That’s a “How to Train Your Dragon 2” reference. It’s also tongue in cheek.

Still, I joke because Marty Walser over at Raging Owlbear wrote a really neat post where I kept wanting to say something, but then he went on and said it for me in his next paragraph. Here’s his post.

GM 101: Does Story trump Rules?

Whenever I see this kind of thing, I’m reminded of a line from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV show, which also appears as (I think) a chapter title in the RPG:

Anya: I think this is going to be a very big year for vengeance.
Xander: But isn’t vengeance kind of vengeful?
Anya: You don’t want me to have a hobby.
Xander: Not a vengeance hobby, no. It’s dangerous. People can’t do anything they want. Society has rules and borders and an end zone.

The money quote is the last line, of course. In The Belgariad, by David Eddings, there’s also a line where Belgarath the Sorcerer tells Garion that the reason there is prophecy, and why it’s written down, is that the word shapes the event, limits and contains it. Continue reading “Story and Rules, Enemies again!”

What happened before

The group was moved into a new orphanage after the deaths of all their parents by the same serial killer. We get to know each other, and both friendships and rivalries are formed. We meet Myriam, the proprietor of the place, who always carries a knife and resembled Sigourney Weaver, with facial scarring. We settle in, and eventually are led to go to a house, and encountered a horrible spirit – a soul-eating fae that preys on children. We defeat it in decisive battle, helped by no small amount of luck. We confess all to Myriam at the end, who turns out to be a bad-ass monster hunter type. She starts us in a brutal and effective training regime, which lasts for two years . . .

Dramatis Personae

Kamali Blackshear (14): Kamali is a young boy in his early teens. He is healthy and is of mixed ethnicity of Caucasian South African and native South African. He is a determined youth who believes in a justice of his own, likening himself to the knight of the round whom he has read deeply into. Just asthey stood against the darkness of their age so too does Kamali seek to do the same. For his sister, for his friends, and for the world.

Tag: “A knight without a sword carrying a faith nobody believes.”

Lorenzo DeModouco (15): A handsome and charismatic musician. The loss of his parents didn’t dampen his spirits and he soldiered on after their death. He’s the cheery one always trying to make others happy and sometimes spontaneously breaks into song. Perceptive of others and their feelings, Lorenzo is the one who knows what people are thinking by the looks on their face. He’s also a boy scout and is quite comfortable in the wild.

TAG: “He’s a Jukebox Hero. He’s got stars in his eyes. A Jukebox Hero – he’ll make sure you survive.”

Amos M. Humiston (15) – A comfortable existence turned upside down, he’s still shell-shocked from what happened to his parents and has switched from a small and chatty boy to a small and quiet boy. Amos tends to quietly slip along after the group leaving a trail of books read behind him. And though he doesn’t volunteer himself quite yet, he’s always happy to help the best he can without showing off his intelligence, though that doesn’t stop him from being happy to do so when it’s possible.

Gabriel MacAlister (14) – Built like the natural athlete he is, he shows signs of growing even larger and stronger. A fairly quiet and hard working lad, always ready to lend a hand with any work, which he will do without complaint or obligating the other person to respond. Emphatically not a pushover or weak personality, but also not one to purposefully show off. Has been in many horrible places and seen many horrible things; he’s a bit of a compulsive planner as a result, as well as always feeling that most folks don’t really know how lucky they are.

Tag: “To serve others is the highest calling; to protect the meek the noblest endeavor.”

Timothy I Mitchell (16): Timothy possess an honest if forgettable face. He tends towards comfortable, though inexpensive clothing and durable running shoes, rounding off his typical attire is a deep pocketed jacket and a backpack slung over one shoulder. Timothy appears to be a poster-boy for bad kids, often finding himself in trouble with any and all forms of authority. A victim of neglect, driven to never become a victim again he often acts seemingly on impulse, taking any dare or challenge in his stride. Timothy doesn’t have friends, not in any real sense. Too few of the people who enter his orbit can deal with him in anything more than bite sized pieces, a fact which only further frustrates the young teenager.

