Sunday, July 28, 2013

Classless SAGA, and other alterations

A few months ago, we played the Star Wars SAGA, and while I generally liked the system, I found myself very frustrated with parts of it related to character creation. It seemed to me that there wasn't much need for classes, and so I created a variation that allows one to play Star Wars SAGA without them... the only classes are "Heroic" and "Non-heroic".

The Continuing Adventures of our Hackmaster Group

Grimwulf and Flint head to Salt Haven, where they find that there's reports of grave robbing from the cemetery near the old wizard's tower. This, of course, gives Grimwulf a religiously motivated war-boner. We go halfsies on a lantern (neither of us being able to afford 20sp for a lantern and a ~50 hours of oil), and get to work.

After interrogating several colorful hicks, they head up to the old wizard's tower labyrinth and begin to explore. After a few tense minutes (using the ancient dwarven technique of "always follow the right hand wall" and "watch where you step, you clod"), they encounter two ghouls. After landing a mighty blow, Grimwulf is paralyzed. Flint continues to fight for a couple more exchanges, but is ToPped. At that point, a pixie-faerie (who had passed out after using Bar Portal to keep the ghouls at bay) bolts past, leading the ghouls (fortunately) towards the exit, where she escapes after some fancy flying. She begins to look for blueberries, the ghouls being unwilling to venture into sunlight.

Flint comes to, and bars the door, protecting the downed Grimwulf until he unfreezes, and they loot the corpses and coffins, getting a tidy sum of coins and a few gems. However, Flint has 3 wounds, two of them ten or higher, and a grand total of 3 HP to his name. Grimwulf, who got paralyzed early from a small scratch, is in better shape... but both a kinda feeling exposed, and don't know where the ghouls got off to, or what happened to the pixie-faerie.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Corpses and Caches

Another reblog from my old Cranky Gamer

Corpses and Caches:

The Afterlife and Burial Traditions in Dungeons and Dragons

One thing that has recently annoyed me about D&D cosmology is “Why on Faerun would you bury whole corpses?” That only the spirit survives into the afterworld is a provable fact, provided you have a high enough level wizard or cleric. Upper level clerics can even directly question their deities about life after death, to say nothing of visiting the souls of the dead in the Outer Planes, or interrogating them via Speak with Dead. The advantages to keeping bodies around is small; burials take up space, and, more importantly in D&D, corpses attract and become undead with disturbing frequency. A graveyard is likely to attract ghouls. Necromancers can use the various bodies for anything from simple skeletons and zombies to horrific flesh-born nightmares. This says nothing of the vast wealth that is regularly entombed with the dead... magic items, piles of gold, and tomes of eldritch spells are all regular found even in non-undead haunted graves. So why throw away useful magic items, usually only for the use of undead, necromancers, adventurers and similar reprobates?

To examine this, some assumptions remain the same from the D&D Standard Cosmology. Most notably, when someone dies, their soul travels through the Astral Plane to the home of their deity, or to the plane of their appropriate alignment (frequently, but not always, the same). Raise Dead and Resurrection call the soul back from this journey (or the destination), into a body repaired to receive it; reincarnate creates a body to receive them. I work from the assumption that preserving a corpse and grave goods of value serve some function; that leaving a body mostly intact and burying it with such riches as can be afforded is, in some way, useful to a person in their afterlife, and that purposefully eschewed the preservation of the corpse (such as through cremation) serves a purpose in the afterlife, as well.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Mind Over Matter: A Short Story

A short story that was written for the Chi-Town anthology; it got left out, so I'm reprinting it here.

Mind Over Matter

Whatever an enemy might do to an enemy, or a foe to a foe, the ill-directed mind can do to you even worse.
Gautama Buddha, Cittavagga The Mind

Rifts: Houstown

(this is ported from my Livejournal)

So, about five or six years ago, I wrote up a bit about the city of Houstown in Rifts. Since I live here, I figured I'd give a whirl at fleshing out the very bare-bones description in Rifts: Lone Star. Now, in doing the research, I realized that the Coalition had a major base (like, "military population bigger than Houstown total population") not far away... at Beaumont. I live on the west side of Houston and Beaumont is only about a hundred miles away. You can shoot Rifts-tech missiles from downtown Beaumont and hit my house.

But, as is often the case with Palladium, I did my best with what I had, and turned out Rifts: Houstown, a short (only 17,000 words) description of the city, its post-apocalyptic history, and some of the major players.

Cranky Gamer, Redux

I've decided to try and use this over my old Livejournal for my gaming posts; it's gotten to where signing into the Livejournal is a bit of a pain, and, since it's been a bit of a hiatus, I might as well start fresh. I may port over some of the better or more important posts, so they're easier to find, but I've also got some fairly dire stuff over there that I'm not keen to carry over.

So, welcome to the Cranky Gamer, Redux. My name is Mark Hall, and I've been an avid gamer for a bit more than twenty years as of 2013. I cut my teeth on 2nd edition AD&D, and I'm still a bit old-school in my D&D, but like a variety of games. I've done some freelance game writing, mostly for Palladium Books, but also for Third Eye Games, and I'm hoping to get some things published with Kenzerco, at least in the Hackjournal. I'm open to questions, but don't be surprised if I take forever to answer, or get a bit cagey with my answers, especially regarding future projects (which may or may not ever happen) or my relationship with publishers.

