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Monthly Archives: June 2012

Spammy Spam with Spam

Martian Dice Game…

In Martian Dice you will roll 13 custom dice in an effort to set aside (abduct) Humans, Chickens, and Cows. With each roll you must first set aside any Tanks, representing the human military coming to fend off your alien invasion. Then you may select o…

-on [Discworld] Death, I don’t know what to say. On one hand it’s scary that they now seem to target the whole thing better (games on a RPG blog), on the other hand they might just soil one game designer’s good reputation with this stunt

 

Hi there! Someone in my Myspace group shared this website with us so I came to look it over. I’m definitely enjoying the information, really good topics about “generic medications” and more. I’m book-marking and will be tweeting this to my followers! Fantastic blog and fantastic design.

-posted on article [Discworld] Death. I guess yes, Death is a generic medication of sorts

[Discworld] Other Deaths

Just some further details regarding Death:

Other Deaths

Sometimes different people can take on the role of Death when he is unavailable or otherwise busy. Technically this would not be needed, as he can be anywhere at any time, but it seems to bother him to have his mind in multiple places at the same time (e.g. there is a plague in a city, and he has to take care of an important death somewhere else). In these cases he sometimes uses proxies. He experimented with demons and humans so far, with varying grades of success. It might be that when he gives them part of his power, he also trades in some parts of their personality.

(Which coincidentally is the best explanation I ever heard why the Death of the early novels is so different from the later ones: he tried investing Scrofula with the Duty and became spiteful and meanspirited in exchange; later he tried to do the same with humans, but the whole thing went to the dogs during Mort; it also might explain why he seems more human lately: Susan has a small amount of his powers due to Discworld genetics, he might have taken on some of her virtues)

Beowulfs Saga

Beowulfs Saga, CoverI would be really interested in the history of this gem. Like this I only can describe it from what it says in the book itself, and that is not much. It still is fascinating. This one was the one of the three books I got via the Troll-Welt storage clearance thingy which impressed me the most. The other two were more or less decent adventures, but very simplistic. Which might have had something to do with the fact that they were written 5-7 years before they were published in Germany, and were from a very different school of roleplaying (Gygaxian dungeon crawl?)

This one was clearly influenced by Ulrich Kiesow and his railroads. It reads more like a script in many cases, and while it does account for a lot of player action variation, some of the things they might do would just throw the whole adventure off the rails. Even when reading it the first time I was impressed with the story, but I noticed that something was amiss if the players just would decide on some completely different action than the one prepared. But a lot of German adventure modules from that time had that problem.

The story already starts with something the players should have done: they are supposed to have done something that warranted them trying to get away as quickly as possible from their home country. While this seems to be a good idea at first (what bunch of heroes never gets into trouble?) this already can throw the adventure if they decide to, well, face the trial or other consequences. Then they are supposed to take the only ship out of town, which coincidentally only goes to the country of Thar Scani, a very thinly veiled medieval Scandinavia. And I mean very thinly. Going there already might be a challenge (what do you mean you are trying to flee into the mountains?!)

Now they are supposed to get bored in the big metropolis of the North, Askeby, which turns out to be a slightly oversized fishing town with delusions of grandeur. Someone they know invites them to his farm to spend the winter there (so you already were bored in Askeby, and you go to spend the winter snowed in in a fjord?) and so they travel there. On the farm they spend some nice weeks until further guests arrive (including the titular Beowulf), make trouble, and now they have to be hunted down by the heroes because they now are honorbound to the family of their hosts. (hmm, completely reasonable for adventurers who just fled their own country as criminals, I guess)

I think the adventure makes much more sense if one does not actually follow the plot and just uses the informations contained in it for whatever scene might come up. The description of Thar Scani is concise and workable, with enough details to have further adventures in this country. There are wonderful descriptions of Askeby (which I could use for any Northern/quasi-Viking city) and a few other locations that can be used for anything else. From what I have seen those actually are even more or less archaeologically correct and based on real life examples. In between there are examples of NPCs, both mundane and magical, which fit in well into the whole setting. The only real problem is that the adventure that binds it together is a railroad and mostly a waste of space (although it is finely written prose and gives a nice feeling for the whole scenario).

