Sunday, September 23, 2007

I Got a Fever!

And the only cure, is some Cyberpunk!

In the beginning, there was Cyberpunk, and it was good.

Then the dying locomotive industry, in an attempt to revitalize itself, worked with the entertainment industry to create Wild Wild West starring Will Smith, and Steampunk was born. But that's another blog, for another day.

I believe Cyberpunk may be the only frontier of gaming settings. That's a bold statement, I know, but I rack my brain in attempts to prove myself wrong, coming up ever fruitless. Let's face it, everything's a rehash of something that's been done before.

D&D is still the most popular game, but medieval fantasy gaming is difficult, as it's been done, and done again. Don't get me wrong, I don't think I'll ever stop playing D&D. But it's all been done in novels, films, or video games. Evil wizards. Orc armies. Magical swords. Dragons with thorns in their paws and all you've got to do is remove it and he's your friend. Oh wait...

And Star Wars is notoriously a hard game to play, because unless you're running it in the pre-film period, the story is laid out for you. Unless your Gamemaster is enough of a goon to allow you to kill Boba Fett and Vader, the best you can hope for in the film eras is to secretly help the heroes achieve the victories you know they're going to achieve.

This holds true for running a game in even the Forgotten Realms, which I try nobly to do. One has to be careful not to allow the characters to do something that will upset the flow of the novels, unless you decide that everything published after your sessions doesn't actually happen.

Sure, you can run a home-brew world, but you'll still run into originality problems. I've had campaign and adventure ideas I thought were genious only to watch a movie three weeks later that had the same plot. Ugh. Curse you, Bigtop Peewee. :D

At the end of the day, one of the few solid frontiers of RPG settings is the cyberpunk realm. That is simply because not enough mainstream media has been produced on the subject to seal off all the exits and pin in the imagination. You can still go places in a cyberpunk world that haven't been reached, in reality and in fiction.

I want to play some more Shadowrun. I've only scratched the surface of that game. It is arguably the most comprehensive character systems, but I think that's where it lost people. Most folks wanna roll up a d20 fighter and hack up the baddies. But not me; I want to get into the crazy world run by corporations, where magic exists alongside machine guns and nukes. Ah, how I wish to bathe walk the sprawl, watching out for a street samurai who will undoubtedly lay down the smack on the baddies in such a unique fashion.

And I want to play in a world where entering the Matrix is a voluntary act, only for the talented.

One day, I will live that dream.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Wednesday.... Random Character Day!

This was a good one. Gotta love randomness. In case you missed roud one, check out my first 100% random character. The rolls have it!

Ighvhet, Female Human Barbarian 1
Alignment: Chaotic Neutral
Languages: Common, Gnomish
Hp 8
AC 13 (+1 Dex, +1 armor, +1 buckler)
Attack: Flail +2, d8
Abilities: Str 10, Dex 13, Con 11, Int 12, Wis 4, Cha 6
Feats: Weapon Focus: Flail, Combat Reflexes
Skills: Search +3, Concentration +2, Decipher Script -1, Gather Info +0, Use Magic Device +0
Possessions: Flail, Padded armor, buckler, clay Jar, vial of Ink, Pony, saddlebags
Special Abilities: Fast Movement, Rage

Inghvhet's curiosity regarding culture and inability to hold her tongue got her expelled from the Clan of the White Oak. She has gathered a particularly peculiar assortment of items from trips to old ruins, and is hoping to find a learned person to teach her all the things she wishes to know about cities, culture, and magic.

Her only encounter with civilized people has been with a family of gnomes who were on a pilgrimage and offered her the chance to join them and learn their language. They have since parted ways and she carries with her a strong sense of indebtedness to the littler folk.

It appears that--even with ridiculous outcomes--a random character can find a place in the world.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Another Sleepless Night

Sometimes a critical dilemma keeps me up at night. There are those unresolved issues that--if left unanswered--could spell doom and uncertainty to mankind. In those instances, I strive to find an answer to the unanswerable.

This is probably a question you have asked yourself in the past, so please bear with me (not Bare With Me.) while I try to work it out for myself.

In 2165, when Canada and Mexico finally roll over and official incorporate into the US...
When space is finally an area of operations for the military...
When the wars we face are for our own planetary freedom...

...Which branch of the military will own the space?!

