Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Tabletop Simulation Stimulation

It is hard to keep up with this stuff, man. To summarize the past few months: I got hit by a hurricane, blew a tire, and played like 100 games of Eldritch Horror. I started NaNoWriMo earlier today, and I thought I would post in the small window I've allowed myself during the World Series. There's nothing more satisfying than seeing a pitcher leave your team and then give up 5 runs in 2 innings during the most important game of the year.

I've been playing the Star Wars RPG. The wonky dice are not that bad (and I would imagine you've heard that a lot), and it does capture Star Wars pretty well. I'll be running the Force and Destiny starter box this weekend, but this is mainly to bide time while I plan my next Into the Odd campaign. I'm going through this phase where I feel like eschewing all modern conveniences and doing everything on paper like our forefathers. Despite this, I keep making shit for Tabletop Simulator.

I've made character cards, and blank cards for tracking Arcana/Oddities and other things. These can be stacked in a deck to essentially create random tables. I'm thinking of making a card for all the monsters in the main book, as well as stuff from the ItO blog assuming Chris is cool with it. I also made a much bigger character sheet, but its giant and ugly albeit probably easier to read. I like the cards better, and I think they fit the game's aesthetic a lot more.

 The next campaign will probably be a hex-crawl. This might seem ridiculous, but every time I've run a hex-crawl I never gave the players a map. I assumed it was like with dungeons, where you can map as they go. As a result, they never had any idea where they were in relationship to anything else. I think I'll provide a map with sparse details and giant obviously visible landmarks and let them fill in the rest as they go. I think this is how it works? I have a lot of reading to do, anyway.

 I have this image for a setting but I always hang up when it comes to guns. The Napoleon nerd and American in me want lots of guns, while the Tolkien nerd in me wants short swords and round shields. I recently posted up another thread and HP values were brought up. I prefer lower HP, and I'm thinking of having armor add hit points ala Black Hack (I think?) instead of reducing damage. I would probably have it so a chain shirt adds HP, a shield does as well (at the cost of a free hand), and heavy armor would probably have some kind of bizarre drawback like you have to drink 5 gallons of milk a day or shrink.

Saturday, May 13, 2017


I am alive. I've been out of commission due to illness and our campaign pseudo-ended after we had trouble getting together a few weeks in a row. I've mostly been messing around with Tabletop Simulator making dumb board games and stuff.

Into the Odd lazy character sheets
See screencap for some ITO NPCs. Torah from Heaven, and a Suicide Elf (elves that live recklessly as an affront to the immortality of their fathers).

I think we may be trying FATE pretty soon just to see what it's like, but I really just want Bastionland.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Death by Bureaucracy

Saturday’s session was a city adventure. I’m growing really fond of them. Here are some bullet points.

  • Miles and Poco opened up a sandwich shop in the Temple District of Veztm called Sandwich Shrine.
  • They battled one of Barnabold’s lieutenants in an abandoned building and nearly managed to beat him before he escaped. He got away with 1 HP.
  • Poco, immediately after the previously mentioned battle, was challenged by a bottom-feeding duelist and managed to strangle the guy with a garrote while still bleeding out from his earlier wounds.
  • Made enemies of some local monks.
  • Escaped from corrupt privatized police-men by causing a massive explosion.
  • Poco was brought down to 0 Willpower while setting up a bank account, ending up temporarily brain-dead due to bureaucracy.
  • The party established a network of messenger pigeons.
I’ve never had a campaign go on for more than 2 or 3 sessions so this is pretty wild for me. I got the idea of starting a business into their heads, and they became weirdly invested in the shop. At least Sophia did. At one point I thought I had lost her attention completely until she revealed she was making a sandwich menu. This also has the added benefit of servers being able to pick up rumors from customers, which will let me dangle a lot of hooks at once.

Despite so much happening, I don’t have a lot to say. I’m just having a lot of fun.  

Merchant Prince Desideratus

Friday, February 17, 2017

Raganhar the Padling

Art by Me
Name: Raganhar the Padling
STR 12 DEX 16 WIL HP 11
Items: Ancient Sword (d8), Archaic Armor (Armor 1), Tattered Cape, Lots of Scars

Raganhar is old. Really old. In fact, his full name contains so many titles and honorifics that he's forgotten most of them. He can tell you stories about a time before Bastion, but you probably wouldn't understand him because he uses weird words like 'dost' and 'thou'. If you really press him, he might tell you about how he was a knight in a sacred order in a kingdom far away who was turned into a frog by a witch along with his knight companions.

