Sunday, March 29, 2009

Rune Quest Redux

Yesterday, Josh, Mark, Benni and I gathered to play Rune Quest again. Our pals Stephan and Travis joined in for the festivities, as well. The weather was practically balmy, so we set up shop on the picnic table outside with some beers and snacks and rolled our percentile dice.

The game went well - we're rapidly adapting to Rune Quest as a rules system for our games, and many of the kinks of the first session have been ironed out. I had allowed Benni's witch to overuse her runes during the first game (forgetting to county magic points spent during a given day - bad GM, Tyler!) and also we had played a little loose and free with the Dodge and Parry rules. That was probably all for the best, so that we adapted to the system as a whole rather than getting mired down in metchanics. Yesterday's session allowed us to correct those errors, though, and we really felt like we were getting a better flavor for how the game played out. Travis rightly pointed out that much of the mechanics sytem - especially location damage - is similar to the Warhammer Fantasy RPG that we played for a while. (RQ actually predates WFRP by a few years.)

With the mechanics in hand, we were able to focus more on the campaign setting of Glorantha, and a story arc that I'd written out in my moleskine notebook during my day off on Friday. Borrowing liberally from Daniel Knauf's Carnivale, I laid out a good old fashioned rail road set up wherein one of the player characters finds out that he is destined for greatness and will be opposed by a mysterious figure of darkness. I selected our thief, a survivor of the siege of The Clanking City, as an individual known in myth as The Destroyer - one who would destroy a great mechanical city. The thief doesn't want this destiny - he wants to protect his home, not destroy it. His party doesn't want him to destroy the city either, and it was with tongues not planted too firmly in cheek that many of them considered turning him in for some sort of reward. On the horizon of the story arc is a figure named The Interloper - one who really does want to destroy The Clanking City and all it stands for. Motives are still being discovered, but it seems that The Interloper is a puppet master using others to get to The Destroyer, to help him fulfill his star-crossed destiny...

This particular week's scenario found the player characters meeting a shaman of the Tribe of the Hunter, who informs the thief of his destiny. The party fought their first Fachan in the woods outside the shrine (a tall, tree like monstrosity that preys on adventurers carrying magical weapons), and then came across a party of Dragonewts (scouts from a rival empire of half-dragons). Shortly after, they headed down stream to the village of Beltos, where they were hired by viscount Sultos Silvermask to cleanse the town of an enclave of chaos cultists. Shenanigans ensued as the party chased down every red herring and two members even bald-faced accused a known innocent, but by the time the adventure wrapped, the corrupt monk who ran the enclave had been captured and the party had their next clue in hand to help them along their path towards learning more about The Destroyer and The Interloper.

Campy, over the top stuff, to be sure, but a good time was had. For what it's worth, I'm raiding lots of sites for Rune Quest ideas, including The Mongoose Rune Quest Wiki and the Mongoose Rune Quest Forums. Anybody have anything else they suggest? Anybody have a good 1-2 pager about Glorantha that I can share with my players?

Monday, March 16, 2009

I survived the Ides of March

Benni, Mark, Josh, Jacob and I played through "Rune of Chaos" yesterday - the introductory RuneQuest module from Mongoose Publishing.  Aside from a few road bumps getting used to the BRP-cum-MongooseRuneQuest combat system (roll to hit, measure against dodge roll, find target location, measure damage, subtract armor...) the game went rather well.  The party completed the module in one long session, and we only had to fudge one set of mechanics.  (The arena scene pretty much depleted the party's resources just before the final battle.)  One complaint with the module - it doesn't leave enough open threads at the end of the adventure to really keep the storyline going beyond the published content.

The campaign setting of Glorantha is something we had some trouble integrating.  Aside from some flavor text about Gloranthan elves, there wasn't much to set the module in a particular location, so I picked an area to the South West of Peloria, and gave the party some introductory motivation of heading towards the Clanking City to help free it from the siege described in the Gloranthan campaign setting.  The text in the setting wasn't particularly helpful in tying in the module or finding a good place to start - I'll have to do some more research on that front, as I write the scenario for our next game.

As always, any feedback or recommendations are appreciated.  How are you running your games of RuneQuest?  What are good hooks to get an actual campaign underway, and what areas of the map are most easily used as starting points?  

