against his hits, which showed much higher mastery - as well as against his throws. Though I must note that his Techniques were just as useless against my attacks. He was just able to take my punishment and keep going.
I used the same combination of techniques as against Da Su Su, followed by a Total Success on Grapple. Overall, I delivered 4 Wounds before being taken out.
He brought me to my room, where I began my meditation. I had used every single technique in "overdrive mode", and I was hurting...
It was punishment for me as much as for him. For deciding to work with him, because he made me pity him, and because I felt he was punishing himself enough.

For those unfamiliar with WHoOG system, I'll translate it in D&D terms: I am 1st level still. He's about 8th or 9th, or whatever level you need before going on to fight demons and stuff as an equal.
I didn't stand a chance to win, but in WHoOG you can decide not to kill an enemy you defeat, by pulling your last blow...which he did with me.

Which means that I needed a couple hours of meditation to recover, and then to meditate until I go to sleep. Which I did.
IC, my wife approved strongly of the deal I had struck with the drunk guy, and showed her appreciation in ways that aren't to disclose outside the family bedroom. So this description ends here.
But he told me that the Con, who had been beautiful enough for our sect once, was no longer anything like this. It seems Da Su Su had scarred his face (and then forgot to mention it - I told you she's stupid, right?) He had even seen him, lately, in another inn. The Con had tried to start a school...but it didn't work, for some reason.
He also believed that the Bitch, as he kept calling her (he means the former lover of The Con, not Da Su Su), was probably keeping in touch with the woman that had married a magistrate, and was masquerading as her. (Da Su Su's agents had found her, but had realised she was a fake lead...for once). So we had two leads for our two suspects!


Next episode of "Stunning Beauty Chronicles":
We have to meet the guy we're looking for and working with him to save him! Watch us plan searching for the Scarred Beautiful Guy, his past mistress, and the sword he stole! Wonder when teaching kung-fu to the chief of my security would get me in hot water!
Expect soon, only on "Characters, Conversations and a Flashing Blade"!

A site with music for RPG sessions

Want athmosphere for your sessions? There's some guy who has organised his music by category, and so on, and you can play it from his site.
Granted, the tracks are short, but you can loop most of them, and I'd generally use them for peak moments.

http://soundimage.org/dark-ominous/
I'm planning to use it next time I run something (though at the moment I'm being a player in our WHoOG campaign and having lots of fun). But I thought you might want to know the site exists.
There are also textures you can use to...represent materials in games, or something. Not sure whether I'd use those ones, but whatever.

FWIW, I'm not affiliated with the creator of the site. Just saw it and liked what I'm hearing.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Wuxia Boxing System?

I've been thinking about the Wuxia Action System used in Weapons of the Gods and Legends of the Wulin. Well, not the system itself-but the principle of "rolling to see how many opportunities you get this round".
(You could say Mythras/RQ6/MRQ2/Legend RPG is based on it, too).
Thing is, I find that it emulates better how things actually happen in a fight...based on my (admittedly limited) experience.

And I'd like to use it for a game based around a boxing story. You know, like Rocky, Hajime no Ippo, the Raging Bull, and the like.

How would I do it?

Everything has a TN from 2 to 8.
Roll anywhere from 3 to 6 dice. Any doubles add 1 (or 2) to the number rolled, tripples add three times this. The downside, of course, is that they take up your possible actions.
Declare your intentions before rolling, if you declare 3 or more, roll one die less. One of your actions is "impede the attack", raising the TN to be hit.
Now roll, and assign whatever you rolled to one of the actions. See what happened.
Hmm, I need to work more on it.

Stunning Beauty Chronicles, part 2nd (WHoOG)

This session was short-ish and ended on a kind of cliffhanger.

