Saturday, July 30, 2016

Saturday Evening Cartoon: Re: Your Brains

Pandora can be great at introducing me to musicians that really do play what I want to hear, even if I didn't know I wanted to hear it.  I think it was entering "They Might Be Giants" that brought Jonathan Coulton to my attention.  Glad it did!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

I'll be watching Stranger Things on this Gygax Day...

Maybe I'm not a great gamer, but I'm afraid I didn't even realize that today was Gary Gygax Day, on which we honor the birthday of one of the original Dungeon Masters, until I saw others posting about it.

While I don't think I'll get a chance to actually do any roleplaying today (other than a bit of play-by-post), I guess I will be observing it in a way if I'm able to get in an episode of my newest small-screen obsession before hitting the hay tonight.  If you haven't had a chance to watch it yet, I highly recommend Stranger Things on Netflix.  Its D&D influence and old school aesthetic are pretty awesome.

(I still have a few episodes to go, so please don't spoil anything...!)  (EDIT:  I've now finished it.  Great series!)

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Playtesting The Stack Hack (Part 2)

Or, The Continuing Adventures of Sir Mulligan

Here is (finally) the result of my initial playtest of card-based dungeoneering for The Black Hack.  The first post can be found here, but to quickly summarize:

(1)  I took a stack of CCG cards - mostly locations from Tomb Raider and monsters from Magic: The Gathering - and shuffled them together to form a "dungeon."

(2)  I made a simple, level 3 character (Sir Mulligan) to send into the dungeon (attempting to obtain the Vitality Salve).

(3)  I saw what happened.

Here's how it went (with apologies for my low-quality pics!)...

Sir Mulligan entered the first room (an Open Cavern) to find no enemies waiting for him.  He did, however, find a mystical grub (that would be a Butod from the Survivor CCG) and ate it to gain +1 to STR for the day.  Good start.

Mulligan could continue in any of three directions.  He headed north only to hit a Dead End.

Luckily, the room was empty, so there were no hindrances to heading back into the Open Cavern and moving east.

The Narrow Crossing found there was a bit more dangerous.  Drawn before the room card...

Four minotaurs would be tough to face.  However, there was a random event before combat - some destruction at the hands of the storm god Keranos...

This Intervention dealt 3d8 damage to Mulligan; a pretty good roll led to losing just 8 total, which wiped out his armor for the time being.  It also killed three of the minotaurs, leaving just a single (weakened) Mogis's Chosen to fend off:

Now, most of the minotaurs in the dungeon have haste, which I decided would give Mulligan disadvantage on initiative rolls.  Not the case with Mogis's Chosen, however!  Mulligan was able to take care of him with a single action and continue moving east.

(At this point, it occurred to me that I should use a token of some sort to mark Mulligan's current location.)

Mulligan entered a Hidden Corner, only to find...

That's pretty blurry, I's two items, the Claw of the Cave Bear (boosts damage) and a Refreshing Elixir (restores health), guarded by the standard minotaur grunt, a Younghorn:

The Elixir indicates that another card is to be drawn before we take actions.  If it's another room, I'll shuffle it back in.  It could be another item or enemy, though...

...and it turns out to be the Vitality Salve!  This was the goal of Mulligan's quest, so he faced off with the Younghorn, and...

...actually defeated him pretty easily.  Mulligan didn't even take any more damage, in fact, and so he gathered up his loot...

...and headed back to the entrance.

Mulligan brought the Salve to his fallen comrade, as instructed.  He still has an Elixir and Claw of the Cave Bear to aid him on his next adventure.

What I Learned

This first test was actually pretty fun(!) but ended up being way too easy.  I know that the nature of this exercise is going to keep the difficulty variance rather high, though, so it'll take some experimentation to see how common this outcome is.

Also, it didn't occur to me until after the event that maybe a saving throw should be possible for events like the Intervention of Keranos.  Whether that should be for PCs only...or for all creatures...I'll have to think about (and welcome any outside thoughts!).