There are basically two possibilities at present: The Navy and the Air Force.

Virtually every work of science fiction hands this privelege to the Navy. In Star Wars, Star Trek, Homeworld and StarCraft, fleets of ships roam the galaxies, using naval rank structure and terminology. Let's face it though, the Navy would need a lot of work to join us all in the present. Their processes, doctrine, and uniforms are so archaic, putting them in space would constitute copyright infringement on the folks that made Spelljammer. The Air Force is at least looking to the future. In a ridiculous move scoffed by most everyone, the AF has changed its mission statement to include battling the enemy in cyberspace. Seriously, read this article. I can see it now...Shadowrun comes to the real world. Of course, with all that money spent on R&D on deckers hacking into the Matrix, the flyboys won't have time to keep up with the space race. Maybe the Navy will--in fact--have their way.

Well, it appears as though sci-fi has it, so this is what the earth military will look like in the future: The Navy can have space. The Air Force can chase its pipe dream of computer wars. And the Coast Guard can patrol the stratosphere, chasing down Martian drug runners.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Have I Been Roleplaying?

Sure, I've rolled up characters and thrown dice for something like 9 years, and I've played a variety of dudes.

As time's gone on, I've taken on the role of DM, and my experiences as playing a character vice running the game have become minimal. In those infrequent times I've settled into a comfortable spot: the entertainer and facilitator. I've found that the most comfortable role for me to play is the bard, because nothing falls on my shoulders. That is, unless we run low on gold and the nobles are itchin' for an unplugged version of Free Bird on the lute.
Otherwise, it seems, I take over and steal the fun from my fellow PCs. Krog the half-orc monk really gets depressed when it's my fascinate ability--not his stunning fist--that lulls the enemy into pascifism. I've noticed, though, that his 'stunning' fist is rarely applied with enough finesse to prevent a crushed sternum and a heaping bowl of heart sauce.

So I'm always a chaotic good half elven bard, right? I just enjoy roleplaying that mixture. Or do I? Do I play this role simply because it is the easiest for me to be? To find the answer, I went to, and took a couple quizzes: Which DnD Character are you? What's your alignment? and What fantasy race are you? Oh at the heartbreaking results...

You scored as Bard! A BARD, a good travelling player who is a seducer of people with fine songs and words. You are a smooth talker and can talk anything out of anybody.

You scored as chaotic good,

You scored as Elf, You are an Elf! Tall, slim and with pointy ears!
Great minds, extremely longlived, untouched by disease.











Take a look at that! Elf and Human are neck and neck! And last time I checked, when those two races are neckin', a half elven bastard child is nine months away! I'm that bastard child! Woe is me! Never to be accepted by any society...Wait, what was the title of this blog? Oh...

Looks like I've been roleplaying as much as Tom Cruise has been acting. That's it, I'm going to play something DIFFERENT next time...maybe Rand, the confused Elven wizard who thinks bats and clubs are cool.

Friday, September 14, 2007


...are the pyramid scheme of fiction. Yeah, I'm onto you Count Strahd. And you, Nosferatu! You're just another one of AMWAY's marketing ploys to make their businesses appeal to a wider range of clientele. Specifically: goths.

Let's just look at the facts:

1) The entire concept of the Vampire and his power parallels that of the pyramid scheme. Think about it. Who are the most powerful vamps? Bingo! The ones who've been in the biz the longest. First generation vampires always trump the younger ones. Everyone pledges their fealty to the vampire that bit them, and they can only become more powerful as they get more vampires under them, which in turn makes big daddy vampire even stronger.

2) Pyramid schemes are illegal in the United States.

Vampirism is also illegal. You can try to refute this, but it's true. Philip K. Buck, the "Sheboygan County Vampire," was prosecuted. See Vampire Legislation. Also, if vampirism were legal, why would all those blood suckers hide out during the day and only come out at night? Must have something hide. I see right through you (quite literally when mirrors are involved.)

3) While these two might both be illegal, hybrids are totally cool and accepted. Think about it: QUIXTAR is all the rage, and totally legal. QUIXTAR takes some legal business practices, with the spirit of a pyramid scheme, and *sha-ZAM* you've got something sweeping the globe. In the same vein (pun!), Dhamphir--the offspring of vampire and humans--are gaining popularity. Take a look at Blade and Vampire Hunter D. Both legal and totally awesome, thus all the legitimate money the franchises have made.