Last session, we went to visit the village where agents of Da Su Su had found the letter from Yu San Lin (the late auntie whose intimate friendship with one of the killers of Da Su Su's father brought this to us).
It was a short and uneventful trip, followed by an equally short and uneventful investigation: I gave some pocket money to kids. They brought us to a widow who was giving rooms. She gave us rooms and lodging for something like 12 spades - I was generous, yes.
Then I left her to my wife's devices, and retired for an afternoon sleep. When I reappeared, she knew everything she needed, and was livid with anger about us travelling here. A fake trace like any other, and faker than most.
I went to speak with the local kids (who earned more spades than their parents this day). My wife went to visit the ruins of the house of Yu San Lin's relatives (she had married into the Yu clan).
What we were able to establish:
-No foreigners other than the usual traders had visited the village for almost 10 months. Da Su Su's "agent" had "acquired" the letter less than a month ago. Even before that, no martial artists apart from soldiers marching with the regular army...
Conclusion: this letter wasn't found where they thought it was found.
-The relatives of Yu San Lin had all perished in a fire of their house...20 years ago, almost. Da Su Su's father has been murdered, and his sword stolen (the sword she suspected us having, because of Yu San Lin!) merely 15 years ago. Yu San Lin herself had died soon after his death.
Conclusion: this letter was, in all likelihood, a fake. I suggested she has probably been lead astray because she seems exactly the kind to use torture...and people are prone to give you something in order to avoid or stop the pain.

That's when we decided to call Da Su Su by a lapdog's name. She is, in our opinion, just as stupid as lapdogs tend to be! (And we also agree that she needs to be taught a lesson).
After dinner, we went in the forest to give some training in kung-fu to the chief of our security. I had decided to make her a disciple, remember?
After that? Sex, sleep, travelling back. On the way, I wrote a report.

"Dear (lapdog name)..."
Stop! Tear that sheet. Start anew!

"Respected Da Su Su,
As your representative, I am glad to inform you of the work we have performed at your behalf.
We went to the village where the letter has been found. We established that it couldn't possibly have been found where and when your agents claimed it was:
-Yu San Lin's relatives have died in a fire years before your respectable father met his untimely demise; and
-There have been no foreigners visiting for almost 10 months approximately (refer to the schedule of manoeuvring of general Dai Xiao Fen, whose soldiers were the last to visit).
With all due respect, we'd like to meet the agent who procured the letter, and ask him some questions ourselves. It seems your agents haven't asked the right questions.
In the meantime, accept my assurances that we continue to watch over your best interests, and are looking for your father's murderers!
Yu"

Of course, when we went to meet her, she appreciated our diligence...and was kinda unhappy with the agent (one of the four silent guys in wedding dresses) who had procured the letter from a local fence. 

Only one problem: he had also killed the fence. Because he was unsure he's telling him everything.
Da Su Su: "Then why did you tell me it's a truthful information?"
Stupid Man In Wedding Dress: "I didn't! I showed you the letter, and you announced it's a trace we must follow, so we obeyed!"
And he added, quote, "you seemed so eager for new traces, and we haven't had any for a while!"

While this conversation was going on, I was scribbling notes. When it concluded, I showed them to Da Su Su.
-Your agents are incompetent when it comes to uprooting enemies. They might be good fighters, but if investigation was fighting, they'd be novices.
-Killing people that bring you information should be forbidden. If anything, they should be left alive in case it turns out to be misinformation. Even better, the questioning should be left to your hired specialists from the Yu family, i.e. me and my wife.
-Lack of patience leads to hastiness, and hastiness leads to chasing mirrages.

Then we went to check the dead fence. We actually knew the man (but his body wasn't found, so we didn't exactly know him to be dead. I should ask about the body). Thus, we knew his favourite abode.
We went there, and by the time-honoured method (read: buying drinks and giving tips) got to know who he has been talking with lately.
The list included the servants of a couple magistrates, a couple traders, and one of the Yu clan servants, the old Ye.
We went to talk with Old Ye. He had brought him two letters from the fifth brother of the head of the Yu clan - Bantering Peacock!

