Monday, February 29, 2016

Don't Split The Party They Said...

This is a rough sketch map of Whitewode Village.

The green circles are the various groups that the party has split into, some of whom are quite far away by now (such as Star of Justice and Laraby Jones) who are quite off this map by several miles at least. I think pretty much every time they had a chance to decide they said, "Ok let's split the party."

Meanwhile, a troll rumbled through town earlier.  He was seen carrying a large heavy sack over his shoulder.  He lumbered up town in the direction of the Crow's Nest Saloon. 

Old Reverend Russel has not been seen since the door of White Church was shadowed over by the witches of Whitewode but moments ago.  The dishordant song was sung to the last dregs, until no sound was heard.  The Reverend's whereabouts, unknown.

Hermel and Grasshopper escaped to the Library where they are entertaining / holding captive (for her own safety) old Reverend Russel's granddaughter Patricia Russel.  The music stops suddenly and there is a palpable silence.

Down in the old down Delvin, Bantum and Lido have found a broken doll in the street, along with a dreadful shadow on the wall.  The doll was that of Sylvia, the owner of the Black Raven Inn.  No more will she sing her old song, that one.  The doll and she are broken.  And a shadow stretches from the doll across the street and up an old barn's wall impossibly high.  A shadow that devours Delvin's Life Experience when he touches it, leaving him suddenly weakened with blood running cold.

Untaka was waiting patiently for Praymar.  He stood outside the prison window, far below on the narrow pass just this side of the Toll Troll's Cave.  Gray Warden, his wife, and his daughter wait with Untaka, having come so far and unwilling to leave Praymar's side.  They wait patiently.  Until the Troll passed them by in his way into town.

Then there are Arik, Praymar and little Mary Higgins.  They  are on their way to rescue her from her lonely Study Hall. They think so.  Earthwalking is always a bit of a risky business though.  Especially when the walls of the prison are imbued with protective magics.  So watch out for that first step ... oh byeee.

And finally, far off yonder below in the nether caverns great and wide, are Star of Justice and Laraby Jones, who first branched off to explore the strangely illuminated temple in the forest of dimly luminescent crystal pillars.  The air is dry and smouldering, the bird's wings catch fire is they fly through the air.  The skin begins to crack, the face and hands are covered with cinders, eyes burning and red.  Even one's cloak may catch ablaze.  But Doctor Laraby Jones wishes to forge ahead on his quest of AstroArcheological Knowledge.  And so they forge ahead toward the temple, Star of Justice against his better judgement forging forward with him, to protect his long time friend, the good Doctor Laraby Jones.

Yeah, I'd say the party is split pretty good.  Yah.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Notes on OD&D - Part 22

Ok, forging ahead yet again, with my OD&D journey of discovery.  So lets see, where were we?  Ah yes,.. I think I would like to at least get through the 4th Level Spells today.

Men & Magic
  • p27 - Explanation of Spells - 4th Level
Growth of Plants: This spell causes normal brush or woods to become thickly overgrown and entangled with creepers, fines, thorns, briars and so on, so as to make the area virtually impassable. It will effect an area of up to 30 square inches (1" = 30 feet, so 900 Square Feet) the dimensions decided by the caster of the spell. Duration: until the spell is negated by Dispell Magic. Range: 12" (360').

Right. Ok. That's a pretty good spell for wilderness adventures when you're being pursued by the natives. Makes sense. I'd say this is a fairly useful spell, and has the virtue of simplicity.

I rate this spell 3 Stars (out of 5) for usefulness.


Dimension Door: A limited Teleport spell which allows the object to be instantaneously transported up to 36" (1080') in any direction (including up or down). There is no chance of misjudging when using a Dimension Door, so the user always arrives exactly where he calls, ie "12" upwards, 32" east, etc. Range: 1".

Well, well, well, so Dimension Door starts out as a limited Range Teleport with the advantage of reduced risk of failure. I will take it that the caveat, unstated, is that if you don't know exactly what is 12" upwards by 32" east, you could materials inside of something. But still, this seems pretty rock solidly good. And no mention of the dreaded Phase Spiders one might meet in other versions of the Spell. Much cleaner. And powerful. I like. I would definitely take this spell.

Still though, as long as I'm picking through this I will mention that the rule is not 100% clear to me. It is a limited Teleport that allows "the object" ... and that has me wondering. Later it says "the user always always arrives"... so it would seem it can either be an object or the caster.  And I suppose since object is not limited by any sort of bound in the rule, one might say that persons and monsters could be construed as objects.  So this would mean that at a range of 30 feet, the Magic-User could Dimension Door friends to safety, or Monsters and Enemies down 12" into the ground.  I see nothing in the rule that says otherwise.  If that is so, then I triple down on my "Yes Take This!!" and think this is a damn useful Spell for sure.  Being able to disappear any monster within 30' is a definitely "YES" in my book.