Sir Mulligan should be adventuring again soon...

Monday, July 25, 2016

(Pocket) Monster Monday: Post-apocalyptic Pokémon

Well, I missed Monster Monday last week, so I want to at least get some quick thoughts in before I let another one slip by!

Over the past couple of weeks, other than the news coming out of SDCC, there seem to have been two big stories in geekdom.  The first was the arrival of the brand new Ghostbusters, which got some...attention...on the more pop culturally obsessive corners of the net.

The other has been freakin' Pokémon Go.  As someone with some allegiance to the Pokémon franchise, I thought the game seemed like an awesome idea.  That's obvious, right?  But the phenomenon it's become...dang, who saw that coming??

So, for this rather quick edition of #MonsterMonday, I'd just like to post a few links related to a fan theory that I'm rather fond of regarding the venerable Pocket Monsters...

The Pokémon games are set on a post-apocalyptic earth.

(Now that sounds like a great RPG campaign, doesn't it...?)

Here's a video with a fairly quick summary of the theory:

Over at the Fan Theories wiki (which I can't say I've really explored other than this one topic...), there's an even more concise explanation.

A cool image from TechnoBuffalo:

Some more great art, from kevinbolk on DeviantArt:

Some cosplayers getting in on the action (from Twitter):

And finally, not directly related, but here's part of a walkthrough of the GBA ROM Pokémon Snakewood, a Ruby mod that explores the Pocket Monster theme in a zombie apocalypse:

There's certainly more out there.  I'd love to see this theme keep gaining momentum; pretty much everything becomes cooler when you add Mad Max, doesn't it?

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Saturday Evening Cartoon: The Killing Joke trailer

While I'll admit that my enthusiasm has been tempered a bit by the recent revelation of some tinkering with the Batman/Batgirl relationship (SPOILER at that link!), I don't plan to miss my brief chance this week to see Batman: The Killing Joke on the big screen.  It's a classic story and a Brian Azzarello take on the Alan Moore/Brian Bolland original.  Add in that DC has a pretty good track record with their animated features (and apparently isn't holding back at all with this one, as it seems to have earned an R rating), and that Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill are portraying the leads, and it's still something I don't want to miss in theaters.

USA screening information can be found here, UK here.  (May be showing elsewhere, too...not sure about that!)  It's a two-night event now, so I hope everyone gets a chance to see it if you want to.  Thanks to Tim over at HeroPress for initially giving me the heads-up on this!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Playtesting The Stack Hack

Or, Introducing...the Adventures of Sir Mulligan

I was able to take a few minutes recently to get in some quick playtesting of the card-based dungeoneering idea that I mentioned I'd like to try for The Black Hack...the adventure card game type thing that I've codenamed The Stack Hack.

It was really just a little proof-of-concept exercise, to start things at a very basic level and see how I can build them.

I rolled up a quick character and advanced him to Level 3 (seemed like a good level for the enemies I had in mind)...

The Defender is just a Warrior variant that I'm using...simplified from the TBH version (which may not be necessary, but I'm trying to do this as simply as possible...).  Basically, the Warrior loses the healing surge and drops to a d8 hit die in exchange for frontloading some HP.

To make the rooms of the dungeon, I grabbed a handful of the "vanilla" (nothing special to them other than maybe being a save point) location cards from the Tomb Raider CCG:

Then, I pulled some monsters from the one Magic: The Gathering challenge deck that I got from the Theros block.  The challenge decks are complete decks that essentially "play themselves" according to a set of rules, allowing you to play solo against them or team up with friends.  I have the Battle the Horde deck, which pits you against an army of minotaurs, like this guy:

The challenge decks are really a play on the casual MTG variant known as Horde Magic; this group of minotaurs seemed like a great place to get some ready-made, standardized enemies.  To fit TBH, I decided that I would treat the minotaurs' Power values (3 for the Goreseeker) as their HD when they attack Sir Mulligan, and their Toughness (2 for the Goreseeker) as HD when Mulligan attacks them.  (Just about any MTG creature ought to be useable this way.)  I decided that the Haste ability (which in MTG means a creature can act a turn earlier) would give Sir Mulligan disadvantage when rolling initiative vs. them.

