Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Maze of the Blue Medusa review

Maze of the Blue Medusa
Zak Sabbath and Patrick Stuart
Satyr Press
ISBN 978-0-9832437-5-5
MSRP: $50.00

I just got this book in the mail the other day, and the pdf a few days before that.

I think it is pointless to repeat everything that every other reviewer is saying; it's gorgeous, unique, beautiful to look at, nice to hold, will make your dreams come true, gives a great blowjob, etc

It IS all those things, although I have yet to receive said blowjob.

I also am not posting pictures. It's a hassle to transfer photos from my iphone to my PC, and furthermore, it isn't likely this is the first review you've read of this book, as this blog gets zero traffic. So you've probably already seen pictures of it. Pictures don't do it justice, anyway.

The Book

As a collector, this thing is straight fire. This is a book you can be proud to display. It can sit on your coffee table and look pretty and non-gamers will not recoil in nerd-horror from it. Try showing off a WotC book to non-gamers. That shit don't fly, son.

It's also very heavy. Solidly, happily, heavy. You could knock a dude out with it, although you might scuff it up, so that would be stupid. Especially since it's 55 bucks. But knowing that you COULD is important.

"...the maze is in a pocket dimension; which means you can throw this adventure into just about any campaign with minimal effort."

The inside is full color, heavy paper. The binding seems robust and a million times stronger than any mainstream hardcover RPG books from major publishers.

It has a blue bookmark ribbon.

It lays pretty much flat, and more importantly, the pages stay down, so you won't lose your place if you forget to use the bookmark. There is also a nice Table of Contents, and an index of all the various maze monsters and characters.

The Maze.

The maze itself is 304 rooms, with no useless filler rooms - there is something interesting and creative in each of them. The maze is divided into 7 chapters, which are further divided into 3-7 sections. Each section has a color map and describes several rooms.

The first page of each section is a zoomed in map of a cluster of 3-5 rooms, numbered. On the opposite page is the same room numbers, with the first paragraph of each room's description. The next page contains the Random Encounter table and the Search the Body table. The next several pages have more detailed descriptions of what is in each room in the section.

It's fucking brilliant.

Every other supplement I've ever seen has a single big map at the beginning or the end. Tables printed once wherever. The rest of the book is descriptions. Meaning you have to flip back and forth constantly every time the characters move to a different room.

With Maze of the Blue Medusa, each section is like a miniature dungeon in itself, so at most you'll flip 4 or 5 pages.

The creatures are written up in basic dungeons and dragons format, easily adaptable to any edition or clone. Not one of the creatures I've seen so far is a standard Monster Manual type of monster. They are all unique and interesting.

There aren't random monsters in random rooms, which is one of the major things that turned me off to dungeon crawls for all of my gaming life. Every room has a purpose, and everything in that room has a purpose that relates to the rest of the maze.

Most of the monsters encountered are not necessarily hostile. Not at first, anyway. Most have long established rivalries and feuds with other creatures in the maze, and would be willing to use or ally with the PCs against those rivals.

If the medusa should be killed, there are major consequences. These consequences are described in 5 steps and include an all new, all different random encounter tables.

At the end of the book are 5 pages of lined note paper, 6 pages of graph paper, and 4 blank pages, all of which are labeled to use for notes while running the maze. With a book like this, I wonder if these will get much use, if any.

The front inside cover has a color coded and numbered map of the maze, followed by another overhead view of the maze that is coded by pictures of the major beasts encountered in each room. 304 unique illustrations.

The last page is a full page chart of the normal Random Encounter table, and the back cover has a reprint of the Loot the Body table.

And I just noticed that the cover hasn't made any cracking sounds at all. None. Nor is the spine creased or damaged. This book is built the way hardcover game books should be built.

I haven't had the opportunity to run the Maze yet, but I will. I've already decided where and when to introduce it into my own campaign. Which is rather awesomely simple to do, as the maze is in a pocket dimension; which means you can throw this adventure into just about any campaign with minimal effort.

Also, if you don't want to shell out the cash for the physical book, I highly recommend the deluxe pdf. It is honestly the best pdf rpg product I've ever seen. Links, GLORIOUS LINKS, everywhere! I fucking hate pdf's, and this was actually easy to read, easy to maneuver around, still not as great as an actual book, but better than any other pdf I've ever seen.

I honestly can't wait to play this.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Intelligent, playable, species for Castles and Crusades

Stuff I'm working on. Goes with the races I posted long ago, which are badly in need of updating.
  • Gnome - tiny people with funny hats, three apples high, live in hidden villages within the wooded hills of the mid-continent. Gnomes of different villages wear different styles of hat.
  • Hooman - non-natives to Strathos, live in a dozen or so petty kingdoms around the largest river delta. Hoomans come in the largest variations of size and internal race, due to being the vestiges of a massive and chaotic evacuation from another continent called, Dorados.
  • Kaejor - Large human-like beings who live in a single area of Strathos, on a peninsula far from other nations. Their young adults are pushed out to explore the world around them, and return when they are older.
  • Kankoran - Canine-like humanoids who live in small, migratory clans in the vast northern forests.
  • Kobolds - Masters of an extensive subteranean empire that trades with every corner of the continent. It's actual size is unknown to surface dwellers.
  • Orc - Large migratory tribes who follow massive animal herds, raiding and ransoming as often as trading with others.
  • Troglodyte - Amphibious subteranean people who are respected members and the outside face of the kobold empire.

I prefer to use the term "Species," rather than the more common 'race,' because these beings are of different species. Within these species are different races. Hoomans should be obvious, but Kankoran have several different races based on their local environment. Orcs can notice different racial traits within their people but outsiders generally cannot. Kobolds and Troglodytes are rarely seen on the surface, but variations within those two species have been seen. Kaejor and Gnomes seem to be single race species, with no variations recorded.