My wife: "I'm going to talk with uncle Two-Timing Cockerel!  (The clan's head) That letter he had brought? One of them was totally the fake, and the other, instructions what to talk!"
I decided to let her accuse him. Worst case scenario, she'd have accused him unjustly, and he would have no trouble denying it (and then I'd have arguments the next time I want her to show restraint).
Besides, her method of investigation is "accuse them, and see how they react"...seems to work so far (for her).
We got there. Two-Timing Cockerel didn't like the accusations.
"Well, he had also sent his servant to spy on us!", she reminded him (see Part 1).
"What?"
"Didn't the servant come to you?", I inquired. "I sent him with orders, and a threat..."
"Nobody came!"
As it turned out, the servant couldn't be found anywhere.
"Obvously Bantering Peacock has killed him!", she said.
Two-Timing Cockerel felt let down.
"Can't believe a family member would betray us like that...", he sighed.
"Then the right thing according to Dehua philosophy (Setting-analogue of Confucianism) is to accuse him, and let him defend himself!", I countered. "Family ties demand it. The family is strong while united, so letting it stand would achieve nothing but make us suspect him more and more, the lingering suspicion growing stronger, even if he is indeed innocent! And if he is, he deserves a chance to defend himself! Of course, if he is guilty, he deserves punishment, and the family would only be stronger for uncovering him..."
"Yes, but this...there are two kinds of death that are the worse: to be slain by an unworthy foe, or by a family member!"
"Two kinds of..." is the speech formula that has lead to him being the Two-Timing Cockerel. And he was thinking of punishment, I supposed.
"I can avoid both", I assured him. "If he is guilty, we'll just tell Da Su Su he has mislead her. She's neither an unworthy foe - her Qi was strong enough to withstand my best shot - nor a family member!"
Two-Timing Cockerel relented and summoned Bantering Peacock. And then we had to stop the session.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Stunning Beauty Chronicles (WHoOG)

It was a while since I've got to play wuxia. So I roped my wife into running it for me and a very close friend with which we can play often.
I pitched the other player the idea of both of us being from the Silken Robe society. She agreed, and so our party, named Stunning Beauty Team, was conceived.
(We also have stunning fists and kicks, and in the backstory, she'd married my character after nursing him back to health, because he was as beauiful as her. He has been the student of a travelling master, but his master ordered him to run after we were both ambushed and my character was hurt).

So now, we're running the bordello of the Silken Robe Society, named The House of Silken Robes. Most of the money is for the clan, of course. And I'm quite the good choice for director: my character has an imbalance that requires him to have regular sex...and he's studying for the Imperial Exams.
Two sessions elapsed already, and we're close to getting to 2nd Qi level (that's usually doable in 2 sessions, but our XP gains were hampered by not getting into a single fight in the first session).

The game began with a party on our workplace. It was going great until a serving maid entered, bloodied, and lost conscience. We chased towards the upper floor to find the culprits and explore the traces. My wife, being better at Qin Gong, chased them - and I surveyed.
I'd lost a working girl, a client - a magistrate, at that - and a guard (not from the clan). The assassin, which my wife didn't manage to get, had written with blood "Give The Sword Back!" (The hieroglyphe was Jian; I asked).
The chief of my secuity almost committed suicide because of the shame - she's more uptight even than me - but I managed to dissuade her. She might be good material to train in kung-fu!
On top of that, someone had attacked the clan compound, too! Well, the birds alerted the clan, and there were no casualties that mattered, but the attacker lost 3 men. They had their faces slashed repeatedly until they were unrecognizable...what do you ask, "do you know the owner of this scar tissue"?

A long session of searching for clues ensued. At the end, we knew the following:
-Someone had recently set a prize for returning a sword lost 15 years ago, when a respected master had been assassinated. That was "soon after me and my wife were born", although he'd been a friend of our clan.
-There was a rumour the jian was in our clan, due to some members being in a liaison - guess what kind, we're the Silken Robes! - with one of the killers.
-The late master's daughter, Da Su Su, has recently reappeared.