Back to the Keep

So, we gathered yesterday for an inaugural Hackmaster session; we're likely to be monthly, what with the pressures of being grown-ups and all (sitters, work schedules, etc). I was hoping to make a mage or fighter/mage, but the best stats (under a house rule) I rolled had a 10 Intelligence... could've fiddled around, but went with a dwarf fighter/thief, bolstering a very lackluster Wisdom and Looks so I kept my 16 strength, 15 Con, and even managed a 12 Charisma despite my (modified) 6 Looks. Overall, he's got great stats, but I wound up spending a number of points on rerolls for his quirk/flaw... I didn't want to play Compulsive Liar, Colorblind, Missing Ear, or... one other that I forget. I stuck with a Superstition about birds being unlucky.

The party is:
Elwyn - Elven thief with some OCD
Ava Cado - Human priestess of the Bear
Grimwulf - Fhokki javelin who wants to be a paladin
Flint Goldheart - a dwarf fighter/thief with a rather pronounced dislike of birds.. much more a fighter who knows about traps (and backstabbing) than a sneaky fighter. Was very nearly named "Flintheart Glumgold", but the thought of laughing every time I said his name talked me out of it. This is srz bznz.

So, it's late winter in Vew, and a group of travelers is stuck in a blizzard. Flint has lived in the area for years, mostly as a caravan or claim guard, but also happy to chip in with general labor and the like when necessary. Since he's had a lean season, he's leaning on the friendship of Marotti, the innkeeper for the last five years, doing odd jobs in exchange for food and a place by the fire. Just before the storm hit, Ava and Elwyn came in (separately); Ava looking into some reports of ravaged nature, and Elwyn searching for the place her brother died, years ago. Also staying is a minor lord, a very old friend of Marotti, who is very ill.

One evening, the lordling won't get up for his dinner; Ava, a priestess, is called in to examine him, and finds that he's some sort of malignancy in his belly, but she lacks the ability to cure it. She does her best to make him comfortable, and is charged with delivering a letter to someone the next morning... and then the lordling slips into a coma. She faithfully delivers the letter, then returns to keep watch on him... partially because this ensures Marotti will let her stay, rent free, for a while longer. (We is po')

A few weeks pass. There's not much we can do during this time... the road to Frandor's is washed out and snowed in, no one is going anywhere that needs a guard, and it's not a good time for exploring, so we spend time around the inn, with me trying to convince Marotti to let me expand his root cellar this winter. He keeps putting me off, but we play a lot of cards and dice and not much happens. Soon, however, just in front of another blizzard, the Red Priest arrives. He's a follower of the Eternal Lantern, and has a "bodyguard" in young Grimwulf. The Red Priest (who has a name, but I have forgotten it) goes to visit the lordling, an old friend of his, though Marotti requests that they disarm before visiting his sick friend.

Then, no , ninjas attack. Five priests in brown robes and studded leather come into the inn and begin to attack the Red Priest, also trying to sap the curious Elwyn (who was attacted to the Red Priest's fancy golden holy symbol). I, being the industrious individual I am, go up and backstab one of the Brown priests, then bash his head in with my axe. The immediate threat to her ended, Elwyn retreats to clean her sword. Ava defends the unconscious lordling, Grimwulf gets ToPed, and I wade into melee, protecting Grimwulf and making another kill myself. The Red Priest takes down two, but the final brown priest... the one with the long sword, who seems to be the leader... runs. I miss hitting him as he runs, but tag him with a throwing axe on the way out.... but he gets away.

The Red Priest clears us from the room, insisting that he will sit vigil over his friend. He blocks the door with an armoire, releases Grimwulf from his service, and begins a three day pray-a-thon, complete with spare voices in the room and the occasional muffled explosion. We let him pray, though I get a little paranoid and start making a club, and figuring out how to put silver pieces as studs to make it a viable anti-undead weapon. The blizzard rages outside, but, on the third day, it stops. Silence comes from the room where the Red Priest kept his vigil. Grimwulf, concerned for his former master, forces open the door, to find the corpse of the lordling looking weeks dead, the Red Priest still kneeling... and, in another room, Moratti lies with his throat cut.

Cue a flurry of investigation, where we find out that Moratti killed the previous owner and buried him in the root cellar, was, himself, the murderer of the lordling, using some exotic plant-based poison that our Bear-priestess couldn't identify, and had summoned the brown priests. We learn that Elwyn's brother was at some place named Salt Haven, which also seems to be the source of trouble that the druid was interested in. I want more insight into Moratti (I was his friend for five years), and Grimwulf is at somewhat loose ends, but the potential to confront undead seems to cheer him.

We've got a good dynamic going. The elf and I have a snarky relationship, with me having made several cracks about her impatience ("What, are you afraid you're gonna grow old waiting for it?"), and her tending to make fun of my smell and beard. Not outright violent... I recognize her as generally "good people", even if we don't get along. With two humans, we tend to be a bit more aloof, but we're settling into a relationship with them, as well.