In the end we have the stats for this adventure, and there comes the surprise: 5 pages of rule stats for 6 different systems. DSA (of course), (A)D&D, Midgard, Pendragon, and Mers, including a workable rule for berserkers for each system. I am loathe to admit it, but I used those stats in at least half a dozen adventures.

Now, the thing that interests me about this is the way this was developed. It came out in 1989, and with that it should have been one of the first Northern campaign settings coming out in Germany. For DSA Thorwal und die Seefahrt des Schwarzen Auges came out in November 1990, and had only sparse information for it’s Viking expy (half the box was indeed dedicated to ships and sailing for the whole setting), for Midgard the first edition of Waeland came out in 1991. Both had the same or a larger pagecount than Beowulfs saga, but both of them were sparse in the actual depiction of the culture in question. This is were Beowulfs Saga shone. The author, Rick Davis, obviously put some effort into the description of Viking culture, and it contains wonderful tidbits about Viking religion, politics, and jurisprudence. There even is a two page long bibliography listing nonfiction, fiction, as well as other interesting roleplaying supplements about Vikings (it references Gurps Vikings and the D&D Gazeteer 7: The Northern Reaches, but the only German references are Corrinis and Jenseits der Huegel).

I might be wrong with this, but this seems to be the first time that someone presented a campaign settings for a Northern culture in German roleplaying. And funnily enough he did it historically nearly accurate. Something that both the DSA and Midgard settings had problems with (horned helmets! we need horned helmets!!! and winged ones as well! and dragon ships!)

[Boardgames] Real Monopoly

English: A German Monopoly board in the middle...

A Monopoly board in the middle of a game. (Photo credit: Wikipedia/Horst Frank)

Monopoly is one of these games everybody has played at one point or another. Everybody knows how to play that game. Hell, most likely everybody reading this has a set of that game handy somewhere.

You do?

Ok, tell you what. Go and grab that set. Open the box. You don’t have to do much. Just get the manual for the game and read what happens when a player lands on a field and doesn’t want to buy it outright.

Come on, do. I’ll wait.

Surprised?

It’s in the rules, isn’t it? Don’t worry, I haven’t thought about that either for a long time. After all, that’s not how you play the game, is it? (Actually, for additional fun: try to find the section on Free Parking, although most people know that that one is a house rule)

For those who did not have Monopoly handy: according to the rules property that is not immediately bought by a player after landing on it goes to auction among the other players. No set starting price.

No, that’s not a house rule, that’s in the actual rules. And yes, nobody plays Monopoly like that. I remember when my brother and me read the manual as kids and came across that section, and we decided: Fuck this, that’s not how you play the game.

Funnily enough, according to people who tried it, the actual rules make for a faster, better, and more interesting game, because it keeps people from having to make endless circles around the board just to collect the set of cards they need to even start building stuff. It does make the game more cut-throat though, and according to the article I linked, this might be the reason it is often left out: Monopoly is still a family game. Losing the game because the dice rolled wrong is still better for kids than losing because their siblings snatched away all interesting property and left only scraps for them.

I doubt even using the actual rules would make Monopoly a really good game, but it would certainly be more interesting than the game we played since I was a kid.

Troll-Welt

Now this one goes back to the early days of the hobby, and straight before the time when I got interested in the whole thing. Or rather: it fits in there in my first phase of fascination with the hobby.

Basically in the late 80s German publishing house Welt der Spiele and a few successors to that company (the whole history of the company is kind of a mystery for me, but there always seemed to be the same people involved), published a few universal modules. Often those were translations and adaptions of even earlier AD&D modules, some seem to have been original creations for the German market. One should not forget that D&D did not really take off in Germany until the end of the 90s (thanks to some really crappy translation and marketing) and there was not really a market for the whole thing. Then along come these nice adventures which have been written for AD&D, but fit in well somewhere else, and so they decide to make something out of that.