I went to the Two-Timing Cockerel - my wife is his brother's daughter - and asked him to check the veracity of the rumours. He spoke to everyone personally, because he didn't want me to lie from the name of the clan he heads, even unknowingly.
Results: everybody claimed they'd neither done one of the 5 killers (in the last 15 years or so, after the murder), nor did anyone own the sword. Who would lie to the clan's head?
And thus we were sure in our righteousness when we went to meet the daughter of the assassinated master (also known as the Relentless Corpse Queen, though we didn't know that nickname - former students of her father said she's been doing stuff they disapproved of, but I assumed they meant she'd stopped).

There was three of us, including the daughter of the Two-Timing Cockerel Yu Bijun, her niece (my wife), and my character. So, of course, we spoke with the Bijun and decided we'd open with accusations, and she could go "softer and more reasonable, given that they're youngsters" later.
Thus my opening line was great. Imagine the picture: In front of us, a blue-eyed woman of exquisite beauty, alabaster skin (Da Su Su, who doesn't grow old) and four expressionless guards - with them dressed in wedding clothes.
"Greetings, lady. Do we interrupt something?", I pointed to them. "We could come later if it's a wedding..."
Who'd expect the Silken Robes to judge someone else for marrying four men...just like our leaders?
"You interrupt nothing", she answered.
But then, it went downhill. Da Su Su didn't even deny being behind the attacks, but then showed us a letter that supposedly proved that a long-dead woman from our clan had been the lover of one of the killers (still in hiding).
The avenging daughter didn't know the woman is dead, but then claimed that she holds us responsible for it still. And she wanted us to help her locate him, or suffer the responsibility.
We, on the other hand, told her the clan leader had inquired personally and found no proof, and then asked her to pay for the damages.
Avenging Daughter took that as disagreement, and asked her to prove our innocence. After I pointed out that proving a negative assertion is pointless, she called us insolent puppies.
At the word "puppies" my wife jumped over her, kicked her in the kidneys with Kick of the Swan, and continued kicking the heads and groins of all of them. Though only one of them, and the beautiful daughter, showed having felt it.
Yes, she made all her rolls. And she didn't even suffer Imbalance from this, since she got a Total Success on the first attack.
Me? I made a couple gestures and violet-purple light enveloped my palms. I Iron Bodied away the staff strike of the sect leader, too.
All five enemies tried to smash or slash my wife, so she began dancing on their weapons (and kicked the daughter in the face in the process). Weapon Stride is a nice counter. It also saved her again after the woman with the staff tried to really hurt her...but our superior - the daughter of the clan's chief - suffered a devastating attack, despite her Drunken Dodges.
One of the men slashed me so fast my Iron Body didn't save me from the strike which would have killed a normal man. Another's Ox-Tail Dao I bumped away with my Iron Body technique. Yes, I was gearing for the Heart-Smashing Strike, if you were wondering.
I suffered two Wounds from a single Ferocious Strike with a Total Success on the attack and a Total Success on the damage roll. The motherfucker!
The daughter suffered FOUR wounds (!) from a single attack of the beautiful woman...but managed to avoid the poison part of the attack.
The next moment, I swung my hand, and smashed it in her ribs. It cracked no worse than her own staff strike. Though she didn't seem nearly as preoccupied as Yu Bijun had been!
I also dealth 4 Wounds, due to a Total Success on the damage. But Da Su Su had 10 Wounds remaining!
"Do you like it rough, dear?", I asked Da Su Su, always mindful of keeping such a beauty happy. 
At the same moment, my wife jumped up and crawled up a tree, disappearing among the leaves.
"And do you feel her stare between your shoulder blades?", I added, smiling.
"You're good for a puppy. If only you were behaving more like a professional...", she answered.
"YOU are talking to me about professionalism?", I asked. "I haven't seen any from you. We came to deal fairly and squarely with you!"
"You attacked me!"
"You had attacked us based on erroneous information, for something that's happened 15 years ago, and the perpetrator of which has been dead over a decade. Even then we were willing to negotiate - but you refused to make us a professional offer!"
"What do you want?"
"Us? We'd be willing to help you - but not for free, since we don't feel responsible. You can pay for our help, for the damage caused to our business, two lost servants included, and to our reputation - included problems with the law incured by your attack - and the wounds suffered by clan members. Then we'd help...but much as we respected your father, your vendetta doesn't interest us, in itself, not after 15 years!"
"Tell me a sum!"
I made some quick calculations and asked for, I think, 5 Gold Taels in damages, 1 silver tael per month for me, another for my wife - we'd need to hire and appoint replacements to take care of our business. While I was explaining where the money would go, she answered.
"Money is not an issue".
And Da Su Su took off one of her golden necklaces - with green jade, by the Yellow Emperor - and threw it in my feet.
"Let me know how long I've hired you for."
Then she turned and left with her silent guards. None of them had said a word.
Meanwhile, my wife spotted a man - and captured him with Qin Gong - who turned out to be a servant from our clan's compound. A personal servant of the fifth brother of the Two-Timing Cockerel, Bantering Peacock!
He claimed first being here to gather mushrooms, then (after I asked my wife whether she's in the mood to kick somebody) admitted that he's here to check whether our superior - the possible future Clan's Head - is alright.
"I am alright", she said.
I shook my head and ordered the man to present himself directly to the Two-Timing Cockerel, and repeat exactly what he said to us. I also took a flock of his hair.
"You stray from my instructions, I give that to a witch I know. You'd be lucky if your balls simply fall off and regrow on the sides of your nose!"
He seemed to have understood.

