Monthly Archives: August 2011

Strange Modern Random Encounter

I was in a cab this morning, heading to a meeting with a client when something very strange (and potentially disturbing) happened.  We were stuck in traffic in a four-lane highway (EDSA, to those who live here in the Philippines) when a gang of 4 teens, each possibly no older than sixteen at most ran over from the side of the road and tried to open all four doors of the cab I was in.

They tried the handles, hoping that the door was open and all of them began hammering the windows with their fists.  Luckily both I and my co-worker had locked all the doors to the taxi prior to this.  The intent of this marauding gang of teens was to make a quick grab, opening a door and seizing any bags, laptops or other items inside while people were stunned from surprise.  One kid was also supposed to try and make a grab for the cashbox of the cab driver while people were confused.

It was a distressing incident, I recall grabbing the inside door handle and glaring at the kid who was hammering at the windows, but they ran away after they realized that the doors couldn’t be opened and that they had lost the element of surprise.

Not exactly something that you’d expect to happen in the modern day, and the first thing that came to mind after the shock wore off was “Holy crap, someone rolled a weird result on the random encounter table.”  Geeky, yes, but certainly appropriate.  It got me thinking though, what other strange encounters have you guys ever had?  It could be something that happened personally to you, or to someone you know, but it has to be something that really makes for a weird encounter.  Care to share your stories?  I’m all ears, post them in the comments below!

Re-Centering Myself

As of late I’ve been feeling the wind go out of my sails as far as GMing games go for some reason.  I’m still not entirely clear as to the reason for this, but I suppose it is another onset of GM burnout.

At this point, I’m not exactly sure what to do, only that everything feels dull and uninspiring.  I’ve had some idea with regards to what to do on my L5R game, but it’s not a lot and I’m not entirely confident that I can make it anything resembling a long campaign.  I suspect  may need some time to just relax, maybe try out some new things, partake in other media like books, videogames and movies just to recharge a bit.

I suspect that things are going to be back to normal soon enough, but for now I’ll just sit here and poke at things listlessly with a stick, until this fog lifts and my brain comes back to normal.

A Change of Plans… Running L5R 4e For Now

Due to a switch in the player roster in my current group, I’m going to have to put my HEX game on ice, and in it’s place I’ll be running an L5R campaign.  No idea yet as to the duration of this new L5R campaign, as I don’t even have a final list of players yet, but I am actually rehashing an old concept I was bandying about the blog a while back, an All-Lion Clan campaign I called “Never a Dull Blade

Again I wasn’t exactly prepared for the sudden shift, and perhaps it’s a mistake of me to pull this off without my usual weeks of preptime, but hopefully I’ll find my sea legs fast enough to run the game with a modicum of quality that I demand of myself.  It’s a weird feeling to suddenly shift gears like this, but I have to roll with what life throws my way I guess.

That said some good things have come down the pipe, and I really ought to get started on reviewing the PDF copy of The Great Clans soon, after I wrap up my series of articles on The One Ring.

[Let’s Study] The One Ring: Adventures over the Edge of the Wild part 4 – Advancement

Apologies for the delay in posting this particular chapter.  Work has had me tied up recently and I haven’t been able to do any sort of reading on TOR to make a post in time.  That said, let’s go ahead and take a look at TOR’s Character Development.

The first thing that TOR tells you is that there are two experience tracks.  Experience points, and Advancement points.  Everyone knows how the first one works.  Advancement points, however, are used to bump up common skills.  Interestingly, you can only obtain Advancement points if the use of a skill turns out to make the game interesting and exciting, or if it ties in with a given Trait.

Valour and Wisdom

Another interesting gauge in TOR are the Valour and Wisdom stats.  These scores increase naturally as the Player Heroes encounter and overcome all sorts of trouble, and represent internal attributes of a character.

Valour is the Player-Hero’s courage and willingness to face danger, while Wisdom is the Player-Hero’s capacity for good judgement.  These scores are important as increasing them is often accompanied by a boon, with special abilities called Virtues for Wisdom, and Rewards for Valor.

Furthermore, Valor and Wisdom are also stats that are used to resist some of the more insidious methods of the Shadow.  Fear tests are resisted by Valor, and Corruption by Wisdom.

