Weird Fantasy at Tapiolan Pelikauppa

Today was our first RPG Night at Tapiolan Pelikauppa, the game store I manage. Jim Raggi showed up to run Lamentations of the Flame Princess: Weird Fantasy Role-Playing. Here’s how it went down.

The posters had been up for about a month’s time, and a lot of effort had been put into promoting the event to regulars, and anyone else showing up at the store and showing an interest in role-playing games. I got a lot of “Hm, I’ll think about it.” and “I’ll put it down in my calender.”, but no definite “Hell, yeah, I’m coming!” type replies. The hour was drawing near, and I started to get worried that no one would show… Eventually we had two store regulars showing up and wanting to play. The rest of the seats were filled by store personnel (myself and a co-worker), so we did manage to get a game going after all.

The game session itself was set in a very Raggiesque village (that is, an utterly and completely mundane-seeming backwater village full of crackpots, blow-hards, and wise-cracking, superstitious, bigots). In other words, pure gold. Nothing out of the ordinary, except the weird intruding on the lives of these fine folks’ (yeah, right… bastards), this time in the form of a werewolf. Great fun was had by all, the werewolf was eventually found out and burned to death, and everything was back to normal. Well, except for the church and the inn having been burned to the ground. And over a dozen villagers having been killed by the werewolf.

From what I gathered, both of the players were pretty new to role-playing. One of them had played LotFP once before, at Ropecon I think. The game was well received by both, and left them wanting more. I think we’ll see both of these guys at the table again.

All in all a good start to our bi-weekly RPG thing. A bit less of a turn-up than anticipated, but I think things will pick up once we get the ball rolling, word of mouth starts doing it’s thing, and we get the logistical side of things (dates, times, gaming area, etc.) in order. Jim has already agreed to come back in two weeks time (That’s the 13th of September, so mark it down in your calendars, folks!), and he has promised to bring his work-in-progress mega-dungeon!

Good times.

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Frog God Games to publish Swords & Wizardry

Here’s the announcement on the Swords & Wizardry forum:

August 24, 2010 – Poulsbo WA

Frog God Games, the successor to Necromancer Games, is pleased to announce that effective immediately, Mythmere Games, headed by award-winning author Matt Finch, will be joining up with the Frog God Publishing team to produce even more of the true old-school gaming resources that Necromancer Games and Frog God Games have always been known for.

Matt explained one of the reasons for the agreement as “There is a large and active community of gamers playing various out-of-print editions of fantasy role-playing games. This alliance is going to be a big leap forward in terms of providing new resources and adventures to those of us who prefer an older-school type of game. It doesn’t matter if you’re an old-school grognard, a brand-new player, or an experienced gamer trying out this whole ‘old-school’ thing the internet keeps talking about. You’re going to like this”.

As a result of this merger, Frog God Games will be publishing the Complete version of the old school, ENnie Award-winning Swords & Wizardry™ fantasy role-playing game, which will be released in November.

“This merger is very much in line with my philosophy on game design, I play an old school game at my table, and have always written and produced books of that genre”, said Bill Webb, CEO of Frog God Games. Frog God Games and its predecessor, Necromancer Games both are known for producing d20 and Pathfinder adventures and sourcebooks with a distinctive “old school” feel. Necromancer, where Bill was partnered with Clark Peterson, produced over 50 books between 1999 and 2007, including Wilderlands of High Fantasy™ (under license to Judges Guild), Gary Gygax’s Necropolis™ and Rappan Athuk, Dungeon of Graves™.

Frog God Games is currently producing adventures to support the Pathfinder™ role-playing system. According to Bill, “This brings together the best of both worlds for me; our material is distinctly old school feel, regardless of the game system. By supporting both formats, I see an opportunity to provide high quality and exciting material to a larger audience. It’s a win for the gaming community.”

Frog God Games will now produce game supplements for both the Swords and Wizardry™ game and for the Pathfinder Game™ (published by Paizo Publishing of Bellevue WA).Swords & Wizardry builds and supports free-form role-playing games.That is to say, games where “light” rules create a framework instead of trying to cover every detail, every rule, and every situation. Over 30 books are currently in production for release in 2010 and 2011.