We went back, too. An hour later, I was unharmed, due to my Nei Gong, and only felt horny - but luckily, my wife kinda shared that feeling. Yu Bijun offered to join us, but my wife was sulking due to not being able to really harm the beautiful, insolent clan leader, so I declined politely (she's being her usual, too-self-confidant-for-her-own-good, self - so I knew she'd feel frustrated).
It helps when the PCs have got similar Flaws.


After we found a jeweler, it turned out the necklace was worth 22 GOLDEN Taels. That's 220 Silver, or 220 000 Strings of Spades.
We sent "gifts" to families (5 Silver Taels to the dead courtesan's family, and as much to the guard's family, 2 GOLDEN taels - 20 silver - to the dead magistrate's family) and the local magistrate (20 more Silver Taels), purchased another courtesan's contract (12 Silver Taels), paid to boost the morale of usual clients (8 Silver Taels for a few nights of debauchery on lower prices), and realised we've been hired for...75 months each, barring major expenses.
We hired three supervisors to replace us (100 Strings each, or 0,3 Silver Taels, out of the monthly sum). After that, we asked where the letter has been found. It turned out to have been hidden with some relatives of one of the culprits we had to uncover, in some village.
We hired a palanquin, took the head of the bordello security (I need to appoint another, but I've decided to teach her Kung-Fu!) and Yu Bijun - who had offered to join us on the trip...and off we went, to the village!
That's where the session ended!

Saturday, 1 October 2016

How many sub-genres are there? And are all of them even necessary?

I tried to answer one of those "pick one game for each genre" polls.

The problem was, I tried to answer honestly. So, knowing that most games that do well at representing a sub-genre actually suck at representing other sub-genres within the same genre (case in point: DCC is great for S&S, but trying to run a high fantasy campaign with it might require...dropping some rules, at least), I tried to answer by sub-genres.

Then I realised that by answering honestly, I'd created such a huge list (shown below - though I wouldn't blame you if you haven't read it) that it totally defeated the point, with the point AFAICT being "tell us which games you would return to time and time again". (If you have 50+ games, you can afford to switch between them, so even if a system starts grating at you after a while, it doesn't matter. You can just switch to something entirely different for a change, then revisit it after a significant pause.)

So I went to thinking: do we really need such a huge number of sub-genres?
Furthermore, I was thinking, different authors writing in the same sub-genre feel really different. Sometimes, their own works in entirely different genres might well feel closer than another work that shares a sub-genre.