4) And finally, take a look at the Vampires program in the immensely popular social networking site Facebook. The point of this application within the site is to bite other people, and get more vampires under you. The more you have under you, the more points they gather for you. Basically, you get the weaker ones to work for you while you gain power through doing nothing...I smell a pyramid scheme!

Well, the evidence is overwhelming. I'm sort of surprised this isn't on Dateline already.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


Here's a picture of Rand, my first 100% random character. I made this using.'s Hero Machine 2. That thing is wicked cool, and free.

Thanks to my bro SPC-Thrizee. He found the generator.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

100% Random Character

I was so bored and The Simpsons Movie wasn't doing it for me at that moment. Sorry, SpiderPig.

Here's what I did. I wanted to make character 100% randomly. None of those burdensome decisions, just pure dice rolls. I did this for EVERY aspect: ability scores, race, class, skills, weapons, armor, deity, alignment, etc. Using only the rules found at, and rolling via Wizards' Dungeons and Dragons Dice Roller, I set off on my ridiculous quest. No rerolls!

I figure I'll create his story AFTER I randomly generate every aspect of him. Could I possibly fashion a credible storyline for this gent, or would it be mayhem? Either way, let's check it out.

Ability scores. 4d6, drop the lowest. Straight down the line. Strength 13, Dexterity 10, Constitution 8, Intelligence 12, Wisdom 16 Charisma 8.

Race. 7 core races, so d8 (8 means reroll). Roll: 3. Elf. This adjusts my ability scores to: Strength 13, Dexterity 12, Constitution 6, Intelligence 12, Wisdom 16 Charisma 8.

Class. 11 core classes, so d12 (11 means reroll). Roll: 11. Wizard. So far so good, we'll have to do something about that average intellect.

So after three rolls this is what I have: A sickly elven wizard who doesn't show much promise in his chosen profession. No worries, plenty of people seem to become successful, even against the odds. Case in point: Dustin Diamond.

Alignment. There are 9, so d10 (10 means reroll). Lawful Good is a 1, Neutral is a 5, and Chaotic Evil is a 9. Roll: 8. Neutral Evil.

Class Options: Familiar. There are 10, so d10. Roll: 1. He has a pet bat.

Skills. I get 12 skill points, so I'm going to roll to see how I spend each one. d20srd shows 36 skills. The dice roller has a custom die, so d36. If I hit a skill with options I'll roll that out too. Roll: 32,12,6,36,24,17,34,25,30,20,21,6. I add one point to: Survival, Forgery, Craft (Trapmaking?), Use Rope, Profession (Teamster?), Intimidate, Tumble, Ride, Spellcraft!, Listen, Move Silently, Craft (Trapmaking!) WOW. Most of these make no sense, and all but a couple don't even provide for a full +1, as they're cross-class skills. Must have went to a liberal arts school.

Feats. 71 feats without prerequisite feats, so d71!. Roll: 66. Toughness. Eh...ok.

Religion. 19 deities. d20 (20 means no deity). Roll: 4. Erythnul, god of slaughter. At least the creepy motif plays so far.

Wealth. I rolled out 90gp for the guy to start with. I'm going to roll a d% to see how much he spends. Roll: 55. He'll spend just over half, or 47gp 5sp. How to roll what he buys is a tough one.

Weapon: No weapons are off limits. 72 core weapons. Roll: 8. A club. How very...blah.

50% chance he'll carry a ranged weapon. Roll: 56. No ranged.

Armor: I know, wouldn't this guy NOT wear armor? He's 100% random, so, that's not for me to decide. Roll: 28 (lower 50%) so yes, he wears armor. Chain Shirt!

But a chain shirt costs 100gp. Does he really want it? The dice say YES (50%). What is he willing to give up for it? d%: 1-50= he's in debt. 51-75= he stole the money. 76-90= it's rusty, discount! 91-100= he's paid for it, with a body part! Roll: 89. Rusty chain mail. Sounds like a dirty sex act in medieval times.

I forgot to roll up the gender! d%. Roll: 16, male!

Ok. That's it. To recap: A Lawful Evil male Elf wizard, severely unfit for his current profession, with a ridiculous spread of skills, extra hit points, rusty chain mail and a club. At least he has his pet bat, Slugger, to help him out.