Matt explained , “There are a lot of gamers out there who are using out-of-print rules quite happily, or who have a vague feeling that they lost some of the game’s spirit over the years and don’t know how it happened. And then there’s the thriving community of old-school gamers on the internet, who have been powering forward for years. I think this new development is going to take us to critical mass. With an old-school game like Swords & Wizardry breaking into the mainstream, with all the power of Frog God Games behind it, I believe that all these three gamer-communities are about to connect. This is when the thunder starts to roll.”.

The Swords & Wizardry game “clones” the original rules of the fantasy role-playing game that started it all back in 1974, when it was published by Gary Gygax and DaveArneson. Part of the reason for the merger was to expand distribution and enhance production quality by involvement of a larger company. Matt described this as, “a step that has been developing for years, as the old-school community has grown larger and larger, supported by more and more gamers, and, increasingly, even by publishers. And this is the point where it all reaches critical mass, I think. Frog God Games has the resources and the high profile to introduce this particular style of gaming back into the mainstream.”

An OSR retroclone published by the successor company of one of the most prolific publishers of the 3.5 OGL era.

This could be huge.

As for the raised hackles in the POD-favoring segment of the OSR community about this statement on FGG’s home page:

We are not the guys who are going to offer bargain basement junk for a quick buck. We won’t sell you hand drawn maps and clip art laid out by amateurs and posted up on Lulu.com as a cheap book that you look at and discard.

Sure, I can see how that might be seen as dumping on your prospective buyers. Thing is, the OSR crowd isn’t FGG’s main target demographic, as those guys already have umpteen different versions of one OSR rules system or another. FGG is aiming a bit higher here: An audience not yet familiar with OSR games. This means they’ll be competing with big boys like WotC, Fantasy Flight Games, Paizo, Chaosium, etc., and with competition like that, presentation really matters. You need top notch production values, and art by professionals. You need to put out books that will get picked up by vendors, and in turn, by the Average Joes frequenting gaming stores.

Frog God Games have raised the bar on this one. Now they just need to deliver…

The Cursed Earth: Making of a Mutie

I promised a regular reader to write some random terrain tables next, but that will have to wait as I’ve been a bit swamped lately, and haven’t had the time to mull things over quite enough yet. What I did have time for, however, was rolling up a character using the rules I’ve written so far. Without further ado, here’s Whitey Moe!

My eight 3d6 ability rolls are 9, 9, 12, 13, 9, 11, 9, and 15. This gives Moe the following abilities: Strength 0, Dexterity 0, Constitution 0, Intelligence 1, Wisdom 0, Charisma 0, Fighting 0, and Shooting 1. Whitey is both smarter and better at shooting than your standard run of the mill mutie. His Dodge, Fortitude, and Will are 11, and he has 8 Hit Points. He hits with a +1 in melee and with a +2 when using a ranged weapon.

Moving on to mutations, the two d4-1 rolls are 3 and 1. Rolling on the physical mutations table, he ends up with Dwarfism, Nightvision, and Albinism (a drawback). Whitey Moe is 2′ tall (giving him a +1 to hit human sized or larger targets in melee, +1 to Dodge, and -1 to melee damage), can see in complete darkness to a distance of 60′, and suffers a -2 to hit in daylight. His mental mutation is Acute Hyper Healing (he can concentrate his mental energies to heal faster). Hm.. quite an interesting set of mutations, which (strangely enough) kind of fit together. Whitey Moe’s knacks are Grease-Monkey (Int) and Sixth Sense (Wis).

Next up, equipment: Whitey is armed with a sling and 12 bullets. His other gear consists of riot armor, binoculars, a rifle scope, a bottle of lantern fuel, a full spray can, a shovel, 5 cable ties, a flak vest, a crowbar, and a tarpaulin. A sling isn’t much of a weapon, but at least I got lucky with some of the other gear. Once play starts, I’m sure I can barter that flak vest for something more useful. Also, I don’t really need that scope, since I have binoculars, but who knows, I might find a rifle later on.