Virtues and Rewards

I guess the closest thing I could compare these to would be Feats from D20.  I know it’s a crass sort of comparison, but it serves.  Virtues and Rewards are little perks that manifest in a Player-Hero when they reach their second rank in Wisdom or Valour, and so starting characters often start with at least 1 Virtue or 1 Reward depending on how they distribute their starting points.

Virtues range from general advantages like “Fell-handed” which raises the character’s close combat Damage rating by one.  To specific Cultural ones like “Durin’s Way” for the Dwarves, who gain a +3 bonus to their Parry rating while fighting underground.

Rewards on the other hand take the form of improvements to existing equipment.  These can be anything from weapons to armor, to a helm or a shield.  The qualities that can be gained are again general, like Close-fitting (for armor) which improves the item’s Protection rating by +1, or Cultural such as the King’s Blade of the Hobbits, which automatically inflicts Piercing blows on a great or extraordinary success on an attack.

Life and Death

Let’s face it, TOR isn’t a “happy-happy anime-inspired, can’t die unless it’s dramatically appropriate” sort of game.

TOR characters are built to suffer.  That much is clear.  Given the sheer number of conditions detailed in this portion, from Weary, Exhausted, Miserable, Wounded and Poisoned, there’s plenty of fun to be had by all parties.

I’ll not get too involved in explaining each of the conditions but I do find that having them here is great for playing up the very real threat of being out in the wild without the comforts of modern life.

Adventurers are viewed as strange exactly because they go out and take the crazy risks that put them though all sorts of life-threatening and unenviable positions, but the rewards are great, and their heroism serves to help society as a whole (most of the time.)

I’ve never had a chance to run Fantasy games much, but this sort of thing really hit me only while reading TOR.  The Heroes in TOR are taking real risks, this isn’t just about playing whack-a-mole with goblins for XP and gold pieces.

[Let’s Study] The One Ring: Adventures over the Edge of the Wild part 3 – Characteristics

Hi, and welcome back to the third installment of our Let’s Study of The One Ring: Adventures over the Edge of the Wild.  Today we’ll be looking at the basic building blocks of a Player-Hero in TOR.  This won’t be a completely detailed account, as I wouldn’t want to spoil everything, of course.

Attributes

There are only three basic characteristics in TOR:

  • Body, which governs physical aptitude
  • Heart, which governs the force of will or spirit that a Player-Hero possesses, and
  • Wits, which represents the mental ability of a character.

While it seems very simplistic to have only three attributes, it becomes important to note that the default resolution system of TOR doesn’t always use the Attribute, instead relying on skill level to determine the baseline ability of a character.

That is not to say that attributes are generally useless.  In fact, one falls back to the basic attributes whenever things get dicey, and player characters must resort to spending Hope points to add the apropriate Attribute’s entire rating to their roll’s result.

Skills

A lot of rpgs have a skill system, and TOR is no different.  However TOR does categorize its skill list into six skill groups:

  • Personality – These skills relate to interpersonal interaction.  Impressing someone, or cowing another into submission all fall under this particular Skill Group.
  • Movement – Skills in this group are used to handle the rigors of travel, overcoming various obstacles and generally getting to where the characters aren’t supposed to be in.
  • Perception – It might seem odd to have an entire skill group dedicated to perception, but the skills involved are ones used to passively notice something amiss, to ferret out if someone is lying, and the deliberate act of searching a location.
  • Survival – Survival skills are essential in this game, as TOR is ultimately a game about adventuring in the wild (as if the title didn’t give it away)  Player-Heroes really should consider making sure that they have at least some skill in this group.
  • Custom – I love this particular skill group.  Nothing says Tolkien more than having “Song” as a deliberate skill.  Songs are powerful things in the Tolkien mythos, as they are a certain means to draw out a desired emotion from those listening to the performer.
  • Vocation – These are the skills of various crafts and trade.  Knowledge comes in all forms, from tactics to lore and know-how to put together furniture from wood.

The skills don’t end there, as there are also Weapon Skills that determine a Player-Hero’s knowledge in the use of various weapons to fight.  All characters from TOR are assumed to be trained well enough to be able to use at least three different kinds of weapons, making them quite capable in a fight, even if their initial concept makes them out to be scholars or other non-combative types.

