Monday, May 2, 2016

New 5e Race - Goblins

Art by Steve Prescott
Goblins are a race of diminutive creatures that are incredibly destructive and vicious. Most other races view them as the humanoid equivalent to cockroaches, lurking upon the fringes of society, scavenging to survive, and being very problematic in large numbers.

Most goblins spend the entirety of extremely short lives among their own tribe, but a small few have decided to venture forth into the larger world, driven by their disturbing curiosity and thirst for power. The majority of these meet untimely ends, but a small few manage to survive, with a tiny handful falling in with strangely accepting groups of adventurers.

Ability Score Increase: Your Dexterity score increases by 2, and your Constitution score increases by 1.

Age: Goblins mature much faster than humans, reaching adulthood around age 12. They age noticeably faster and rarely live longer than 40 years.

Alignment: The majority of goblins tend to be greedy, capricious, and downright cruel. Most goblins tend to lean towards Chaotic or Neutral Evil.

Size: Goblins are roughly 3 to 3 1/2 feet tall and average 40 pounds. Your size is Small.

Speed: Goblins are small, but surprisingly quick. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.

Darkvision: Because of your race's tendency to inhabit dark caves and underground tunnels, you have superior vision in dark and dim conditions. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can't discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.

Stealthy: You gain proficiency in the Stealth skill.

Nimble Escape: Goblins are quick and sneaky creatures. You can take the Disengage or Hide action as a bonus action on each of your turns.

Languages: You can speak, read, and write Common and Goblin.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Beyond the Hylian Wall - A Legend of Zelda Campaign Concept

I dare you to look at this picture and not have that
familiar theme pop into your head.
The Legend of Zelda franchise holds a very special, nostalgic place in my geeky heart. During my childhood, I spent countless hours sitting right in front of my television with a controller held tightly in my hands, exploring the realms of Hyrule while saving Princess Zelda from that porcine asshole Ganon. Although I've had my problems with certain entries (*cough*Skyword Sword*cough*), I still consider myself a fan and will always give the latest entry a shot, wanting to feel that same sense of adventure once again.

Recently, I've had a peculiar itch to run a mini-campaign based upon the franchise using the excellent Beyond the Wall and Other Adventures

The campaign would exist in a version of Hyrule where Ganondorf defeats the Hero of Time in the final battle at the end of Ocarina of Time, takes the remaining pieces of the Tri-Force from Link and Zelda, and uses the power of the completed Tri-Force to transform himself into the Demon King Ganon.

Now possessing immense power, Ganon begins to terrorize the land, leaving utter destruction in his wake and crushing any form of resistance he can find underneath the heel of his massive boot.

In a desperate move to save what little remained of the kingdom of Hyrule, the Seven Sages use their combined power to seal Ganon and the completed Tri-Force in another plane of existence. Although they succeed at banishing the Demon King from the world, the kingdom is beyond repair.

The campaign would pick up after a century has passed, with the current inhabitants existing in a Dark Age. The Kingdom of Hyrule is no more, the once mighty city is now a crumbling ruin and the royal family has all but vanished. The few bastions of civilization that managed to rebuild themselves after Ganon's reign of terror exist as independent powers with travel between them being incredibly rare. Very few people have ventured forth beyond the towering walls that keep them safe from the dangerous creatures lurking within the surrounding wilderness.

Those of you who are familiar with the Legend of Zelda Timeline will recognize this as a slightly altered version of the "Fallen Hero" Timeline. I feel using this series of events will lead to a version of the world that better fits the structure of a role-playing game. This version of the Timeline has no new Hero, suggesting Ganon succeeding at defeating Link threw off the cycle. Thankfully, this leaves space for the party to take Link's role with relative ease.

Players will create characters as described in the Core Rules of Beyond the Wall. At first, the only available race will be Human. The characters would all be residents of a small town who choose to leave for one reason or another (probably not under their own volition). Later in the campaign, the players would come into contact with the other Zelda races, "unlocking" them as racial options for new or replacement characters. I'm thinking the unlockable races will be Gorons, Kokiri, and Zoras. Possibly Deku Shrubs and Gerudo as well.

The focus of the campaign would be a simple one. The players would explore the fallen realm of Hyrule, delving into the depths of the crumbling dungeons and temples of the past. They'd also learn Ganon's presence is slowly leaking back into the world, possibly heralding his return. The party would then have to discover a way to keep him sealed away, possibly discovering the reason why the Hero was never reborn.