There you have it, Whitey Moe, a albino dwarf, who can see in the dark, likes tinkering with engines and is probably a bit jumpy. I think I’ll trade for a pair of welder’s goggles or some shades, to protect those light-sensitive pink eyes. Some tools might be nice too. And maybe some food… So many things on my want-list. I guess I’ll have to pack up my stuff, gather a few like-minded muties and go on a scavvy hunt!

The Cursed Earth: Bartering and Experience

“Whoa, bub! How many slugs did that set you back?” “One. But we’d better roll. I think his mates heard the shot.” (Cornelius Three-Eyes and Whitey Moe, mutant low-lifes both)

The Cursed Earth doesn’t have a monetary standard. Instead mutants steal, swindle, scavenge or barter for the items and goods they need. One article, however, does have a reasonably constant value by which it is possible to estimate the values of other articles: The cartridge, or in common parlance, the bullet. Bullets are moderately common, easy to carry, and otherwise useful (if you happen to have a gun of the right caliber, that is). One bullet (or slug, or shell) will buy you a stomach-full of BBQ mystery meat, a canteen of drinkable water, a shot of moonshine, a can of preserved food (label worn off, so could be dog food or, if you’re lucky, a delicacy like pineapples), a battery, or a roof over your head for the night. Two or more will get you better food, better lodging, specialized equipment or machine parts. Ten or more might get you a weapon of some kind, and a hundred or a lot more might even get you a gun to shoot those bullets with!

There are no standard equipment lists for stocking up before a road trip. Instead, scavenging useful stuff from garbage dumps, ruined cities, or wastelands, or stealing it from other muties, is a major element of the game. This element is further emphasized by the character advancement mechanic, where experience points are granted for value in bullets earned (you are free to barter or shoot them once you’ve earned them, though).

Another source of experience is successful tasks rolls and defeated opponents: Every time you succeed on a task roll, or defeat an opponent, make a note on your character sheet. After the game, you’ll get 10 experience points for each successful task roll and per a defeated opponent’s hit die.

Once you’ve earned a thousand experience points, you’ll go up to second level. 2000 experience point more will put you on third. 3000 more and you’re fourth level. And so forth.

Going up a level nets you d8 + Constitution Hit Points, and an additional +1 to your standard task and knack rolls. Every even level (2nd, 4th, 6th, etc.) you also get to roll a d6 on the table below for additional perks:

Table #4: Level-up perks
1-3: +1 in a random ability. Roll a d8.
4-5: A new knack. Pick a category and roll a d4 for knack. Re-roll if you’ve already got that knack.
6: A new mutation! Roll a d2 for Mental or Physical mutation, then roll on the relevant table.

To those of you out there reading these articles: Which area of the game do you think I should cover next? Random terrain features? Random encounters? Vehicles? More charts? Damage rules? Something else?

The Cursed Earth: Random Gear 2 – Scavvy goods

“Hey, bub, why you filling our trunk with all this useless crap?” “Ain’t crap, mate. Hands off. Or they gonna be calling you Cornelius Four-Eyes.” (Cornelius Three-Eyes and Whitey Moe, mutant low-lifes both)

I’m having a ball with this. Seriously. If playing the game is even half as fun as making these lists, this is going to be one Hell of a campaign.

Table #3: Scavvy goods
Roll d100 ten times. Reroll if you roll the same item twice.

