Friday, December 23, 2011

In Which I Am Terrible At This

I don't play D&D any more.

Okay no, that is a dramatic lie. I did finally wrap up the years-long campaign sequel to my last campaign, though (YES!), and for various reasons, that was the only actually-D&D game I'd been running. (It's also going to be the last 3.5 game I ever run, with any luck!) Other than that I've been running Eclipse Phase and various games in BESM 3e (which I have since decided isn't that fun to run). Once those wrap up I plan to move into FATE and 4E.

Anyway, the point is I haven't actually been playing much D&D, and the D&D I have been playing is mostly 3.5. I think that's one edition too late to jump on the OSR bandwagon and start producing god-awful retroclones, so what the shit am I supposed to write about?

Also, okay: I have been busy elsewhere, writing pages and pages of whiny horseshit for FATAL And Friends, a Something Awful let's-read thread in which people pick terrible (or obscure) RPGs and mock/praise them as appropriate. Specifically I have been covering the run of CthulhuTech, a particularly heinous piece of trash, and it turns out I can write a lot of words about how not to handle rape in a tabletop game. If there's interest I might repost it here (perhaps in a cut-down version) so non-SA posters don't have to hope the paywall stays down to read them. If you do have an SA account: holy shit, go read the thread. It is great. Also, pick a game to post about!


That aside, it really shits me that a) I never finished my worldbuilding articles and b) my RSS feed still shows posts from a year and a half ago. I have to post something. I might start putting up (three-years-late) thoughts on 4E, or dedicate a few more posts to fellating Eclipse Phase. Actually, some anonymously cool dude had an idea on my last post two months ago:

"Hey Ettin you should discuss 40k. Especially now that Space Tomb Kings were leaked."

I think I will, because it would be hilarious. On the one hand, I have to confess I am not a fan of 40k for what I'd going to assume are the usual reasons for not liking 40k (in the grimdark darkness of the dark grimfuture there is only grimdarky grimmles). On the other hand, when this was suggested I spent an hour trying to find a book titled "Space Tomb Kings".

So, yeah. Tapping out for the rest of the year, then I'm going to ride this mondo blog-tiger and see where it goes. I promise 2012 will have far less posts about how I haven't been posting anything. Really!


Before I go, though, I want to mention two things:

First, How Not To Run A Game Business, an awesome blog about the RPG industry. Even if you don't agree with it, it is thought-provoking as balls. Also, grognard blogs hate it. What other reason do you need?

Second, I just checked what search terms led people here this week and I swear to God these are real:

• dnd goddess having sex
• dolphin sex is frustrating

Thursday, October 13, 2011

An Eclipse Phase Fanfiction

As the bullet blew their mark's brains out, Taco wondered why all of their carefully-laid plans always went to shit.

The human slumped against the wall. Taco frowned at the splatter for a few moments, then squatted by the corpse, grabbed the remains of his head, pulled it forward and sliced at the back of its neck. A bit of sawing into the spinal column, some pressure in the right place, and the human's cortical stack popped out like a blood-slick grape. He had backups, but no resurrecting with memories of today for you, baldy.

Taco wiped it on his fur and looked around the office. "How's it going?"

Dash was fixated on her scanning equipment. Her blue jumpsuit had already closed itself over her wounds. "No cameras. Dumb motherfucker."

7-11 finally hacked his way into the quantum computer and started sifting through data, his tentacles pulling up a storm of AR screens. Taco couldn't have asked for a better hacker.

[Confirmed,] the octopus said eventually. [Twelve of LamarCorp's researchers are forks from the Singer Institute.] He turned a screen towards the group.

Taco whistled. "He was in this up to his eyeballs, huh?"

Dash grinned and tossed her rainbow hair. "Told you."

Taco leaned against the wall and lit a cigar. The bonobo watched as Dash produced a couple of grenades and set them to cover the entire room. DNA chaff. Forensics were going to find a room packed with skin flakes from a thousand bodies and the remains of a cigar Taco hated. Perfect.

Taco took another puff, found where he'd put his metal detector and ran the wand over the body. "Anything else there, Double-Prime?"

[Just LamarCorp's finances.] The octo's body took on the vibrant tones of a very pleased criminal. [Mind?]

"Go for it." Taco lowered his goggles and began to carve into the man's back.

Dash watched his remaining blood do its best to plaster itself across Taco for two and a half seconds before deciding she had reached the optimal time to ask. "What the fuck are you doing?"

Taco changed vision modes and crammed his fingers into the hole. "Pretty sure the little shit hid a life recorder in here."

7-11 watched numbers fly as LamarCorp converted its profits to crypto-cred and made some very definitely legitimate large donations to various Argonaut groups and Firewall fronts. [Once this is done I'll nuke the box, just in case.]

"If it's quick," Taco agreed, dropping the cyberware in a hidden pocket and standing to admire his handiwork.

Dash nodded. "We should be getting out of here at least 20% faster. What's next?"

Taco made one last sweep of the room. No surveillance. Infosec was taken care of. Corpse dismembered. Mondo.

They might have fucked up their actual plan, but when it came to last-minute balls-crazy contingency plans, he couldn't ask for a finer team.

Taco smiled, and queued up a funky song in his head.

"I feel like a fuck."

* * *

Ettin peered over the GM screen.

"Sorry, what?"

"Now that we're done with the adventure, Taco goes to a brothel," Eric explained. "We're on Mars, right? There must be like fifty of them."

"You're a bonobo," Ettin replied, lowering his eyebrows a fraction.

"Neo-bonobo," Eric corrected. "Sex is a big part of bonobo culture, right? Says so in Panopticon, page 109."

Ettin's eyebrows raised again.

"You can't remember how to roll initiative but you can quote page references for monkey sex?"

"Don't judge me."

"What about Dash?" Ash asked. "They had some romantic tension."

"And you're a dolphin!" Ettin accused.

"In a human body! A polysexual dolphin," Ash said defensively. "At least I don't know what page number dolphin sex is on."

"110," Eric said.

Ettin threw up his hands. "Fine, fine, but I'm not rolling dice for it. It happens, move on."

"How about 7-11?" Paul asked. "Any chance of an octo-lay?"

"Are you asking me to make GM rulings on whether or not your uplift characters can get some nookie?"

"What?" Paul folded his arms. "Love and the desire to mate are natural, even for uplifted octopi."

"Besides, EP is all about the sex anyway," Eric said.

"It is fucking not, you dorkapotamus," Ettin said. "It's a game about transhuman conspiracy and horror!"

"It so is!" Eric replied. "What about the hookers, and Parvarti, and Carnivale in Gatecrashing? And neotenics, even!"

Even Paul stared at him.

"How do you even remember all that stuff?" Ash asked.

"That's your problem with what he just said?" Ettin did what could only be described as an angry mannerism. "Every setting has sex in it, that doesn't make them some kind of erotic roleplay adventure!"

"Oh yeah?" Eric sniffed. "What about Eberron?"

"Don't you have a blog entirely dedicated to sexy things you can do with changelings?"

"But nobody reads it," Eric sniffed.

"Forgotten Realms?" Paul asked.

"Alustriel and half the things Elminster does ever, for a start."

"Dark Sun?" Ash asked.

"Naked bald dudes in leather chaps."

"Fine, what about Pathfinder?" Eric asked.

"Sorry, I only play good games. The point is, there's a big difference between something like Eclipse Phase and something like CthulhuTech."

"What's wrong with CthulhuTech?" Eric asked.

Ettin pulled up the relevant PDF and showed it to him.

Eric threw up on his dice.

"Now stop reading creepy sexual stuff into everything," Ettin said.

"Does that mean it's okay for our characters to get laid if it's not creepy?" Paul asked.

"Fine, fine. Just... offscreen, okay?"

They nodded. Well, Ash and Paul did. Eric wept into the table.

No complaints. Eric was taken care of. Problem solved. Tubular.

Ettin smiled and queued up another song from his gamemastering playlist. It was a sexy song, it was a funky song, it was a song about dinosaurs eating people. But really, it just a metaphor for fucking people.

Because sometimes when you fuck somebody you feel like a dinosaur.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Eternal September

Yugtaf the Warrior approached the door carefully.

This was it. The final encounter.

He and his companions had travelled far - over ten thousand miles, in fact. They have braved sky and sea and land, too, just for the hell of it. They had faced terrible creatures, horrible trolls and Magnavox the Wizard's insistence that he try out some of the "ethnic food" while they were here, but their journey was almost, finally, over.

Yugtaf took a deep breath, steeled himself for glorious battle, and then kicked the door's shit in.

The wizard was tucked away in his workspace. Surrounded on three sides by a cluttered L-shaped desk and a haphazard row of shelving which seemed to be designed to annoy people who wanted things on it, and almost entirely enclosed on the fourth by an orange bed which smelled like a chimpanzee that knew how to keep itself clean, he was an easy target.

The wizard started and turned to face them, the glow of too many computer monitors reflecting off his glasses.

"What the shit?"

"Ettin!" Yugtaf bellowed. "Update your blog!"

