Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Bathtime is definitely over

OK, so, correct me if I am wrong, but last week I blogged about the curious obsession our Mage had with sailing and other associated water based activities. Obviously he was something like a fish in a previous life, and, depending on the enemies waiting in the rest of the plot, may have that experience again. However this is not Spelljammer.
To be fair despite his passion for sailing, snorkelling and demolitions, last week did see the sinking of a pirate ship. I had hoped that the party would go head to head with the bad guys in swashbuckling style which would have ended in a face off between good and evil mages. However, in the special forces world of underwater wizards, the ship and crew were first deprived of their point guards, then their ship, then their wits, then some of their loot and finally in many cases their lives. Once the pirates had nowhere to float due do to repetitive mystical hull failure then there was no option but to abandon ship, gather what loot they could an bugger off. Alongside other harassments, the bottom line is that once a pirate has no ship then technically he is really just an unshaven thug looking for a panto.
However, as I felt the party were getting away with far too much subterfuge, another couple of Golems turned up to hassle them. It was at this point that our other mage decided that of all things, going sailing was the best idea. Unbelievable. So off we go, other mage jumps on the party boat and launches into his apparently true calling. Five minutes later he is covered in rope and the ship is gently rotating away with the tide, and despite protestation of "Surely I know something about boats" we start random anchoring procedures, almost ripping the bow off. There was a method in the complete madness though as whilst one golem was taken out quickly, the other waded out towards the mage and, as it swam as well as any other brick, couldn't really do much other than position itself directly  below the hull on the river bed. So there was a sort of underwater Mexican standoff. Eventually the boat was brought back into shore, followed by a golem unceremoniously splodging through the silt, at which point the other mage cast mud to stone in true mafia style and left a flailing construct stuck in concrete to watch the ebbing and flowing of the tides for all eternity. Perhaps we should have called this a 'plan' in retrospect but I'm still not clear on whether to award experience or take it away.
Either way, bathtime is now definitely over.


Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Plane Sailing

Yes, forgot about this one until everyone reminded me last week; the road to the negative plane is paved with good intentions they say. More to the point, it is one thing to have a good idea but it is quite another in having the skills or charisma to carry that idea out. Take for example our Tom Cruise/Mage character class player who, not being content for the party to adventure along a river bank with their horses like any other party decided it would be a much better idea if he teleported himself fifty miles back up river to fetch a boat whereupon the party could then presumably take their time, enjoy watching the scenery drift past, perhaps do a bit of fishing and quaff the occasional Riocha. Not really fully absorbing this the rest of the party shrugged their collective shoulders and off he popped.
Now mages are traditionally brought up within stone towers, bent double squirreling over ancient books and straining under dim candlelight for many years- exactly what boat handling and navigation skills they would acquire during this period I am unsure. In fact I would go as far as to say I was a little sceptical. So here is a GM's perspective on the events.
Mage teleports, makes his casting roll and doesn't end up inside a brick wall. Ok so far.
Standing in the docks at Osgiliath. he asks 'OK, so can I see a boat?'
Mmm ok player makes a perception roll and finds an old boat on stocks in a warehouse. GM rolls to see if the boat is seaworthy, smells of prawns or will instantly sink. Made a reasonable roll so it will float but the rigging is not set. However as the Mage is in fact a Mage, he has no idea about this.
'Cool! Teleport the boat into the water !'
OK, makes his teleport roll so the boat doesn't end up on the opposite bank and hey presto boards as its shiny new captain.
'Off we go then!'
Nick rolls his seamanship. This is where the issues begin - not a great roll, which is mostly irrelevant as having spent no time on anything even resembling a boat, the roll is versus a sheer folly modifier. In other words if he randomly plays with stuff is there a quantum chance it all starts working. No is the answer surprisingly.
So Nick makes another roll to see which side of the Osgiliath bridge he is on. Makes it annoyingly enough as we could have been looking at some sort of wonderful docking attempt with a stone bridge, however he is on the right side of the seaway as it happens. Off we drift. And drift is the correct word. Having failed all attempts at rigging, navigation and boat handling, the boat gently moves out into the river and rotates slowly as it meanders down river. A couple of days later he eventually floats past the point where he left everyone, but of course its the middle of the night and he hasn't the faintest idea where he is. The other mage in the party thinks he saw something on the river so wanders down to the bank and whispers "Is anybody there?". A quarter of a mile away, Captain Mage happily journeys onwards counting the stars. Getting towards dawn, the coastal relief start to look very unfamiliar at this point and so remarkably he gets the boat to the shore, secures it and walks his way back upriver to the party, all of whom now decide that its probably a good idea to keep using the horses.