To the dungeons!

Roll up a random character and post a comment!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A Gradual Approach to Herodom

Granted, when you're playing a fantasy RPG:
1) You want to be able to do extraordinary things
2) You're able to TRY to do anything

But beyond that, it's all up to the DM. My interpretation may be the minority; I'm not sure. I think my heroes should be able to do a lot less amazing things at levels 1-5 than 6-10 and so on. I believe it's a logical thought process, supported by most gamers and even the rules of the game. You don't even think about sucker punching a great wyrm Red until at least level 20, right? (If even then!)

But where's the line? I talked to a DM years ago about how he runs his Star Wars RPG crew, and they can't expect to be 'heroes' for a while. The biggest reward he gives his players is the ability to modify a bowcaster at level 5 for a +1 attack. Their job until level 10 or so, in this guys mind, is to simply survive the environment. Everything else is flourish!

I'm not that bad, I have to say. But I definitely am not liberal with my distribution of power and wealth. My heroes can expect to do good things, but there's a limit. I once had a DM that pitted my level 5 or 6 crew against a young adult green dragon. Um...ok? Let's see where this goes. As the skinny bard with little combat prowess, you can guess what I did. That's right! I lassoed it around the neck with my grappling hook. I mean, isn't that a no-brainer? My DM and I rolled it out, and it stuck, a perfect shot that wrapped around the beastie's neck five times. Then the DM just threw his papers in the air in a lighthearted "you win" gesture.

Really? Is that all it takes to best a dragon? It's silk rope at best, and my bard weighs about a buck-o-five. I should have been used as a Swiffer to dust the undergrowth of that forest. Sadly, I cemented a five-round knock out of that beast. Come on, dragon! I mean, your breath is corrosive! You can polymorph, I saw you do it before the battle. Sure, my bard can now sing a song throughout the Realms about himself for a change, but... I feel like I was robbed a bit.

I always try to find that perfect balance between allowing my heroes to do amazing, bard-worthy things, and making sure there's something to look forward to. If my bard can do that at level 5, I'm going to hogtie a Tarrasque at 10!

Again I ponder...where is that line? This is all brought about by a play by e-mail game I'm running while I sit in Baghdad. ( It shouldn't be a big deal, but somehow it eats at me: Did I make the right call, or should it have been a simple success? Here's the story:

A group of PCs are in a rowboat on the waves, stranded. Three humans, an elf, and a halfling, plus gear. Suffice to say it's barely floating at best. The waves crash here and there and it's taking on water. The paladin summons his mount: a hippogriff. His plan is to ride off on it in the air so that some of the weight is gone. He summons her, and she has to appear adjacent to him. He's on a rowboat in the ocean. She can't hover according to her stat block, so she appears in the boat. That's right...its taking on water and we've just added a winged horse with barding. Hardly the ideal situation. So the pally has her take off immediately, as the ship is about 1/3 full of water. Off she flies, and he wants her to wheel about and fly by, and he'll just mount up as she returns.

What's the issue to me? At level 6, should a fully armored guy in a sinking boat on the seas be able to just mount up on a passing mount? I figure, let the Ride check decide. Not a good roll, but he's holding on. So now he's hanging onto the saddle as she flies. He tries to climb up her, and I make some more rolls. Nat 1. Nat 1. He grabs and pulls her reins and down they go into the ocean. Sucks, right? I could have just said, "Yeah, you're all good. Let's press on." But if they can do that in those circumstances, what is there to look forward to?

At low levels, I want my players to remember how they struggled to navigate the traps of the mummy's pyramid, narrowly escaped (not defeated) the deadly maw of a kraken, and had to pull out all the stops to drop the ogre mage. Because they'll be less cocky, less sure that everything they encounter is a battle to win. Drizzt, Kelemvor, and Han Solo all ran. They were all crafty in overcoming situations. And overcoming seldom meant bludgeoning to death in three rounds.

I want low level players to look forward to the times when they'll be able to do battle those epic baddies, not battle them right away. So they'll savor the tough tasks now, and not think that the DM fudged some rolls in order for them to do the impossible. And when the time comes, they'll sail back out to sea ready to slay the kraken that took their left hand.

I guess at the end of the day I want my guys to accomplish the improbable, not the impossible.

What are your thoughts?