Friday, March 13, 2009

Prepping for the Ides of March

So, Sunday is almost upon us, and I'm prepping big time for my annual Ides of March gaming day.  This year, we're playing an inaugural game of RuneQuest.  My fellow players have played plenty of Call of Cthulhu over the years, but that's the only foray into the Basic Roleplaying System we've tried.  RuneQuest and its classless, skill-based take on fantasy roleplaying is something we're looking forward to after trying to wrap our heads around the broken prestige classes of 3.5 Edition and the uber-powerful-to-start-but-slow-to-develop classes of 4th edition D&D.

In prep for Sunday's game, I have RuneQuest Deluxe (core rules + companion + monsters), Gamesmaster's handbook, the Rune of Chaos adventure, and even a DM's screen.  (ooo - accessory)  Probably the most loot I've bought for a game I've never played, so I hope the players enjoy it.  Learning the rules system hasn't been hard - it's very similar to Cthulhu - but I have been working to make sure I have the highly precise combat system down.  Josh and I even played an encounter last Sunday just to try out some of the options.  Now I'm working on absorbing as much of the campaign setting as possible to make for a memorable and integrated first session.

Tangentially, I've been playing lots of Elder Scrolls Oblivion, and the more I play it, the more I see how similar its rules system, skill-based progression, fairly even handed use of fantasy-races as player types, magic available to all characters, and even some of the setting are to RuneQuest.  Maybe I'm just seeing other games through that filter, right now, but I'm intrigued as to how this sort of skill based progression works very well in a social gaming atmosphere, as well as in a single-player video game.  Less of the "waiting around to level" stuff that mired down Neverwinter Nights and other video games I'd played heavily.

Wish me luck.  If anybody's played some RQ and has recommendations on how to expedite combat, encounters, handle the fantasy world of Glorantha or anything of the like, please feel free to comment.  Thanks!  I'll post a recap - hopefully with some photos - after the game itself.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

ConnCon 2009 is here!

While I won't be able to go and play with my buddies Stephan, Gareth, Norana, Austin, Willi, Jon, Mark, Timmy, and Big B, this year, I highly recommend that any who are free the weekend of March 20th-22nd check out ConnCon in Stamford, CT for all of your D&D, minis, boardgaming and RPG needs. The vendor's hall is always chock full of great new and old gaming stuff, too.

Their site is up at the following URL and pre-reg is underway. This is hands down the best con in the Northeast, every year.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

GM's Day Recognition

Taking a cue from this posting on Gnome Stew about Gamemasters and Dungeonmasters who have been influential on one's gaming career, I figured I owed many in my life a similar level of recognition.  So, as a shout out to my nerd-homies:

  • My Dad and my brother Christian - My father was a grognard in the historical sense of the term: a military veteran wargamer who spent copious hours painting lead miniatures (yes, lead, kids!) with enamel paints.  When my brother, Christian, and I were young, he turned us on to a new game that was taking hobby shops by storm: Dungeons & Dragons.  He figured it would get us to read more, and it did, but I don't think he realized the hobby he was opening us up to.  I hero worshipped my big brother as a kid, and I remember sitting on the stairs of my parents' house - just out of sight of the downstairs landing in the living room, eavesdropping on he and his buddies playing OD&D in the Greyhawk setting.  Their adventures were epic in scope, with the PCs owning keeps and vying for kingdoms, and when I was on my best behavior (sorry for the incident with my crayons and your book about polearms when I was 4, Chris) I was allowed to join in.  I always wanted to play the magic-user because it sounded cool, but I'd blow my magic missle in the first battle, and sit there waiting for another opportunity to get it back and use it again.  Over time, I got my own boxed sets and started running games, but my father and brother served to start the whole thing.
  • Stephan Edel - In college, I got to know the fabulous Edel twins.  Stephan shared many of my interests for all things Cthulhoid, and following graduation we found ourselves co-authoring Call of Cthulhu adventures and running them together at conventions.  Stephan's grasp of how to take situations that should be workaday and turn them into creepy Lovecraftian moments is unparalelled.  Without cheesing this up, I often think of Steven Spielberg films when playing in one of Stephan's games - the pregen PCs are usually "regular joes" who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances (like the police officer in Jaws, Richard Dreyfus' character in Close Encounters...).  Stephan's comfort level with breaking out of the standard time settings for Call of Cthulhu is laudable - very few folks I know run games in the 1970s or 1940s with Cthulhu, and he makes it work.
  • KR Bourgoine - Kerry is a gamer's gamer - runs great games, creates his own rules systems, envisions not just an individual session or module, but large sandbox campaigns where there is always tons to explore...  His ability to run a table and come up with new and interesting ways to take the PCs through his innovative tales and adventures is professional in its quality.  A dear friend of the late Gary Gygax, Kerry's gaming skills are perhaps only surpassed by his knowledge of gaming history itself.  Every session is what gaming should be in its purest sense - an opportunity to get together, swap stories - both in and out of character, and enjoy one's company.
  • Josh Auerbach - It's a great D&D player who realizes when his DM is burned out and offers to take a turn in the DM table.  Many kudos to Josh for taking over the game I'd been running for years at Time Warp Comics, to give me a break and get my DMing chops back in order.  I'm very impressed with how a guy who had never DMed before quickly got his legs under him and exhibits great chops in managing the Swiss-army-knife responsibilities of being a DM - keeping the adventure moving, reacting to player activity/antsyness to alter encounters to keep them interested, and mostly just juggling cats.  
So, right on, guys.  Thanks for being such fine inspirations to me and many other players.  Keep it up, and maybe next year I'll remember to buy you a sack of dice or something for GM's Day.  ;-) 