1: Biker jacket
2: Sports armor (Hockey, football or BMX gear.)
3: Flak vest
4: Riot armor
5: Makeshift shield (A hubcap or a stop sign maybe.)
6: Backpack
7: Blanket
8: Sleeping bag
9: Candles (5)
10: Spool of razor wire
11: Crowbar
12: Zippo
13: Box of matches
14: Magic markers (d8)
15: Spray can (full)
16: Flashlight
17: Miner’s helmet with lamp
18. Lantern
19: Shaving kit
20: Lantern fuel
21: Lined notebook and ball point pen
22: Monkey wrench
23: Wire cutters
24: Screwdriver
25: Fastener drive bit set
26: Utility knife
27: A gallon of petrol
28: Swiss army knife
29: Nylon rope (50 ft.)
30: Messenger bag with undelivered mail marked confidential
31: Metal toolbox
32: Shovel
33: Magnifying glass
34: Binoculars
35: Canteen
36: Folding saw
37: Winter parka
38: Gun holster
39: Attache bag with blueprints
40: Portable stove
41: Anti-rad meds (d10)
42: Painkiller meds (d10)
43: Water purifying tablets
44: Med kit
45: Sewing kit
46: Tarpaulin
47: Mountaineering spikes (d6)
48: Sunglasses
49: Gas mask
50: Camouflage net (10′ by 15′)
51: D Batteries (d4)
52: 9V Batteries (d4)
53: AA Batteries (d6)
54: Wristwatch (windable)
55: Wristwatch (digital, out of batteries)
56: Car battery
57: Smoke grenade
58: Can of mace
59: Signal flare
60: Hand periscope
61: Geiger counter
62: Metal detector
63: Stick of dynamite
64: BBQ utensils set
65: Set of Tupperware (d6 containers)
66: Cooking pot
67: Wok pan
68: Full set of silverware
69: Jump cables
70: Sony Walkman and Kenny Rogers tape
71: Camcorder (broken)
72: Cable ties (d10)
73: Rifle scope
74: High school chemistry book
75: Junior Chemist’s kit
76: Mobile phone (out of battery)
77: Welder goggles
78: The Beach Boys’ Surfin’ U.S.A. CD
79: Jerry can (empty)
80: Music box
81: Megaphone
82: Arc welder
83: Mystery tin can (label worn off)
84: Bottle of drain cleaner
85: Mysterious metal lockbox (key lost)
86: Set of road maps
87: Walkie-talkie
88: Compass
89: Bunsen burner
90: Tent (for d8 people)
91: Carbon fiber fishing rod
92: Tackle box with 2d4 tackles
93: Rain poncho
94: Deck of cards
95: Chess board, 4d8-4 pieces missing
96: Insect repellant spray
97: Lightsticks (d4)
98: Scuba tank and rebreather
99: Laptop with a stamped corporate logo (out of battery)
100: A weapon! Re-roll on Table #1.

The Cursed Earth: Random Gear 1 – Weapons

“You’d better flush out your head, new guy. This isn’t about freedom; this is a slaughter. If I’m gonna get my balls blown off for a word, my word is “poontang”.” (Animal Mother; Full Metal Jacket

Buying equipment off a list is boring and takes too much time, so instead of standardized equipment lists, The Cursed Earth has something far more interesting: Tables for random junk! First up, the weapons.

Table #1: Weapons
Roll a d20 once. This is the best you’ve found so far.

1: Hatchet
2: Baseball bat (Or cricket bat if you prefer.)
3: Shank (You know, like a knife.)
4: Throwing knife
5: Throwing stars (d4 of them. What are you, a ninja?)
6: Motorcycle chain
7: Claw hammer
8: Pick axe
9: Sporting bow and d8 carbon fiber arrows
10: Tyre iron
11: Machete
12: Spear
13: Crossbow and d10 bolts
14: Hand crossbow and d10 bolts
15: Sling and d12 lead bullets
16: Cavalry saber
17: Katana (Where the fuck did you find this? A museum?)
18: Harpoon gun and d4 harpoons
19: Brass knuckles
20: A firearm! (You lucky bastard! Roll again on table #2)

Table #2: Firearms
Roll a d20 once if you got a 20 on Table #1.

1: .32 snub nose revolver and d5 rounds
2. .38 police special and d6 rounds
3. .44 magnum revolver with scope in walnut carrying case and d6 rounds
4. Colt 1911A1 automatic pistol and d8 rounds
5. .38 trench pistol (single-shot improvised firearm), no ammunition
6. Two 9mm automatics, one of them broken beyond repair, 2d12 rounds (Don’t you feel like Chow Yun-Fat now!)
7. Sawed-off double-barreled shotgun, d2 shells
8. Pump-action shotgun, no shells (You can still use it as a club, though.)
9. Winchester lever-action rifle, d6 rounds
10. M-14 semi-automatic rifle, clip with d12 rounds
11. Bolt-action deer rifle, d4 rounds
12. Scorpion sub-machine gun, d20 rounds
13. Bushmaster AR-15 assault rifle, d20 rounds
14. Colt Peacemaker revolver, d6 rounds
15. Pink pineapple hand grenade (Yeah, not really a firearm.)
16. Single-shot sporting pistol in leather carrying case, d4 rounds
17. Working replica musket, black powder horn and d10 shot
18. Uzi 9mm SMG, d20 rounds
19. Suomi SMG, drum magazine with 2d10 rounds
20. M-60 belt fed machine gun with bipod, d100 rounds