Ten total minotaurs, in five varieties (with a majority being the very basic Minotaur Younghorn) sounded like a good place to start.

There were a couple of other alterations made to streamline for the card game.  I'd like to deal with damage to monsters in terms of d8's only.  That is, rather than rolling for damage, I'll just treat a monster with 2 HD of toughness as going down after two hits from my character (a reason to have variant classes that only deal damage in multiples of d8, by the way...).  I would ignore armor values for monsters and simplify the mental math of damage dice by just doubling the value of their power HD and using a die of that many sides.  So, for example, the 3-power Goreseeker above will deal d6 damage.  I won't have any monsters over 6 HD in power for this adventure, anyway, so it'll max out at a d12 for now.

So...what else should be in the dungeon?  This card from the Battle the Horde deck seemed like a good target:

The quest would be for Sir Mulligan to invade the lair of the minotaurs and retrieve the Vitality Salve in order to revive a fallen comrade.  I decided that if the Salve came up in the first two rooms, it would get shuffled back into the dungeon deck to find later.

I filled out the dungeon with a few health boosts, including this one from the MTG deck...

...and added in a "magic item" that might be fun to come across (this one's a number booster from the Tomb Raider CCG):

Finally, I grabbed two "event" type card from Battle the Horde to be a extra surprises that MIGHT occur.  Here's one of them:

(That "3 damage" from Keranos, God of Storms, would actually be 3d8...easy to track for the minotaurs and something that would have a pretty big impact on Sir Mulligan.)

So, with everything gathered, I sleeved all the cards and shuffled them together to form the dungeon deck.  This first run would have 31 total cards...14 rooms, 10 monsters, 2 events, and 5 items (including the target of the scenario).  A few practice shuffles demonstrated that the proportions might be decent.  The plan was, when moving into a new dungeon room, to turn over cards from the top of the deck until a new room card was hit.  This room would be placed in position, and everything turned over before reaching it would be what was found in the room. how did it work out?  This is already running kind of long, isn't it...?  I'll get the results posted soon...

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Saturday Evening Cartoon: Unaired Real Ghostbusters Pilot

Ghostbusters have certainly been a hot topic this week!  Here's something I hadn't seen until recently...the unaired "pilot" (really more of a promotional music video) for the animated series The Real Ghostbusters.

It's also only recently that I realized that how much the Ghostbusters are viewed as a cultural icon may be partially dependent upon how old you were when this series first aired.  (Also, sorry about that sentence...)

Here's a link to the Ghostbusters Wiki's page on the pilot, which highlights some of the differences between the promo and the eventual series.

Friday, July 15, 2016

If you're in or around ATL...

...(and I realize that the odds of this reaching someone who's both nearby and interested are pretty low)...the outstanding local conglomeration of musicians known as Lloyd's Rocksteady Revue will be playing the soundtrack from The Harder They Come starting at 10pm tonight at Venkman's (an ironic name considering what a lot of folks are spending their time doing today).  The movie tunes will be followed by more of the Revue's awesome brand of vintage ska and reggae.

There's apparently a 10-piece band tonight!  Looks like admission is $12...quite a deal, honestly.  Hope to see you there!  (Although, yeah, the odds of our recognizing each other is pretty low...)

It's tough to find a good video of Lloyd's online, but here goes...

Thursday, July 14, 2016

A tiny, preloaded NES? Yes please!!

Engadget reported today that God really does answer prayers.  Even the ones you didn't know to pray yet.

Well, they specifically reported that in November, Nintendo will be releasing the NES Classic Edition, a miniature replica of the greatest video game system ever.  Loaded with 30 games, for 60 bucks.