Since I will probably not have a chance to use this concept for the foreseeable future due to a project I've been working on (which I hope to reveal very soon), I thought I'd jot down my thoughts so someone else can use them if they feel inclined to do so.I might post the mechanics for the four races that players can unlock if anybody is interested. 

Monday, April 11, 2016

In Memory of a Fallen Gamer

R.I.P. Logan. You will be missed.
Nearly two weeks ago, I received a message that felt like a vicious punch to the gut. I learned that a close friend of mine by the name of Logan Masterson had passed away the previous afternoon.

My initial reaction to this horrific news was to not believe it. Part of me hoped this was some kind of morbid April Fool's Joke, that he'd show up at our FLGS the following Monday, revealing this dark ruse for what it was. Unfortunately, deep down inside, I knew this wasn't a joke...

I only knew Logan for about a year, but I quickly grew to care about him. He was easily one of my favorite people to game with. Name the game and he'd give it a try, and he was down for just about anything as long as it would lead to an amazing story in the end. Same was true when he took the seat behind the Game Master's screen. 

He also helped me through some pretty tough times this past year. He helped me deal with that mental asshole known by most as Depression and encouraged me to not give up on my own creative endeavors. I'll greatly miss the times we'd spent in his garage or office, talking about numerous geeky topics (mostly comics, gaming, and music), simply enjoying our break from the hectic nature of the outside world. 

Knowing I'll never see my friend again is still a concept I find incredibly hard to accept. I'll never make the trek up to our new FLGS to see Pepper, the orange car he named after the Marvel character Pepper Potts, sitting outside with him standing under the tailgate rolling up a cigarette again. I'll never get the chance to run Mage: The Ascension for him, which was his favorite game and he believed that I'd do a fantastic job with. I'll never get to talk to him about our gaming projects and so much more. 

Most importantly, I'll never get to tell him how much I cared about him and thank him for being apart of my life. I just hope I left as big of an impression on him as he did on me and I hope this post does an adequate job at honoring his memory. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Breaking Point

You can only put so much pressure on something
before it finally breaks...
Last Monday, an incident occurred with one of the players in my Savage Worlds campaign. One player, who I'll be calling "Harry" for the purposes of this post, has been a thorn in my side since the campaign began. He made every session a frustrating experience & I dreaded seeing his face each time I sat down at the table. The only reason he lasted as long as he did was the fact that he came as a packaged deal with another player who's presence I actually enjoy.

That marginal toleration came to a breaking point last Monday, and I unfortunately broke. Harry, being his annoying self, slapped an NPC who almost sacrificed herself to save his character, actually slapping the wound she gained performing this action (magic can be a dick like that). I swear I stared at Harry flabbergasted for a solid five minutes, trying to figure out why he'd do such a thing.

Turns out, his reasoning was rather stupid. His justification for the action was the NPC, a 35 year old witch & mother to one of the player's characters, was the party's only ride back into town. This character used a magical shortcut to save his character (a 10 year old middle school student), and he felt the best way to respond to that was to slap the wound she received as hard as possible. Shortly thereafter, he went into a misogynistic diatribe before calling me dumb for not understanding his actions.

That's when the metaphorical chain shattered, and a few different paths to handling the situation presented themselves. The first path was the emotional path, the to that would have felt good, but would have caused more problems than it solved. This path would most likely involve some choice words & a punch. The second path was the less cathartic path, but much more level-headed in nature. This path would involve me remaining calm and informing Harry that he is no longer welcome at my table.

Thankfully, I went down the latter path.

Now, I'll admit this caused me to lose an additional player, but yesterday's session felt so much better. I was no longer having to deal with Harry's shenanigans, letting me focus on the other players so I could make sure they were having a fun time. I'll miss playing with Harry's friend, but I'm okay with making that sacrifice for the health of the group & the campaign.

I'm sure I'm not the only GM who's had an experience like this. We've all had a really problematic player, one that slowly kills all the enjoyment you derive from the game like some humanoid tumor. While some will cut that tumor out as soon as possible, others (like myself) tend to let it fester for far too long, bottling up that frustration until the cork finally pops off. The quick flood of negative emotions is usually what causes someone to punch the offending player or flip a poor, undeserving table.