Ettin stared. His face was clean-shaven - left unattended, his face swiftly sprouted a crop of hair which made him look like a Greyhawk fan twenty years older - but in that anime t-shirt, he clearly wasn't expecting company. After a few moments to collect himself, he reached up and took his glasses off his face dramatically.

"What the fuck are you guys doing here?"

Xufwyp the rogue (okay, his player) placed himself in the corner gap between bed and desk, sealing off the escape route. He was not particularly intimidating, as such, but he looked a little like Stephen Fry and Ettin stayed where he was out of respect.

"You haven't updated it since the ENnies!" he said.

Yugtaf nodded. "And you never finished your series on Worldbuilding, or annoying your DM! Or player. Which is it?"

"Both," Ettin said, sliding the glasses back on his face. Taking them off was a stupid idea. Years of Nintendo 64 as a child had rendered his eyes incapable of registering anything on their own except that he existed in a place and there were colours. "Sorry, sorry. I've been a bit busy..."

Yugtaf leaned over to look at the monitors. On one, a library of incomplete Steam games was taunting all who laid eyes on them. On the other, hastily tabbed to over some weird French pornography, sat an almost-complete novel draft.

"Wait, is this why you assholes weren't here for the game yesterday?" Ettin demanded.

Yugtaf ignored that. "Dude! Have you been playing Deus Ex this entire time? Christ!"

"No! I've had work. And other things. Plenty other things. How did you even get past the drop-bears?"

"Well, drop whatever you're doing right now and sit down and make a post," Xufwyp said.

"Yeah," Magnavox said through a mouthful of burger. Australia was blowing his mind. "So you guys have Burger King, except you call it Hungry Jack's?"

Ettin ignored that. "Fine, but what the fuck am I supposed to write about?"

"Worldbuilding," Yugtaf suggested.

Ettin sighed and leaned back against a pile of wires and discarded computer accessories that might have had a shelf underneath it. "Ben, nobody gives a shit about published WotC settings. Who's going to care about Otherworld?"

"Hey, fuck you, Eberron is awesome!" Yugtaf Ben protested.

Magnavox swallowed. "What about posts where you're really angry about something?"

Ettin gave Magnavox a look he normally reserved for child molesters and people who talked in the cinema.

"Yeah," he said, "that sounds great, Darryl. That's always popular! I could call myself The Angry Game Master or Doctor Rage, or something, and write a little subtitle about how I'm oh so crazy! Or spunky. Or edgy, or that I have an attitude. I don't know which sounds sexier. And you'll know I'm edgy or whatever, because I say fuck and say I'm edgy, right there on my blog. That sounds so original and interesting!"

Magnavox Darryl frowned, but decided not to note the irony.

"It's not, really," Ettin added. "It's a stupid idea. For dumb babies."

"Well, what about grognards?" he suggested. "People being wrong about tabletop games, and women. And you were doing a good job pretending to hate Pathfinder. That was funny."

Xufwyp Kyle nodded in agreement. "Remember when James Desborough was mad at you because you posted about some wannabe rapist he knew? That was great!"

Ettin pinched the bridge of his nose. "I could just link people to grognards.txt, you know. Anyway, finding nerds who are wrong about tabletop games or hate women on the Internet is like trying to find your own feet, and also you're Bigfoot."

"Yeah, but if you post about that yourself, maybe people will be mad at you," Darryl continued.

Ettin shrugged. "So what? People who are mad on the Internet are a dime a bitcoin."

Darryl shrugged back.

"Maybe you could turn it around," Kyle suggested. "Pretend you hate 4E, and write long posts about "4e zealots", or how Pathfinder is outselling it even though nobody has actual sales figures to prove it either way, or..." he floundered.

Ravioli the sorceress called out from Ettin's lounge, where she was seeing what Australian TV looked like. It was mostly imported American shows and slice-of-life dramas in funny accents. "Make up some bullshit words and write essays about them!"

Kyle nodded. "Actually, that sounds good! Pick some really old edition of D&D and write about how you didn't like anything after it and you're scared of change, only use words like "realism" and "verisimilitude" instead of actually saying it. People eat that shit up!"

Ettin opened his mouth. Darryl interrupted. "And you could make up words! Like "disassociated mechanics". That was a great one. That got a whole essay, and it doesn't even make sense."

"Or "storygame"," Ben suggested, prodding the walls with his axe as he searched for secret doors. "Just make up a word for games you don't like and get really mad if people call you out on it."

"GNS Theory!" Ravioli changed the channel. "Write about narritavist gameplay!"

Ettin finally threw up his hands. "GNS theory is a stupid idea which was shoehorned into game design so people could swap psuedo-intellectual horseshit with each other instead of actually having a discussion that makes any sense!"

Ben clapped him on the shoulder. "So write about that! See, I knew you could do it!"

Steve nodded. "Focus that rage, Ettin! Have an opinion on the Internet!"

Ettin thought about it, and slapped the table. "Yeah... yeah! I'm gonna do it! I'm gonna write about my opinion like it's objective fact! I'm mad! On the Internet!"

Darryl pressed a button, and his smartphone started playing Eye of the Tiger.

Ettin adjusted his glasses, the glow of the monitors reflecting menacingly, and got to work.




Yugtaf nodded, and they filed out of the room. The campaign was over. Their adventure was a success.

Ravioli had found their reward in the lounge. A locked wooden chest, containing a holy avenger, a golem manual, australian, a robe of the archmagi and an amulet of the planes.

Yugtaf smiled. Now they could skip the flight back to America.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

ENnie Awards, 2011

Best RPG Whose Place In The ENnie Awards Is Even Remotely Interesting
GOLD: The Dresden Files RPG (Evil Hat Productions)
SILVER: Pretty Much Everything (Not WotC or Paizo)

Best RPG Book Which Should Have Won More Awards
GOLD: Gatecrashing (Posthuman Studios)
SILVER: Literally Everything Else (...by Posthuman Studios)
Honorable Mention: Anything not by WotC, Paizo or Posthuman Studios

Best Dungeons & Dragons Product
GOLD: Dungeons & Dragons (Wizards of the Coast)
SILVER: Pathfinder RPG (Paizo Publishing)

Best RPG I Really, Really Hope Hasn't Died Since I Last Heard Of It
GOLD: Planescape (sob)
SILVER: CthulhuTech (Wildfire still publishes that, right?)

Best Most Terrible Forum
GOLD: /tg/ (4chan)
SILVER: ENworld

Loudest, Dumbest Fans
GOLD: Paizo Publishing
SILVER: Wizards of the Coast

Worst Cover That Somehow Got Nominated
GOLD: Shadowrun: AtTITude (See What I Did There)
SILVER: Well The Rest Were Alright (I Guess)

Best Category I Know Nothing About
GOLD: Best Miniatures Product
SILVER: Best Podcast

Best Category I Should Probably Know More About
GOLD: Best Blog
SILVER: Best Podcast

Best Company I Couldn't Actually Tell You Anything About
GOLD: Cubicle 7
SILVER: Catalyst Game Labs

Best Place Ettin Has Never Been But Probably Should Go Sometime
GOLD: GenCon
SILVER: That Thai massage parlour on Main Street which is very clearly a brothel

Monday, July 25, 2011

How To Annoy Your DM: Actually Playing The Game, Part 1

Looking through blog stats to see what kind of searches have led people here is enlightening. For example:

  • Variations on "challenge rating 25" and "cr 25 dm" (in 7 of the 10 top spots, meaning I should have named my blog something better(
  • Various phrases with the name "Kurlianchik" in them (different ones now that there's an entirely new clusterfuck dramabomb that isn't about his rape posts)
  • my little pony marathon
  • dungeons eastern europe
  • how to read 1.4e+10
  • strahd von zarovich posters
  • rich burlew is an asshole
  • how to annoy your dm

That last one shows up a lot. In fact, How To Annoy Your DM: Character Creation is still my most popular, apparently, even more than How To Fix Planescape and the one where I scream incoherently at kender.

So what the hell, let's finish that series.

Going Into The Game

So you've created a character thanks to my handy guide and, since that was written three years ago, you have almost certainly played him, her or it in a game. And completely muffed it, because I wasn't here to show you the way.

Let's fix that.

Let's say you're going into a new game. Any edition, it doesn't matter. 2E, 3E, 3.5, 3.5 Pathfinder, 4E, a completely different game because let's be honest D&D is nowhere near the only game in town, whatever.

First things first, you need to deal with the Game Master (or local equivalent). Here:

The GM is your enemy.

MEMORISE THIS LINE. BE PREPARED TO REPEAT IT VERBATIM.

Sure, some people might say it's a collaborative effort, that the GM's job is to make sure the game is fun for everyone, himself included. Some people have even claimed this in their sourcebooks, treating the sacred bond of GM and player like they're playing some kind of game.

Well, that's horseshit.

This is a competition. You play to win.