Due to his nature he is capable of superhuman agility, often leaping from buildings like more of a man-bat than a man-frog. He is also capable of snatching distant objects with his tongue.

You will find Raganhar on the fringes of civilization, hunting massive beasts and protecting lost travelers.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017


Art by me via MS Paint

Name: Junot
STR 8 DEX 11 WIL 16 HP 4
Items: Pistol (d6), Knife (d6), Shovel, Crowbar

Some people do bad things for money, so maybe they can afford not to have to do bad things anymore. Junot, on the other hand, robs grave because he wants to finance bigger and better grave robberies. It's a sport for him, like boxing or chess.

He is a smooth talker who always has a lie queued up, and is especially adept at appearing innocent in scenarios where he's very obviously the villain.

You will find him in graveyards at night, or deep in tombs. Despite Junot's shady characteristics, he will not betray or otherwise try to screw over anyone who helps him out. Though, most of the time you won't even realize you're what you're helping him do. Sometimes grave-robbing is a team sport.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

How to Survive on Giant Spine Island

I. Adventure Update
While on the Inert Emir, Miles and Poco choose not to side with either the Candle-Wizard First Mate Yijun or the Pirate Captain Zuzanna, and thus are forced to man a ship on their own without any knowledge of sailing. A violent storm closes in. Understanding their fate, they fire up a distress flare for the Perennial Dandy’s attention. It works, and the Dandy turns around, only to engulfed by the storm.

The party washes up on the shore of a deserted island, losing a large part of their inventory. Fortunately, the Merchant Prince Desideratus (Dez) is present, and leads them to a camp of useless sailors. The sailors won’t take any orders from somebody without a captain’s hat, but the players find one and put them to work.

II. O Captain! My Captain!
Every week the party was able to give orders to the sailors.

Find lots of food, but danger of being hurt.

Finding a small amount of food but virtually no danger.

Find items, locations, or even food on the island.

Work on building the rafts so they could get off the island.

Each sailor was secretly ranked 1-5 in each category, and at the end of each week an X-in-6 roll was made to see if they succeeded at their task. Each success in building moved up progress on the rafts by a single point, and 20 were needed to get off the island. If somebody succeeded at exploring, I rolled on the following table.

Exploration Success Chart:
1. Item
2. Food
3. Lee's Hut
4. Super Capacitor
5. Item and roll again
6. Food and roll again

Lee’s Hut was the home of a martial arts master that lived on the back of a large turtle. The party brought him some accordions that he wanted, and he taught them some special techniques. The Super Capacitor is one of the expedition sites from Oddvent Oddpendium. I had another table of items, and it was even possible to find real proper treasure.

In retrospect, I really bonered up the hunting/scavenging rules and nobody got hurt. If I were to do it again, I’d have a default 1 in 6 chance of something bad happening at the camp. Then, if somebody failed at hunting there would be a chance that they were seriously injured. I would also probably have included a way for people to get better at their tasks. At the time, the only way to improve somebody’s chances was to give them an item. For example, hunters were given rifles and explorers were given whips.

They spent 3 months on the island and at least one person was bludgeoned to death with a rock.

III. The Price is Right
Without any sort of appraisal ability, I never know how the party is meant to interpret the value of whatever treasure they find. I guess this isn’t a problem specifically with ItO, since a lot of other games don’t have rules for this either.

Do I just tell them how much it’s worth? Can they make some sort of roll? At the moment, the party happens to be friends with a merchant who can give them ballpark figures. I’m wondering how other handle this sort of thing though. Any input is welcome.  

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Small Update

Miles and Poco board a ship to the new world in pursuit of their rival Barnabold. A few days into the trip, a traveling merchant points out that the ship has altered course and they appear to be following a galleon known as the Perennial Dandy. The party investigate the captain’s history with this ship and don’t like what they find.

I’m not good at making dungeons yet. I have this unhealthy dependence on Silent Hill style alternate realities, and things that are weird for the sake of weird. The idea was a ship with descending decks, each getting more strange until they were basically walking around inside the throat of some sort of massive creature. In practice everything was super cramped without any real room for the players to be creative.

My original plan was for a purely social adventure where the players would try to convince the obsessed captain to stop following after an invincible galleon towards certain doom. It would have been part Moby Dick and part Master and Commander, resembling something better served for Burning Wheel. A day before the game, I realized I didn’t really have the confidence to pull it off and turned it into a dungeon.

It went okay by all (2) accounts, so whatever.