The key to not doing that is learning how to quickly barricade those explosive emotions, and letting them out in a more focused stream that's more productive. This usually manifests as either you leaving the table to calm down, probably ending the session prematurely if needed, or removing the problem player if things cannot be reconciled. I'm not going to lie, there will be repercussions for these actions (like losing another player who chooses to stand beside your own, personal Harry), but they are easier to manage than the ones resulting from a player punch or a table flip.

Have you ever experienced something like this? Have you ever had a player that was so problematic that you were eventually pushed past your breaking point? How did you handle it, and do you have any tips for those who might have to deal with it in the future? Leave your answers in the comments below.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

5e Musings - Simplified Encumbrance

Making encumbrance work seems to be a strange goal of mine. Throughout the past few years, I've been tinkering with several alternatives for different systems. Since I'm not getting more into 5e, I figured I should try my hand at doing one for it as well.

Here's the result of my brainstorming. Characters have a specific limit to the number of significant items they can carry without being negatively effected. This amount is known as the character's Carrying Capacity.

Carrying Capacity is equal to 1/2 the character's Strength score (rounded down). A character can carry an amount of significant items equal to or below this amount without any problems.

A character carrying a number of significant items passed this amount, up to double her Carrying Capacity, is Encumbered. While Encumbered, she drops her speed by 10 feet. Carrying a number of significant items equal to or greater than triple her Carrying Capacity will make her Heavily Encumbered. Like before, her speed is reduced by 20 feet, but she also suffers disadvantage on ability checks, attack rolls, and saving throws that use Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution.

Now, I'm sure you noticed throughout the above text that I used the term "significant items" several times. Instead of every item counting towards a character's Carrying Capacity, only a specific few do. The following items are considered significant enough, but Dungeon Masters may add or subtract to this list as they see fit:
  • Armor, Weapons, & Shields
  • Magic Items
  • Bundled Items (Ammunition, Coinage, Rations, etc.) 
  • Containers (Backpacks, Quivers, etc.) 
Let's take a look at what this might look like at the table. Lauren's character Althea has a Strength of 15, meaning she has a Carrying Capacity of 7 (1/2 of 15, rounded down). She can carry 7 items without a problem, becomes encumbered when carrying 8 to 14 items, and heavily encumbered at 15+ items. 

Like the Simplified Ammo rules I posted a few weeks ago, the main goal of these rules was to abstract the mechanics in order to make their application at the table much easier. I believe only focusing on specific items and basing the amount you can carry on 1/2 a character's Strength score achieves this pretty nicely.

With that being said, I acknowledge utilizing 1/2 Strength does seriously hamper those characters that happen to have lower Strength scores. Those wishing to relieve this can make the number of significant items that can be carried easily equal to the character's Strength score instead.This will inflate the later numbers a little, but that might just be a necessary evil. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Doom that Came to Pandemic

Debuting at Gen Con 2016, Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu will be a Mythos-themed version of Matt Leacock's popular cooperative game. The designers heading this project are Leacock himself and Rise of Cthulhu's Chuck D. Yager.

Very few, concrete details have been released about Reign of Cthulhu. However, we do know what the basic premise will be. Instead of playing CDC agents attempting to cure several diseases spreading across the entire globe, you will take the role of investigators trying to seal numerous portals throughout Lovecraft Country while battling insane cultists.

Imagine that Arkham Horror had a weird, yet surprisingly kinky one night stand with Pandemic, and this game was the aberrant spawn of that freaky moment in time.

This just proves to me that Z-Man Games knows the secret to separating me from my money. Take one of my favorite board games and add a heavy dose of Lovecraftian goodness.

What do you guys and gals think? Are you excited for Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu? Are you apprehensive, and if so, why? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

You Can't Forget the Classics - Wizards of the Coast Releases OD&D in PDF (Again)

Yesterday, Wizards of the Coast made the PDFs for the original edition of Dungeons & Dragons available again.

These are based upon the Original Collector's Edition released in 2013. For $9.99, you will get all three books contained in the original box set plus the Reference Sheets booklet.

I'll admit something here: I've never played OD&D. I came into the hobby with 3.5, and my experience with older versions of the game have been rather limited until very recently.

However, I've always wanted to give the version presented in those three, white booklets a try at some point. This might be the perfect opportunity to do so, allowing me to check that off my gaming bucket list.

Those interested in purchasing the PDFs can find them at D&D Classics. $10 for a piece of gaming history is a pretty sweet deal if you ask me.