Tag: “Darkness is within all of us, it’s how you use that darkness that matters”

Yukon Take it With You

  • Home
  • Wednesday, December 6th, 1995, 1:00 pm
  • 7 Louders Lane, Jamaica Plain Boston, MA 02130-43422

Two years have passed. We’ve grown larger, more studious in the interim, and all of us have become remarkable people. Except Lorenzo, who hasn’t given me his description and so is a blank slate. We are told we’re all going to go to support Lorenzo as he gets his Extreme Conditions merit badge. Those that don’t have backpacks (like Gabe) are given one, and we settle in to what must be fifteen pounds of roast beef.

We pack our stuff, including a fairly impressive array of weaponry for a bunch of teenagers. No one seems to notice or comment on Gabe’s white-hilted sword.

We travel for more than 30 hours, via plane, small plane, smaller plane, and various other conveyances. Alex Lawton is one of the scouts, and his uncle, Robert Lawton, is flying the plane and supervising the trip. Carl Stanford is another scout seeking his badge. That makes the PCs, Alex, Carl, and Robert. Alex and Robert are obviously native american; Alex might also be part Korean. Carl is a happy-go-lucky, annoyingly cheerful boy out on his first big adventure.

We call him RedShirt, instantly.

When we land in the Yukon, it’s the coldest day on record; -53 degrees (-47C). Between our arctic clothing and good HT, we’re good, but still: damn.

Continue reading “The Chronicles of Ceteri (B-Team): Yukon Take It With You”

Naturally, as soon as I put up my review of the UA for Fighters, a helpful soul pointed out that Arcane Archer had already been revisited in a separate Unearthed Arcana.

Let’s take a quick scan. Recall that some of my observations (yeah, complaints, maybe) were that some of the options were devastating, almost “I win” buttons. Others were that the “curtains didn’t match the drapes” where some of the fluff and mechanics were concerned.

Arcane Archer Redux

So, the fluff text about the ancient elven method is still there. You know, not everything archery and magical has to come from elves. I don’t know why this is bugging me more and more recently. Guess it’s a bit of Peter Jackson’s “Just Damned Better than You” syndrome.

So, first thing, they’ve put in a table of abilities, listing the 3, 3, 7, 10, 15, 18 progression a bit. There’s still no explicit 10th level boost, other than yet one more choice for Arcane shot. Pity. That was a notable gap, and some of the arcane shots are powerful enough that a two-tiered structure of shots or shot capabilities would have been conceivable.

You still get all three abilities that were there in the old version at 3rd level: magic arrow, arcane shot (pick two options), and archer’s lore. Continue reading “Arcane Archer Revisited”

I love fighters. Paladins too, but I love fighters. Even when magic and other superpowers are available, I tend to play characters whose main mode of interaction with bad guys is to beat the bejeezus out of them. Partly this is a quirk of mine: when it comes time to sit down and game, I’m usually looking for  a way to unwind, and delving into “what spells or powers do I have now?” isn’t as fun for me as clever ways to do more direct action. When I played “Commander Samurai,” who usually just went by the title “The Commander,” in the GURPS Aeon Campaign, I mostly played him as Batman – ghosting into the situation with a ridiculously high Stealth skill, attacking with fists, guns, or telekinetically-enhanced versions of both, and then vanishing again. He had other powers; we eventually rewrote him because I didn’t use them.

Anyway: to return. I loves me some fighters. When I reposted my take on the Samurai from a year or two ago, a helpful poster aimed me at an Unearthed Arcana dedicated to the topic, specifically the samurai. I read through it, and had thoughts.

Fighter Archetypes

In 5e, what you’re really adding isn’t different character classes in most cases (this is good), but instead adding Fighter Archetypes – which basically means you’re adding thematically unified sets of powers that show up (for the fighter) at different levels. For fighter, you get Martial Archetype boosts at 3rd level (on selection), and then 7th, 10th, 15th, and 18th.

The 3rd level abilities usually define the archetype. The rest are power-ups.

