Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Kickstart This! - Mystery Science Theater 3000

In the not-too-distant past, 1988 A.D. There were a couple of guys from Minnesota, not too different from you or me. They created a show called Mystery Science Theater 3000, where an unlucky janitor is trapped inside a satellite and forced to watch terrible movies by the mad scientist who put him there. Thankfully, he has his robot friends to keep him company and riff these films. 

In 1999, after 11 seasons, an entire cast change, and two channel switches,Mystery Science Theater 3000 seemed to finally meet its maker. While the myriad of people behind the show eventually started new riffing projects (Cinematic Titanic and Rifftrax), the show's cancellation still hurt and many of us within the fanbase dreamed that we would see the Satellite of Love return one day.

Thankfully, it looks like that day has finally come. Joel Hodgson, the creator and original host, has finally gained the rights back to MST3K and has started a kickstarter to fund new episodes with a new cast. They've already reached the $2 million goal to create three episodes, but still need to earn the $5 million to create a new season of 12 episodes. They have 17 days to go, so throw some money at these beautiful bastards so we can see a great show brought back from the dead.

It doesn't matter if you're a member of Team Joel or Team Mike. It doesn't matter if you think the SciFi Channel Era was worth a damn or not. The only thing that matters is MST3K has the chance to come back and we can help see that happen. Let's make sure we can get those 12 episodes and give this new cast a chance. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

New Race - Arbori

The Arbori are a race of diminutive creatures who inhabit the numerous jungles and tropical forests of the world. Many explorers have mistaken them for a slightly larger breed of monkey at first glance. However, Arbori are more than mere primates.

An average Arbori is roughly the same size as a halfling. Their bodies are covered in a course coat of fur, tending towards a black or brown hue. Occasionally, an Arbori will be born with a white coat. However, this is incredibly rare and many believe an Arbori with such a fur coloration has been touched by the spirits and is meant to do great things. Every Arbori has a long, prehensile tail extending from their lower back and thumb-like appendages upon each foot. Most Arbori wear only a few pieces of clothing, favoring a simple loin cloth, a comfortable vest, or practical harnesses.

Arbori society mostly consists of numerous small villages built into the thick canopies dangling above the jungle floor. These villages tend to be theocratic in nature, with druidic councils guiding the populace both politically and spiritually. These druids are assisted by Arbori bards who collect and chronicle the tribe's history, scribbling these notes upon the back of bark and large leaves. Arbori villages are usually protected by rangers who've been trained to fight within the trees, swinging from branch to branch.

Although the Arbori tend to be a peaceful and reclusive race, they can also be very protective of their home and the forested areas surrounding it. They have been known to fight to the death in order to keep these places safe. They are equally dedicated to their friends and family.

The racial traits for Arbori can be found underneath the break. These racial traits are for the 5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder. Racial traits for Fantasy Age will be coming soon!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Swords of the Petal Throne - A Tekumel Roleplaying Game by Kevin Crawford

+Kevin Crawford is one of those creators who consistently manages to put out excellent work. Stars Without Number is one of my favorite old school compatible games on the market, and his other projects are equally fantastic (especially Spears of the Dawn).

Recently, Crawford has released a game set in M.A.R. Barker's Tekumel called Swords of the Petal Throne. The version currently available online is a beta test using a version of the rules found in Stars Without Number, but modified to fit Barker's setting. I've only glanced through it, but I'm really digging what I'm seeing.

Swords of the Petal Throne is not an officially licensed work, but merely a fan production. However, there's a possibility we might see that change sometime in the future. I'm definitely routing for that to happen because I'd love throw my money at this awesome game and see what a final, fully illustrated PDF might look like. I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels that way.

Those interested in checking out Crawford's other work can do so HERE. I promise, you won't be disappointed.

F@#kers I Hate At Games (a.k.a FIHAGs)

"You guys don't understand! My finger hurts really, really badly!"
I really wish I could take credit for the creation of this term. Unfortunately, Dan from Fear the Boot beat me to the punch. The term FIHAG, as the title of this post illustrates, is an acronym for "Fucker I Hate At Games". 

This is the person who you hate to game with for one reason or another. They do something so annoying that you'd rather shove your head into a box filled to the brim with rabid rats than roleplay with them.  Give me the option of either having my balls repeatedly kicked with a steel-toed boot or roll some dice with this fucker, and I'll eagerly spread my legs and tell you to "Go ahead." 

