RPGBlog

This is a collection of the RPG Circus Blog Items.

MERP App for Android Devices

Since in the last podcast, we mentioned both Rolemaster and Middle Earth RolePlaying (MERP), I thought it was very interesting that on my old Bone Scroll blog that I got a comment for an android app.

Now first thing right of the gate was "this must be SPAM". After I braved clicking the link withing, I found it took me to the Google Play site. Seems this gentleman has created an app to help calculate XP. Which if you think DnD 3.5 is complex, you haven't seen the way Rolemaster does it. Of course to be truthful, I don't think I've ever played with a GM would just didn't give out some random XP.

Still for those that would like it, you can find it here

Here are some sample images.


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Season 4 Episode 24 - The Professor, Mary Ann, and RPGs

Welcome to Season 4 Episode 24 of RPG Circus

Episode Topics
  • Our Top 5 Deserted Island RPGS

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Are Games Broken?

If the title seems a little inflammatory, I'm sorry this was something I was pondering this morning. Over at Zach's RPG Blog II, I made a comment on how all games were broken. Something that one commenter claimed was defeatism. I made a reply that I was just realist. Of course this did get me thinking, was I being truthful? Are all games broken?

I guess my thought process on this goes a little like this. What are game rules for anyway? In my mind they simply try to provide a mechanics to handle if and how things happen. I know that might be simplistic view, but I'd rather not get into if a game is simulation or not. My other thought is can a set of rules be so good that they are good for everything? Sort of lean towards the the "No" column on that. After all there are tons of so call universal systems out there; GURPS, Hero System, and even Savage Worlds. Are they perfect for everything? I don't think most gamers would say so. Each universal system usually has some weakness. I dare would think that some would call those weaknesses being broken in some regard.

Another thing about rules is that when someone makes a rule, they will not know how that rule might be used. Let's take something like Pathfinder which has feats. Feats usually break or modify a rule that's in play but only for those people that have that feat. Now, the person that wrote the feat doesn't really know how those feats will interact with all the other feats out there. In fact, I think someone would or could drive themselves to drink if they tried. The feat creator would do due diligence and check it against "core rule" feats but likely not much else. Still how many times have I seen players have a set of feats that together make a certain effect that seems overpowering or overarching. Would could argue that one or more of the feats are broken or the feat system itself is broken.

I guess what I'm saying is that no set of game rule are perfect in my opinion. If they are not perfect, couldn't one say that they are broken? Is admitting that being defeatism? I like to think not. Does admitting that ruin a game? I don't think so, it just means you accept that a game has limitations.

Now the above is clearly my opinion. I'm wondering what you the gentle reader is thinking?

One final thought has occurred to me, maybe I'm using the wrong word. Is there word besides broken that I should be using?

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Shot from the Canon

So you’re a DM, GM, or whatever, and your players are dying to play a long-term Star Wars game. Or maybe they must, must, must trudge through the dangerous territory on the outskirts of Mordor as Frodo, Sam, and Gollum slink toward Mount Doom. Or perhaps they have to play a Buffy game because they totally love Giles. (And really, who doesn’t?) After a little while, I’m guessing that your players will want to show their mettle and screw with canonical characters or events. Maybe they want to shave Chewie or murder the Witch King of Angmar. Perhaps they want to send fake text messages from Xander to Spike so that evil Spike will murder pre-lesbian Willow. I dunno, people are weird.

My advice is—when it comes to messing with canon—withhold.

This advice is not born out of respect for the stories that already exist, though I do respect them a great deal. Well, not the new Star Wars movies, but the rest, sure. I respect the writers, the stories, and the influence they had on me—quite seriously. But that respect is not what drives my warning.

Instead, my prohibition is more practical. Once you’ve taken the ring from Elijah, water-boarded Palpatine, or replaced Buffy as the ultimate slayer, well, there’s every chance that your RPG group will lose interest. Sure you can create other problems—new Dark Lords, more magic items to rule them all, other rebellions—but it is my opinion that players are not likely to push forward once the stories they know and love have been upended. After that, there’s nothing but silliness to come. “My character takes over Middle Earth and opens a Wal-Mart in The Shire.” That may be fun for a week or two, but by then, Middle Earth will lose its luster.