It's best to assume the GM is out to get you at every turn - personal experience suggests this will be true eventually. Houserules? Keeps the power and the cool things in the GM's hands. Restrictions at character creation, on basic things like your level? A sham. (It's best to play along as much as you can at the start, though.) Not letting you do things, like when you kill quest NPCs and guardsmen show up? Choo choo, all aboard the railroad!

Just... try to keep a straight face until the game starts.

The Opening Sessions

This is when the fun begins - the DM sets the scene, everyone introduces their characters, and haha, no, I'm just kidding.

This is where you set the scene.

The GM's job is to paint the backdrop. You're the actor - the lead actor, to be precise. It's your job to write the script and set the props. Don't be afraid to fill in a few details the GM might have missed, like important elements of your backstory or major NPCs in his setting you have probably interacted with (I am assuming you're running the standard world-famous hero adventurer; if you are going with a lone wolf or other good character, disregard advice as appropriate.)

Pay close attention to the GM's opening speech and take notes as necessary. Don't be afraid to make suggestions if you don't like the content, plot hooks, tone of voice, setting, genre or system. Even if you're here to win, that doesn't mean you can't help.

Establish your dominance by appointing yourself party leader. If anyone else wants to be party leader, or doesn't want you to be for some reason, continue arguing in favour of your character leading until they give in. Leadership should go to the person who wants it most, after all.

After that, look at your starting situation and find a way to take a few things out of the GM's hands. He doesn't need to control everything - he should thank you, really. This is something you're going to have to do yourself, because different situations call for different responses, but here are some pointers!

  • Are you being hired to perform a quest? Demand triple the reward. The DM has to say yes, or call off his adventure.
  • Do you start in prison? Try to break out. Attack some guards.
  • Are you being given a task you don't like by a king, mayor or someone else in a position of power? Use your character's contacts (which he clearly should have) to influence world politics, or just start a revolution.
  • Are you in an inn? Seduce the barmaid, wait until the other PCs are done introducing themselves, then let them know you've hired them as servants.
  • Is the premise sound, but there's nothing for you to use as a strong start to establish dominance? Provoke someone into a fight. Quest NPCs are best, but PCs will do in a pinch.
  • Are there kender in thr setting? MURDER THEM.

Knowing Your Party Members

Until the GM agrees to run the solo game your characters deserve, you're stuck with a bunch of jerks. Might as well find out how they can best complement your character, right?

Like the list above, this is something best learned yourself. I can't do everything. But broadly, you want the party to look like this:

You:
  • The leader, decision-maker, etc.
  • The "face" of the party.
  • Most important combat role for the campaign.

Everyone Else:
  • Running errands.
  • Supporting you.
  • Supplementary combat roles.
  • More errands.

If they don't seem to fit, complain to the GM that their character is "ruining your gaming experience" and demand they reroll before a few sessions pass and it's too late. If they almost fit, help the character roleplay: Tell them where to move in combat, what to say, that sort of thing. Just smooth rough edges out. If they fit, well, congratulations!

Closing Remarks (for now)

Above all, take it slow. You don't want to blow your load and win the campaign in the first few sessions. Just bide your time, make sure you're on top, and get a good idea on your head of how you're going to win by about halfway through the first dungeon.

For more on how to win, see the upcoming Part 2! I can't wait!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Not Even Remotely Funny

Well, that was fun. Long story short it turns out that guy liked Googling his name to find places to send his supporters to defend him, so I was totally a Z-list internet celebrity for a whole ten seconds. If only my post wasn't garbage.

Anyway, I promise to no longer write silly posts about people in the greater D&D community posting misogyny on the internet and people flipping out about it that I bumped into while perusing my usual D&D fora.

Instead, I have a less badly-written piece on why making D&D versions of commonly-used real-world cultures bores the shit out of me!

Unfortunately I'm busy finishing up a Machine of Death submission, so it's not done yet. Instead, have this silly post about people in the D&D community posting misogyny on the internet and people flipping out about it:


Here are a couple of ENWorld threads about a campaign that revolves around a struggle between an order of knights that "sexually liberates" women by abducting them and taking them to mind-control rape camps and their totally different opponents who herd women into forced breeding camps, in which the author asserts that women both deserve and desire to be raped.

And here's some slightly less horrifying posts about enforcing arbitrary stat changes to each gender and how women are supposed to be submissive.

No, I'm not making any terrible jokes about this.

I am just kind of leaving that there.


EDIT: The original point of this silly post was to have a giggle at the way forum moderation handled these posts (they didn't). However, in part thanks to the chaps over at grognards.txt, the rules have been changed to say that sort of shit is Not Cool. So, out of respect, I redacted this section. I'd paste the deleted text for the sake of completeness but nobody gives a shit.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Non-Offensive Blog Post

So, if any of you three readers who aren't my mother haven't heard about it - and let's be honest, you have, because this story is bigger than New Zealand - Wizards of the Coast pulled one Uri Kurlianchik's article from their website after a lady called Kynn posted screenshots of his public Buzz feed.

I could write something about it, but I'll just let the man's Twitter feed do the talking, because he says it better than I:

Today was a victory for darkness, for BADD, for Mary Whitehouse, for Joseph McCarthy. Utter defeat for diversity and freedom of speech.

I used to have a shock humor buzz shared only with a few friends. Deleted it when realized others were reading it too. It was a silly joke..

..it was printscreened, kept for months for the sole purpose of "punishing" me some day. Posts were Cherry-picked to find most inflammatory.

So, this buzz was a joke taken off the internet half a year ago and preserved on someone's PC - only select bits of it, of course.

And if you don't know what Poe's law is, I very much suggest you read about it now...

It's really sad some people are unable to tell the difference between a report of observation and a suggested course of action. Is vs should

Example: "40% of people killed in car accidents in are Arabs" - it's a fact. "Arabs just can't drive" - it's bigotry. See difference?


This is why his article was pulled? Because of a few joke posts about domestic violence being the woman's fault and wanting to murder people and rape their daughters reposted by some fuckwombats copy-pasting only the juicy bits?

Come on, Wizards. You published Book of Vile Darkness and Hero Builder's Handbook, and this is where you draw the line? Please.

Luckily, Uri is capable of defending himself, explaining clearly that it is a joke while accusing his detractors of robbing him of his freedom of speech, aka the right to express his personal opinions. If the internet trolls out there aren't curb-stomped by this two-pronge attack, his back can be considered had by James Desborough, author of The Quintessential Temptress, Slayer's Guide to Female Gamers, Encyclopedia Arcane: Nymphology and Hentacle, who has dealt with women's issues and touchy subjects in tabletop gaming before.

As well as pointing out the Poe's Law trap wizards has fallen into, he compares Uri's posts to comedy sketches like this one, where over-the-top bigotry is clearly the joke.

And that's what this is - over-the-top bigotry.

The problem is, on the internet, it is hard to tell when someone's being serious, because you can't add a laugh track or a disclaimer to say you're joking. So really, all of those people up in Uri's grill for jokingly pretending to be an anti-feminist who wants to rape women need to realise that it's a joke, and you can't be offended at jokes.

He makes an even better point later, when Sarah Darkmagic advises James to stop attacking his assailant's gender identity or she won't be his wingman and help him score some transgendered ass.

Basically, it is acceptable to direct offensive slurs towards someone provided you don't like them.

So what the hell is the big deal? If I'm a mysogynist, I hate women, and I can talk about them crazy bitches all I want because that is kind of my thing. If I'm not a mysogynist, and I'm clearly not because I said so, then I just think talking about them crazy bitches is funny. And who would care about that?

Crazy bitches, that's who.

Anyway, this is great, because I can get something off my chest now.

Ever wondered why there are no black people in my setting?

Sure, I've said it's because my knowledge of many real-world cultures beyond the broader strokes could fit in a chimpanzee's ear-hole, but I say a lot of things.

No, I just don't have any because I don't like Muslims.

Not many people know this, but a relative of mine was arrested years back as part of a sting which took out a Sydney terrorist cell. A few years later he was finally released, partly because he only happened to be a friend of the ringleader without realising he was a dirty terrorist and partly because while he was Muslim and had a beard, he was one of those white Muslims.

9/11 had already warned us about the dangers of Islam, but it took a relative being detained for years without trial to open my eyes: The threat was on our doorstep.

I'm sorry, but I'm just no longer comfortable with Muslims. They give me the willies. So I've been avoiding putting them in my setting, instead using more wholesome topics I can get behind like catering to my huge maid fetish.

So, yeah, no black people in my setting.

Hope that's cool.

There's more I want to say, but I have some Duke Nukem Forever: Balls of Steel Edition to enjoy. I'll catch you crazy bitches later.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Complete Moron's Guide To Being A Grognard

With the invention of the internet by Bill Clinton in the late 90s, one side of D&D has been given a whole new level of accessibility:

Piracy.

Wait, no.

Edition wars.

Never before could so many people tell so many other people their game preferences were garbage. As the internet lay across the world like an invisible, bodily-fluid-stained bedsheet, one type of gamer found ascension.

The grognard.

What's a grognard, you ask? It means "old soldier who complains a lot" in French, and to the average gamer, by which I mean the average gamer who plays Dungeons & Dragons or another roleplaying game which isn't as important, it's someone who prefers older editions.

