Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My Crazy Idea: Super Robot Wars, the Tabletop Wargame

Recently I've been playing the Super Robot Wars series of turn-based strategy games. These games are a crossover between many different Giant Robot Shows, Mazinger Z, Getter Robo, Gundam and many others. I now officially consider myself a Super Robot fan. Many of the games have not been translated into English, which is a problem because I'd like to play more.

So I got an idea, to create a tabletop game that allowed me to recreate the battles from the series and create my own. But I don't know how to go about doing that. Also, I'd need to have some kind of figures. I'd also need some one to play with.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Still Alive

Yep, still alive. Me and my family have gone through some rough times lately, and I haven't had much time for gaming. At least we know that my father is not going to die immediately (he's been diagnosed with cancer and until recently his numbers were pretty high). That's always good to know.

Monday, August 09, 2010

On Combat and Exploration

Many see the primary activity in D&D as combat. It is said that D&D is about "killing things and taking they're stuff." I see it differently, as my favorite activity is exploration and I see that as the primary activity. Combat is something that often happens while exploring dungeons, but is not the only activity that adventurers engage in, in fact it can often be not the best solution or even counter productive, especially when facing a superior foe.

What made me think about this is the rather awesome, but also very long, combat that occurred in the latest session of my D&D campaign. In many ways it reminded me of my experiences in playing 4th Edition wherein combat is a very significant part of the game, certainly the central aspect, and also debatably more important than in other editions of D&D. This is part of why so many dislike that version of D&D and certainly why I prefer other versions myself. Despite what some have said though, it is not because 4th edition lacks "non-combat rules". In fact with the advent of the skill challenge it can be said to have more rules for non-combat than any other version of D&D. I personally do not believe that having many rules for non-combat is necessarily even desirable. In many cases having a few simple rules will serve better, as more complex rules may in fact bog down the game.

There are many aspects of the topic of D&D as a game of exploration that I could discuss. These include the role of mapping in making exploration more interesting, how many empty rooms should be included in a good dungeon, the use of tricks and traps, and many other things. Perhaps I will discuss those in further blog entries.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

the Shattered Empire: Session 3

This session was dominated by an epic battle against the enemy goblin tribe. Before that they fought them they did explore one not particularly notable room. It had a puddle of water and moss, but they thought for sure that something was going to pop out and get them. But there wasn't anything there.

So then they decided to attack the goblins. Shortly before they arrived they met up with a trio of orcs from the goblin tribe they had allied with. They asked that they be allowed to participate in the attack on the enemy tribe. The players agreed and asked that they go up front. "More glory for us!" the orcs responded.

When the party rounded the corner they saw two goblin sentries. With a cry of "Bree-yark" they called for they're tribemates and attacked. However they were quickly overwhelmed. Unfortunately the fighter from the north got too ahead of the rest of the group. When the rest of the goblins arrived he was facing them all without his allies. The rest of the group followed behind and were quickly confronted by the leader of the goblins and soon after that more of his people. The goblin got in a good sneak attack against the cleric, but got a few good hits against himself as well. He then retreated behind his minions. Meanwhile the goblins in the northern passage had surrounded the northerner and had dealt several telling blows, though he had killed a few of them before he went down. He was bleeding to death, but one of they're orcish allies pulled him away from the melee so he could be healed, while the other finished off the goblins. The other group was also slowly worn down. The leader attempted to deliever a sneak attack, but failed and was slain, dispite the effort of one of his minions to revive him with a healing potion. Then the remaining goblins were finished off.

End result was that seventeen enemies were down without any fatalities though there were a couple of close calls. The loot amounted to just under five hundred silver pieces plus the gear of the goblins which they gave to they're goblin allies. The session finished with the players attending a celebration thrown by the goblins because of they're defeat of they're enemies.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

the Shattered Empire: Session 2

Last Sunday night I had quite a surprise as some of my players showed up expecting to play. So I quickly set up and after a few minutes we started playing. The session started off when the party was attacked by a giant spider while camping out in the dungeon. They're sentry, Theron, was the first to encounter the beast and shouted for the others. After a few rounds of throwing javelins, and dodging spider webs he was joined by the rest of the party, including a new member. This cleric had come from the far north, more or less, "Russia". Well they quickly finished off the spider and in the morning started they exploration of the dungeon level.