What a delightful waste of time.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Disdyakis Triacontahedrons

From time to time I do review the tools of the trade, principally dice of course as there is, to be fair, quite a wide opportunity for creativity in the market and occasionally beautiful sculptures bordering on artwork.
Let me say now that the D120 is not one of these items. What in gods name needs a D120 ? The manufacturers are of course not stupid and are producing to demand but I cant think from my addled memory what mechanic involves 120 in any system I have come across. I do know I roll a ot of dice for things like fireballs, falling damage and scalar multipliers for when a Deathstar shoots a hobbit but nothing consistently in the D120 range. The sales pitch reads:
"The ultimate fair dice allowed by Mother Nature (i.e., mathematics)! The d120 is based on a polyhedron known as the disdyakis triacontahedron. Each face is an elongated triangle. These dice are perfectly numerically balanced, with the same sums for numbers around vertices of the same type. The dice are available in white, black, red, blue, and green.
 The d120 can be used as a dn, where n is any proper factor of 120, including all of the dice in a standard seven-dice polyset."

 Good luck to them I say.
I have also come across the occasional player with metal dice and given the passion I have for gaming I would consider splashing out on something a bit special. Beyond a certain weight of course other factors come into play as I wouldn't want to damage equally expensive roleplaying systems by rolling pointy steel over them. Also it has to be said that I am not getting any younger but there may come a day where I will struggle to lift something made from cast iron. Might be a case of getting nurse to roll for me. There is a kickstarter actually at
What is interesting about this, and their products do look great I think, is that they say that they use processes that date back 5000 years! I do know that Pythagoras must have been a role player in waiting circa 500BC as he was theory crafting his perfect platonic solids well in advance of the D4 as well as being heavily into mysticism, so unknowingly did much to lay the groundwork for the RPG systems of today. Shame he never played Age of Empires. However I am not sure what roleplaying options there were over 5000 years ago, other than to play additional caveman modules but perhaps the foresight of our ancestors caused them to create the dice ahead of their time without knowing what they were for; which came first, the D20 or the RPG ?

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

What's your favourite Golem?

Always an easy filler for someone running a game; when an argument starts to get out of control with a particularly ardent player a GM can have the last word in may ways; my favourite rebuttal is always "Oh, you seem to hear heavy footsteps...". Actually its not often I have come across Golems but they are in post modern terms the 'tank' of an attacking or defending party. The principal idea is an entity made of a single material that is basically a huge hit point sink and often their size and mass leads to an overwhelming attack bonus also. This is all supposed to be balanced against a low or even mechanical level of intelligence and specific vulnerabilities inherent in their construction material. Additionally the basic or the literal commands they are given can cause them to exhibit odd and often amusing behaviour. They are great fun for some party bashing without having to think too much and often party members are in the mind-set of detailed planning and outwitting cunning opponents which can lead to misjudging events where brick shithouses are concerned.
In the last MERP, the party were rudely interrupted by a couple of stone golems attempting to retrieve an item stolen from their overwatch. By deftly jumping around a lot, out manoeuvring them, hitting them repetitively and a mage transmuting them using elemental spells, the party eventually returned them to the dust from whence they came. Touch and go for a bit as the Dwarf suffered a serious blow to his back.
Reminiscing on Golems of note I was originally enchanted as a child by the stop motion action of the 70s as pioneered by the late Ray Harryhausen. Despite the animations clear limitations his clever use of choreography did as comparable a job of immersing a viewer as the special effect itself. Great stuff. More recently, though arguably are the Angels from Dr Who which I have a fondness for and whilst I am worn very thin these days by the constant barrage of people in lycra hitting each other, The Thing could be considered as having a thick skin I think and also the rock monster from Galaxy Quest who just wants to be left alone.
As for best advice ?  Perhaps just stay very still and don't say anything..

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Roleplaying Community

GMing at a public facing club is a very different experience than the traditional home games I am historically used to. We are a very laid back organisation, if indeed I can call it an organisation, which is a good thing really as organisations tend to make opinions which lead to rules which lead to empires which lead to anger which lead to fear which lead to Sith Lords, which is no good unless you are running a Star Wars. I cant remember my point, but given that we can get variable membership as players come and go and also that we roughly try and finish multiple games at the same time for players to mix and get more choice, it does mean that GMs are faced with crowbarring certain things to happen at certain times.
At a home game things can ramble on in a much more natural and open world fashion and its not unusual for  a GM's game plot to be completely re-written on the fly. Clubwise I prefer something a little more linear which has its pros and cons but when players want to go in completely different directions, I cant always spend the time running subplots for them as attention can be split too much in shortish sessions. Like all wizened approaches, its a balance really and still great fun.

As a community people often tend to hook up at the club and, like spores from the mould, float off and start new colonies. Or perhaps the jukebox just winds them up too much, but either way there can be turn over of players within a particular adventure which is not always a bad thing as a characters can immediately be re-delivered with some history if a regular player drops out for any reason.
Interestingly there is a seasonal pattern when people and possibly larpers like to enjoy the good weather and warm evenings and we can often see a surge back again as the nights turn cold. We should run a sub text for our club media of Winter is Coming...

As for the last MERP, well there were a few crap rolls involved so best gloss over it really. As for the 13th Age, it continues to be a mystery out of the game to me as well as in but I shall press the relevant players to divulge bloggable embarassments for next week.