Really prefers.

Now, this isn't necessarily an old people thing - I have several hip young grognard friends. But it's not something you can just fall into. It takes a lot of hard work, dedication, perseverance, and assistance from other grognards.

I can't teach you everything. There are some things you have to learn yourself. But this is a start.

STEP ONE: You Really, Really Prefer It

First, obviously, you pick your edition.

It has to be an older edition. Newer editions are, by definition, terrible. So if you're a D&D player (non-D&D examples postponed until I can play a White Wolf game without thinking the word "yiff"), you want to go back to the glory days of 3.5, or 2E.

Now, start liking it. Start liking it hard. Picture this: I really like Eclipse Phase. If Posthuman Studios showed up at my house, I would make out with each and every one of them.

You have to like your edition at least three times that much.

If your edition were Godzilla, you have to be Ms Godzilla. Your edition is so awesome it eats dinosaurs and shits lasers. If your edition were a tornado, your ability to hate it would be Missouri.

Once you're feeling the love, it's time for...

STEP TWO: Everything Else Is Worse Than Hitler

This isn't just a game. It is an religious experience. Changing the game is sacrilege. Liking another edition is motherfuckin' blasphemy. Anyone who likes another edition is not only wrong, they are committing edition genocide.

Read that paragraph, feel that paragraph, until it actually makes sense. Hitting yourself over the head with your core books helps.

It is not enough to really like your edition. You have to hate all others. You have to get out there and tell people, with cleverly reasoned logical arguments, why they are wrong and their editions are awful. You have to show people the light.

If you're having trouble, here's a quick reference for the kind of thought patterns you should be going through.

Older Editions: Good but flawed games, a part of (insert tabletop game here)'s long heritage of excellence and quality. There are rule and balance issues, but nothing that can't (and shouldn't) be fixed.
Your Edition: Streamlined and perfected previous editions to create the tabletop equivalent of an orgasm. Any flaws are either imaginary or trivial matters blown out of proportion by haters.
Newer Editions: Dumbed-down stupid games for babies. Perfectly fine rules ditched in favour of making the game more like an MMO. Way too complex, full of glaring rules errors caused by its unnecessary simplification in the name of "balance".

Which brings us to...

STEP THREE: Love Conquers All, Especially Logic

The following is an actual argument for why 4th Edition's writers are terrible designers from a real person. Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Sister_Acacia> Warlock curses have to be used on the nearest enemy. Enemy == Any creature that is not an ally. You are specifically stated to not be your own ally. Therefore you are your own Enemy, so must target yourself.
Sister_Acacia> It's STUPID. We KNOW how it's SUPPOSED to work. But that isn't what they wrote.


Here is the thing: Your edition is the best. Why would you even play the other editions? Therefore, nobody should expect you to even play other editions to know how they are wrong. Skimming the core books, reading about them on the internet, or asking someone else what they are like (preferably a fellow grognard - we'll get to this in a bit) is perfectly fine.

So seriously, write what you like. Think 3.5 fighters are perfectly fine and wizards aren't that powerful in comparison? Go ahead, post that. Is your main arugment for hating the latest edition that it just doesn't "feel" right? What the hell, knock yourself out.

The best part is nobody can prove you wrong. If someone posts a response which appears to, say, find glaring logical contradictions in your argument, or point out Gygax never said that, or make a convincing counterpoint to your proposals, well, fuck them.

Never "admit" you are wrong. This is the Internet. Do you know, really know, who you are talking to? Can you prove they are not some kind of internet vampire who drains the life force of those it perceives weak? No. No you can't.

So if you happen to come across a post like this, take a deep breath and post as many of these as you can:

  • I am simply stating my opinion. Opinions cannot be wrong.
  • This is just how I feel. This is what it feels like to me. You don't understand me, mum.
  • You are such a corporate sellout, just like (insert company here).
  • That's just your opinion, and your opinion is wrong.
  • I'm sorry (favoured edition here) was too deep for you.
  • If I wanted to play a videogame I would resubscribe to World of Warcraft, you MMO-loving turtlesurfer.
  • My edition is clearly the best, despite its "flaws". Therefore, you are wrong.
  • Show me one person who agrees with you/who actually likes this! (Or some variation. Increase number as needed to at least n+1, where n is the number of sources damaging to your case.)
  • Thanks for misinterpreting my post. Nobody understands me.
  • Really? Because my group tried playing this game, and we stopped after ten minutes.
  • You are a heretic!!

Honestly, you would use the keyboard to wipe your bottom and then use your hands to press the POST button once you have recovered from the pain and it would still be just as solid an argument as, say, anything a WotC developer posts about why they made the game-destroying rules changes that they did. Probably better, really. On that note:

STEP FOUR: You Are The Core Audience

You bought the core rulebooks. They owe you, now.

Something a lot of people forget when they are talking to a grognard is that they are talking to a true fan. If you weren't a true fan, you wouldn't have purchased all the older books, would you? You wouldn't have been around for that. You probably would have been off writing wanky meta blog posts, or something.

And who is most important to the company? The true fans.

When you make a new edition, you are trying to bring in more fans. Same reason Blizzard pumps out more WoW expansions. The problem is, unless you consult the community and listen to reason from long-time fans of your game, you are clearly going to make mistakes and alienate your core fanbase.

Well, that's what they did. They have abandoned you, and by extension they have abandoned the core principles of the game and sold their souls to the roleplaying game devil (sacrilege, remember). Therefore, you know better than them.

If you're complaining about the game, especially on the Internet (which is, let's face it, where you are anyway), be sure to mention this. A lot. "Open letters" to the developer of your choice, calls to have whoever came up with this garbage issue a public apology before being fired and demands for a reprint of all your favourite books (they sold so well the first time) are all good.

Don't be afraid to give the company of your choice financial and business advice. If they knew how to do business, they wouldn't have lost yours.

STEP FIVE: Grey Is A Stupid Colour For Dumb Babies

Learn to think with binaries.

There is a right and wrong. Specifically, there is your way, which is right, and then there is everything else, which is wrong. No middle ground.

You cannot like the latest edition and the older ones. You can't say there are huge flaws in a product and like it anyway (unless you're a hipster, which makes you wrong). You can't have broad tastes; once you have found the perfect edition, why like anything else?

It helps if you can come up with a condescending nickname for people you don't like. Broad categories work - equating opponents to animals, pre-sapiens homo, or the disabled is fine. Depending on your tastes, there may already be a special, clever, mature term for people who like the edition you don't:

  • 4rries
  • 3tards
  • 2dimensionalobjects
  • 1flyingoverthecuckoosnest

If you're up to it, you could also come up with some arbitrary terms to define what is and isn't an RPG, at least to you. Don't worry if they make no sense. The important thing is that things you like are covered by the "good" term.

STEP SIX: Finding Fellow Grognards

Once you've started to get the hang of it - you might want to start by practicing in a mirror, or shouting at a teddy bear or small yappy dog - you want to find an online community, if you haven't already. People to sympathise with you, pad your ego, and mentor you in the ways of the grognard.

This is tricky.

Ideally, what you want is an active community with a large percentage of people who share the same views as you and a low percentage of people who disagree - forums who ban the latter are perfect, but good ones are harder to find for some reason.

There are plenty of places who are fine with you grognarding it up, though:

  • Paizo Messageboards: Perfect for the pro-3.5 grognard, you cannot swing a lolcat around this forum without hitting someone who believes Pathfinder is "true" D&D and Bulmahn is Gary Jesus. You'll have to be familiar with Pathfinder's product, but let's be honest, if you bought Wizard's books you already are. EDITION WAR SLAMWICH!
  • ENWorld: Here the posters you're looking for are not so much "grognards" as "rubbish". Amidst the sea of awful posts, you will not attract too much attention and ire. Perfect for the starting grognard or fourteen year old.
  • RPGnet: If you post something grognardy here, you will get sucked off faster than Jason Bulmahn would if he asked for one on the Paizo boards. Oh, and if you like actual RPG discussion this place will suffice too I guess. (What is wrong with you?)
  • TGD: The Gaming Den is basically ENWorld for people with self-diagnosed Asperger's.
  • Blog Communities: There are quite a few shitty D&D blogs nobody reads out there. Make friends in the comments pages! If you find a grogblog that resonates with you, maybe the author hangs out in some other community and you can go there to find some new friends.
  • /tg/: FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DO NOT GO TO 4CHAN! ABORT! ABORT!

REMEMBER: Practice Makes Perfect!

Obviously, I can't teach you everything. I am but one man - though I hear the ladies prefer the term "one sexy chunk of man meat" - and grogging is one of those things that takes a while to master.

Don't worry too much about it. What's important is, you're playing what you enjoy, and that's a good thing. Don't let anyone else tell you otherwise.

Fuck that other guy's game choices though.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Godmodding: Things I Find Creepy About D&D

Like prostitutes and Eskimos, D&D has some things you just don't want to get in it.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Everybody likes sex, but most of the time it is best kept to C://Users/Ettin/Documents/CleverHiddenFolder/DinosaurSmut like everyone else.