The four new archetypes presented are the Arcane Archer, the Knight, the Samurai, and the Sharpshooter. Continue reading “Review – Unearthed Arcana: Fighter”

I’ll be at GenCon this year, which means all of Gaming Ballistic, LLC will be in attendance. That second one sounds much more impressive.

My fate was sealed when I pledged to the Dungeon Fantasy RPG Kickstarter, and opted into the Saturday 1-5pm session with Sean Punch. Doubly sealed when I decided I’d try and go there under the auspices of the Indie Game Design Network, as both an exhibitor and table fiend.

But . . . that meant I could take the time to do a bit of hands-on demonstration, too.

Grappling Smackdown

From 10am to noon on both Friday and Saturday, I’ll be running a two-hour one-shot session designed to show off how Dungeon Grappling plays at the table.

Right now, each game will be using Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition rules. It isn’t PvP – it will be a normal romp through a limited dungeon, but designed to highlight the grappling rules as modified by Dungeon Grappling.

What does that mean?

It means that a gaggle of kobolds might score enough control points to worry a high level fighter. It means a web spell does control damage. And it means that a Barbarian or Monk got real interesting when optimized around the wrestling skills.

Grappling is Combat

Grappling never really gets the credit it should, because folks usually insist on invoking complicated or non-optimal subsystems to resolve it. Dungeon Grappling is both new and old, in a way that will become instantly apparent when you play.

Come find out what a smooth grappling system can do for a game. Sign up as follows:

Friday 10am to noon

Saturday 10am to noon

I’m a member of the Indie Game Developer Network. So when a member wrote that his Kickstarter was mid-swing, and a surfeit of real-life obligations prevented him from doing marketing for great justice (nod to Zero Wing). I offered to take a look at his product and review it.

The Book of Nouns

Well, yeah. The book contains about 80 different write-ups, categorized as landscapes; cities, towns, and buildings; events; people. There are twenty of each. There’s typically a full-color photograph of the thing in question, and a few pages of writeup, in 6×9 format. Every entry ends with some thoughts on how to use the idea in play.

It’s a straight-forward concept, and one might wonder if it’s needed in the age of Google? I’ll throw down an answer, which is that the world and it’s history is a vast and unruly place, and in order to search for something, you need to know it exists, or be very clever in your search terms.

This book takes some places you might or might not have heard of, people who have done great things (“terrible . . . but great,” to borrow a phrase, in some cases), cities and other events that make a place noteworthy, and then served ’em up to you as a jumping-off point for ideas.

Examples

I won’t spoil it, of course. But there are some very interesting entries in there.

Son Doong Cave

Oh, megadungeons. Not real. Too fake. Too contrived. Could never exist.

Hah. Then you’re not aware of Son Doong Cave – which I was not. Five and a half miles of caves (that’s 2,900 10′ map squares, or if you do four squares to the inch for your graph paper, you’re talking something like a map that’s sixty feet long). And that’s just the linear dimention. Some of the caves are 600′ wide and (more impressively, perhaps) 450′ tall, which is enough to easily support some pretty horrifying avian threats. Like dinosaurs. Just sayin’.

Tell me you can’t see great encounters happening in here? Continue reading “Review: Archive – Historical People, Places, and Events for RPGs”

Thursday is GURPSDay, and may Thor make your games a bit more exiting today!

Welcome to the second year of GURPSDay, and here’s the final pull for this week.

We’re currently drawing content from 86 blogs. Only 14 more to go until we’re pulling from 100! But we’ll need your help.

How? Two action items: post more, recruit more. It’s really that simple. More posters is more posts, and more interest in GURPS.

Below you can find the blog activity for the last week. There’s a whole lotta awesome GURPS going on. Read all 42 posts as of 11:30pmCST.

Not every blog posts about GURPS every week, but some are ridiculously prolific! The list is randomized, so different bloggers will be highlighted at the top of the post each week.

