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Thursday, December 27, 2018

2018 Clockwork & Cthulhu Campaign in Review


Aww, The Vanishing Tower now has a holiday tradition! Reviewing the past year's blood-soaked saga of Clockwork & Cthulhu!

What were the top 5 hits of this past year for the longest running roleplaying game I've ever tried? There is so much to choose from, so much ground covered, consequences consummated and reckless adventure pursued... I'm just having a hard time deciding!

#5 You Tube! I know I am real late to the party here and this sure is some low-hanging fruit, but this is a recent development for my group and it has had an immediate impact on my enjoyment of our play. The live streaming and the resultant upload of the video for later review lets me remember important events, catch witty things my players are saying I otherwise miss and appreciate the effect of pacing on everyone's enjoyment of any given session. How else will I never forget -6 Hit Points is not considered being "softened-up" by the players?

#4 PC Death! Not once, but twice! The Scottish outlaw Creigh disappeared through a hole in the wall and Cousin Ralph Norton, a beast of a man, went down during a whirling knife and pistol fight. Player Characters can take more of a beating than the NPC's in my Renaissancegame but I am truly surprised this was the limit of the PC body count for 2018. Dice favored the players more than naught when life and success held in the balance. This puts two regular players on their third character each while everyone else is still on their original. In a long running campaign PC death changes the dynamic of the PC group. Comfortable niches are all but upturned and Players have to reinvent a game personality. I believe it is just enough work to make a player want to keep their existing character. I know as the Keeper I have to make not inconsequential choices on the fly for the introduction of a new character. It is important to not restrain from killing a PC when the dice roll against them just because I got invested in some story elements involving the stand out character. No plot armor allowed!

#3 Splitting the Party! One player went one way, one another, and still others clutched their wounds and looked for a place to lie low. The old OSR maxum of keeping your player group all together during the session must surely be tossed on the junk-heap of gaming history by now. 2018 saw the campaign enlivened with the players finding themselves making split-second decisions and getting cut off from one another. This spawned a couple of bonus sessions and overall made a greater campaign world. This doesn't mean a Keeper does not need to work extra hard on pacing and keeping everyone involved. I did have to schedule seperate sessions and find time for them, but it shouldn't be shied away from in session either. Zak's Frostbitten & Mutilated has a nifty adventure which gives any Game Master an example on how tension and interest can be maintained while splitting the party.

#2 The Birth of the Side Quest into a major Campaign Event! The PC's have gotten up in all manner of conflict with cosmic and local forces that the adventure ground literally squirms with the snakes of complications. Whether or not the PC's pursue their enemies, trouble with an agenda is sure to find them. The Keeper's most useful tool for handling PC's going in unknown directions are random encounter tables customized for the current adventure location. The running and gunning the players did in the streets of Old Yarmouth against alien antagonists and political rivals was all spawned from the fallout from a previous mission. The proper mix of success and setback with random encounters and prepared site locations gave the players complete agency against a backdrop of a responding campaign world. Did I say random encounter tables are essential? You know what fuels great tables? Great adventure content. Involved side quests come across better when you have interesting third party content to use. It is hard to constantly foster entertaining encounters so a smart Keeper will use quality content from others as solid footing to riff off of during live play.

And #1 is the Consummation of the Picaresque.  Sailing to the New World in pursuit of their ever-elusive initial adversary is kind of a big deal. Because it fit for the time period the voyage and the destination continued the campaign world-building. How the PC's arranged passage to the New World was an engaging adventure arc in its own right! The PC's jumped from Yarmouth, Norfolk, on to King's Lynn and then Africa. Each stop gave the PC's a chance to interact with the NPC's and they worked with their environment as they saw fit. Unique outcomes along the way, a hallmark of the picaresque,  will then plant the seeds for future, new adventures.

And that is what has stuck with me for this past year's play. There is one more session of 2018, this Sunday morning. No matter what occurs on the last day of this year 2019 feels like a year of reckoning. For the PC's, for the campaign long unanswered threads- some will be answered. This is right an just and the group has made it so. I wonder what this will bring the body count to?

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Space Opera Character Step-by-Step

To this point, each character has acquired a number of personal traits and capabilities which define the scope of his actions and his reactions only in general terms. All PCs are, as yet, untrained and inexperienced. They lack a background which establishes their expertise in specific areas, and which assists the player to formulate a definite personality for his alter ego which will bring the PC ‘alive’ in the game.” Space Opera Volume 1, Page 30

The game isn't unplayable but it sure is poorly organized. Character creation is fairly simple with some short sidetracks into calculating promotional and material benefits, both which can be jettisoned in favor of a Star Master's own setting information.

I made this step by step guide to help myself quickly navigate the Space Opera rule book when creating a new PC.