From the stairs they entered into a room with three corridors leading off in all directions, except the one that the stair came from. The rest of the relatively short session was devoted to exploring a series of rooms that used to be storerooms for the old palace, before the cellar was expanded into a dungeon. They encountered dire rats, found some treasure, including a chest in a secret room. A particularly notable encounter was with some hobgoblins (recall that in my campaign, hobgoblins are the smaller version). They did not attack the PCs immediately and the PCs decided to parlay. For 1 gp each they got permission to travel through the goblins' territory and were offered a place to stay the night. The group opted to hide in the secret room however. They also learned of a second, chaotic group of goblins that worked for a minotaur that laired in the dungeon. They then began to explore other parts of the dungeon, and found a "T" intersection just before we decided to call it quits.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

the Shattered Empire: Session 1

At long last, me and my friends have finally gotten together again to play D&D! The first hour or so was devoted to making characters, definitely a disadvantage of using something derived from 3rd Edition (we're using Pathfinder). Then we got the adventure underway.

The game began with the PCs meeting on the road to Delphens, a corrupt town filled with bandits and thieves. Soon after that they were attacked by some of the bandits. However they were no threat to the players. After the PCs killed one, and knocked out the leader, the others surrendered. The PCs decided (at my suggestion) to recruit them.

Then the PCs finished heading to Delphens where they looked for an adventure to undergo. Theron, the warrior revealed that he had heard of a ruined palace on just the other side of the river. The underground sections of this palace had been expanded into a maze, which where filled with both treasure and traps. They also heard a (false) rumor of an invading army of goblins. Theron was unsympathetic and said the people in the tavern should be out getting ready for the war.

They decided to explore the ruined palace. They hired a fisherman to ferry them to the other side of the river and to return when they finished they're expedition. Theron taught the northern barbarian (currently nameless) about haggling.

When they arrived at the palace they began exploring the place. Some players wanted to barge right through, but Theron's player advised caution, and so they began methodically mapping out the palace. Most of it was empty, however they did encounter some stirges, a couple of dire bats and some dire rats. They didn't find any treasure, except for a masterwork longsword, because they didn't look in the right places (i.e. under a pile of rubble). When the session ended they were getting ready to head down to the under ground level.

All in all, it was fun. It could have gone better in some parts, but I enjoyed myself immensely. I'm looking forward to playing again in a couple weeks. I find it interesting that Theron, a neutral evil character is becoming so prominent.

Friday, June 18, 2010

the Planes of Existence

I've been thinking about how the planes of existence will be organized and which kinds will exist in my campaigns for some time now. The planes of existence are one of my favorite topics in fantasy games. The awesome Planescape campaign setting probably helps with that.

So my idea for what the planes should be like is very similar to the Great Wheel cosmology. However there are several changes as well.