Everyone has a FIHAG or two. The antics of these individuals have been burned into your brain, making it incredibly difficult for you to force them out so you can remember something useful like complex math or your significant other's birthday. You might not remember the FIHAG's actual name, but you definitely remember the action that damned them in your mind and have given them a title reflecting that. For example, here are a few of mine:

The Challenger goes by many different names: The Rules Lawyer, the Setting Lawyer, or the Science/History Lawyer. The Challenger is the person who will challenge the Game Master on every, little thing. "Actually, I believe the bonus for grappling a giant he's sleeping on a bed of large rocks is a +3 instead of a +2. That would be obvious if you read that one sourcebook from that one 3rd party company," or "That incredibly obscure NPC would never do that! They did something that completely contradicts that in one even more obscure novel written by A. R. Spazalore! How could you not know that!" 

There are some people who just want to watch the world burn, and they also seem to have a lighter ready to set the first fire. These are the people who will do something because it would be "funny", throwing monkey wrenches in every single situation they possibly can. The only seem to have fun when they can sew chaos and ruin any chance you have at having a serious and productive game. It's okay to have fun, but the Agent of Chaos' fun comes at the expense of the other players and the cohesion of the game itself. 

FIWAGS are the counter-point to FIHAGS. These are the people that you want at the gaming table. They're the players who keep you coming back to each session and are a joy to play with. Everyone has a couple of FIHAGs, but they have a handful of FIWAGs as well. They could be the players who are always excited to grab some dice and explore a new part of the world, or the player who is willing to try anything and will go with the flow of the game. 

Although this post is about FIHAGS, I feel like I should discuss the opposite side as well. The FIWAGs are what make tabletop gaming an entertaining hobby. However, I would be lying if I said I didn't like bitching about FIHAGs more. 

Now it's your turn. Who are your FIHAGs & FIWAGs? What is the trait you either hate or like about them? Why do you hate or like this trait so much? Leave your answers in the comments blow. I'd love to know. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Shadows Over Elsir Vale - House Rules

Tomorrow, I'll be kicking off my first 5e campaign. The setting will be the Elsir Vale region depicted in the old 3.5 module Red Hand of Doom, with a handful of modifications and alterations to fit the campaign's needs. This will most likely be either a bi-weekly or monthly game to better fit everyone's schedule, meaning I'll probably go for a more episodic narrative.

Because this will be my first campaign, I decided to share the house rules I'll be using with all of you. I've decided to keep this list pretty short, wanting to run most things by the book for the time being. I want to keep things simple for both my players and myself for the time being. I'll most likely update this list in the future if I make any additions or cut something from the list.

Ability Score Generation
Players will generate their character's ability scores by rolling 4d6, dropping the die with the lowest result, and adding the remaining three together. They'll repeat this until they have six numbers, then assign them to their abilities as they see fit.

Hit Point Generation
Characters will begin with maximum hit points at 1st level, plus their Constitution modifier. Every level thereafter, the character receives additional hit points by rolling their hit die twice, keeping the die with the higher result, and adding their Constitution modifier.

Players can select any non-evil alignment for their characters without needing Dungeon Master permission.

Healer's Kit Dependency 
Characters can't spend any Hit Dice after finishing a short rest until someone expends one use of a healer's kit to bandage and treat the character's wounds. This variant rule can be found on pg. 266 of the Dungeon Master's Guide.

Cleaving Through Creatures
When a melee attack reduces an undamaged creature to 0 hit points, any excess damage from that attack might carry over to another creature nearby. The attacker targets another creature within reach and, if the original attack roll can hit it, applies any remaining damage to it. If that creature was undamaged and is likewise reduced to 0 hit points, repeat this process, carrying over the remaining damage until there are no valid targets, or until the damage carried over fails to reduce an undamaged creature to 0 hit points. This variant rule can be found on pg. 272 of the Dungeon Master's Guide.

Critical Failures
When a character receives an unmodified result of 1 on an attack roll, they have critically failed. This fumbled attack gives the next attack roll made against them advantage.

Identifying a Magic Item
A character can focus on one magic item during a long rest, while being in physical contact with the item. At the end of the rest, the character learns the item's properties, as well as how to use them. This rule replaces the default rule for identifying a magic item.