In a universe with canon, I suggest, at best, barely meeting a recognized character, and that is all. Leave a sense of awe. Don’t wrinkle the famous story. I recall being a player in a long D&D campaign, and our DM mentioned that Merlin, The Merlin, may have visited the region we were about to enter. That fact alone kept us on our toes, and I then took the game more seriously. Had we met him, shaken hands, and given him a wedgie (or the appropriate combat equivalent), something would have been lost. I was psyched enough just to sense him in my character’s universe. We weren’t playing in a truly Arthurian setting, either—Merlin just happened to be there, rather like Ringo in The Beatles, and that was plenty.

So, if you want to play in an IP universe, as someone running the game, don’t bring in too many famous names. Maybe let your players catch a glimpse of Rhadaghast cataloguing Middle Earth bird migrations, but don’t let them sign up to join The Fellowship. If you want to adventure close to the canonized folk, run a game where your players sneak around The Fellowship to keep wargs at bay. Or maybe it is your players’ job to infiltrate a new vampire lair in San Diego, thus forcing the undead toward Buffy’s hometown. That way, the names are there, but the main line isn’t affected.

Hopefully I’ve made my point. Either way, I do want to reiterate that I’m not suggesting this path out of misplaced obligation to someone else’s printed (or filmed) tale. I am not one of those RPG blokes so overawed by canon that no person shall dare mess with it. If you tell me that in your game, your players walked right up to Gandalf and kicked his ass, thus helping Sauron lord over an age of terror unlike anything known since my awkward teenage years, I say, “As long as you had fun, cool!” If you want to kill Kinkaid before he meets Harry, I don’t care. Newsflash—the stories aren’t real. Even if the source setting is nonfictional—you want to play a Civil War game and murder Jefferson Davis before the secession—go for it. All I’m saying is that when the canon, whatever it may be, is severely disrupted, your players may miss the wonderful stories and characters that they already know so well.

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Season 4 Episode 23 - System Merry-Go-Round

Welcome to Season 4 Episode 23 of RPG Circus

Episode Topics
  • Switching Systems for the Same Game
  • Bystanders, Police, and other Background Characters
  • Kickstarter vs FLGS
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Converting Adventures is Not So Easy

As a gamemaster, I am sure that we all have had adventures that we loved to run. Some that we have played many times with many different groups over a long period of time. Then one day a sad thing happens, we no longer play the game that the adventure supports or we just find a cool adventure that is for another system. What do we do then? Well, If you are like me, the first thought that comes to mind that we should do a quick conversion.

Which to be honest is what I was thinking for my game group's one-shot adventure we still have left to do. However quick isn't really quick in this case. The only time I think one can get away with saying quick conversion, is where there two games systems are fairly similar. Something like using the Basic Module B2 in and AD&D game. Or using a D&D 3.5 adventure in a Pathfinder game. Sure there are some work to be done, but you could almost do it on the fly. I know I've done that. Normally, however it's going to take real work.

Which is what I'm stuck with doing right now. As some of you are aware, I'm currently doing a few Deadlands one-shots, while our Pathfinder game is on hold. Last time, I ran one of the freely available One-page adventures, but I thought it was too short. So this time, I found an old TSR Boot Hill adventure that looked promising. The adventure premise was simple, Tame a Town. The adventure had it own rules on how to do that and were pretty self contained. The problem is I have a lot of work still to do.