A while ago I slapped together Valen, a love goddess, because I happened to need one for a few bit parts. Not long afterward it came up in a game of mine, and this happened:

Player: What's she a cleric of?
Me: Valen. She's the local goddess of love and beauty
Player: So she's a sex goddess.
Me: ... No, she's just a goddess of
Player: Sex.
Me: ...
Player: (Strokes flourishing neckbeard sagely)

Sex and D&D are somewhat intertwined, but in a behind-the-scenes way, like the way your spleen is part of your body but you don't take it out and show it to everyone. Whenever I read something like Ed Greenwood's orgy adventure, or this real post someone actually made on the Internet:

Now we have given our NPC a present, lets give them a past. To complete the picture of any NPC, I give them a sexuality. This fleshes out the character, as any living creature has some sort of sex life. Following the example, Drazar's fetish is Gay. I remember to note that nosy players poking around at night in the smithy will hear him quietly massaging his prostate with the handle of his +1 Hammer of returning. This acutally came up in an IRC game I ran- once the Rogue found out what Drazar was doing, he felt that he should respect the character and not steal a weapon that was steeped in history out of respect of its owner. I wager that he would have thought nothing about killing the smith and taking his belongings otherwise

It's acutally an epic DM secret- when creating any hero or villain, think to yourself "How are their sexual appetite's satisfied?". This instantly adds a layer of depth to the character with little effort. One recent villain I created was a druid who controlled wurms. I chose it because I thought wurms were cool, but could not justify his use of such creatures when he had more powerful entities at his disposal. In a masterstroke I realised while looking at the image for the Century wurm (Fiend folio) that I could justify his actions by implying that they appealed to a primal sexual festish- cock vore. Once the players found his diary and why he had attacked them using such creatures they were all to happy to desecreate his grove and corpse. The paladin almost fell due his treatment of Balthazar the Wurm king, but I let it slide *Sweatdrop*.


I get really, really uncomfortable.

Unfortunately, most of my games are online these days, which means one of my players could very well end up being the sort of lad who openly wants to play a "drow shota" or roleplay an intense desire to be spanked with a frying pan. So if I want a goddess of love, we're going to have to divorce it from that kind of love.

At least in public.

So!

Developing Valen

Valen started as a fairly standard love deity. I have yet to see one which wasn't eerily similar to a lot of the others, and probably red-haired too. Unfortunately one of her original inspirations was Sune (or was it Sharess? I always got those confused), which I have since realised is vaguely connected to Ed Greenwood, so now we're going to redo that shit.

What else can you do with a love goddess? Well, she was a goddess of love and beauty, so there's that. There are more beautiful things in life than bodies, like sunsets and Eskimos, or art and music. So to protect her from neckbeards, she's the bard goddess.

She has come up in a few more recent games. A player of mine is a bard who worships her and associates with the Hopesingers, a group of bards and other classes with ranks in Perform who are trying to change the world through song and benefit concerts. She has had a few paladins as well, which is pretty neat. There's also been Polyquet, a ghaele follower who once described something as "like, totally mondo", which tells you everything you need to know about her.

What else can we do? Let's look up real-life love gods!

  • Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, beauty and sexuality. Kind of a bitch. Seems to be designed to give neckbeards erections. Damn it. Relationship with a war god is pretty interesting though. So is spawning from another deity's balls, but not for the same reasons.
  • Venus, who like most Roman gods is a Greek one with the serial numbers filed off. Not very related though. Possibly related to Friday, which was a song I actually thought was decently mediocre. Ceasar claimed to be related to her. Definitely probably lying.
  • Through my brief research I found out there was a Roman goddess called Cloacina. This is the most unfortunate-sounding goddess I know of. I must make a note of this.
  • The Norse had Freyja, a goddess of love, beauty, fertility, some kind of crazy Norse magic, war and death. She rides a chariot drawn by two cats, because she is allergic to horses. May be connected to valkyries. Will probably be killed by a giant wolf or something.
  • The Babylonians had Ishtar. Love, war, et cetera. Possibly a bitch. Her cult had prostitutes. Let's avoid that part.

For some reason I am now imagining bards as war reporters.

Putting this stuff together...

Valen!

During the early ages of man, when the first great cities had formed, the god of civilisation looked upon the work of Man and remarked thusly: "Though I am duly impressed by your efforts, I am Wary; for the work of Man yet pales compared to that of the Gods." The ancient city of Bragropolis heard his words, and replied in kind: "Oh yeah? Watch this."

The bards and artists of Bragropolis banded together and laboured for four hundred nights, and painted the god a daughter. As a song breathed life into her, Valen stepped forth from the canvas.

She was happily taken in as a daughter, though Bragropolis was warned to stop being such smartarses. Since then, Valen has inherited the portfolios of love, beauty and creativity.

Valen appreciates lovers, good art, good music, good food... actually, there isn't much she doesn't appreciate. Her followers see her as a muse, or a heroine, or a lover if they're a little weird. In older times, she was seen as a goddess of war (and the art of war, ha ha) as well, but after a phase a couple centuries ago where her followers started telling people to make love instead and stick flowers on people's crossbows other war gods become more popular. She still retains a few war-minded followers, though, particularly in bards who seek out great battles to compose songs and stories about them, and though she is not martially-minded she stresses that this doesn't make her an idiot. Her followers, particularly her paladins, are free to punch evil in the face.

Valen is most popular in human lands, but was quickly adopted by the elves once they encountered humans and has since risen to prominence in their pantheon, though they tend to associate her with flowers. She has a slightly higher proportion of non-human races than most human deities, as she can easily appreciate the beauty in, say, an orc, or a goblin, or an Eskimo.

Valen is considered a friend to almost every good- and neutral-aligned deity, and even the evil ones have to admit she's sort of nice. Her greatest enemy is Malcanthet, the Queen of the Succubi who has hated Valen since they accidentally showed up to a failed attempt at a pact between the gods and the demon lords wearing the same dress.

She also has several "daughters", the most prominent of which is Seokore, but as she has yet to form any long-lasting relationships of that sort it is likely she created them from art and music.

The details vary, but Valen is usually depicted as a beautiful young maiden of any race or ethnicity (usually human) with a long mane of brown or red hair and emerald or heterochromic eyes. She wears flowers in her hair, expensive jewellery and loose, bright clothing. She is usually carrying one or more symbols of creativity - musical instrument, a theatre mask, or a paintbrush and palette. Sometimes, though, she has a rapier.

Bam!

Since I have yet to run a long-lasting 4E game despite my fear that sticking to 3.5 would make me a grognard, Valen has the Charm, Good, Luck and Protection domains, and of course I'll allow any other arts-themed domains. War might be possible, depending on how the cleric worships her.

And now I must go! Next time: More gods, or possibly complaining about a few things that have been bugging me. Who knows!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Godmodding: Paiia

This month's excuse for a late post:

My Little Pony marathon.

A really long marathon.

So, I've been bouncing around a few ideas for posts over the last few weeks as I play Portal 2 and squee over ponies, and I've decided that rather than worry over them for days I will post as many as I can.

So, a while back I made a couple of posts about religion in my eternally-in-progress homebrew setting, and the pantheon I've been trying to set up. I've decided to put some more work into it and post about it, in the hope that

a) The process might make a good read;
b) Someone might point out something which blows that I've missed.

I got a couple of pieces of advice from the last two posts:

Study real religions and see what they do, instead of copying D&D and D&D clones, if you want to be unique.

This is actually a good tip, though I don't agree with the last part. Copying is copying, using real life just improves the quality of your sources. Then again, that is just me being an asshole on the wording, isn't it? Don't listen to me, listen to this man.

tl;dr, but I did skim through enough to say this: you've got a moderate to severe case of Lovecraftian Naming Syndrome. Srsly, Yzzyx? I love Colossal Cave Adventure as much as the next person, but (...) The only cure for Lovecraftian Naming Syndrome is spending half a decade learning linguistics or spending 5 minutes looking up the names of people and gods from extinct civilizations and then mashing the letters around. Then again, what do I know?

This one, not so much. The only lesson here is that if you don't read posts before you comment you'll end up looking silly, because the post containing the one name Anon here took exception to was also the one which contained Seokore.

So, yeah. Two pieces of advice there, actually. Be careful with your naming, using "tl;dr" seriously is for chumps.

Anyway, today's deity.

Developing Paiia

Paiia's origins were less than noble, but a fine way to make a deity on the fly if you have to. This is how it went down:
  • I liked Pelor, in a sort of all-purpose good deity way, but did not find Pelor himself interesting.
  • While flipping through Deities & Demigods years ago I thought Taiia, a different four-armed sun god, looked kind of cool.
  • I made Pelor a four-armed woman and mashed their names together.

Bam.

That was a good start, anyway. I needed more.