  • Limbo connects to all of the chaotic planes. Except, perhaps, the planes that are only secondarily chaotic like Carceri. Furthermore, Limbo has it's own layers, including the realms of various chaotic divinities. These are not the roiling maelstrom that Limbo proper is, but are all still quite chaotic in they're own ways.
  • Olympus is chaotic neutral (good), like Ysgard. Olympus may be on the same layer, or a seperate one, I haven't yet decided. Arborea remains Chaotic Good, but may be undergoing some changes, like the whole plane may be getting the infinite layers deal that the Abyss has, with Arborea just being one of the layers. It may or may not be the uppermost one.
  • The Beastlands are very similar, but the various Animal Lords & intelligent animals may be moved to the Outlands, or perhaps scattered throughout the planes, with the plane (or at least some layers of it) retaining the general wild feel. That region of the Outlands may get the name Beastlands, with the plane of Neutral (Chaotic) Good getting a new moniker.
  • Not many changes to the lawful planes so far. One thing is that I may deemphasize Acheron's focus on battle. Also Grummsh and Magulybiet may be moving to the Abyss and (back to) the Nine Hells respectively. They're armies still battle, but largely as part of the larger Blood War. A significant fact is that since orcs and goblins are the same thing in my campaigns, they compete for worshipers. Thus they're relationship is altered somewhat.
  • Outlands may have other layers. For instance Illsensine's realm may be on a separate layer (if I decide to keep Illsensine at all. If I do he may also be on a different plane and may be a different manner of being, like a "Great Old One" rather than a god), as may be Tír na nÓg.
  • In addition to relatively normal worlds like Oerth and Abeir-Toril, material planes (not just demiplanes) may have wildly different rules and attributes. Oerth and Toril exist in a universe much like ours (I'm not using the crystal spheres idea from Spelljammer), but with more magic. In fact, like in the Spelljammer setting they may share the same universe, but others like Athas and Krynn would not. The Elemental Planes may just be a series of alternate Material Planes dominated by a single element, but I'm leaning towards having both the "main" Elemental Planes and element-dominated Material Planes. I'm changing around the Ethereal Plane. The Ether is part of all worlds, but the Ethereal Plane is not it's self coexistent with those worlds, instead merely connecting worlds.
  • The Astral is in fact coexistent with the Material, but not the Outer Planes. So if you Astrally Project you start off in the part that is coexistent with the world and can from there travel to the higher spiritual planes (i.e. the Outer Planes). This is also the realm of ghosts and other spirits, the "Spirit World" of Oriental settings. The demiplane of Dreams, if I decide to use it would also be in the Astral Plane. So it basically takes the role of the Ethereal in many ways, as I judge to make more sense.
In general I'm looking to shake up the planes, so that there is more room for new material (though there was already a lot of room). My policy is not even the most knowledgeable of sages in places like the city of Sigil know everything about the planes (as much as Sigilians like to deride Primes as "clueless"). The Great Wheel is just one of many models for mapping out the planes, no more valid than any other. They may know that there are two layers in Bytopia, or three in Hades but there may be others that are uncharted. 

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Real-world Religions and the D&D Game

I'm currently undergoing research to find out about the real world religions, primarily those of the ancient world, but also such contemporary religions as Hinduism and Buddhism. Now the primary focus of my research is not the mythology of those faiths, but rather the day-to-day practices of those faiths. After all, if you play as a priest how often does mythology effect most adventures? Or if you go to the village priest for healing? It's not a complete non-factor, after all creatures of myth are a common opponent in D&D and the rivalries between divinities are often the focus of an adventure, but actual religion is often overlooked.

I hope to garner from my studies a greater understanding of how ancient religions worked and how it might work in D&D. A thing I have noticed is that religion is often summed up as "you worship this god, he has such-and-such a dogma, hates this and this god, etc.", as if each deity has it's own separate religion. There are such things as monolatrists, but even so this approach oversimplifies things. Yes, sometimes simplicity is good for the game, where overcomplexity would be bad, but I believe that a greater understanding of how religion worked for various cultures could in fact improve my games.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Update on Shattered Empire

Well since my players are home from college we are planning to get together in real life to play. Unfortunately this will actually be our first session since we haven't been able to get MapTool working. But I'm glad we'll finally be able to play!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Big Map of Kalimdor

I have many projects I am working on or thinking about simultaneously. I do try to focus on the ones I'm actually playing or have a good chance of playing in the near future, but sometimes I work on other things. For instance I'd like to play a campaign in the Warcraft Universe, where the Warcraft series of games including the RTS Warcraft III and the MMORPG World of Warcraft are set. So I have been working on a map of Kalimdor, one of the continents in the series.