One major area is that fact that the adventure has quite a few NPCs. They run the few businesses in town and they are also some of the people that are causing problems in the town. Which means I have to create NPC Stats for some of them. It also means I need to Deadlandize some NPCs. After all Deadlands isn't quite the west we think we know. Luckily, I can use some standard NPCs for some of the townsfolk. That should save me sometime, but I still have to create at least 9-10 special NPCs and I have to decide which of them are Wild Cards. As you can see this is where my work is cut out for me. In other game to game adventure conversions, this where one would try to convert monsters. One thing of course to look at is power levels. In some games an creature, such as an orc, might be low powered, but in other games they might be higher powered. Hell, you may even have to substitute a creature or create your own version of a creature if doesn't exist in the system.

A unique bit about this adventure that I'm converting is that it has a random crime time. That's because as the players tame the town, some crimes happen less frequently and other become more frequent. For example when the players first arrive, murder is fairly common, but yet by the time they tame the town, it's less common. Basically, who's involved in the crime is random but is influence by the location since certain people hang out at a location. The problem is that the adventure only tells you where NPCs are either in the NPC description or in the location description. I had to create a master table of locations and key it with that information for play. Again more work for myself, but it should hopefully pay off in game play.

Lastly, I had to do a little map conversion. This is something we always think we don't have to do. After all a map is pretty much system independent right? For the most part I would agree. For my part, Since I decided to just go ahead and layout the map on our playing surface, I had to re-arrange a few buildings to get it fit on my table. So again work for me, but I'm hoping it pays off when we play.

Before I close out, I'm wondering if any of you have ever done any adventure conversions? Or played such conversions, since for many of the older AD&D modules there seems to conversions to various editions?

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Player Response to Deadlands.

A few weeks ago, I posted that I was going to be running a few one-shot games using the Savage Worlds rules. I gave the players an options of settings based on what adventures I had available. I didn't give the name of setting but rather a one line description of the setting. I'm not sure if supernatural/horror/weird old west or supernatural/horror/weird World War II really describes Deadlands or Weird Wars II. Still it was the best that I could do without a full blown breakdown of the setting. In the end the players decided to go with the Old West setting, which meant Deadlands.

Almost every Savage Worlds setting has some modified rules that I needed to learn. For example in Solomon Kane, there was the Righteous Rage Rule. Deadlands is no different. I needed to for example learn how they morphed bennies to Fate Chips. For the most part they are same, but they have different colors that have slightly different effects. Still compared to learning an entirely new system, it is a very small thing indeed.

While I offered to help them create characters, most them opted to just use the pregenerated ones that you can download from the Pinnacle website. I think this was a good choice because the characters tend to be a little more rounded than what I've seen the average player do when the first start to play a Savage Worlds based game. It has been my experience that it's usually best to start play with a slightly wider range of skills instead of a few really high skills. The one player wanted to play a miner but couldn't come to make it. So I ended up doing a quick build of that character for the player.

So, the players were all set to go. One side effect of the new fate chip rules in Deadlands is that I needed new markers for wounds and shaken. I had been using the red and white poker chips for that, while the blue poker chip was the benny. I ended up with some printable markers for the wounds and shaken. A practical side effect is that since I tend to use a lot of printable minis with the old SJG Cardboard Hero stands, I can put the status marker in the stand with the paper miniature. So that worked at well for me.

For those that had never played Savage Worlds before, I was a little worried that all the pieces such as the fate chips, wound markers, and initiative cards would sort of freak them out. I happy to report that those players didn't seem to be bothered by them. As a matter of fact they seemed to really like the use of the initiative cards.

The players also like the very no strict movement rules compared to something like Pathfinder. For example, in Pathfinder and other D20 type games, you almost never move,shot, and move without a special feat. Which is something that Savage Worlds allows you to do right out of the box.

The only area that was minor issue with play was the trait rolls. This was mostly for the new player either not rolling the wild die or just using the wrong die. Which was something that I've done before myself. The other area was for those weapons that a rate of fire greater than one. Which even those players that had played Savage Worlds before had never done either. Still everyone enjoyed the exploding nature of the die rolls.