Feel free to leave any comments about the house rules presented above. I tried to keep things short and simple, but I will definitely be evolving this list as the campaign goes forward. Go ahead and share some of your own 5th Edition house rules in the comments below. I'd love to see how other people have tinkered with the mechanics to personalize their own experiences with it. 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Frightful Features - Tales from the Crypt (1989-1996)

Created by Steven Dodd, Tales from the Crypt was a horror anthology series that ran for seven seasons on the premium cable channel HBO. The title is based upon the classic horror comics published by EC Comics during the 1950's. Like The Twilight Zone and other anthology series, Tales from the Crypt possesses a host character known simply as the "Crypt Keeper", a reanimated corpse who's risen from the grave to tell terrifying tales for our entertainment.

He also enjoys puns. Really, really, really bad puns. Puns that will make you groan louder than you ever thought you could.

Each episode presented a new tale, each more gruesome than the last. Most of the content was derived from the comics it originated from, causing the majority of the stories to end with some dark twist or a strange moment of macabre justice being enacted upon someone truly despicable after doing something particularly awful. However, they made sure each episode was its own beast and felt different from the last.

I'll admit, I'm cheating with this entry. Tales from the Crypt is clearly not a feature film. However, I decided to break the rules just this once because I believe the Halloween season is the perfect time to talk about this classic series.

I have a soft spot for anthologies, especially when it comes to film and television. The Twilight Zone is my favorite show, and I have very fond memories of Tales from the Darkside, Monsters, The Outer Limits (the 90's remake), and even Are You Afraid of the Dark and Goosebumps. I love seeing a brand new story each time I tune into such a series, admiring the craft put into them and getting such a varied amount of entertainment. Tales from the Crypt is no exception.

Each episode feels like a creepy B-Film crammed into 30 minute bites, filling you up without overstaying their welcome. One episode you might have a serial killer dressed up as Santa Claus attempting to kill a woman who's just murdered her husband and trying to cover it up, while the next could have two gambling rivals challenging each other to increasingly deadly games in order to beat the other. The various directors also brought their own unique touches to each episode, helping each feel more unique, while also still possessing a certain feel that was easily recognizable as a Tales from the Crypt story.

Don't get me wrong, Tales from the Crypt was by no means perfect. Like most anthology series, there are some real stinkers within the 93 episodes that were produced and made. However, the majority were great (especially within the first few seasons) and still remain enjoyable today. They feel like the perfect thing to show during a horror movie marathon, in-between each film to act as palate cleanser. They're also great when you just want to relax and enjoy something creepy and happens to have a heavy dose of dark humor.

Fantasy Age Specializations - The Witch

While every mage knows how to cast a spell, each one possesses a different source for that knowledge and approaches this mystical power in a unique way. Some spend years locked away within ancient towers, pouring over dusty tomes to unlock their arcane secrets. Others devote their lives to the deities, learning to channel their divine might. There are a lucky few who are born with the ability to sling spells, eldritch energies infused within their blood. The witch has chosen a different path.

The witch forges a mystically-binding pact with an otherworldly entity, gaining the ability to perform magical feats. However, they must act as this entity's agent in the mortal world. Occasionally, the witch will be required to perform certain tasks for the patron. These will be determined by the Game Master, based upon the nature of your eldritch pact. The requests made by a demonic creature will differ from the requests of a powerful fey.

Classes: Mage                                    
Requirements: Intelligence and Willpower 2 or higher.                               

Novice: The pact you've made allows you to ask your patron for advice. You can use a major action to act if a particular action will bring good or bad results for you in the future. This will garner you one of four results: 
  • Weal (the action will bring you good results)
  • Woe (the action will bring you bad results)
  • Weal and Woe (the action will bring you good or bad results)
  • Nothing (the action does not have any especially good or bad results). 
You can only contact you patron this way once per encounter. You must rest for 8 hours before you can use this ability again if used outside of combat. 

Journeyman: You patron has granted you the ability to weaken your opponents, turning luck against them. You gain the ability to use a special spell stunt called Hex. This stunt allows you to give a target opponent a -2 penalty to one ability of your choosing until the end of the encounter. This stunt costs 5 SP. 

Master: You become more adept at hexing your opponents. The Hex stunt works as normal, but you can select two abilities to impose a -2 penalty upon instead of one.