Coming up next: scavvy gear!

The Cursed Earth: Task resolution

“Smegma crazies to the left! The gate! Gayboy berserkers, to the gate!” (Humungus; Mad Max)

So far I’ve got a rudimentary task resolution system worked out with just the basic abilities listed in the previous post (Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, Charisma, Fighting, Shooting). The basic mechanic of roll a d20, add an ability works for most things characters tend to do. Also, every character is assumed to have some experience with basic physical stuff (e.g. anything based off a physical ability), like fighting, shooting, driving, jumping, climbing, running, etc., so they can add their level to that roll. Now, I’m not a big fan of bloated skill lists, especially in anything class based, such as D&D, but this system of mine doesn’t have classes. So, in order to give the players some more character customization tools, I’ve put together a short list of knacks (well, skills really, but I like the word knacks more). There are twelve of these total, divided in three categories. Every player gets to choose two categories, from which he rolls a d4 to find out which knacks his character has. A character who has a specific knack can add his ability AND his level to the task at hand, just as if it was a physical task. Here’s the list of knacks:

Intelligence knacks
1. Jury-Rig (Int) – You know, like MacGuyver.
2. Grease-Monkey (Int) – Anything to do with cars and engines.
3. Brainiac (Int) – Knows how to read and has been known to do so from time to time.
4. Doc (Int) – Patching up damaged mutants. Also, drugs and shit.

Wisdom knacks
1. Sixth Sense (Wis) – Some guys seem to have eyes in the back of their head. Sometimes literally.
2. Bloodhound (Wis) – Tracking. By scent or otherwise.
3. Survivor (Wis) – Can you make a fire without matches and tell which way is north? Didn’t think so.
4. Scavenger (Wis) – People throw away some really good junk you could probably use or trade for something else.

Charisma knacks
1. Sarge in Charge (Cha) – The guy you’d follow to Hell and back.
2. Size Up (Cha) – He ain’t so tough, you could probably take him.
3. Barter (Cha) – Trading that good junk you found for some better junk.
4. Con Man (Cha) – These ain’t the mutants you’re looking for, sir.

So, your average level 1 mutant has about a +1 to most things he’s going to attempt. Assuming an average guy succeeds at a standard task about half the time, this sets the standard difficulty at 12 (hitting a mook on the head is difficulty 12, as is breaking down a jammed door). Modifiers to rolls and difficulties come in the form of advantages and complications. An advantage could be for instance a crowbar for breaking that door, whereas a complication could be the door being reinforced. These variables would modify the roll by a an even number ranging from 2 (minor advantage/complication) to 8 (massive advantage/complication). On a general principle, if a task is so easy pretty much anyone can do it and there’s no risk involved, there’s no point in rolling dice. Dice should only be rolled if the outcome of a task is in doubt and something is at stake. For instance, hot-wiring a car with proper tools, and all the time in the world is no big deal. Doing the same in the middle of the night, using only a hair pin, while a bunch of rabid cannibals are trying to force open the car doors is a whole another kettle of tea.

Regarding task difficulties: Do not scale difficulties to match a particular characters or groups level of expertise. That way lies challenge ratings, and trust me on this: We do not want to go there. Ever. Task difficulties should rarely go above 20. Yes, characters will eventually hit a point where they have a +20 on task rolls. This is not a problem. It merely describes a person who’s insanely competent at something. One more thing: Whenever a d20 task roll is rolled, a natural one is always a failure and a natural 20 is always success.

That’s pretty much the whole task resolution mechanic. What do you think?