I rate this spell 5 Stars for usefulness.
As a GM I think it is over-powered as defined, and so I hate this Spell.  It will cause me agita, I just know it.

Ok, Next!

Wizard Eye: A spell which allows the user to send a visual sensor up to 24" (720') away in order to observe the scene without himself moving.  The "Eye" is invisible.  It moves 12" (460') per turn. Duration: 6 turns.

Hmmm... I have to think about this one.  This is certainly a fast moving Eye.  It can travel a total of 2760 feet in it's 6 turns, but no further from the caster than 720'.  The circumference of a circle with a radius of 720' is 4523', so our Wizard Eye can make it to the edge of the circle and then go another 2040 feet along the circumference.  So it can go to the edge and then cover about 45% of the circumference in it's 6 turns, which means that it can very almost make one half circle before dissipating.  Sending out two would give nearly 100% coverage, if it were used this way.  Which I'm sure it rarely is.  Just testing the boundaries.  It's not too bad.  Has pretty good coverage, but I bet I would not be the only OD&D wizard to wish that it would last longer than 6 turns.

Overall, as a spy device, I think it's pretty nifty.  Not to mention the invisibility as a major plus on this baby.  I'm thinking this would come in handy pretty often, especially if you are scouting in unfamiliar terrain.  So yes, I would say this one is a Buy.

I give this spell 4 Stars for usefulness.
As GM I have no problem with it.


Massmorph: This spell is used to conceal up to 100 men (or creatures of near man size) as a woods or orchards.  The concealed figures may be moved through without being detected as anything other than trees, and it will not effect teh spell. It will be negated by a command from the caster or by means of a Dispell Magic spell.  Range 24"

Ok, this is definitely a spell that goes to the heart of OD&D's Chainmail and wargaming roots.  In the olden days of RPG, OD&D was played mostly as a military simulation wargame with miniatures and large tables with terrain mapped out on them.  Units were played on the board (which could be around 8', by 12' in size) as military units.  So one miniature might represent 10 Fighters.  Since OD&D was strongly invested in the classical wargame mode of play (at least at first), this kind of spell makes perfect sense.  It is a terrain altering spell that can effect how military units will be able to move on the board.

I rate this spell 3 Stars for usefulness.

Ok, last 4th Level Spell.

Hallucinatory Terrain: by means of this spell terrain features can either be hidden or created - an illusion which effects a large area.  This a swamp, hill, ridge, woods, or the like can be concealed or made to appear.  The spell is borken when the magicked area is contacted by an opponent.  Range: 24".

So here we have another terrain spell, and one that also seems to me to fit into the same classification as the previous spell.  It seems the intent here is to augment the Magic-User's ability to effect military style combat.  Hence the terrain-effecting spells.  Since OD&D is a wargame played with military units and similar tactics to other military wargames of its kind, I could see this being quite handy. Except for one little thing.

The 800 lbs Caveat for this spell is that as soon as it is touched the illusion vanishes.  This means that as soon as the first monster or npc enters the terrain - boom, it totally changes back to normal.  That surely limits the usefulness of this spell a great deal.  One could think of being able to cover a deep ravine with a gently downward sloping glade.  A nice trap for the hapless Goblins to fall into.  Unless as soon as the first one touches the glade and falls to it's demise, the rest will see it and so the trap has little chance of working to it's full potential.  But using it in other ways would probably come in handy just the same.  Instead of luring people onto bad terrain, perhaps it is best to hide from view the good terrain.  Oh there is a nice even piece of land from which archers can get a solid footing?  Better cover that area with an illusionary field of sharp watermelon sized rocks.   As long as it looks sufficiently unsuitable, one can hope that the oppoenent won't send someone over to investigate it.

It also must be the case that the enemy is as unfamiliar with the local terrain as you are.  Otherwise, it's pretty likely they might just say "Hey, wait... there's never been a field of sharp rocks here... It is a trick."

So for various reasons I think this spell would be of limited usefulness, especially when compared with the other terrain affecting spell, Massmorph.

I rate this spell 2 Stars for usefulness.
As a GM I don't think it is overpowered, but rather it seems a bit under powered comparatively.

Ok, well that's it for today.  Trying to keep these within the "bitesize" range for better digestion.  :)

Until next time, enjoy your gaming, folks!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

How do you inspire your players? RPG Blog Carnival – Feb 2016

This month RPG Blog Carnival is being hosted on RolePlayingTips by Johnn Four. He's asked people to post blog entries answering the following questions:

What do you do to get players excited and eager to play each session?  