Should I just go to my old system of "genre classification"? It only allowed for, like, 5 genres: Detectives (no matter anything else, if it's about a crime, it's listed here), Martial Arts stories (happily lumping swashbuckling and wuxia together), Fantasy (anything with magic), Historical (including present-day, as long as there's no magic), Sci-fi (anything in the future and/or speculating about advances in technology - so I used to happily lump together Asimov's "Foundation" and "Blood music"). Then I specified the "flavour" by adding the author's name.
So, Blood Music would be "Greg Bear SF", while the Foundation series would be "Isaak Asimov's SF". LotR would be "Tolkien's fantasy", while "Earthsea" would be "Ms. Ursula's fantasy", and Amber would be "Zelazni's fantasy". Always worked for me and my friends...
I'm now trying to remember why I gave up on it.

Still haven't found an answer to any of the above questions.
(If you care to know: At the end, I just shrugged and posted "I pick my own homebrew, since I can adapt it for everything". Of course I can, it's my homebrew. Switching it to emulate another system's qualities wouldn't even be a houserule - more like an update and going from edition 0,755 to 0,756...so while technically it's true, it was also a not really helpful answer.
Though, to be fair, I should have posted "Traveller 5, some other edition of Traveller, Mythras, Pocket Universe, BoL and my own homebrew" instead. Ah well, live and learn!)


The huge list that prompted my considerations:
4 colours Supers: 4 Colours. Doh!
Gritty supers: Wild Talents
Hard SF: 2300 AD
Ecologist Science Fi- Blue Planet
Space Opera: Traveller 5
Post-humanist SF: Eclipse Phase or Transhuman Space, leaning towards the latter
Cyberpunk: Cyberpunk 2020
Neo-Cyberpunk: Fates Worse Than Death with BtEoM supplement
High Fantasy: Godbound with Scarlet Heroes for the mortal level.
Romantic Fantasy: FUDGE with the HeartQuest Shoujo supplement.
OSR Dungeon Crawl: DCC, doh!
Non-OSR Dungeon Crawl: 13th Age
Victorian Gritty Fantasy: Backswords and Buckles
Fantasy Africa: Solomon Kane
Movies-inspired Swords and Sorcery: BoL, latest edition
Novels-inspired S&S: Mythras
Exalted Fantasy: I said Godbound already, let's give Ex3 a chance
Ancient World Fantasy: Mythras
Swords and Sandals: Zenobia with 43 AD and Warband (seeing as how they are variants of the same system, I treat themas supplements).
Swords and Planet: Pocket Universe, with Bethorm as a setting supplement
Gritty Novels-inspired Swashbuckling: Flashing Blades with the High Seas supplement
Funny Film-inspired Swashbuckling: Honor+Intrigue
Fencing Pirates: Le Pavilion Noir (with the fencing supplement, of course).
Anthropomorphic Fantasy: Ironclaw, with the Jadeclaw and Bone and Ivory supplements, and Usagi Yojimbo as a supplement for the Japan- analogue.
Fantasy in space: Hellas
Arthurian Fantasy: Pendragon 5.1
Mythic England:
Post Apocalyptic Fantasy: Earth Dawn 2e from FASA...the edition choice is just "because I already own it".
Mecha, Monks and Ninja: TBZ, of course.
Espionage: Night's Black Agents
Techno thrillers: Millennium's End
Steampunk: Jadepunk
High-Powered Wuxia: LotW
High-Powered Wuxia with focus on finding legendary weapons: Weapons of the Gods
Low-Powered Wuxia: Qin with all the supplements
Kungfupian, preferably generational: Tianxia
Wuxia with Xian xia: Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate
John Woo movies, with or without talking apes: Feng Shui 2
Fighting Games emulation: Fight! The Fighting Game RPG
Shonen: Fight, but with the Shonen supplement
Boxing/MMA Stories: Contenders
General Martial arts stories: My own homebrew started as a way to do this, and find it does so nicely already.
Urban Fantasy: Witchcraft
Vampires-focused UrbanFantasy: Vampire City
Summoners-focused Urban Fantasy: Sorcerer
Dragons-Focused Urban Fantasy: Fireborn
Historical games: Mythras or my own homebrew
Pulp: Savage Worlds with Thrilling Tales
Noir: A Dirty World
Whodunit Detective Stories: Fear Itself
Medieval Whodunit: Maelstrom Domesday
Heist Stories: Skulduggery RPG
Western: My own homebrew makes it equally easy to play gun duels, as presented in the fiction  (and unlike how they probably worked),or the way they probably happened
Slice-of-Life Anime emulation: OVA2e
Dimension Hopping Reality Bending Adventure: Amber
Time Travel: my own homebrew. I don't think it's good enough yet, but I can adjust it - and no game I know does a much better job, so I'd rather trust myself.
Slaughter Horror: Snuff: The Downloads of Death
Mythos Horror: toss if a coin between CoC 7 and Delta Green
Mystic Horror with Mad Wizards: Unknown Armies 3e
Fairy tales: My own homebrew or Mythras
Trade Empires in Ancient Rome: Worlds Apart
Trade Empires With Flying Ships: Volant