Partially it was a really shrewd move, and in a few cases this lead to some nice adventures. Adventures that did not sell out completely it seems.This might have been a factor in the demise of Welt der Spiele come to think of it…

In the middle of the 90s previous WDS employee Mario Truant had created his own publishing house: Truant. This one still is in business and even one of the more respected small game companies in Germany right now.

But in the middle 90s they noticed a bit of a problem with their heritage: there were still a lot of unsold modules taking up space in storage. And those grew harder and harder to sell the further roleplaying moved along. Still far from any renaissance of dungeon crawling, and slowly realizing that railroading might not be too good, these modules collected dust and aged.

And so someone came up with a nice way of cleaning up storage: selling them in compilations.

And that was how Troll-Welt came to be. The modules were either from the near forgotten Edition Troll imprint or from WDS itself, so they created this title (geddit? geddit? Edition Troll and Welt der Spiele!), made a cover for it (I saw that particular picture on at least two other products already), and then glued three random modules from storage into it. This gave nerds like me access to some old classics, and kept them from having to pulp the rest of them. So I guess it’s a win-win.

There is not really so much to say about Troll-Welt itself. According to the backtext the modules were chosen from stock at random (with 11 different modules possible), but so far I haven’t found any example of the thing that did not have exactly the same three modules than the one I have already. So it seems that either the advertisement was wrong (can you believe it?!), or they just had a lot more of these three modules than of others.

For reference, my copy has:

* Sternenhoeh – a translation of Mayfair Games’ Pinnacle

* Ruinen des Schreckens – a translation of Mayfair Games’ Evil Ruins

* Beowulfs Saga – a standalone railroad in a Scandinavia expy with lots of vikings

[Boardgames] Alternate Settlers of Catan Tiles

catan

Catan – Russian version? (Photo credit: ivva)

To my surprise nobody in my gaming group has ever played Settlers of Catan. Now, I am not a hardcore boardgamer, and Settlers, while fun and one of the best examples for modern games, is not the game my whole heart is dedicated to. I am a roleplayer after all, I always have been.

Still, when my players (and especially my girlfriend) talk about board games for them it comes down to 1) Monopoly and 2) Scrabble.

I cannot help to feel sad about this.

I will not get around actually buying both games for my girlfriend, but I cannot help to think that I really should show her a few other games. And my other players as well, while I am at it.

Now, Settlers of Catan in my opinion has always had one particular flaw that made me dislike it: the graphics on the game were awful. I really like the mechanics, I like the trading and civilization building, what I don’t like are those terrible graphics, both in the original and in the Mayfair editions. So I decided to make my own tiles.

OK, part of the reason for that is that I had the game somewhere at my parents’ place but couldn’t find it when I was visiting them. I don’t really want to spent 140PLN on a game I already dislike for it’s graphics. Luckily that doesn’t seem to be a problem.

The gaming material for Settlers is rather simple: the board itself is assembled out of a set of hex tiles representing a small variety of different landscapes, which give different resources. Other needed elements are: resource cards (easy to make), numbered chits (also easy), markers for settlements and streets (those are more difficult, my old set had wooden pieces and I would love to get some equivalents instead of cardboard markers, but I guess I will just create cardboard replacements), and a figure that represents the robber (hmm…easy, I guess).

I decided to create my own set of tiles, but I am still in the concept stage, so for further reference I  searched and found a few interesting other alternate sets. Most of the custom boards for Catan seem to be 3D variations of the board, which I think are absolutely awful, but I guess there is no accounting for taste.

