Saturday, May 27, 2017

A look at the James Bond: 007 RPG

There is an excellent review of James Bond: 007 over on Penetralia:

James Bond: 007

That is still on my list of RPGs to play. Hopefully play, not GM. I don't have the panache to pull this off as a GM, but I have the foolhardiness as a player to try to.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Minis: Stone Golems

These are a pair of Black Tree Design Stone Golems. This is about 5 minutes of total work.

I primed them black, waited 48 hours for the base goop and primer to dry, and then painted them both in five minutes.

What I did was:

- Base coat them black, quickly.

- When that dried, I spent the rest of the five minutes doing this:

- Wet-brush on Lampost (Dark, Dark Grey)

- Wet-brush on Slate (Dark Grey)

- Wet-brush on Charcoal (Moderately Dark Grey)

Waited a minute, then:

- Dry-brush Grey Flannel.

- Dotted the eyes with a toothpick dipped in Metallic Emerald.

They came out darker than I had planned, but they look great so I'm leaving them as-is. Obviously they'll get used in Felltower. I'm debating using them for PC-summoned elementals or just as smaller golems.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

GURPS Lite in the Classroom, Session #7

For the previous session, click this link.

Rules Explanations

None today.


I did the short recap again.


When we last left the Unknown Soldier, he had knocked out - possibly killed - the hyena-dog. He ran down the stairs. He went down, through one of the doors in the wall interior level, and felt his way down it in the dark. He reached a door and opened it quietly.

Good thing - two men and an orc were in the room (9 or less for an encounter, 1d6-3 min 1 guys, roll a 6). They had lights and he was quiet, so I rolled Per for all three. They all failed badly and continued on their way up.

He went in and then out the way they came. Bad luck - he ran into a straggling orc in a door way. It demanded to know who he was. "I'm (gave player's name here)." The orc said, "The prisoner!" and drew his scimitar. So he closed the door on the orc and got ready to stab him. This orc opened the door and took a sword in the guts for 8 injury. He was wounded but passed his knockdown check. They fought, and twice the orc slashed the Unknown Soldier and wounded him, first for 6 injury and then for 3 more. He's at 4 HP out of 13 HP, so he's at half-Move and Dodge. He managed to stab the orc again for a lot of injury and drop him, probably dead.

He looted a box of food and stuck beef jerky in his mouth and went down the stairs. He found himself where he'd escaped to back in Session #3.

We stopped there.


That's it for a few weeks. I'm a little concerned that he's got no idea how to get out. I'm not sure how I'm going to handle it. He had a few clean chances to get out and has really just explored by running room to room.

Now he's badly wounded, deep in the dungeon, and in an alert fortress. I'm not sure he actually can get out. I have some ideas of ways I can put in front of him, though, so we can move on to more challenging language tasks than "search the crate!" "open the door!" and "go down the stairs!"

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Why it matters to me that dungeons aren't random

When I reviewed B3 Palace of the Silver Princess the other day, I highlighted the random monster selection that plagues it. Monsters in rooms they have no reason to be in, monsters generally appearing once per type in the dungeon seemingly to get them all in, etc. Not a lot of sense.

You can explain some of it - there is a curse, some of these could have wandered in, etc. But that you can explain it doesn't really help hold it together sufficiently for my purposes.

I explained why we goofed on the Castle of the Mad Archmage even as we enjoyed it a while back. Again, it was the seeming randomness.

The fights could be fun, the monsters tricky, and the puzzles challenging, but without anything to hang them together it felt flat to me.

I think the reason is clues, logic, and reasoning.

If there is some kind of logic to the adventure, and there are clues of what's ahead (even if subtle, or which require experimentation to find), then you can use your reasoning. You can leverage what you've seen in the past and what you see in front of you to make smart play decisions.

So in B3 you can explain that every monster there is because of Arik and Chaos, and so it should be disordered. But when you hit sensible encounters with a good explanation - folks trapped in the castle, ghosts, Chaos-distorted plants run amok, cultists, guardian statures, rats running loose in the halls, etc. - it makes the ones that don't - beetles in secret rooms, troglodytes just standing around in one room, etc. stand out all the more.

Once you start feeling the logic of the place, and see the clues of what's to come, you can use your reasoning to guess ahead. Sometimes you'll be right. Sometimes you'll be wildly wrong. You'll really be taken off-guard by things that fit but that you didn't plan for or couldn't plan for.

But if there is too much that has no logic, no clues, and is just there for the sake of being there ("Hey, we didn't put in a crab spider, put one in somewhere") then you're back to just guessing. Opening a door is just seeing what's randomly in there. You can't make informed choices because the person who laid out the dungeon didn't. You can't discern a pattern, only make one up on the fly, because it's only a pattern in retrospect. You can't use your player skill and careful play to help out because anything could be behind that door, whether it could have gotten there in the first place or not.

Randomness can still be fun - I still want to take Mirado down into the depths of the Castle of the Mad Archmage again - but when any given move is like clicking any given number in Dungeon Robber, the only choice I'm making is to spin the roulette wheel or not. And that wears on me even it randomly keeps dropping on fun things to do.