Yes, I know. That's a huge number of systems. That's what bothered me, too: do we really need that much?
My feeling is that the answer should be a resounding "no". But how do we change that?

Friday, 4 March 2016

Binding Books for Tekumel/Create Your Own Yozi

Here's a system-agnostic way to create your own demons for Tekumel. Because someone pointed out that The Book of Ebon Bindings only has Change demons, and not Stability demons...
And I thought of a series of interlinked random tables.


Step one: Pick Stasis/Stability or Enthropy/Change. Or toss a coin. If you have Stasis, add "a" to the number of the tables. Enthropy means you add a "b". 

Step two,optional: Do you want to decide a god in advance or not? If yes, roll on table 1. 
1a: Roll 1d10, or 2d10 pick higher/lower.
  1. Hruu
  2. Wuru
  3. Vimuhla
  4. Chiteng
  5. Ksarul
  6. Gruganu
  7. Sarku
  8. Durritlámish
  9. Dlamelish
  10. Hriháyal

1b: Roll 1d10, or 2d10 pick higher/lower.
  1. Hnalla
  2. Dra
  3. Karakan
  4. Chegarra
  5. Thumis
  6. Ketengku
  7. Belkhanu
  8. Qon
  9. Avanthe
  10. Dilinala
Or, you know...just decide whether you want a Cohort or a main god/dess, and roll 1d5 on table 1C (c for Common, it applies to both stability and change).

1-Authority and Rulership (the "boss" of the pantheon)
2-War and Violence
3-Wisdom, especially occult
4-Death and Afterlife
5-Sex and Family

Either way, if you have chosen a god or goddess already, when you'd roll the other tables, only pick results that "fit". A courtesan might not be the best option for Sarku (or at least I prefer not to imagine it).

Step 3: Pick the basics of your demon. Roll on table 2. 
2a - roll 1d24 or a 1d100
  1. Warrior (1-5)
  2. Scholar (6-10)
  3. Priest (11-13)
  4. Maiden (14-15)
  5. Slave (16)
  6. Pe Choi or other "friendly" race (17)
  7. Unfriendly race or extraterrestrial menace (18)
  8. Grazing beast (19-23)
  9. Predator (24-26)
  10. Earthly predator (27)
  11. Earthly vegetarian beast, likely horned and/or of great mass (28)
  12. Marsupial (29)
  13. Bird with great speed or strength (30-33)
  14. Bird of prey (34-38)
  15. Lizard-analogue (39-40)
  16. Frog-analogue (41-42)
  17. Invertebrate considered useful (ex: eatable mollusque, a scarab that must eat the body of the deceased in order to guarantee the ascension of the soul 43-45)
  18. Colony-based Insect (46-50)
  19. Construct, humanoid (51-54)
  20. Plant (55-60)
  21. Fungi (61-62)
  22. Animated item (63-69)
  23. Geographic location (a big boulder, a forest 70-75)
  24. Roll twice and combine (ignore this result if you roll it again, 76-100).