What I found so far:

  • Lasercut Tiles: an early version of a project that now has a kickstarter page, a beautifully simplistic but well thought out variation on the gameboard, unfortunately it only makes real sense if you have a lasercutter around
  • Boardgamegeek-user Andre Viana offers a nice looking set with photographic tiles
  • Hexes of Kaathan (also on BGG) looks more sophisticated, the sets (multiple ones, also for the extensions) provide tiles looking completely different from each other.
  • Ryan Schenk offers these highly abstracted tile graphics. They look very nice, but not really what I am looking for.
  • The settlers of Oz is a complete graphical conversion to something Wizard of Oz themed. A bit too saccharine for me, but looks really nice. The largest army card is replaced by a “Most Munchkins” card, which almost makes me want to play this
  • The Settlers of the North Pole is the same, just Christmas themed. Kinda meh for me.
  • deviantart user murz has a set of tiles he made as a replacement when he didn’t have his original set available. For me a bit too close to the original (which, remember, I don’t really like)
  • Not really alternate, but well: tiles designed for colourblind people, based on the artwork from Mayfair games

[Discworld] Rite of Askh-Ente

The Rite of Ashk-Ente

Wizard 8*
Duration: 48 turns
Range: 10’

This spell summons Death (or whoever fills his role at this time) into a circle and allows the caster to ask any question he wants and receive answers. Death is omniscient, but he is not bound to answer in the clearest way possible. He also isn’t bound to stay in the circle, but he generally doesn’t tell summoners that to avoid awkward situations. He generally is more or less helpful, mostly because he really doesn’t like the spell. According to him it always takes him away from something important, and considering we are talking about Death this is most likely very true. As the spell involves summoning Death, the mostly elderly wizards attempting a spell of such a level generally do no like to use this spell too often.

The spell will not keep people from dying just because he is summoned. His duties do not need him to attend to every death personally.

*The level of the spell is point of some contention. Traditionally only performed as a group ritual of the eight level with a lot of chanting and impressively dripping candles involved, some enterprising young wizards have abstracted this spell a bit further down. There are 12 versions of the spell available on various levels, including on 5th level (a few candles and chanting), 2nd level (three wooden sticks and a bit of rodent blood), and even 1st level (two sticks and an egg, but it has to be a fresh one!)

[Discworld] Death

Death

Death (Discworld)

Death (Discworld) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Armor Class: 19
Hit Dice: unlimited
No. of Attacks: Blade or Scythe/Will
Damage: 1d30/Death
Movement: 30’
Alignment: Neutral
Save As: Magic-User 20
Morale: n/a
Treasure Type: none
XP: 40.000

It goes without saying that any real fight against Death is futile and could be sumarized with “You lose.” Death is an anthropomorphic representation of, well, death. He (or she?) is even feared by the Gods, because the Gods know that even they can die. They sometimes try to push him around, but in the end he will survive them.

He generally appears as a human skeleton clothed in a black robe, wearing a scythe and a sword. His eyes look dark with the lights that look like blue exploding supernovas. He generally communicates with a voice that is DESCRIBED LIKE THIS and goes directly into the listeners mind, without any diversion over the eardrums. This is not the only way he could look, and all over the Discworld different cultures have different ideas about his looks, but he generally found it a bother to find out what people expect of him and the dark skeleton look seems to be accepted everywhere.

He technically is the last judge, completely emotionless and without pity and mercy, but sometimes he seems to make it clear that he is on our side. Whatever our side might be with a being like him. Technically he does not have any emotions at all (he is lacking the glands for emotions), but he seems fond of cats and curry, and a few other human endeavours.

There are some rules that apply to him (one can assume that someone set these rules sometimes, but considering that he is the only being that was present at the beginning and the end of the universe one has to wonder who that was…): he will allow people to challenge him in a game for their lives (but would prefer not to play chess), he will always respond to the rite of Ashk-Ente and will respond to questions truthfully, he will use his sword for royalty (royalty has special rights), and he will always show up personally for Witches and Wizards.nta

Death always is able to use the following items (even though he might affect an inability to do so): his Scythe and his Sword (both sharp enough to separate souls from bodies), any life timer for any living person (a timer showing how much time the person has left), any biography of any living or dead person (a book writing itself as the person goes along his/her life). He also rides a flying white stallion (called Binky).

The Death of Rats

A small aspect of Death which was created during an identity crisis caused by the Auditors of Reality. In this case Death split into a multitude of Deaths, one for each kind of being. This problem was resolved soon thereafter, but the Death of Rats (and other rodents) had already taken on it’s own personality and refused to become part of Death again. Technically he still is an aspect of Death, but one with it’s own personality and agenda. He generally seems friendly, if a bit mischievous and will take care about rats, mice, hamsters, and a few select humans, the same way Death cares about the rest. He speaks the same way as Death, but most people will only hear him SQUEEK. For translation purposes he has his companion and steed Quoth the Raven.