How have you gotten players keen to dive into that new campaign you just spent weeks preparing?
 And what approaches do you take to keep players' faces out of their cells phones and focused on your game?

I think these are good questions and worth discussing. I will tackle the questions in order.

What do you do to get players excited and eager to play each session?

Well, to a certain degree this is in our control as GM's, but we also need to be aware that it isn't entirely so. As a hobby activity RPGing has to compete with "real life" quite often. And sometimes people are sick, or tired, or in a bad mood, and nothing we do as GM is going to make this person excited and eager to play. Some people, on the other hand, are always eager... for everything. No matter what horse manure needs shoveling, they always seem ready and eager. I'm thinking this is a personality type. A nice one to have at your table, of course. So I guess one thing to do is find enthusiastic people to play. Conversely some people are always down and depressed feeling. They won't be enthusiastic. You just know it. So one thing might be to kind of avoid this kind of person at your table. So, step one it would seem is to try to attract people who are naturally enthusiastic, and avoid those who are the opposite.

But most people fall in between. And they need a bit of coaxing to wax enthusiastic for something. And this is where the GM's talent comes into play. I started GMing back in 1978, so I have some experience with the question of how to get players enthused for a game. But when I started I had no clue. I just GM'd and whoever liked it stuck around, and those who didn't left. As it happened this worked reasonably well for me, and my table was consistently full of enthusiastic players. So in a way I was lucky in that I didn't need to burden myself with trying to figure out what I need to do to make players enthused. It seemed they simply were enthused anyway. But I want to go into how that happened in more detail.  Sometimes it's not obvious, even to the person doing it, what is making something work.  So lets take a look.

For one thing, I always focus on Characters and Story line. Lets start with Characters.  What I mean is that I watch for personality traits among the Characters and play off of them. I have a natural knack for improv theater so that helps a lot to bring NPCs and monsters to life. When the players know that whomever they encounter is going to be a full bodied individual with their own agenda, goals, secrets and personality then they are more likely to feel that the World is immersive. So part of what gets them excited to play is the the background knowledge that the world is going to offer them unique experiences. I'd like to counter this with an opposite example for contrast. I played at a number of tables where the GM had a set of 'stock characters' that they played as NPCs. When we got to a town, we always met a town guard at the gate. No matter what town we went to, that same town guard was there. Same personality. Same mannerisms. Same intonation in his voice. We also met this town guard at numerous other locations and in other disguises. He was also the clerk in the government building. We also found him on a farm stead tilling the earth to feed his family. We met him, well, pretty much anywhere there was an "ordinary Joe". This was the GM's "Ordinary Joe" character. Never wavered, never changed. The only thing that changed about Joe was that he had different information for us depending on where we met him. I think you get the idea. Joe, after the first few encounters, wherever we met him, got boring. We got to the point that whatever town the first thing we'd do is "Go find Joe" to get information on the town. So you see the problem with this. It's boring. What I do is try to give every character their own unique personality, traits, and goals. From an improv theater perspective this means that I give each NPC their own voice, intonation, and mannerisms. Now, you might ask, How can you do that? Well, I read a lot of books that have strong and interesting characters. I also watch old classic movies where there are many kinds of strong characters (modern movies have devolved, imo, so that we now have only a tiny handful of Characters. No matter what movie we go to see we will find Joe, and his associated generic-brand Hero-type, Love-Interest-type, and Villain-type. And that's basically it. So I go for classic movies and TV shows where the Characters are not carbon copies of Every-Other-Character).  In other words I am totally encouraging you, yes, to read classical literature, and tons of it.  Yup.  Go.

And then I go for Story line. Does this not mean I run a "Story Game" where "Story is the only important thing"? No, not really.  I like combat and tactics as much as the next wargamer, really.  I also happen to like though, good story, too.  So when I say "Focus on Story" I don't mean "Go play a so-called Story Game".  What I do mean is that I keep track of what's going on in the Story, and I try to have an interesting Story background in my World. This is a kind of complicated topic, but to distill it down to it's essentials I think of Story as the framework for the Adventure. It provides the motivation for the Character actions. Will they be fighting monsters and taking their stuff? Probably. But the question that is engaging for players (and the GM) is "Why are they doing these things?" And that is all about the Story. So having an interesting Story is key to bringing Player into your World and making it immersive.  And in my experience immersion = engagement = enthusiasm.