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

GM Day Sale at this week...

Not to shill, but checkathis - must go, must buy - has many of their PDFs on sale this week for "GM's Day."

Myself, I'm drooling over some of the Mongoose Publishing stuff - RuneQuest, Conan RPG, etc. - some of which appears to be up to 40% off:

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

TWERPS - anybody out there?

So, while unpacking at the new pad, I found some old gaming stuff that had been lost to time.  Some old Traveler stuff (props to my buddy Jim who insists that it is the best RPG ever), a Judges Guild supplement, a Role-Aids supplement, and even TWERPS.  I posted to my FB profile about this find, and a few avid gamers chimed in about it, not in a nostalgic way as much as "...I remember seeing that in a catalog...what is it?"

TWERPS (The World's Easiest Role-Playing System) was seemingly half-satire, half-revisionist gaming.  By giving players only one stat (Strength) and turning them loose on a small hex grid map with little else to help them but some skills from their Class, it was beer-and-pretzels roleplaying at its best.  In my mini collection of TWERPS stuff were a few zip-lock baggies (the actual original packaging, mind you) containing the rules on just a few sheets of photocopied printer paper, the tiniest 20 sider in the world (really a ten sider repeating twice), and some chits and a map.  Many supplements followed including campaign supplements for Universal-style horror films, space adventures, cyberpunk, and even a later supplement that was a send up of the X Files.  

My question to the masses - did anyone actually play this?  Was it a novelty that you saw in the back of a Wargames West catalog that you bought with full intention of running to fill time during game prep? Any good TWERPS tales?  (Hmm...TWERPS tales...that could be a good supplement...)

Resources I found if you want to reminisce more:

Pimp my Blog

The tech wonk in me has really enjoyed reviewing Google's Friend Connect features, and playing with ways to incorporate them into this Blogger blog.  The goal with this is to make my blog more of a community rather than just a navel-gazing set of rants.  Is this stuff important for the loosey-goosey purposes I've outlined in the half-dozen posts on this site (cover my gaming, a healthy dose of nostalgia for nerd-dom past, and random musing)?  Not necessarily, but by making blogging a community activity, it opens up a dialogue that allows readers to more actively say what they're enjoing and what they're not.  Commenting has provided that for a while, but by adding community features it can take on a new turn.  Facebooking-blogs, so to speak. 

Indulge me.

I've added a few to the left hand navigation of the site, here:
  • The Social Bar (yeah, sounds like my kind of place) up top, which serves as a summary of what's happening in the blog.
  • The updated Followers box that allows you to invite your friends to 'follow' my blog
  • A Sign In box that allows you to log in using your Google, AIM, or Yahoo ID
  • A Members box that shows who is a "member", not just a "follower" of the blog
  • A Wall/Comments box, which allows you to leave site-wide comments ("gee, Tyler, less talk about blogging, and more stuff about old school d&d, puh-leeze...")
  • And a Ratings box (validate me!)
Leave a comment, post a rating, become a member.  Let me know what you'd like to see more of, and how you think these features could add value.