I’ve been sitting on a stupid sci-fi setting for a while now, inspired by retro anime, shmups, Phantasy Star and Mega Man. I’m thinking of writing it out as a hack of Into the Odd. I’m super into spaceship combat ala Last Starfighter, so I feel tempted to focus a lot on that but I feel like any really complex rules run counter to what makes ItO so enjoyable to me. It’s something for me to think about, anyway.

Pending title: Space Battleship Bastion.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Sit with Mussold

I think I’m pretty good at NPCs. I worked in retail for the largest part of my adult life, and have had conversations with hundreds of people. I do voices. I do quirks. Yet the Oddest thing happened while running my second game of Into the Odd, which I wish I could say I wasn’t prepared to handle.

We use Rolz to play, and at some point I discovered the command to generate an NPC. After a long hex crawl (which I honestly kind of fucked up), the players ended up in Hopesend which put me back into my comfort zone. They had a lot of questions and love talking to random people on the streets, so it was only inevitable that they would come upon Mussold Schawnpfalz.

Name: Mussold Schwanpfalz, Occupation: Shipwright, Traits: strong, healer, Psychology: fetishizes sitting down, Age: 69, Hair: shaved red, Eyes: blue, Social Ties: sister (healer, openly despised by Mussold), spouse (enduring, openly despised by Mussold), History: became chronically ill at 18, had a minor accident at 20, witnessed a murder at 26, got away with a major crime at 35, was exiled at 62

I hate it when people drop random philosophy quotes, but I feel the following statement from Sir Anthony Ray (often incorrectly attributed to Abraham Lincoln) is relevant here.
“I like big butts and I cannot lie.”

Mussold loves to invite people to sit around him and accidentally sounds like the worst impression of Tim Curry you can imagine. I can only assume the reason he despises his spouse is that she prefers standing. I wonder what major crime he got away with. Pretending to be a chair? He asks the party to sit down while they speak, and Miles shuffles around uncomfortably.

Miles: I think I’ll stand.
Mussold: Groans
Poco: I sit down.
Mussold: Moans

I decide to give Mussold the honor of relaying the status of the party’s rival and betrayer Barnabold. Barnabold sat with him, along with his 3 companions, not too long ago. The party grill him for information on Barnabolds new band, however he is only able to recall the general shapes of their asses. Blood runs from his nose.

Will we be seeing more of Mussold? The party are hitting the high seas to chase Barnabold into the new world, but if they ever come back who knows? Mussold may be waiting around, sitting pretty.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Thoughts on Into the Odd

I know I'm late to the party, but I finally got a chance to run Into the Odd. 

Into the Odd frustrates me in that every rule seems obvious in a way that is vaguely insulting, but presented with the sincerity of my grandmother trying to describe to me whatever strange new gadget she recently saw at the store, which makes it very hard for me not to like it. It aligns with my aesthetic sensibilities, but reminds me of times when a loved one would stay over and I couldn’t get a moment’s peace, even when peace was less desirable than their company. It seems the closer I get to my ONE PERFECT RPG, the more despondent I’ll become to the point where quotes falsely attributed to Buddha will no longer raise my spirits.

Not everything here is a completely new idea, but we get a lot of smart concepts packaged in a  digestible way without any kind of nefarious pretense or edge. The book is usable, with setting taking up a minimal amount of real estate, with the bulk of detail laced into the starting equipment table. There’s no sections defining role-playing, and nothing about how the game itself is different (which it doesn’t need because it simply is).

There lack of to-hit rolls jumped out at me considering how old-school the game feels otherwise. Players only roll damage, and my players can’t decide if they like it or not. I’m fine with this. I sometimes feel like knee-jerk reaction blog/forum posts have become the dialect of the RPG proletariat, and I was proud of my friends for engaging the game with an open mind. It would have been really easy to dismiss the rule outright, or (almost worse) embrace it without thought.

The saving throws work because the values are liquid, and because they’re only intended to be used in response to the world. I despise d20 roll under with 3-18 ability scores for aesthetic reasons, but in ItO your numbers are less about who you are and more about what is happening. Those numbers are on your sheet because they have to be, but they only play a small part in what measures the worth of your character. Your Strength might be 18 right now, but it could just as easily be 1 by the time you make it to the next room. In the same vein, you can choose to define yourself by your stuff, but at the end of the day even your most fantastical artifact is a thing that can be broken or lost.

My Bastion was designed with the aid of Vornheim, MS Paint, and a healthy amount of overthinking. The streets are littered with bums, wild animals, raccoons in trench coats, and nerds dressed up as elves. Miles and Poco wake up in their single room apartment in the slums, elbow to knee with their seven other roommates every day. Nobody’s hiring, student loan payments are through the roof, and the only prospects are out there where the Odd things are.