Lastly, I include in my game Emotional Hooks. These are situations that the Player Characters find themselves in that cause emotional connections for them to other Characters in the game. For example, I had a recalcitrant player who decided his Character had taken quite enough risk in his short life, had saved the village, gotten the girl, and now wanted to retire peacefully on his farmstead and be left alone. Ok. Three years (game World time) went by (one year real world time). Then, one day, (when I wanted to kick off the campaign again and he said, "Nope, my guy is staying the heck home"), there was a town council meeting. Everyone was invited. He went with his wife and sat outside the building on a bench next to the door so he could hear what was going on, but risk no danger of getting drawn into the encroaching adventure. Sure. Fine. The meeting progressed and the towns people discovered that three children had been kidnapped from their beds on three consecutive nights, each time during a violent thunderstorm. It started to rain. A distant peal of thunder rolled across the night sky.

The player suddenly said, "My character asks his wife "where is our little daughter?"

"Why she's home sleeping, darling.  Why?"

Lightning flashed across the sky.

Suddenly the Player's Character was hurtling across the village green and down the road towards his farmstead. Sure enough, his daughter was gone. There were little three-toed tracks from the window of his daughter's bedroom window down the muddy road, and out the village gate into the wilds to the West. The chase was on. It's been over a year. Yay.  Emotional Hooks.  They work.  Use them. But I will say this as well... Like seasoning in a soup, they are good when used sparingly.  Don't over do it.  I use Emotional Hooks only when I feel it is necessary to bring a player back into the Story because they seem disengaged.  That doesn't happen often.  Also note, I don't use Emotional Hooks on all of the Players all the time.  If one Player in a group has one going on, that is usually enough to drive everything forward.  I might have two, but be aware that when there are more than one at a time this can potentially lead to party splits as Character's priorities may diverge.  Just something to be aware of.  There's not strict or hard rules about this.  It's an art.  Treat it artfully, and you will do well.

So, my techniques, in summation, are to have an engaging story that pulls the players in emotionally, and to provide them with characterizations that are "real" enough for them to immerse themselves into the World. Once they know that your World is immersive they will beat a path to your door to attend each session. It's not so much what I do to prime them per session, as it is how I play my World generally that does it.

All that said... I prime them for the game each session anyway. How? I usually try to leave them off at a cliff hanger each game. So instead of letting them resolve every situation and then say, "Ok that's it for tonight, folks", I usually do something like ... "Ok, you have everything buttoned up pretty good. The room is secure, and there's the treasure chest busted open and full of jewels on the table... very good. Oh, wait. Johanikor the warrior notices something move suddenly out of the corner of his eye. Something darted between the shadows on the far side of the room. He didn't see what it was. Wait. Herakulia the Mystic also catches something moving out of the corner of her eye, too. She couldn't see what it was, but it seemed like a shadow moved within the shadows of the far side of the room. Everyone hears a creaking sound and spinning around they see the lid of the chest is slowly closing by itself, creaking as the ancient metal hinges grind against each other. ... ok, that's good for tonight. We'll pick this up again here next time. Ok?" "Noooooooooooo!!!" Hehe.

Secondly, I will often send them an email in between games that reminds them of something that they might want to pay attention to or discuss amonst each other before the next game.  Or at least something to think about.  Maybe a tidbit of rumor they remember overhearing, or a bit of history about the world.  Or something they noticed during a previous game that pertains to whatever it is I think they might benefit by remembering. Anything along those lines.

All of these techniques help to keep the Players engaged with what is going on with their Characters. You know you have them hooked if they tell you that they were thinking about what their Character was going to try to do in between games.

How have you gotten players keen to dive into that new campaign you just spent weeks preparing?

When I start a new Campaign, I use the "Go Slow and Build" approach. I don't at all try to hook them in the beginning. In fact I do the opposite. I start them off doing boring stuff like chores, or work, or dealing with mundane affairs of the World. There's a town council meeting and everyone has to attend. There's a wedding and everyone has to prepare. The village is in a state of drought and everyone has to struggle hard to go hunting in the hills for whatever spare game is still left.  In the rain. And sleet. Boring. Not fun. And this is all setup for "Start Small and Build" approach. Usually during these boring events someone will stumble upon something "different", or a clue, or be attacked, or discover a mystery. Or something. I don't have any set rule on how Adventures actually begin. But something happens that is out of the ordinary, and they get interested in it. After all, any interesting thing beats doing chores, right? Once interested the thing carries it's own weight, and the momentum for the Adventure begins. Once they're hooked, then the game moves along as though I never had to push anything at all. In fact, I didn't. This is what I think of as "the natural method" of introducing adventures. After all, didn't Joseph Campbell teach us that the Hero's Journey begins with the mundane world? Why yes, it does. And that's how I play it. Works great.