As always, if you’re interested in having your blog consolidated here, navigate over to The Instructions Page and drop me a line. Take special note of the RSS Settings Fix if you’re on WordPress.
Continue reading “GURPSDay Summary May 12 – May 18, 2017”

When Shawn Fisher emailed me that the US Army was looking at adopting a new medium machinegun, this one capable of accurate automatic fire at a range of over a mile, where the M-2 in .50BMG can only deliver single shots, I was intrigued. When I heard it was being considered in .338 Norma Magnum, I knew it was time for a reloading press.

The case and length were designed purposefully to launch the 300-grain, 8.6mm Sierra MatchKing bullet. It’s a long projectile, with an aproximate aspect ratio of 5.6 (compare the 5.56, 7.62, and 12.7mm standard projectiles at about 4:1). This will provide outstanding velocity retention and penetration with distance. The projectile length is an artifact – or more properly – a design intent, of the cartridge and projectile’s intended use: long-range precision marksmanship. Continue reading “Reloading Press: .338 Norma Magnum”

As part of my research and interest in Viking culture and fighting that I developed when researching Dragon Heresy, I got involved with Asfolk, a Viking re-creationist martial arts and crafting group (mostly martial arts, but the instructor Arthur is also a traditional weaponsmith and has done some pretty cool experimentation).

They’ve got lots of equipment, but one of the things that’s encouraged is to make your own. I finally got a good start on that this weekend, as some of the pieces of what will become a viking shield came in, and I finally have/took the time to get going.

Supplies

I ordered a basic shield boss from Viking Shield: the semi-conical Shield boss, for $20.

I also procured 6 half-inch thick, 6″ (true) x 36″ basswood planks. This cost basically $75.

Note that a plywood shield with this boss costs $100 or so. The only shield made of actual planks on that site is poplar, not basswood, and costs over $600. A 4′ x 4′ plywood sheet made of alder (which will be large enough to make yourself a shield if you’re over 6′ tall) costs $45 or so, so if you want a plywood shield, just get a boss, a handle, and save $30-40 and it’ll be sized for just you.

Anyway, I still need a handle; the handle on the Danish two-handed axe from Arms and Armor seems like a nice fit, but I will likely see if I can procure a nice hardwood (hickory or ash) piece of lumber about (true) 1″ x 1.5-2″, and cut it down to provide the required stiffening, as well as a handle more tailored to my needs. I’m going to maybe make a bit of a D-section oval, with a few flats for my fingers and thumb, and oriented a bit more like the weapon it is. Continue reading “Making a Viking Shield”

We kicked off a new campaign under Christopher Rice’s GMing hand. We are doing all sorts of interesting things with rules for this game. It’s still GURPS at the core, but we’ve got all sort of modular add-ons on trial. A card deck system, foibles and flaws from Pointless Looting and Slaying and/or Pointless Monster Hunting in play instead of quantified disadvantages, and a bunch of other stuff, including a lot of home-built magic.

The basic genre of the game is modern-day monster hunting. The quirk is that we’re going to game through our character development, starting as 12-14yo kids, and then doing some flash-forward stuff and time skips. So we’ll play through a bunch of sessions as teens, then flash forward to likely college-age stuff, then maybe once or twice more.

The soft premise is that we are chosen, for good or ill, by the great powers of the world – and by “great powers” we’re basically talking God, and specifically the God of the Bible. There’s a lot more nuance to it than this, and some very, very promising campaign themes and concepts and backstory that we all had some hand in nudging. But there’s a lot of depth to the cosmology here, and it’s very exciting.

Due to technical difficulties getting the transcript done, this is the summary of the first two sessions.

Meet Gabriel MacAlister

Gabriel (Gabe) MacAlister was born in December 1980. His father was a  hard-charging Delta forces type; his mother was a practicing nurse and missionary. He bounced all over the hottest spots in the world, and both his parents took service to others as the highest calling. Gabe spent his early years in North Carolina, but then went with his family to Beirut in 1982, departing from there having picked up a good deal of Arabic in 1984.