Check the links if you'd like to see more info on the release (including the list of games and the image I stole for this post).  Thanks to the Outhousers for relaying the info!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Monster Monday: Ghosthackers

Double the value* in this post!  First of all, here's the highly anticipated** and critically acclaimed*** RPG Ghosthackers, released into the wild today in anticipation of the new Ghostbusters film that hits theaters this week.  GH is (another) hack of David Black's excellent The Black Hack, with inspiration from the old West End Games Ghostbusters RPG.  It's as unlicensed as a proton pack and absolutely free in digest form (ready for booklet printing!).

Click here for the PDF from Google Drive!

EDIT:  And now, there's a version of the game featuring art by my buddy Tim Paul.  You can click here to get it from RPGNow!

Also, it's Monster Monday!  I like to take these days as a chance to stat up a beastie of some sort, so today, I'll take a quick look at everybody's favorite green ghost, the incomparable Slimer..."statted" (however minimal that has to be) for TBH-styled games...

aka Green Ghost, Onionhead, Little Spud
Class 5 Full Roaming Vapor
HD 3
Attacks: 1 slime (d4 damage)

Slimer has undergone a surprising amount of character development for an ectoplasmic entity.  While gaining recognition as one of the Ghostbusters' first adversaries, he goes on to become essentially a pet, and later a true member, of the team.  Officially, he is allowed to freely roam as a part of the Ghostbusters' paranormal research.

As his name suggests, Slimer is known for the pale green ectoplasmic goo he leaves on solid matter upon moving through it.  He is able to physically interact with such material at will.  Usually, only supernatural means such as spells or magical weapons are able to harm Slimer, although some technologies such as proton packs also have this capability.

Slimer has a voracious appetite.

* Still not actually a lot of value.

** By me.

*** By my Mom.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Saturday Evening Cartoon: The Aquabats!

I'm extremely impressed with what the Aquabats have accomplished over the last two decades.  I think it was 1998 that I first became familiar with them, after seeing them open for Reel Big Fish.  They were a lot of fun, something different for the ska kids, and spot-on musically.  In a few years, it seemed, they should be a great memory for all of us...

I never would have guessed that, under the guidance of The MC Bat Commander (aka Christian Jacobs), they'd still be a thing in 2016.  I hope they find someone to pick up their Super Show!...definitely a shame that was cancelled!  Here's a fun animated bit from it...

More TBHacking...

Continuing with my brainstorming on The Black Hack...

I'm a BIG fan of card games.  They're what brought me into the hardcore gaming hobby, and there's still very little in the world of gaming that I enjoy as much as getting in a few rounds of Magic or playing a game of Bohnanza with the family.  I've long looked for a good way to blend my love of OSR roleplaying with my love for slinging cardboard.  The simplicity of characters in TBH (especially the lack of a need for stat modifiers) has triggered a hope that the key lies therein.

I know the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game is pretty popular these days, and I'll look at its setup for some inspiration, but a bigger influence comes from a less likely source:

Believe it or not, the old Tomb Raider CCG is a really good game!  It can be played solitaire (here's a pic of a completed solo game)...

...and includes exactly the sort of cards you'd expect from a tomb delve dungeon crawl based card game:

(These Tomb Raider pics were all snagged from BoardGameGeek, by the way!)

Basically, you have adventurers, the places they go, the stuff they use, the stuff they face, and the things that happen along the way.  All of this seems like it could fit nicely into a TBH shell!

Now, it may be evident from my Underground Elemental Beastfighting posts that I also enjoy laying out playing cards.  It's fun.  It's relaxing.  And it seems like a great way to build this thing I'm working on from the ground up.  Here's what a PC might look like:

Level and name at the top, damage and HP at the bottom corners of the picture, abilities and stats below.  Equipment and spells prepared can easily be handled by separate cards.