My only complaint was the one-page adventures that Pinnacle has for download. Compared to many the adventures in the Solomon Kane rulebook, the one-page adventures seemed short. I'm not quite sure why that should be. Since the Solomon Kane adventures are usually only a page themselves. The one adventure I wanted to use for four hours only ran for two and half. Luckily the players were all happy with the way the adventure ran.

Generally speaking, I think the players were very satisfied with how the rules worked. All the players were looking forward to the next one-shot session. Based on a few comments, I got the impression that at least one or two of the players would rather play Savage Worlds for a while instead of returning to our Pathfinder game after the next one-shot. I think that can be no higher praise for Savage Worlds than that.

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Season 4 Episode 22 - Let's Go Dungeon Delving!

Welcome to Season 4 Episode 22 of RPG Circus

Episode Topics
  • Interview with Barrowmaze's Author Greg Gillespie
  • Games with "Different" Dice

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What Color is that Potion?

One of the great things about being sort of a "grognard" in Role-Playing Games is the amount of old stuff you have around the house. The other day, I was flipping through the old AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide (DMG). I came to the appendix section where they have tables to help randomly determine what potions look like. This of course got me to thinking.

You may ask, "Thinking what"? Well, I was thinking do people bother to describe potions any more? Have things like potions become so common and bland that we no longer bother to describe them? Should we be describing them?

I guess the best place to start is why I always expected them to be described by the DM in the early days. Back in early days of D&D, potions were not easily identified. As a matter of fact, there were many times the only way you would know what a potion did was actually drink it. Right or wrong that was the way things were back then. I think as players we sort of wanted a clue as to what function the potion could have, which meant we wanted it described to us. Which is where the tables in the old AD&D DMG comes in. As a matter of fact, I know some DMs that took this to the logical progression of having a color, taste, & smell matrix, where each potion type had a slot on the matrix. That way the players could write such info down when they discovered what a potion did and if they ran across said potion again, they would know what it did. Personally, I never went that far.

Over time, I think various systems updates have made it easier to identify magic items and potions. I'm not going to judge the merits of that. It just made things different. I think this is where many of started to stop describing something as basic as potion. Move forward and finally, we are at the point where potions are pretty much just standard equipment to be bought and sold (as well as most magic items). It was at this point that we generally stopped bothering. After all, you don't really bother to describe an arrow or sack do you?

I guess the questions I'd like to ask the reader are the following. Do you think we lost something by not generally describing potions? Do you or your DM bother to describe potions? I know my answers are yes and sadly no respectively. I think this is something to work on the next time I run D&D (or Pathfinder).

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The One Shot Game!

As gamers, one thing we hate is when we can't play. Especially, when it's not something that we have control over. For example, the my GM that is running the current Pathfinder game can not run for the next month. Granted we only play about every two weeks. Which means we will only miss two sessions. Still a month is a long time.

Of course to the rescue is going to be the one shot game. I know we have all done them from time to time. We have done them either by accident or on purpose. Yes, I said accident. I don't know how many times we planned to start a new game and only play a single adventure before we did something else.

The nice things about a one shot game, is you get to try things out. It can either be a genre or a game system. Actually, that's how I introduced people to Savage Worlds. Pinnacle Entertainment Group, makers of Savage Worlds, has large collection of One Page Adventures that are perfect one shot adventures and one of the 30's Pulp Style adventures is what I used to introduce the players to Savage Worlds. On the downside, They liked it so much that wanted to play more. Sadly, I just didn't have the material in place to continue much past two adventures. Still the players had fun and that experience in many ways set them up for the Solomon Kane Campaign that I finished with my Thursday night gaming group.

So now, with my Saturday groups GM out for at least a month, It's time to select some one-shots to fill the gap as I have volunteered myself to fill in. Again, I've selected to run Savage Worlds. The more people I expose to it, the more likely they will play it in the future. The hard part is going to be selecting some one-shot adventures. I'm not sure what Genre the players are going to want to try. I also wondering if I should try one that I know that I can create or have more material available for? If past experience is any guide, then at some point the players may want to continue their characters.

So, wish me luck and I'll let you know what happens in the future.

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