And what approaches do you take to keep players' faces out of their cells phones and focused on your game?

Ok, this is a tough one. In fact, I don't do anything along the lines of establishing a rule about that. For one thing, sometimes the Players are not engaged because their Characters are split up and one group is doing something and the other group "is someplace else". If the players opt for their cell phones, I don't say anything. Let them. Of course it might be smarter for them to pay attention as they might learn something, but they're purists who don't like to know what their Characters don't know anyway, so if they don't pay close attention in those situations, fine.

Conversely, sometimes a player is just bored and opts for the cell phone. If they should be paying attention because their Character is engaged and I see they are absorbed into their cell phone I will say something like, "Brian the wizard stubs his foot hard against the corner of a table. It's very painful and he lets out a yelp." This instantly brings the Player waaaaaaaaay back from Cellphonelandia to their Character in the game World! It's amazing how well bumping your head, stubbing your toe, or slipping on a greasy spot and falling down reminds people that they should PAY ATTENTION to what they're doing. :)

So those there are some of my techniques. I'll be very curious to hear how other GMs out there handle these things as well! On to reading the other RPG Carnival Posts!

I leave you with the the following Profound Thought  ...

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Notes on OD&D - Part 21

Ah, finally back to the OD&D journey after a bit of reprieve due to other pressing items on my agenda.  So lets see, where were we?  Ah yes,..

Men & Magic
  • p26 - Explanation of Spells - 4th Level
Wall of Ice: A spell to create a wall of ice six inches thick, in dimensions like that of a Wall of Fire.  It negates the effects of creatures employing and / or fire spells.  It may be broken through by creatures with four or more hit dice, with damage equal ot one die (1- 6) for non-fire employing creatures and double that for fire-users.  Range: 12" (360').

Well, I'm not really seeing much to say about this spell.  It's ok.  So so, actually.  Not that impressed, frankly.  Considering the awesome and limitless power of spells like Polymorph, I'm kinda thinking this one is sorta weak, to be honest.  As we don't see what 4 Hit Dice creatures are in Men & Magic, I'm going to go and take a peek ahead at Monsters and Treasure to see what creatures we're talking about here.  Ah, ok... Ogres, Trolls, Giants, Wraiths, Mummies, Specters, Vampires, Coactrices, Basilisks, Medusae, Gorgons, Manticoras, Hyrdras, Chimeras, Wyrverns, Dragons, Gargoyles, some Lycanthropes, Purple Worms, Sea Monsters, Minotaurs, Centaurs, Unicorns, Treants, Rocs, Griffons, Invisible Stalkers, some Elementals (probably all), Djinn, Efreet, Ochre Jelly (um ... how?), and Black Pudding (um... ok), Well, that seems like almost ALL the monsters in the book.  So lets take look at which one's can't just bust down the Ice Wall, shall we?  That would be some Men, Kobolds and Goblins, Orcs, Hobgoblins, Skeletons, Zombies, Wights, Nixies, Pisies, Dryads, Gnomes, Dwarves, Elves, Pegasi, Hippogriffs, Green Slime, Grey Ooze, Yellow Mold, Horses, Mules, Insects and animals of various kinds.

Not sure how exactly Jellies and Puddings would bust through the Ice Wall, but ok.  Maybe they use pseudopods to bash it?  Um... well, lets skip over that lightly.  Maybe it won't come up.

Ok. As for fire-wielding monsters, I'm taking a quick glance at the list and find Chimeras, Red and Golden Dragons (I assume that fire breath counts), Fire Elementals, of course.  And as far as I can tell, other than NPCs with fire spells, that's about it.

So... how useful is this spell overall?  I'd say, especially when compared to the Utterly Stupendously Impossibly Powerful Polymorph, this is really pretty so so, and quite limited.  Of course that said, I'm sure it comes in handy now and then.  Maybe often if you are fighting lots of 1 to 3 Hit Dice monsters.  Otherwise... meh, not so much.

I rate this Spell 2 (out of 5) Stars for usefulness.


Confusion: This spell will immediately effect creatures with two or fewer hit dice.  For creatures above two hit dice the following formula is used to determine when the spell takes effect: score of a twelve sided die roll less the level of the Magic-User casting the spell = delay effect, ie - a positive difference means a turn delay, while a zero or negative difference means immediate effect. Creatures with four or more hit dice will have saving throws against magic, and on those turns they may make their saving throws they are not confused; but this check must be made each turn the spell lasts, and failure means they are confused.  The spell will effect as many creatures as indicated by the score rolled on two six-sided dice with the addition of + 1 for each level above the 8th that the Magic-User casting he spell has attained.  Confused creatures will attack the Magic-Users party (dice score 2-5) stand around doing nothing (6-8), or attack each other (9-12). Roll each turn.  Duration: 12 turns.  Range: 12" (360').