Table 2b. Roll 1d66 (2d6 of different colour, giving you a result between 11 and 66).
  1. Roll once more 2
  2. Roll twice more
  3. Roll 3 times more
  4. Warrior, probably berserk-like or mounted
  5. Scholar, likely mad or extremely methodic
  6. Priest
  7. Courtesan
  8. Vacchan
  9. Slave
  10. Dark-clad Assassin
  11. Non-human Tekumelian race
  12. Enraged, stampeding grazing beast
  13. Stalking predator
  14. Corpse-eating beast
  15. Bird of prey
  16. Carrion-eating bird
  17. Snake-analogue
  18. Lizard-analogue
  19. Frog-analogue
  20. Horned beast
  21. Fish
  22. Worm
  23. Other invertebrate, likely considered harmful
  24. Carnivorous plant
  25. Fungi
  26. Algae or jellyfish
  27. Spider
  28. Scorpion
  29. Poisonous or corpse-eating insect
  30. Construct, non-human looking
  31. Undead
  32. Animated item, likely not man-made: Stone, sand, diamond
  33. Incarnation of a disaster (hurricane)
  34. Animated geographic feature (forest)
  35. A hive, swarm or pack with one mind
  36. Ethereal presence
Now combine all results you got, if you have more than one, and go to the next step. 

Step 4: Roll on table 3. 
Add an elemental condition to your demon. This is a guideline-only and the "element" doesn't need to be presented! 
A Wind demon might be fully material, but flying...or it might be the wind itself (the scourging wind, for Change demons). It might be watery, or command water (salty water, for Change demons). 

Table 3a (I let it to you to guess which die to roll...or you can roll 1d100).
  1. None 1-44
  2. Light 45-52
  3. Air 53-60
  4. Water 61-68
  5. Earth 69-76
  6. Gold 77-84
  7. Steel 85-92
  8. Shadow 93-100
Table 3b. Roll 1d20 or 1d100...seriously, you don't need me to write that out!
  1. None
  2. Fire
  3. Wind
  4. Water
  5. Earth
  6. Gold
  7. Steel
  8. Brass
  9. Darkness
  10. Beast
  11. Poison
  12. Smoke
  13. Blood
  14. Acid
  15. Salts
  16. Thunder
  17. Electricity
  18. Shadow
  19. Void
  20. Flesh
Step 5:  Combine them into a narrative description that fits.

Step 6: Consider which god or goddess said demon is most likely to serve (note: a "slave" demon likely has no free will and you might want to roll on Table 1).

Step 7: Decide what said demon's goals, needs and wants, dislikes, hates and quirks are. Demons often reflect the identity of the god/dess they serve.

Step 8: Decide on a binding ritual. The type and element should help you, but it should be costly, require precision and sacrifice - or it doesn't count...
Also remember, no demon works for free. The personality should help you devise a suitable payment.


So, how does it work?
Well, you start with Step 1, and pick a pantheon. Let's say you got Stability.
Then you roll 100, double, and get "maiden" and "plant" on the results. You roll "gold".
Your demon is a plant girl, walking on feet of greenery, that leaves golden nuggets in her footsteps. I decide she's an Avanthe demon that aims to preserve the crops and reward the good farmers.
Too bad you need to boil gold in a pot of ironwood and pour it on a still-living flower so you get the golden flower. You need to arrange enough of those to make a nice arrangement, while reciting the magical formula.
If you fail to do a nice one, the demon appears, but smashes the arrangement and takes the caster away for uses best left unmentioned.


Oh, and you know why this has the Exalted tag? It also works for demons of the 2nd and 3rd circle, or even new Yozis!

Have fun!
A.