This map is large scale, with 30 mile hexes. Thus I am using twelve sheets of hex graph paper. One of the things I have noticed is that since the MMO has regions that should logically be much smaller in relation to the continent as they are presented as being, I have had to make decisions as to where these should be in relation to one another. For instance the zone called "the Thousand Needles" is supposed to be close to several zones, which are thousands of miles apart on my map. I had to make a decision as to where I wanted to put it, near on of the three zones, or somewhere in the middle. Ultimately I decided to put it near Feralas, a zone of jungle, as the explanation of it's existence presented in one of the RPG books that made the most sense to me, required it to be near that zone.

Ultimately, the fact that there is a lot of space between established regions is actually a bit of a blessing. There is a lot of space to put stuff that might not fit in one of the other regions. Furthermore players of the games will not know everything there is to know about Kalimdor. There will still be a lot of secrets. Though for some of the larger regions they still won't know everything. So over all I'm feeling good about my efforts. Just a few kinks to work out.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

New Campaign: Lord Zack's Greyhawk: the Return of Elemental Evil

I am trying to get a campaign going. It will be set in Greyhawk, but a modified version of the setting. For one thing many of the non human races will be fey in origin, the Dwarves, Elves and Gnomes were all originally fey, but eventually became more man-like. Halflings on the other hand are still considered demihumans, and there are additional demihuman races like troglodytes, no longer lizard-like, but instead a race of subterranean demihumans, and merfolk, which are obviously marine demihumans. I'm also rearranging the goblin races, hobgoblins are a smaller variety, rather than a larger one and the larger variety are called orcs, rather than having orcs and goblins be separate varieties. Goblins do vary by environment, as there are the more agile lowland orcs, and the stronger mountain orcs, as well as deep orcs. There are also crossbreeds of course, I'm thinking of making kobolds a crossbreed of gnome and goblin. Gnolls are in fact descended from orcs "blessed" by the demon lord Yeenoghu to resemble the canines that many goblins favor. Trolls also have changed as in my campaign they come in many varieties including ogres, and one resembling the traditional D&D troll. "Hill giants" for instance are a variety of troll. Goblins and trolls seemingly are related to certain varieties of evil fey, like the boggards and fomors respectively for instance. I am also using a version of Blackmoor closer to Dave Arneson's which also in a different place.

Now as for the campaign it's going to mostly be a sandbox, but there will also be a sort of plot, or at very least a theme. That being the Cult of Elemental Evil. Thus I will be using modules like the Village of Homlett/Temple of Elemental Evil, and the Giants/Drow series. These modules will not necessarily be as written. I'm considering heavily modify the Temple of Elemental Evil to address some complaints I've heard about it, for instance. I'm also using B2, and probably modifying the Caves of Chaos. I won't be using Queen of the Demonweb Pits.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

the Shattered Empire

Well it's been slow going, but it seems some time in the next week my game with my old group, minus a few people, and with a few new people will begin.

I have decided to start a new campaign instead of continuing my old one. I have set up a sandbox, though I'm still making a few adjustments to the map. They will be starting in the town of Delphens, which has a corrupt government and is dominated by rogues and thieves. Nearby, there are a couple of ruins from the old empire, that had been conquered by a human slave of the elves. There is also a mound that is inhabited by evil fey and a cult of elves to the north. Farther to the east is a ruin of a truly ancient culture that possessed great arcane and technological knowledge.

I tried to run the first session last Friday, but I had problems with MapTool.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


Well I haven't written anything for a while. So I'll give it a go now.

Things have been a bit difficult in real life, but I have been getting some gaming in. Last Saturday I went to the PHB 3 Game Day and won a package of miniatures in a trivia contest. I've been working on a new campaign that I hope to start next month. I have an Obsidian Portal site on the campaign here.

To summarize he campaign is set in the outlying areas of an empire that fell 500 years ago. It's a sandbox campaign, so I've been creating maps and populating them with various threats and sites for adventure. It's been pretty fun.

Think that's pretty much it for now. I hope I am able to post again soon.