Wow.  No wonder this is called Confusion Spell.  Damn.  My brain is reeling just typing that up.  Ok Ok, lets see what this means... hmmm.... confused.  I guess I missed my saving throw.  haha.  Ok, lets see.  So Kobolds, Goblins and the like will be immediately confused.  Check.

Roll 12 sided die - MU Level.  So lets say MU is 5th Level.  So that's Roll - 5.   So lets say I roll a 6. That means that 6 - 5 = 1.  That means there is a 1 turn delay.  So my 5th Level MU casts the spell and rolls a 6 and so there is a one turn delay on it's effect on the monsters.  Ok, check.   If my MU rolled a 9 then there wold be a 4 turn delay.  If he rolls a 12 there is a 7 turn delay.  If my MU is 8th Level and rolls a 6 there is no delay.  If he rolls a 12 there is a 4 turn delay.  So the MU wants to roll his own level or less, and the higher level the more chance he has of doing so.  Ok, check.

Ok onward through the morass of this spell.  Creatures with 4 or more hit dice will get a Saving Throw against Magic each turn and when they make their Save they are not confused for that turn (spell duration is 12 turns).  The check happens every turn.

The spell will only effect up to the number rolled on the original 1d12 + 1 for each MU level over 8. So while the MU wants to roll his own level or less to avoid the delay, doing so limits the number of monsters affected. Sucky, but Ok, check.

Now for the rub.  2-5 (what happened to the 1?  We rolled a 1d12.  Ok, typo I guess).  Lets say that 1 means the Spell failed.   I am guessing this implies a second roll of the 1d12.  I guess.  Or maybe you take the initial roll and that is simply applied to this as well.  Hmmm... anyway... Ok so going with the rule as written... we don't roll again...

2 - 5 = 33% = Attack MU Party (if they wouldn't have done so otherwise?  Yup.  They're confused)
6 - 8 = 25% = Do nothing.
9 - 12 = 33% = Attack each other.

Ok so there is a 33% chance the spell will do nothing to help the party, and in fact may possibly make matters worse.  This could happen, for example, if the monsters happen to be the same alignment of the party (faction), but this has not yet been determined, and the MU casts Confusion, and the creatures miss their Saving Throw.  Crap.  No chance to negotiate a favorable outcome in this case as they will have only three options.  Attack the party, do nothing, or attach each other.

Next rub - you have to, one assumes, roll the Saving Throw for each monster separately.  Why? Because some may be 2 Hit Dice while others may be 4 Hit Dice, while others may be other Hit Dice.  This suggests monsters get rolled individually rather than as a group.  Ok.  That's a pain.  What this means is that some of them may make their Saves and others will do random things.  The ones who miss their Save, though, may be able to be rolled together.  It doesn't stipulate, but that might be reasonable to assume.  Otherwise, you would definitely have to roll the 1d12 again for each creature to determine their disposition.  Some would be attack the party, while others do nothing, while others still attack each other, and all the while some are not confused and doing what they would have done otherwise (like negotiate maybe?).

Ok holy super cluster fuck.  If you DARE use this in my campaign your Character will stand a 25% chance of Blowback, buddy, and be themselves CONFUSED for 1d12 turns.  Ok?  OK??   AND the Magic User's Player also has to keep track of the individual monsters states of confusion.  And if any cheating is detected with that the Player's Character is then Confused for 2d12 turns.  OK??

Damn.  I hate this spell.

Is it useful though?  Hmmm... hmmm... hmmm... I'd say it's at best entertaining.  What with so many chances for the confusion to go the wrong way, and even mess up an otherwise viably cool situation of gaining new alignment based allies - I'm thinking this spell kinda sorta sucks and is kinda mostly useless, frankly.

I give this Spell 2 Stars for usefulness.


Charm Monster:  The counter part of a Charm Person spell which is employable against all creatures. If animals or creatures with three or fewer hit dice are involved determine how many are effected by the spell by rolling three six-sided dice.  It is otherwise identical to Charm Person spell.