Traits

One of the most interesting aspects of TOR lie in its Trait system.  To put it simply, Traits are tags that apply to a character, defining them in some manner by expressing an aspect that is inherent to them.  These could be a quality, like Cautious, or a particular form of know-how, like Cooking.  These Traits are not just there for show, but rather, they are useful in all sorts of situations, as they can convey several benefits:

  • Automatic actions – There’s no need to roll for a mundane task if a character has a Trait to handle that sort of action.  A character with Cooking, for example, will consistently be able to cook a filling meal for the party without having to roll.
  • Unforseen actions – If there’s a situation wherein a character with a relevant Trait could intervene, then the player may request to be able to roll, even if it normally would not have been possible.  Again, a person with Cooking might be able to demand to roll to check for poisons or drugs in food served to them even if normally characters would not have an opportunity to find out.
  • Advancement points – To put it simply, a Player-Hero can gain an advancement point by succeeding in a task that strongly supports one of his Traits.  In essence, this is a neat little rule that allows for the system to promote role-playing that is faithful to the character concept.

Endurance and Hope

Of all the stats in TOR, Endurance and Hope are some of the ones that really stand out to me.  Endurance is basically a character’s hitpoints, which is all fine and dandy except that it also figures into when you count as Weary, a potentially lethal condition that makes you much less competent than you ought to be in a fight (or in anything else for that matter.)

But Hope, oh boy, Hope is a take on the familiar Fate Point / Action Point mechanic, wherein spending this particular resource imparts a hefty bonus to a given action.  In this case, a character may spend a point of Hope in order to add the relevant Attribute to the result of their roll.  Sounds great, right?  Well, it is, except for the fact that it is very difficult to recover Hope during an adventure.  To add to the complications, if your Hope rating dips below the number of Shadow points that your Player-Hero has, then they become Miserable, and susceptible to all sorts of moments of weaknesses, much like Boromir went pretty crazy and tried to take the Ring away from Frodo.

I’m very happy with these two stats as it keeps things nice and gritty.  Tolkien isn’t always about singing about mushrooms and dancing to music.  It’s also about being driven to the very limits of your willpower to achieve a goal that seems so hopeless.  TOR keeps those two aspects of the lore and uses them to full effect in this game.

Fellowship

Fellowship is a shared stat, a pool of points that anyone in the group can dip into for extra Hope points… assuming that the majority of the Fellowship agree to let the player do so.  It’s an interesting mechanic, and while most groups will just automatically okay drawing from the Fellowship pool, there may also be interesting conflicts that arise when some Players feel that the risk is acceptable, while others prefer to play a little safer.  Interesting stuff here.

Furthermore, every character has a Fellowship Focus, a relationship between themselves and another character in the Fellowship.  It can be bonds of kinship, sworn oaths of protection or some other purpose, but every character has someone else that matters to them.  This is interesting as working towards the protection and safety of your Fellowship Focus is one of the ways to restore Hope points.  Of course, this cuts both ways.  Should your Fellowship Focus be injured, or worse, slain… then you start gaining Shadow points for your trouble.

TOR is really looking like a game that was built from the ground up to emulate the Tolkien experience.  Everything from how Endurance and Hope works, to the choice of skills used in the game (Song, for instance) are all things that have appeared in one way or another in the stories that Tolkien has left us with.  I’m very happy to see this sort of attention to detail and effort placed in making a ruleset that helps generate an authentic experience of the Tolkien world.

Tomorrow we take a peek at Character Advancement, and see what benefits Player-Heroes reap when they become veteran adventurers.

The One Ring: Adventures over the Edge of the Wild is available at DriveThruRPG for for $29.99 or roughly Php 1230.00

[Local Scene] Epic Flail: A Pen & Paper RPG Newb Event!

Fellow Philippine gamer, Gelo Dmnyo has managed to round up a bunch of like-minded gamers to put up a gaming event of his own!

Epic Flail: A Pen & Paper RPG Newb Event is a mini-convention put together by a bunch of enthusiastic gamers that want to share the hobby to anyone and everyone who might be interested in rolling some dice and having a lot of fun!