First... Pelor fit in Greyhawk because, well, it's Greyhawk. When you think of it you think of a charming 70s/80s fantasy setting where everyone worships Gary's friends' characters and bad guys can be the kind of unbelievable fuckbears who fill dungeons with deathtraps and other traps that turn you into a naked girl. Somehow Pelor is an icon of D&D to me, which is why I don't really want to use him here.

So, I need something that fits into Otherworld. That isn't too hard, because it's my setting, so I sketched out an idea of what a sun god would be like:

  • Should be fairly important, which is common in mythology as far as I know. The Sun is one of those things it's hard to ignore.
  • Looks forward to each new day, treating it as a chance to ditch yesterday's problems and start a new adventure.
  • Since I liked the parts of Pelor about searing your enemy's face off and smashing evil undead into sad little piles of ash, I kept that part.
  • While I was there, another setting I used to run used a deity of prophecy as the principal "human" deity. Since I quite liked that one and prophecy seems like a good portfolio for a goddess who always looks to the future, I threw it in.
  • Later, I heard of Sarenrae from Pathfinder, who is associated strongly with redemption. Since that fit nicely, once I was done being surprised that Pathfinder has something which wasn't printed by Wizards of the Coast already I threw that in as well. (EDITION WAR SLAMWICH!)

I have a rough idea what I want to do, but it could still use work. So I look up sun gods.

  • The Norse had Sol/Sunna, who was prophesised to be killed by a wolf during Ragnarok. I am pretty sure this is what happens to everyone in Ragnarok though.
  • The Romans had Sol, who was blatantly stolen from the Greeks in clear violation of copyright law. I am pretty sure this is how the Romans did everything, though. Had bitching Christmas parties, was associated with the moon goddess, later became Sol Invictus and was portrayed as a companion to the Emperor in what I can only assume was ancient Roman self-insert fanfiction.
  • The Greeks had Helios, who carried the sun around in his chariot (his big, hundred-times-the-size-of-Earth chariot) except one time he let his teenage son Phaeton borrow his celestial car and the kid wrecked it so bad Zeus shot him in the face. This is the sanest story in the Greek pantheon.
  • Helios was heavily associated with Apollo, god of light and prophecy and a lot of other things that aren't relevant. Greek gods had massive resumes.

At the moment I'm still unsure whether Paiia has a sister, but I feel this is enough to go on.

Paiia!

The sun goddess Paiia is one of the oldest deities around. In the early ages, curious of the fate of creation, she plucked a star from the sky and compressed it into the Third Eye of the Cosmos, which sees all futures.

And then the Eye predicted things she didn't like.

Paiia didn't take that sass, though. Instead, when it predicted a disaster or great triumph for the forces of evil, she set out to do something about it. When it predicted that Asmodeus would trick one of her greatest priests into committing an atrocity, she slipped him a warning note. When it predicted that her demise in the distant future would come at the hands of a monstrous demonic wolf, she killed it and hid the body. When it predicted she would lose her keys she made a spare set.

So far, Paiia is winning.

To her followers, the sun goddess Paiia represents the warmth of good, compassion, and healing. She's a goddess of prophecies, but urges her followers to make their own destinies - each sunrise heralds a new adventure and a new beginning. Planning and foresight is great, but you must back it up with action. Paiia is a fan of redemption - it's a new beginning for everyone - but is never hesistant to redeem evil's face with her fist.

Paiia is most popular among humans, especially in the older lands of Aldanath and Kaldoria. Sects of hers can be found almost anywhere humans reside. She also has a number of dwarf followers in mountain communities who like the cut of her jib, and almost any race which lives near humans can be found within her ranks if you look hard enough.

Paiia has allies in most good-aligned deities and is willing to talk with anyone, usually to barter for her services while she tries to convince them to change their ways. On the other hand she's never afraid to give bad news and will give vague or even wrong answers at times, usually to evil beings, to further her own agenda or just for fun. More gods seek her out for company than her services.

Paiia appears as a golden-haired woman with four arms. In her lower left she clutches the Third Eye of the Cosmos, a shining white orb, and in her lower right she carries a flaming sword. She can summon a blazing light from her hands, which can hurt or heal as necessary.

She also throws bitching Christmas parties.

Bam!

I've written out a bit more, but I won't bore you with the details. She does have the Good, Healing, Luck, Knowledge and Sun domains, because I still haven't gotten around to converting to 4E yet (and some of my current players aren't fans, I believe). Other than that it's mostly details about her servants (like Unforgivement, the ancient intelligent glaive who insists that was totally a word five hundred years ago), holy texts, et cetera, and it's best to not set them in stone until I need them.


That's all, for now. With any luck, I'll churn out a few more of these (and possibly improve this one) over the next week.

Friday, April 1, 2011

A Brief Essay On The Sad State Of Wizards Of The Coast

Coming very soon to this blog is a brand new series of articles. I Want My Familiarity Back! is designed to bring the wonder and old-school feel of Vancian magic into 4th Edition, and will present the new class - the Caster - and convert every single wizard/sorcerer spell from 3E. The first article will introduce the series and present the Mage itself, and the many subsequent articles will delve into the spells themselves, paragon paths, named Mages of lore (mostly my old PCs), and so much more.

I'm pretty much throwing the 4E design ethos out of the window on this one. The spells will have their old school mix of offense, defense, utility and more; effects will be varied and interesting rather than "do some damage and apply a condition (save ends)", save-or-dies will be back to bring a swift and dramatic end to encounters in less than a round, the old schools of magic and specialization are back (although slightly different), and the spell names will be colorful and evocative - think Strahd von Zarovich Touches You In A Naughty Place, Sir Brian Consumptington's Gentlemanly Witticism, and Imix's Logically Inconsistent Grognard Rage rather than vampiric touch, charm person, and fireball.

Why am I doing this, you ask?

Because 4E is dying the slow death it deserves.

There's hardly been an original article or adventure in Dragon/Dungeon that hasn't been a preview in the last several months. (This might not be true; however, it feels that way and adventure support is certainly well down.)

This is beyond pathetic.

There are good things coming out of Wizards, but the U-turn they made on their release strategy, which has left its established customers with no products to buy for months now, hints at massive trouble within the company. I'm wondering now how much of it is due to Bill Slavicsek.

The release of D&D Essentials presaged a massive change at the company as to how it dealt with D&D. It's far more compatible with 4E than the 3.5e revision, but it did add in a few interesting wrinkles to the system, especially with the new rarity system for magic items. Unfortunately, no sooner had it been released than the Powers That Be at Wizards changed their mind again about the future direction of D&D. Just after spending a lot of time and money working out a new direction for D&D (Essentials), they changed their mind.

This actually derailed the integration of Essentials into 4e, particularly with the loss of Heroes of Sword and Spell and (more significant from my point of view) Mordenkainen's Magical Emporium. More significant? Yes, because I would have expected it to give lots of common and rare items, which we're currently missing in the system. The new magic item system in Essentials? Doesn't work without the information from this book. I'm also a DM, so player options don't mean as much to me.

I really feel that support for D&D 4E is currently stuck in limbo, and despite good design work, there's a lot of other departments at Wizards not pulling their weight.

Personally, I'm glad I haven't played 4.0. I hear it is more accessible than 3.x (and doesn't have the problem of 3rd-party supplements) but I'm still not interested in having to plan out my character in advance, or having to optimise my character.

I don't mind any of these things in other games. I just don't want them in D&D. The only choices I want to see there are about what is going on in the game, not on the character sheet.

Mind, I have no issue with character sheets. It was the nature of choices I had issue with. I want my decisions to be about what is going on in the game - do we trust the kobolds? how do we get through the secret door? Is that treasure worth the risk - rather than what happens at level up - do I spend that point on dodge or listen? what feat do I need to take to get improved disarm? is quickdraw worth taking?

I can't get that from 4e.

Thus, the only story games I can wholeheartedly recommend are ones which attempt to capture the pure RANDOMNESS of reality. It is perfectly acceptable as a DM to have a bunch of random, shocking, absurd and frequently violent events take place at your gaming table without any rhyme or reason constrained by 'story'! This is how DMs have always done it!

Why is this so hard to get across?

I mean, If I want to play a good game, I've got plenty on my shelf, from traditional style crunchfests, to the latest indie darlings.

But if I want to play D&D (not just play an RPG where I can dungeoncrawl, but actually play with the aim of playing D&D), then AD&D, AD&D 2nd, D&aD 3.0, D&D 3.5 and 4e do not fit my play style preferences.

4E in particular sucks dick for basically destroying RPGs and remanufacturing them as copies of MMOs.

In fact, the 4E designers themselves stated that 4E mechanics were built to better interface with video game design.

If you like WoW on pen and paper, you have 4e. Timed actions, If/then actions, very one sided characters in regards of what you can do, the 4e is for you.

Heck even Chris Perkins (D&D Line manager) admitted that 4E was an attempt to compete with computer games, as a way to attract WoW-kids. Problem is RPG’s can’t compete, heck they shouldn’t even try.

Yes there are some things that the edition got right like rituals, but OVERALL, the FEEL, yes FEEL, (not a specific rule, the FEEL) is that of a video game transported to a table top RPG. And that's fine if it's what you want, I don't.