OMG.  Simple!  To the point!  And damn it all if that isn't a freaking fantastic spell!!  Remember, Charm Person has no duration!  It can only be undone by a dispel magic.  Crikey!  Take this!!  Take this!!  Charm Person is insanely cool and powerful, and this is ten times moreso!   Also note - you can charm ANY Monster.  But note - for monsters above 3 hit dice it only works against one at a time.  So you could Charm Monster a Beholder, dude!   Or a Dragon!  Or a Troll!  Crapola!!  As GM I kinda despise this spell, and fear it very, very much.  My Players will be disappointed that after acquiring this magnificent spell, they only run into kobolds from then on out.  Oh well.  Be careful what you wish for.  heh.

I rate this 5 out of 5 Stars for usefulness.
As GM I rate this 1 Star for damn-too-powerful for a 4th Level Spell!

Ok, that's good for today.  I'll try to keep these going a little more frequently again as a 1 month delay is, honestly, too long, I agree.  Till next time, ciao!  :)

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Why the Elthos RPG Mythos Machine?

Some people might be asking, Why should I try out this Elthos RPG Mythos Machine thing? Who is it for, really?

I'd like to tackle that question for a moment. Elthos RPG is for people who want a medium-weight but highly distilled RPG that follows the traditional RPG tropes from the days of yore. The Mythos Machine is the web application that comprehensively supports the Elthos RPG. It is a utility that helps you to create and maintain your Worlds of any genre, and also does all of the number crunching for the game system. It handles character generation for your players, and lets you quickly fill out adventures with randomly generated NPC or Monster groups according to your own configuration for your world.

The Elthos RPG Mythos Machine is in Open Beta. As such it's not quite finished, and does need some polishing. But that is being worked on steadily and improvements are being made constantly.

Basically, this system is designed for World Builders who want to have the computer handle as much of the number crunching and record storage as possible. It's for creative types who want to spend more of their time on the creative aspects of RPGs, and less on the niddling details.

Configuring your world is a matter of selecting the genre(s) you want, creating a base world, and building out from there. It's a creative process, but one that requires a thoughtful approach.

The system is not really designed for those who do not want to work at creating their worlds. But it's purpose is to focus that work on the creative aspects by creating a simplified and automated system for the mechanics.

Ok that's the basic idea. I encourage people to give it a look and see if this might be for you.

The truth is, work will continue to be done on the Elthos RPG Mythos Machine, but gaining the support of the community would very much help validate that the concept is worthwhile (after all - maybe it isn't), and that would help tremendously in ensuring that it continues to develop and enhance in ways that people will find genuinely useful.

What it doesn't do is try to run all the other systems out there. It focuses on one core system, the Elthos RPG, which I think is a pretty solidly good system, and this way the worlds created with it will have a common foundation via which all kinds of materials can be easily transferred and shared between GMs. I would like it to become the basis for a mutual collaboration society of Gamemasters and I'm hoping that people will give it enough of a chance to see how they might be able to use it as such. Again, it's not finished. But it's working towards what I think is a pretty grand and lofty goal.

For an indpedent appraisal of the project, please read Mark Knight's Review here:

If you are interested in joining the Elthos RPG Mythos Machine Open Beta please hop on over to and create a free account for yourself. Once you've logged in you will come to the Main Screen on which are Tutorial Videos that explain how the system works.

Ok I hope you'll give it a look and let me know what you think of it, both conceptually, and in terms of the implementation. Do you think you might find this, or something along these lines, useful to you?

Monday, February 08, 2016

Shifting Mentalities of RPG Players

I've noticed over the years that the perspective of RPG Players has changed considerably from the early days to the present, and that the younger the player the less likely they are to understand the nature of the TableTop RPG experience.  I'd like to ramble on about this for a few minutes as a kind of personal brainstorming session.  None of what I am about to write should be taken as truth, but rather as speculations and conjectures on my part as I have no verifiable data.  Basically, I'm going on a set of hunches here.

First, I think I've noticed that the older players, those who have been into TableTop RPGs for more than 20 years, have an immediate grasp of what my world is geared for, and how to deal with encounters.  They tend to be somewhat cautious, exploratory, and inclined to look for answers to questions about what's really going on before taking action.  They don't assume that they can immediately understand what's happening in a given situation or locale, and that it will take time to poke around and find out.

Conversely, the younger players tend to assume that encounters in my world are designed with a standard and easily determined pattern of "Good Guys Arrive - Bad Guys Killed - Treasure Taken - Points Assigned - Next".  I think they get this from playing video games where, well, that's the modus operendi of the thing, and so I can understand that those steeped on video RPGs would kind of make that assumption as a reflex reaction.  So they tend to encounter situations and immediately barge in with questions like "How do I fix this situation as quickly as possible?" *

A good example of this was during our latest campaign when the party came across on old Reverend in a dilapidated church who told them that he was partially responsible for the curse on the town and it's being overrun by witches, and consequently ultimately doomed sometime in the near future.  The players immediately assumed that their "Task" was to save the old Reverend from the witches, and dispel the curse on the town.  I should probably add that this would have amounted to a "side quest" as their original goal at the town was to rescue some children who had been kidnapped and tracked to the town.