From there his mother and he went as missionaries to Ethiopia, for the horrible famines there, and Gabe accompanied her on life-saving and comfort-giving missions as best he could. More Arabic, and also picked up French when he had to live in Djibouti for a while, as Ethiopia had just gotten too horrible.

They rotated back to the USA in 1987, then redeployed to South America on anti-drug and pro-democracy actions for his father. This strengthened his Spanish. Then back to North Carolina for a year, and then back to Saudi Arabia for the run-up to Desert Shield. By this time, Gabe was 10, strongly multilingual, and had been running around in pretty rough places in the world for most of his life, learning confidence, wrestling and some brutal fighting, and survival, medical skills, and all sorts of things along the way from two very capable and hands-on parents. His mother had kept him humble and taught him urban survival and rural living, as well as his acting as her assistant in situations no child should ever have to see. His father kept him strong and taught him independence, self-reliance, and a savagely direct fighting style that meant that any bullying by local toughs only happened once.

The father saw fighting – lots of it – in Saudi Arabia: SCUD hunting, and other action, up until he and his unit ran into something horrible in the Iraqi desert. Only three people of an entire unit came out of that mission. Their debrief noted they’d been attacked and ambushed at night in close-in fighting by a foe that the never saw.

He suffered a seemingly-minor injury during that conflict that led him to decide that while fit to be a regular soldier, he could no longer keep up as a true member of SFOD-D; he and Maria elected to stop wandering, and bring their almost-teen-age son home, and start a new life.

They moved back to North Carolina only briefly, packed their meager possessions, and decided on Boston. They had only been in their new apartment, and Gabriel in his new school, for perhaps three months when tragedy struck, and both of Gabe’s parents were killed in a horrible mass murder in 1993. This mass-murder is the tie that binds all of the PCs together – all of us lost our family that night, as sole survivors, like the Angel of Death passing over Egypt.

Dramatis Personae

Kamali Blackshear (12): Kamali is a young boy in his early teens. He is healthy and is of mixed ethnicity of Caucasian South African and native South African. He is a determined youth who believes in a justice of his own, likening himself to the knight of the round whom he has read deeply into. Just asthey stood against the darkness of their age so too does Kamali seek to do the same. For his sister, for his friends, and for the world.

Tag: “A knight without sword carrying faith nobody believes.”

Lorenzo DeModouco (13):

Amos M. Humiston (13) – A comfortable existence turned upside down, he’s still shell-shocked from what happened to his parents and has switched from a small and chatty boy to a small and quiet boy. Amos tends to quietly slip along after the group leaving a trail of books read behind him. And though he doesn’t volunteer himself quite yet, he’s always happy to help the best he can without showing off his intelligence, though that doesn’t stop him from being happy to do so when it’s possible.

Gabriel MacAlister (12) – Built like the natural athlete he is, he shows signs of growing even larger and stronger. A fairly quiet and hard working lad, always ready to lend a hand with any work, which he will do without complaint or obligating the other person to respond. Emphatically not a pushover or weak personality, but also not one to purposefully show off. Has been in many horrible places and seen many horrible things; he’s a bit of a compulsive planner as a result, as well as always feeling that most folks don’t really know how lucky they are.

Tag: “To serve others is the highest calling; to protect the meek the noblest endeavor.”

Timothy I Mitchell (14): Timothy possess an honest if forgettable face. He tends towards comfortable, though inexpensive clothing and durable running shoes, rounding off his typical attire is a deep pocketed jacket and a backpack slung over one shoulder. Timothy appears to be a poster-boy for bad kids, often finding himself in trouble with any and all forms of authority. A victim of neglect, driven to never become a victim again he often acts seemingly on impulse, taking any dare or challenge in his stride. Timothy doesn’t have friends, not in any real sense. Too few of the people who enter his orbit can deal with him in anything more than bite sized pieces, a fact which only further frustrates the young teenager.

Tag: “Darkness is within all of us, it’s how you use that darkness that matters”

Continue reading “The Chronicles of Ceteri (B-Team): Prelude and Ep2”