I like video games, but I can play those, by myself, anytime. When I get together with my friend to play an RPG, I want there to be a difference - no wire-fu moves, no outrageous amounts of required magic items, no 3 million GP requirements for treasure (Astral Diamonds, really).

I like a BIT of realism in my D&D and up until this edition it was easy to drop certain things, or ignore add-ons to get it to that sweet spot. It's nearly impossible to do so without altering the rules to the point of re-writing the PHB and really, who wants to do that. So, is THAT clear enough?

RPG’s should focus on the things MMO’s can’t do: Indepth story, easily designed encounters, character interaction & design flexability.

What RPG’s should not do is try to compete directly against the strengths of a computer game & thats exactly what 4E tries to do.

Of course, I think 4E will make a very good video game. Much better than 3E or any previous edition of D&D.

The biggest problem that I have with 4E is that it is definitely tailored to Power Gaming and Munchkinsism. Role play is possible in 4E, but it naturally tailors itself much more to ROLL play than all previous editions of D&D.

This is the time for WotC to start work on their next thing. 5th Edition is going to need a lot of development and talent. WotC has a LOT of apologizing to do and they might as well start now.

And it will be Pathfinder. Pathfinder is the game that has the soul of what D&D was coupled with proper changes for the modern game. That is what I want to support. Plus, I love all the people at Paizo and I love what they are all about. And the community is just second to none.

Pathfinder is the way to go for sure. I no longer ban druids and bards from my games, (monks still dont belong in fantasy but it has nothing to do with the rules). They fixed much and did it with great artwork and quality.

I gave 4E a real try, I really did I purchased the main book and a module or two. Even bought Martial Powers. 4E just wasn't right for me. At some point I the classic line from Network "I'm mad as hell. I'm not going to take it anymore" made me give up D&D and stopped gaming for a while. I utterly despised 4E and thought it took all the flavor and life out of D&D I had come to love. D&D had become its own fantasy world and I had come to love that comfortable fantasy world. 4E destroyed everything I loved about D&aD and made it unfamiliar and uninteresting like a watery soup with no flavor.

If not for Pathfinder, I wouldn't be playing any version of D&D. I thank the gaming gods there were other people out there looking to preserve the traditions and tropes of D&D I had come to enjoy over the years.

I really thought that I would be stuck with no new books and no new version of D&D after 4E came out. It was the end of an era for me or so I thought. Here came Paizo with their old school thinking about adventures and new school tweaking of the rules. And I couldn't be happier. I hope they do outsell 4E. Maybe WotC would learn not to mess with tradition. It's like New Coke versus Classic Coke. New Coke lost out and finally they had to return to Classic Coke. Maybe the next version of D&D by WotC will realize that traditional D&D is the best and that new fangled 4E thing is only a fad.

I'm glad to see that D&D 4E hasn't had the same level of acceptance and success as 3E. Goes to prove that it isn't as good a game to as many a D&D gamer. So I don't have to listen to 4E fans like yourself that think 4E can do no wrong. To you it may be better than 4E, to me it is an abomination that destroyed the uniqueness the D&D game had.

Sorry, it's not as good as 3E. It split the community. And when such things happen, opportunity presents itself. Paizo took advantage. Kudos to them for saving a game a lot of still enjoyed playing versus WotC attempting to force feed us 4E.

So maybe you go have fun with your favorite edition of D&D and I'll stay here and have fun with my favorite edition. We can leave it at that.

All I know for certain, and this isn't even debateable, Paizo's Adventure Paths are many times better than WotC's 4E modules. Not even a close contest even if 4E sales are doing well.

May Paizo keep on being successful.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Stealing From Real Life Is Just Better

So, I have been asked a couple times why I don't use real-world things as inspiration more often, and the truth is I do, really. I just tend to be subtle about it (combining names of places and gods, nobody notices), or I am incredibly unsubtle, like when I decided goblins in my setting were demon-worshippers and hipsters (they worship pretty obscure demon lords you've probably never heard of).

I do tend to not take as much inspiration from the real world as I could, though, mostly because I am certain that if I did I would end up with my nose buried in a book of Vietnamese mythology for five hours or on some kind of week-long Wikipedia binge.

However, because I thought it would be fun, I decided to pick an Earth country and sketch out a decidedly more Dungeons & Dragons-y version of it.

See if you can guess which one it is!


Sanggyeong

Situated on one side of a peninsula (or an island, I'm not sure) at the closer end of the Far Lands, Sanggyeong (full name Democratic United Republic of the People of Sanggyeong) is situated somewhere between the distant human lands of Kaldoria and Aldanath (main human lands in this setting) and Taishiria, the even more distant oriental lands.

Though it was once part of neighbouring country Kaesong, frequent invasions by Taishiria resulted in Sanggyeong's secession. Sanggyeong (or, at least, its leadership) is convinced that the reason Taishiria invaded was not because Kaesong is even better placed for trade than Taishiria's port city of Gaijinkyo, but because they are just an incredibly desirable and handsome people.

Industries

Sanggyeong is a communist state attempting to become a self-sufficient centrally-planned economy while catering to the whims of its leader and staging ridiculously elaborate performances to show the world how awesome they are.

It could be going better.

Aside from iron ore and coal, Sanggyeong has little resources, and most of its money goes into building up its military and erecting suitably grandoise monuments and temples. Its agricultural industry has upgraded itself from "laughable" to "passable", partly because enough people have starved to death to reduce the demand to very nearly almost definitely manageable levels.

These days every citizen gets free rations, housing, healthcare and education, as long as they do not mind that all of these things are basically terrible.

International trade is heavily restricted except in the small port of Janmadangdong, where limited amounts are allowed; in other towns, goods can easily be found in all-scale private markets, which the country has given up on stopping.

Sanggyeong's tourism industry is ludicrously terrible, ranked somewhere behind the mountainous necrocracy of Lichenstein and the 528th layer of the Abyss. It has a tourist resort, the town of Kamgetsum where very large and dangerous monsters are released in the belief that this would attract adventurers to hunt them, but so far there have been no takers. The native population of Kamgetsum is currently 2.

Very nearly half of the nation is in the military.

Government and Politics

The nation is controlled by the State Peace and Progressive Development Council, which really means it is a dictatorship controlled by Jung Oneriver, Grand Wizard (official title and name are decreed by law to go in that order). Technically, Oneriver, Grand Wizard is second-in-command, as the permanent ruler is Lifetime Republic Member Jung Twohappy, but as Twohappy is dead and therefore unable to dictate government policy, Oneriver, Grand Wizard is in charge.

The offical story goes that Oneriver, Grand Wizard was born just before Twohappy ascended to godhood, and his birth coincided with the appearance of six rainbows and the creation of a fantastic new species of dragon. He has also completely mastered every creative craft, from theatre to weaponsmithing, and invented all manner of wondrous things from carriages to horses. Obviously, most of these aren't true, though in his defense Oneriver, Grand Wizard is really really good at theatre and weaponsmithing.

The rest of the government is divided between people who are fanatically loyal to Oneriver, Grand Wizard, people who are very good at pretending to be fanatically loyal to Oneriver, Grand Wizard, and people in prison camps.

Power Groups

The Grand Guild of Extremely Accomplished Mages: Sanggyeong claims to have the best wizards in the world, and of course Oneriver, Grand Wizard is so powerful he can summon dragons and control the weather, but strangely almost every single arcane caster in Sanggyeong disappears immediately after becoming powerful enough to learn, say, teleport.

The Royal Family: Little is actually known about Oneriver, Grand Wizard as the country is very reclusive and most of the things said about its leader are probably lies. If they are, Oneriver, Grand Wizard is a tyrannical little bastard who enjoys fine wine and ladies daily while half his country starves to death. If they are mostly true, Oneriver, Grand Wizard is the most skilled and charming man in existence, can create miracles with his magic, and is also a dragon. Everyone really hopes it's the first one.

The Church of Tongmu-Jung: The cult of personality surrounding the ruling Jung family is strong - there's a picture of them in every house, a monument in their name on every street corner. So strong, in fact, that they are literally worshipped as gods.

Religion

Lifetime Republic Member Jung Twohappy is the official god of Sanggyeong, and Oneriver, Grand Wizard is revered as his son. His body is currently preserved in the capital city, in a temple so ornate the money could have fed a million Sanggyeongans for a year, and some say it is not worthy of his grandeur.

The church of Tongmu-Jung is currently led by Lee Ninelove (human cleric (Lifetime Republic Member Jung Twohappy) 12), chosen partly for her magical strength and fanatical devotion to the Jung family brought about by years of government-run education but mostly for her sexy legs.

Clerics of Sanggyeong's deity mostly receive the Lifetime Republic Member Jung Twohappy and Community domains.

Other churches do not exist in Sanggyeong - foreign deities are allowed, by as the Church of Tongmu-Jun tends to distribute pamphlets explaining how foreign gods are all sidekicks, weaker friends or mistresses of Lifetime Republic Member Jung Twohappy, nobody wants to set up shop there. More local religions, mainly those of Taishiria and Kaesong, are officially frowned upon but thrive in secret.