I ran the example dungeon included in the book, but instead of using some fishing town, I decided that Bastion was so unthinkably huge that an entire section of the city could sink into the water and nothing could be done about it. The players traversed the murky drowned quarter in wooden bathtubs. The dungeon went well, with the players triggering absolutely every trap, despite complaining about their low HP and the constant danger they were in. 

Note: one thing I love about saving throws is that people want to dip their toe in—to properly fuck up and see if they can make it out in one piece. I think the game understands that, and the dice system ensures that the probability of success or failure is always evident.

If it seems Odd that I’m writing about a game that came out years ago I must state that, in my defense, I am relatively new to this hobby. I wish I had more to say at the moment, but after only one session I’m still on the fence. I won’t say I’m in love yet. It’s more like a little crush.  

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Thoughts on Troika

1. An Adventure
Victorious the Venturesome Academic and Jib Duiggys (dwig-iss) the Monkeymonger are drawn to city of Wimborne by a common dream. Each time they sleep, they see images reassuring them of their absolutely unique place in the universe and their DESTINY, but only if they come to the city.

The city is bustling with travelers with the same thoughts. The tourists are corralled into a town square, and watch a presentation about the type of chronic foot pain that plagues travelers and adventurers. Of course, the point if it all is to sell shoes.

Victorious determines that the shoes reek of a low-grade enchantment, but is fascinated by the type of technology that could transmit images to dreams. Jib Duiggys sees this as an opportunity to sell monkeys.

The next day, they make their way to the abandoned baron's manor to seize this technology only to find out that it has been occupied by a terrorist theater troupe. City guards hide behind sacks and low walls while a talented archer (and soprano singer) fires at them with obnoxious precision.

One such guard sees the spindly magic student and derelict monkey-handler and, for whatever reason, decides that they are fit to infiltrate the premises. There is a rusted window on the prison tower that could easily be smashed, but to reach it you'd have to be some kind of MASTER CLIMBER.

2. Not a Review
I liked Troika almost right away. Getting Cake to play was easy. For Christmas, I got him Sorcery! on Steam and he kept making references to its signature monosyllabic spells. He is currently on New Game+. Sophia will play anything, but gets anxious with any system that has random or semi-random character creation.

The physical book itself is unimpressive, but cute. The cover features BOOB and WANG which makes it unacceptable for God's America, and prevents me from waving it in the face of small children which I do with all of my other books. It came with a bag of adorable, colorful dice used for initiative. Functional. Useful. Fashionable. But I would love a hardcover.

Both players were immediately captivated by the backgrounds, as I was. I immediately found myself theorizing backgrounds based on Dark Souls (something I had previously done with the Dragon Age RPG)--but for game one, at least, we would play RAW.

I'm a particular fan of RPGs with less than 64 pages, but I found myself wanting more. More books. A bigger book?

3. A Literal Troika
There is me, Cake, and Sophia. That's my group. Not much OSR content is great for small groups without the addition of hirelings or familiars, but Troika works for a few reasons.

NPCs will have Stamina and Skill, and that's pretty much it. Any NPC encountered is a potential ally, because all I need to do is pin them with a couple of arbitrary numbers and they suddenly become full-fledged party members.

Almost every time a sword is swung in Troika, somebody is going to get hurt. We've had entire enemy parties wiped out before the players ever had their own turn. In the few cases where we had tied rolls, it was thematic--swords clashing together, or tense stand-offs. Things were always moving forward.

I tend to judge systems based on how little they get in my way, and I am a very pushy person. Troika never got in the way. It actually pulled me ahead a few times.

4. Not an Adventure
I created the first adventure myself. The second game was Inn of Lost Heroes by Small Niche Games. It was a mistake? It was fine. I wanted to see how easily content for other games could be converted over. Without a monster book for Troika, I used some monsters from Advanced Fighting Fantasy and just eyeballed the rest.

IoLH is very much rooted in D&D, making specific references to classes and being a kind of commentary on the dangerous nature of the traditional RPG party. Not a good fit for Troika, but weirdly poignant as I find myself moving away from traditional dungeon crawls to more character oriented games.

5. Not an Adventurer
The crazed ex-cleric points at Sonny the Vengeful Child and says, "Her children were killed by adventurers like you!"

Sonny responds, "I'm not an adventurer," before asking me what the old man's name is so he can add him to the revenge list.