As a practical takeaway, I would say this - make sure there is some hint of what's to come. Make sure there is something that holds it together. Make sure the players can correctly guess ahead or see the patterns, if they're paying attention and put their minds to work. If it's all just random you're going to lose some engagement from which good play and good fun can spring.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

My Bones 3 are on the way

I happened to have a minute at work and flipped open my Kindle and saw my town listed as one of the orders going out today.

When I got home just now, I saw I'd gotten a note from Reaper. Hurrah!

I was right near the end of the 2,000 in the wave. I guess I took too long to lock in my order. But it's on the way now.

Bones 3 Kickstarter is shipping

Reaper Minis is finally shipping the Bones 3 Kickstarter.

They have a self-refreshing page up on their website:

Reaper Bones 3 Fulfillment Tracker

I'm in Wave 1, which is 2000 people, so I can probably expect my shipping notification today (5/23) or tomorrow (5/24) depending on if they keep or up their pace. It'll be nice to finally get these figures.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Review: B3 Palace of the Silver Princess (Green cover)

One the earliest adventures I owned and experienced was this one. It's long past time to take a look at it here on this blog.

If I get a chance, I'll review the Orange cover version, too, from my copy of the free PDF version. Short version is that it's very different and a lot messier, and not in a good way.

For more reviews, please see my consolidated reviews page.

B3 Palace of the Silver Princess

The background to B3 is that some dwarves found a nice gem, gave it to the princess, but it turned out it was an evil gem (Spoilers - it's one of the hundred eyes of Arik, a banish evil chaos god, which is awesome.) A knight on a white dragon came to help, but it was too late, and the kingdom fell under the spell of Chaos. The PCs are let past the evil wards by a magical being so they can save the kingdom.

The adventure takes place in a two-level palace, with an underground level and an above-ground level sticking out of a mountain. The idea is to penetrate the palace, find one of three ways to deal with the evil gem, and then do so. The place is littered with clues on how to solve the plot, and there is more than one way to get most clues or execute what you've learned on the cues. You do need to figure out a puzzle, but you aren't just trying to guess the one path but find one of the paths.

B3 is designed as a beginner module. As such, it has a pre-programmed section. It's a choose-your-own-adventure style setup designed to be run by a GM (so it's more linear and vastly less page flippy.) The idea is that it guides the GM on the kind of things to say, do, and rule and gives the players an idea of the kind of questions to ask and things to attempt. The entrance to the palace has a magical warding and portcullises to bypass, plus a monster or two, and this walks you through making it past. It's interesting, but for an experienced GM it's actually a detriment as you can't see what's in the entrance area at a glance and just run that. For an inexperienced one, it's fine - and I know I ran it. But I don't think we took any lessons home from it.

Also in the beginner module theme, there is a Glossary with general terms (alchemist to tapestry) and one with characters (Arik to Travis.) The module also introduces three monsters I don't recall seeing elsewhere in early-edition D&D products - the Archer Bush, the Decapus (which I always read as DEEK-uh-pus, because I was 9 or 10 and I didn't know "deca" meant ten until long after that), and Vampire Roses.

B3 really suffers from "frost giant in a 10' x 10' room" syndrome. Many monsters are just there and make no sense being there. There is a secret room with a giant beetle in it - no clue or reason why it's there. There isn't really a fully unifying theme of monster placement - many rooms just have monsters that seemed pulled out of the Basic Set and just thrown in there to be there. Much of it just feels like how the dungeons we made up as kids felt; perhaps B3 (and B1, actually) is why we felt this was fine. Cobra, crab spider, giant ferrets, giant beetle in a secret room, etc. - none of it feels like it fits with the "castle suddenly brought down by malign forces" theme. It's just a smorgasbord of monsters to fight, and usually once you've fought that kind you're done with them for this dungeon.

The writing is clear, the boxed text is generally on point (and yes, for people who hate boxed text, it was there in 1981 when I started), and the art is usable and good. The module is well written and page and encounter references abound so you aren't guessing what area to flip to when you need to find connecting detail.

How is it for GURPS?

B3 would actually work pretty well for GURPS, with a few modifications. Most of the fights aren't very large - they don't depend on huge numbers. For Dungeon Fantasy, you'd want to power up some of the foes and add more magical support - too many would just be fodder given the right spells. The lack of alignment means you can more easily do Order vs. Chaos as a theme without the whole "But aren't white dragons Chaotic?" thing bogging it down.

This one was on the short list of modules to use for my Felltower game before it lost out to B2. Inability to sensibly start-stop, start-stop on this, plus the sheer amount of little fixes I'd want to do, caused it to lose out.

War Stories

All of my war stories start and end with the programmed adventure section, really. Almost all. I remember going through it GMed once by my uncle and once by my cousin (at lunch, in elementary school). I know we played it later because I GMed an encounter with Duchess and Candella, two women trapped in the castle when Chaos fell. But that's about it. We certainly never finished it out. It's really too big for an easy pass through, and too random, and it didn't hold our attention long enough to finish it.

Overall: Not a bad adventure, but it mostly earns respect for its interesting plot (save the Kingdom!) and plot details, little touches like evil cultists and multiple ways to solve the plot, and age. If this was a new product, it would be bashed for its weird monster placement, random treasures, and incomplete development. Still, it's a good basis for an adventure although I'd recommend cleaning up the module before running it today.
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