Sample Characters

Park Fouranger (human fighter 7): Hailing from the military city of Taepodong, Fouranger considers himself a "traditional" Sanggyeongan: He deals with the hard times in his country by declaring that things were much better when Twohappy was in charge, and Oneriver, Grand Wizard is a corporate sellout who is ruining the country via his economic programs (most of which were started by Twohappy). He doesn't say much to avoid being executed, though.

Kim Threeflower (human cleric (Lifetime Republic Member Jung Twohappy) 5): A moderately powerful (by Sanggyeong standards) cleric of Lifetime Republic Member Jung Twohappy, Threeflower was recently promoted from the boring job of supplying food for his village (the farmers were mostly re-assigned and made to attempt making steel) to the much more useful task of becoming a missionary of Lifetime Republic Member Jung Twohappy, spreading the good word of Lifetime Republic Member Jung Twohappy to the unenlightened humans, dwarves and et cetera of the world who have not heard of Lifetime Republic Member Jung Twohappy and converting them to Lifetime Republic Member Jung Twohappy while beseeching foreign countries to provide aid to Sanggyeong, preferably in the form of food, and possibly to recognise Lifetime Republic Member Jung Twohappy as a real religion. He will probably be dead within a year.

Dong Oneluck (human rogue 7): Oneluck runs the Provincial Bureau of Excellent Industry which oversees production and industry within the Anhwa region. Oneluck aims to one day run the Central Planning Command Control Committee, which makes economic plans for and supervises the entire nation; this may actually happen, because while Oneluck has the intelligence and economic skills of a plastic fish, he is really, really good at acting like a massive fan of Jung Oneriver, Grand Wizard.

Chung Sixdew (human bard 1/sorcerer 8): Sixdew is a beautiful actress and singer who is dearly loved by the nation, stars in its many plays (such as Sanggyeong Astonishes The World With Its Handsomeness, Lifetime Republic Member Jung Twohappy Loves His People: The Musical and Jung Oneriver, Grand Wizard Versus The Space Lizards), and is going to mysteriously disappear just after she figures out how to teleport.




So, yeah. Most of that was written out in a couple of hours, and I ran out of place name ideas, and I left out alignments to avoid alignment arguments oh god, and I will probably decide this is all really bad five minutes after posting, but hey! Maybe I will work on it and insert it into my setting for realsies.

Who wouldn't want to adventure have happy government-approved fun times in Sanggyeong?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Worry

So let's just go ahead and lay this out:

I worry a lot.

About what? Everything, pretty much. Here's what I was doing since the last post:

  • Worrying about what to write next
  • Seriously considering deleting my blog and starting over repeatedly, on the grounds that I find any post I have written more than two months ago embarrassing
  • Being talked out of deleting my blog
  • Deciding my plans for the next post were terrible and starting over
  • Worrying about real-life business so much I forgot what I was doing, starting over
  • Worrying about whether to go back to drawing some comics because some asshole complained that he wasn't interested if there weren't pictures
  • Worrying about what kind of comic to draw
  • Worrying about whether to draw a comic again
  • Worrying about how real-life business so much I forgot to draw a comic
  • Worrying about how long this was taking
  • Just writing a damn post.

If you think this is weird behaviour try living with it.

When I'm DMing, though, I find it's pretty useful. See, nearly every bad gamer I know - every player who stops a game to complain if something he doesn't approve of happens, every DM who fills campaigns with her own author avatars, everyone who announces they are ragequitting the game forever if they don't get their way - have the same problem:

They never worry about whether anyone else is having fun.

A few years back I ran a game set in Paladinia, which you can probably guess the atmosphere of, where the PCs went on missions to find and kill devils, demons and daemons. At one point, a player's frenzied berserker cut off an ultroloth's arm, and he came to me with a proposition: He wanted to use the arm to get a fiendish graft for the sake of boosting his stats. Since asking around in this city would get few results, he planned to travel south to the local Evilwizardland, which directly opposed the city (and specific group) the party worked for, and get one there.

When it was pointed out that he would need a plan for replacing his limbs with demon parts without being thrown out of Paladinia once he got back, he revealed his master plan: Openly kill anyone who raised an objection. When the other players pointed out their characters wouldn't like it either, he claimed that his frenzied berserker could take on the rest of the party and win.

When the other players objected to that, he incredulously replied: "Like they get an opinion."

Yeah, he didn't get that graft.

Games are a group effort. You shouldn't play if you're not having fun, but the same mantra applies to everyone else, who are going to leave if you ask if there can be catgirls and tentacles in WoD.

When you worry all the time, especially about what other people would think, that's no problem. I mean, the worrying is a problem, but the other problems aren't my problem because they stop being a problem. I am constantly crushed by the weight of past mistakes and remembered NPCs, settings and adventures I find embarrassing, and everything is done with those in the back of my mind somewhere.

And when you can finally sit back, think "Are people going to enjoy this?" and feel good about the answer...

Well, that's just tubular.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Drawing Inspiration From Your Television

I hope your Chrimbo break was good! Mine was.

We're not here to talk about that, though. On a slightlty less boring note, lately I have been wondering if my standards are weird.

See, recently I've seen a few games created with the intent of playing in the setting of some media series - telvision, video games, webcomics, et cetera. Homestuck is apparently a popular choice these days, and off the top of my head I can name Doctor Who, Dresden Files and every single superhero comic ever as settings that even have their own ruleset.

That sort of thing always makes me nervous, though. I can see the appeal, and I can agree it can be done - hell, I kind of want to play Dresden Files - but I'm uncomfortable with it. It feels like I'm sitting around a bunch other guys lazily narrating fanfiction, not playing an RPG. And depending on the source material and how it's played, I might end up just tagging along with the main characters of a story I didn't write, which is the same reason I don't play Forgotten Realms.

I actually have a friend who is into this sort of thing, and has run at least two Homestuck games, and we argue about this a lot. He argues that he just likes to explore other people's settings and play with the setpieces, and also that he is not very good at coming up with his own stories. I argue that he is not very good at coming up with his own stories. They're weird arguments.

Lately, though, I've started to wonder if my standards are too high. Apart from anything else, where exactly is the line between media series and campaign setting? I am totally fine with running in Planescape, for example.

Maybe all I need is a setting that hasn't been done a thousand times before, one where adventures can be had without involving someone else's premade characters and/or plot, and most importantly, one that is still interesting.

I wonder if there's a TV show that would work well in Dungeons & Dragons...

Sitcoms

Who doesn't like sitcoms? Oh, you don't? Okay, how about Britcoms?

Really?

Get out.

Seriously though, this shouldn't be hard. Sitcoms are a pretty broad category. Take some characters, put them in the same location a lot, make them completely dysfunctional, and send them on adventures. Bam, you've just described every adventuring party with a favourite tavern ever.

You could re-use the same settings and characters as the show in question, but the reason nobody's ever run Friends (apart from the lack of a proper system) is because nobody wants to hang out with the cast of Friends. Why not D&D-ify it instead?

Everybody Loves Wizards, Dungeon Improvement, Two and a Half Halflings, How I Skillchecked Your Mother, Black Spellbooks, Are You Being Healed?, My Mother The Scimitar...

Or, you know, you can just copy Seinfeld. Everyone else did.

The Muppet Show

There are rules for running businesses in D&D, and honestly you could just make them up if you wanted. It's not hard. So why not a theatre?

The best setting would be Planescape, because then you can play the Muppets and nobody would notice. Kermit? Surprisingly erudite green slaad. Fozzie? Guardinal. Gonzo? Gonzo. The Muppet Show's weekly guest stars could be NPCs from all kinds of campaign settings: Elminster, Lidda, Orcus, that one NPC of Greenwood's who has all those orgies...

The only problem I can see is that everyone is going to fight over who gets to be Statler and Waldorf.

Baywatch

An innocent swimmer, unaware that the beach counts as an aquatic environment and he has to roll on an encounter table, is attacked by an aboleth. The orc wizard on duty spots the danger, grabs her staff and runs towards the water in slow motion.

Elsewhere, two of the players describe a kobold shower scene in detail. The DM tries to ignore them.

Weird Foreign Pornography

I live in Australia - no, I don't live near the floods going on - and down here we have a TV station called SBS, aka Special Broadcasting Service or Sex Before Soccer. Ostensibly SBS is a foreign language service, but I mostly remember it for the sports and the creepy foreign movies. Channel surfing just isn't complete without suddenly stumbling upon a scene of a naked young foreign boy being forced by bullies to put on girl panties.

Several years ago I tuned in at the wrong time to find myself watching a group of nuns watching a couple make love.

Once they were done, a silence fell upon the group. "What now?" one nun asked.

Another nun had the solution: "I heard that in California, they do it on unicycles!"

At that point, all the nuns rushed out.

I'm not sure it's possible to make a game out of this, but I'm sure somebody on the internet has tried.

Jersey Shore

No.