Epic Flail is slated to take place at 4:00PM Saturday, August 27 until 12 midnight at
Peaberry Cafe
511 Capitolline Hills St., BF Resort Village
Las Piñas, Philippines
There seems to be a good mix of various systems for the games running that day, and I’m sure that with Gelo’s enthusiasm, it’s going to be a great time:
EPIC FLAIL: A Pen & Paper RPG Event!

Games that are running are:

Zombie Flavored Lollipop
RPG: Scion
No. of players – 3-6
The gods of lore are bored with today’s society and they want action!
They chose six random humans and gave them powers, now they are put to the test in a post apocalyptic dimension where they are to face hordes of zombies…and in return the survivors shall reach a level no human have achieve…GODHOOD!

The Blood Cult’s Dungeon
System: Pathfinder
4-5 players With Pregenerated Characters
You’ve awoken in a dark dungeon cell, unable to remember how you got there.
The faint sounds of distant screams echo through the walls. Something sinister looms in the air as robed cultists forcefully pull out prisoners from out of their cells, dragging them to some unknown doom! Escape before the same fate befalls you!

Politics
Players: 4-6
System: Pathfinder
Your team was hired for a covert rescue mission. Intel has gathered information that the recently disappeared Lady Eileen of Snowgrove was kidnapped by an anarchist mage society called Imperium Absentis, wanted in 53 towns for unsolicited devil summoning and wide-scale terrorist attacks. Intel also says that the IA plans to sacrifice Lady Eileen in order to open gateways from hell to provide free entry for devils and demons alike to our world.The goal is to sneak into the IA headquarters, rescue Lady Eileen, and do whatever is necessary to thwart the IA’s plans.

Criminal Intent (Vampire: The Requiem SAS)
Players: 4-5
System: New World of Darkness
Mr. Petrovsky is a somewhat prominent figure among the Kindred of Los Angeles. He is a strict, some would say fanatical, protector of the Masquerade, often approached when Kindred are inadvertently exposed, or when some rebellious vampire has to be punished for his indiscretions. Now, it is Mr. Petrovsky who approaches you and your group seeking assistance in dealing with a Masquerade violation by the city’s Hound, Simone. You are tasked with finding her, and ensuring that sanctity of the Masquerade… by whatever means necessary. In the World of Darkness, however, not everything is as it seems.

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For more information, check out Epic Flail at their Facebook Page

Legend of the Five Rings: The Great Clans now Available on PDF!

To all fans of the Legend of the Five Rings RPG:  The Great Clans supplement is now available on DriveThruRPG.  Go.  Buy it.  You know you want to.

Seriously though, to many of the fans of L5R, The Great Clans is a literal no-brainer for purchase.  Featuring a 4th Edition take on practically all of the “Way of” books of the 1st edition, with the addition of the new factions (Mantis and Spider) there’s little reason for anyone to pass up on this book.

A story of ten siblings, who fell to the mortal world and changed the face of history forever…

“The Great Clans are the greatest servants of the Emperor—and perhaps the greatest threat to the stability of the Empire.” -Soshi Saibankan

The Emerald Empire of Rokugan has long been one of war and conflict, a great history forged at its heart by an unending sibling rivalry. The Great Clans of Rokugan were founded by the Kami, children of the Sun and Moon, and their adherence to their founder’s personalities and vows have defined the Empire. Each seeks to gain ground over the others, a continuing reflection of the Tournament of the Kami that set the Empire in motion so long ago.

The Great Clans takes you deep into the psyche and workings of the The Great Clans of Rokugan. The book features a full chapter on each of the Great Clans, focusing on on the various families, histories, and culture that makes up those Clans. Additional chapters also cover the evil Spider Clan, the return of Heritage Tables, and vassal families. This 304-page sourcebook features:

• A thorough look at each Great Clan, including the individual families that comprise them. Each also features new schools, paths, kata, ancestors, and more.

• Heritage tables to develop more interesting backgrounds for PCs and NPCs. Learn the deeds, and misdeeds, of your forefathers and how those affect your character’s life.

• Details on all the small vassal families that serve and support the Great Clans, without which they could barely operate—though they may be loath to admit it.

The Great Clans will give players and GMs many more tools to make their journey through the Emerald Empire robust and exciting.

The Great Clans is available from DriveThruRPG for $19.99 or roughly PhP 820.00

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