In case you don't know, Kaejor, Kankoran, and Troglodytes are from Palladium Fantasy, which also inspired the Kobold species, since Kobolds in Palladium are WAY cooler than in DnD.

I'll post up stats later in the week.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Purpose of this blog

The other day, Zak at DnD with Pornstars wrote something, as he is apt to do. I skimmed through most of it as most of the politics and bullshit between rival game people bores me but one thing really struck me.

That was this:

"the purpose of this blog and any activity connected to it is to improve my game at my house. I write my ideas here so people can read them and maybe give me new ideas, I write books so that I can use them and so that other people will steal the ideas and write better books that I can use for my game, I talk about what a game community should be so that I can benefit from the ideas a good community produces."

That sums up what I'm trying to do here pretty well. Except for the "write books," part which I have yet to do.

I like to scour other blogs and forums for ideas and adapt them to fit my own thing. For example, after trying to come up with a new system for the setting I'm writing, I decided, "fuck it!" and am going with Castles and Crusades. Which I haven't played or thought about in half a dozen years.

Why Castles and Crusades?

Because of a thread I read on theRPGSite. TheButcher put down some house rules of his that I thought were interesting, enough so that I gave C&C a second look. The setting I'm writing is unique unto itself, but one of my design goals was to be able to drop any pre-made module into it; TSR, WotC, Hasbro, Palladium, LotFP, whatever. C&C is the most universal system I've found so far, that keeps rules simple and easy to learn. While I love LotFP, I'm making something more fantastical rather than grim and gritty, and the more I've written, the less I felt LotFP would be the best fit.

I also want to use a bunch of subsystems I've found from other sources. The encumbrance system from LotFP (cause the encumbrance system from C&C is terrible), the character backgrounds from 10 Foot Polemic (which will include the Secondary Skills for C&C), and the Class leveling stuff from DnD with Pornstars (stuff to happen when leveling up and nothing happens with the standard C&C character), and classes from Engine of Oracles, to name a few.

I can incorporate all of those into C&C with little effort. And with the exception of the encumbrance system, I have already modified those systems quite a bit to fit with what I want. I will post that stuff on here in the near future.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Torches and Lanterns

I gotta admit, as a GM/DM/Referee, I tend to forget about torches. I don’t know if it is laziness on my part or because I ran games set in modern or futuristic settings that lacked torches for most of my life. The reason I forget about torches doesn’t matter. What matters is that sometimes, keeping track of how long a torch lasts in game time is pretty damn important.

So I made a mechanic for myself to use to keep track of torches.
Each of the following activities uses 1 unit of torch time.
  • Searching a 10ft area
  • Traveling at normal pace for a round.
  • Attempting to disarm a trap
  • When I forget about keeping track of torch time and all of a sudden say, "oh yeah! Roll against Torch Time!" Honestly, this is going to be at least 90% of the time.
Every time a unit of torch time is acquired, Somebody (probably me, but it really should be the character holding the torch) rolls a d10 and tries to roll a 4 or higher. If the roll is successful, the torch is fine and the players go on their merry way. If the roll is unsuccessful, the die drops to a d8 the next time a unit of torch time is met. Each subsequent failure drops the die type by one. When the torch (or lantern; I just remembered about lanterns) reaches a d4 and fails, it burns out/runs out of fuel.

I originally used a d12 to start with, because d12s are underused and awesome, but it makes the torch potentially last forever.

Oh! and to explain why a torch burns out instantly or lasts an unusually long time, just remember that torches are sticks with a flammable end and are homemade. Sometimes you get a dud.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Ability Scores, Modifiers, and Saves

I constantly tinker with rules. I've never found a game system I was 100% satisfied with, and I cut my RPG teeth as game master for possibly the most house-ruled, seat-of-the-pants GM ruling game ever made; Rifts. 20 years later (fuck) and I am still doing it. Albeit with DnDish rules now.

Ability scores are lame. They have two functions; to provide a modifier, and to roll against if the GM can't think of a better Save option. I have played with many a new player (as in, never played an RPG before) and my group has been playing so sporadically since we are all respected members of society now with important matters to attend to, that the newer folks always forget basic stuff like... what is the difference between and Ability Score and an Ability Modifier. What does each of those do? Where am I? Who are you? And so on.

New Rule: Roll a d8. a 1 = -3, 2 = -2, 3 = -1. Following me? 4 and 5 = 0, 6 = + 1, 7 = +2, 8 = +3
Do that for each ability. Those are your modifiers, without the middleman of rolling a million d6s. Makes it real simple for noobs, as well.

If, during play, you (as GM) can't figure what Save to use and want a player to make an Ability save, simply roll above a base of 18, and apply all appropriate modifiers.

I'm thinking of maybe using a Reflex/Fortitude/Willpower save system for simplicity, which would all but eliminate the need for Ability saves, and regular saves too, for that matter. I'm all about simplicity. Maybe still have a DEATH save, as well. Just for old time's sake. And to remind players that their character's aren't invincible or immortal.

Yeah, we're going to go that route. Saving Throws are as follows. All have a base of 18.

Reflex - Wisdom and Dexterity modifiers combined
Fortitude - Strength and Constitution modifiers combined
Willpower - Intelligence and Constitution modifiers combined
Death - This is just a roll. If somehow you have a bonus to this, you're pretty awesome.

There are, I've found, a lot of people out there who absolutely despise Death saves, or even the very concept of character death. I can see their viewpoint, and I respect it. I've played, and had fun, in games of that sort in the past and will again in the future. This is MY game, though. This is how Timmy rolls. If you don't respect that, then you can fuck off.

Here is a picture of something I thought was cool

Army of God by Draegg