The town, I should also mention, was so cursed that over 60 years it literally sank under the ground and is now on an escarpment inside a cavern (in which many other things are going on that have little to do with the town, actually - it's a relative new comer there).   The last remaining vestige of the sky could be seen through a small hole in the cavern ceiling above the town.  The Reverend told them that once that hole closes (soon) the town's doom will be complete.  The Reverend, after 60 years of battling the witches and watching as one by one his fellow towns people fall to the predations of the witches, was on his last leg.  He was slurring his speech, with one drooping eye, and looking like death was close at hand.  So they player characters knew that the process of the town's demise has been ongoing for 60 years.  The town sank very slowly into the cavern, not overnight.  All of this was information that the player characters learned from the Reverend as well as other sources perhaps along the way to the town (a year long adventure).  The player's reaction when the Reverend announced, "They are coming... you must run." was to argue with him and say that they would not only protect him, but "dispel the curse on the town".  One player insisted that the Reverend tell them how to do so.

I found the idea that the players expected their characters to waltz in and unravel the curse and save the Reverend to be ... what can I say?  Well, hmm... They really seemed to think that the "Task" of saving the town requires that there has to be some "trick" to defending the Reverend and dispelling the curse.  Something that the Reverend would tell them that would unlock the secret so that they could immediately "achieve the goal".  It took the Reverend some time to convince them that this was not feasible under the circumstances.  "You'd better escape out the back door of the Church, or you are all likely to die", he told them emphatically.  Finally, they assessed that no magic answer was going to come forth and that the Reverend was probably right about their fleeing.

"Look, the old man wants to die, anyway, obviously.  Lets get out of here and leave him to his fate, or destiny, or whatever.  He'll be dead soon anyway", said one of the two Characters at that scene.  The other finally agreed and they fled out the back as the front door of the Church became overshadowed by stark figures chanting in unison.  They didn't look back.

This was a very satisfying moment for me as GM.  I finally managed to break through the standard "Computer RPG Mode" of thinking, and get them to begin to understand that sometimes, really, there is nothing that can be done.

This was in fact not so much the right answer as it was a rational course of action on the player character's parts.  Not only did they scramble out the back way, but the declined to even peep around the corner to see who was doing the chanting.  This would have told them in an instant who the wtiches were, but they did not think of that... and had they done so they ran a signifiant risk of being spotted.  And that would not have ended well.  They made a rational choice.

At that moment the granddaughter of the Reverend came out of the old stone Library next to the Church and encountered the player characters.  She wanted to go to her grandfather's side and help him, but the player characters restrained her, and then tricked her with an illusion of her grandfather in the door of the library to get her away from the scene.  She went in and they followed and locked the door so she couldn't escape.  Otherwise, they reasoned, she would be going to her death, and they convinced her afterwards that the last thing in the world the old Reverend would have wanted was her to wind up dead at the hands of the witches.

Again, a very satisfying scene from my point of view because the players encountered a situation that was not designed to be played out like a computer RPG.  There was no easy turn-key solution that required them to simply "figure out the trick".  There was, in fact, a terrible and long standing moral calamity that was playing itself out in the town of Whitewode, and at best the player characters were in a position to be witnesses to these events.  Of course, they could have tried to battle the witches and save the Reverend.  But tallying up the accumulated Mystic Energy of both Groups the ratio was 5: 1 in favor of the wtiches, and in all likelihood the result would have been "And then the Heroe's perished at the hands of the witches of Whitewode".

Anyway, I find it very interesting to note how the players at first react as though the world of Elthos should function like a computer game, and then through the course of events find out that it doesn't work that way at all... and adapt to that.  In this way I feel I was able to bring at least one or two players out of the CRPG mentality and into the TTRPG mentality for my game.

Very satisfying indeed.

Have you had experiences like this as well?  How did you GM things when that happened?  Looking for pro-tips, muckups, insights, etc.  :)

* - Note:  It occurs to me as well that some of the really very oldest players may also take the very same attitude as the younger ones, as very originally, RPGs like D&D were played pretty much the way Computer RPGs play out today.  We used to call them Monty Hall Dungeons, and they were frowned upon as being too simplistic and without substance.  We then began creating more Tolkienesque Worlds, and in my experience that transition occurred rather quickly for many of the GMs I knew.