Regarding the powers of Death

Death is the ultimate NPC. He will show up sometimes, when death to something is imminent or might be uncertain, and might interact with characters at those times. His powers are neither magical, nor divine. Instead one could say that he is the only thing that is really real. Most people cannot see him because they have an inbuilt reality filter that provides them with a buffer from reality. People who can see him at all times include the mystically inclined (Wizards, Witches, cats, etc.), young children (because they do not have the filter yet, seasoned watchmen (who saw enough reality in their career to last them a lifetime), and presumably people who drank a cup or more of Klatchian coffee.

The use of Death in the game

It would not be Discworld if Death was not making at least sporadic appearances, but he should not be overused as a character or as a plot element. Despite the stats above, and despite the long description he should be used sparingly, only for cameos mostly, or maybe a small role in the background. Ideally I only would use him to lampshade some developments in the plot of the session and of course when someone is dying, or close to it.

The Sweet Spot

Over time I found out something about roleplaying groups: There is a certain sweet spot in the size of a group. It’s roughly around 4 to 5 players. Less and the work of the DM becomes more tedious because players will have the constant need to bounce of from the GM in order to find their place in the gameworld, more and all the calculating and numbercrunching for all the characters bogs down everything. I don’t know how that latter thing goes with the rules-light systems I now espouse (Traveller and OD&D), but in Shadowrun and D&D 3rd it was a horror playing with more players. And I played with a lot of players sometimes.

My prime venue back then was the local youth club, of which I had been voted the leader through charisma and sheer awesomeness (the awesomeness partly being that I was the first in the group to have a car). But a lot of the guys there were geeks and so a lot of time went into playing RPGs, mostly D&D 3rd edition (which just had come out) and trying to edge in a few plays of other systems. I think the largest group I had back then was in Shadowrun though, with about 10 people sitting around the table, some of them newbies. It was horror. And I decided to never try that again. I now now that older games used to be played with much larger groups, I still don’t think I ever will cross the 7 or so again.

The sweet spot, it turned out over time, was with four players. And so far I haven’t had a really bad game with four players, if they were more or less in the game.

Of course that sometimes was a challenge, considering that some of the games were interrupted by lengthy discussions on the best pizza to order, bets on wether anyone would try the snails from the restaurant’s menu, and then later getting the pizza and stuffing us with it. Not with snils though, those for some reason were always sold out. Which leads to two different questions: 1. why were they on the menu if they never were available -and- 2. If they were available and really just always out, who in town ate so many snails to deplete the restaurant’s freezer?

I wonder about gaming food sometimes. Some people seem to have taken up the philosophy to not eat and drink anything on the table, while others (me included) like to drink some wine, beer, or mead on the side. And have a nice filling meal before or during the game.

This weekend there will be another session, and I should prepare something. Or at least think about what I should prepare. But the summer has arrived, it’s swelteringly hot outside and stuffy inside, and thoughts come only in drops, or they pour on the page just like that, but without much connection to actual gaming. The setting to play in I think would be Dark Sun, because I feel like that. But I don’t think my players would like yet another change of direction there. On the other hand the area we play in right now is the Wilderlands, so why not do something about that. I think I read the idea once before, and the Wilderlands of High Fantasy actually have a population lower than the Sahara. Lower than Athas even. And considering I am using the larger measures for the game (one hex = 1 league) that would make a lot of sense. A lot of terrible hidden stuff there in the wild lands I guess. Let’s make something out of that. I think I haven’t played up the danger of the whole area enough lately…

Spam and eggs and rice and spam

backpacking and camping…

How come I miss you? Because you cause me to feel smile. That you are so kind. You might be so sweet. That you are very funny. And many of, because you aren’t texting me any more. This is why…

On Under the City State I , the comment was linked to a shop for camping gear…