I'm also using some alternatives to the original three D&D (and their related TBH) classes.  So far, I'm going with Defender, Caster, and Healer...all of which are conveniently designed such that if you take the average of their damage and HP values, you get nice multiples of five...which will be really convenient when it comes to damage counters.

There's a lot that's still up in the air about how dungeons will unfold, so I'm experimenting a bit.  I think I could enjoy the rather roguelike experience of letting the setting be revealed room by room with cards like this:

...BUT I'm still iffy on a lot of questions that naturally how many separate decks need to be involved.  It'd be outstanding if a dungeon could be found in a single deck, so I may need to play around with letting each card have a room, a monster, AND an item.

(That dungeon artwork, as I'm sure you already know if you're familiar with his work, is by the incomparable Dyson Logos, specifically a tiny portion of his map for the Orcus Pit.  Check out his won't be disappointed!)

I'll post more here at the blog as this idea moves along.  I'm just glad to get the first few steps of TBH idea #1 out of my head and onto the digital page!

Oh yeah, one more thing...I mocked up a cardback, too:

I do like the ring of "the Stack Hack," so that's at least the working title...

Friday, July 8, 2016

I guess I've finally been bitten by The Black Hack bug.

I didn't get it for a while, but now that I've given it more attention, I understand why David Black's The Black Hack is the current hotness in the OSR.  You just can't help but read the thing and want to (1) play it, and (2) hack it to bits with your own ideas.

While I don't even devote the time I "should" to other gaming projects I have going on...well, while reading TBH, I could feel my brain bubbling over with stuff that I "need" to put down on paper.  I guess gamer brains are ridiculous that way.  So, here's step #1 of thought #2...hopefully I'll have the (reasonably complete) follow-up posted before too long...!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

A WTF comic book ad...

Looking through some images today, I came across this one that I think I saved during my research for Dogwood City.  I really wish I could remember what comic it came from (and, especially, what year).

Now, I realize I'm a little more eager than most when it comes to the proper treatment of animals...but this is over the top, right?

Monday, July 4, 2016

Monster Monday (July 4th Edition): Apple Pie Elemental

So, the Fourth of July isn't the most enjoyable time in the Linneman household.  I love the holiday, but we've spent quite a bit of time this weekend trying to console a group of canines made largely inconsolable by the barrage of deceptively harmless explosions all around us.  (Seriously, having it fall on a Monday pretty much means that you get four straight nights of fireworks!)

We did manage to have a nice quiet afternoon, though, with a really solid feast of veggie burgers, potato salad, and apple pie, which is probably as quintessentially American as we get around here!

I was reminded of this fearsome beast...

The Apple Pie Elemental

No one is quite sure what magical mistake or act of whimsical wizardry produced the Apple Pie Elemental, but sightings have been reported around the United States for at least a century.  Some observers believe it is literally empowered by American nationalism, some think it bears the wandering soul of John Chapman, and many feel it is an avatar of the land itself, eternally seeking revenge against those who perpetrated evil in the name of manifest destiny.

Even leading elementalists aren't sure if all sightings are the result of a single spirit, or if many Apple Pie Elementals roam the American countryside.  (There are, however, rumors of a paranormal military unit that employed several of them in an elite Ranger battalion during World War II.)

For 5E:
Large elemental, unknown alignment
10d10+50 (110) HP
STR 20(+5)  DEX 8(-1)  CON 20(+5)  INT 10  WIS 10  CHA 15(+2)
Speed 30ft
Languages - everything spoken in America, y'all!

Damage vulnerability - poison
Condition immunities - exhausted, paralyzed, unconscious
Passive perception 10
CR 5 (1800xp)

Multiattack:  The Apple Pie Elemental can make three slam attacks.
Slam:  Melee Attack: +8, reach 10ft, one target.  Hit: 14 (2d8+5) pastry damage.

(That image is from the Regular Show Wiki, by the way; I've gotta watch that show at some point...!)

Saturday, July 2, 2016