1. Choose Character Class. Players are free to choose the class of character they wish to play. Page 9.

2. Random Roll for Personal Characteristics. Fourteen in total, improve with Class specific DM's. Page 11.

3. Random Roll for Planet of Birth. Roll 1d20 for Gravity Field, Atmosphere and Climate. Page 12.

4. Choose Character Race. Note Planetary Types preferred/required. Page 15.

5. Determine Height, Mass(Weight), Stamina (optional), and Damage Factors per rule book tables. Page 19.

6. Choose a “qualified” career and roll Initial Enlistment term. If this initial roll would not qualify as a successful re-enlistment roll too, subtract the minimum enlistment score needed from the base 3d6 roll (unmodified by PC DMs). This negative value represents a penalty DM applied in -2 DM blocks against the chances at promotion in initial tours of service. Page 30.

7. Roll for chance of promotion for every two years term of service. Page 31.

8. Calculate Benefits. Severance as well if PC is not re-enlisting. Page 40.

9. Calculate Skill Points (SP) and purchase Expertise Levels in desired Skills. Page 42.
Armsman: PCs receive 1 SP x sum of Strength, Constitution, Dexterity, Agility, Intelligence, Leadership, and Bravery scores.
Tech: PCs receive 1 SP x sum of Dexterity, Intelligence, Intuition, Leadership, GTA, MechA, and EIecA scores.
Research Scientist: PCs receive 1 SP x sum of Dexterity, 3x Intelligence, 2x Intuition, and any one of GTA, MechA, or ElecA scores.
Medical Scientist: As for Research Scientist, Only with a strong emphasis on medical and biological science fields.
MediTech: A MediTech can be given SP as described for a Tech or he can be awarded I SP x sum of Dexterity, 2x Intelligence, Intuition, GTA, MechA, and EIecA, whichever is more advantageous to him.
Scientist-Engineer: As for Research Scientist, only specialization may be split between general science, engineering science, and technical skills.
Astronaut: PCs receive I SP x sum of Dexterity, Agility, 2x Intelligence, Leadership, Bravery, and GTA.

PC rolls 6d6 for skill points which can be applied to the purchase of General Skills only.

And that is fucking it! I mean, you still need to go to Volume 2 and drool over the equipment lists. Spend whatever cash you have on hand and stock your sci-fi guy. This means you can hand over Volume 1 to the next person on the couch who needs to roll up a character!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Stupid, Simple Way to Resolve Airborne Travel Encounters

In most OSR games the chance of encounter during overland, wilderness travel is once a day. However the chance of encounter is resolved for your game, there is most likely no reference for chance of encounter while flying through the air, at increased speed, covering a tremendous amount of distance. And an encounter "chance" doesn't build in the increased exposure an airborne party would have to attack and of being seen. At least not to my satisfaction. So here is what I do.

1. I count up how many hexes the airborne party covers per the wilderness map being used. This is how many times I roll for an encounter chance. 

2. Roll all encounter chances at once. 

3. For every encounter result I generate the type of encounter. If the encounter has any chance of engaging the airborne party then a random encounter results. If not, nothing. 

3a. If a rolled encounter may have ability to observe or have interest in the airborne party I will note this for possible future encounters.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Classic Traveller For Free

Yes, I want to signal boost this along with "everyone" else. I have played this original game system and really enjoyed using it to run my first satisfying role playing game of sci-fi.

CT-ST_Starter Traveller is an introductory version of the game. It included a book of core rules, a separate set of charts, and a book of adventures (there are three separate download files). Now all for free in PDF over at Drivethru.

The adventures are forgettable, but you want this for the core system and Marc Miller's recommendations for use. That being; a game system for those who want to run their own vision for an interstellar game universe. Yeah there are the typical conceits which have come to define Traveller; jump ships, death during character creation and massive computer space required during star ship build,  but as a flexible referee world-building tool kit with a solid, thoughtfully built personal combat system I don't find much which beat it.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

World of Xoth Official USR Sword & Sorcery Setting!

Vanishing Tower Press is happy to announce The World of Xoth is now the official setting for Deluxe USR Sword & Sorcery! 

As this was the birthing place of my USR hack for Conan inspired adventures, I am pleased to incorporate this rich sword and sandal setting to the new edition!

In all actuality this just means the use of proper and place names found in Xoth, but allows me to set the three adventures in the new book in a proper setting. With Thulsa's free Players Guide to the World of Xoth any new referee will have all they need to start running pulp fantasy adventures in a lightly-realized game world begging for the heavy hand of an inspired Crypt Keeper!

Sunday, December 2, 2018

C&C #4 On Line Session Broadcast

Our fourth live streaming session of the long running adventures of the esteemed C.l U. B. agents continued today with close naval combat the whole time.

Pacing is always  a concern for the hardworking Keeper, and no one wants a fight on a blood-soaked pirate deck to fall flat. But can one stretch it over the entire session and make it the centerpiece of the day's action? Of course you can!

More efficient use of my game tables during play is my current area of improvement. But don't hold your breath, I've been this bad at it for five years now. My favorite parts of today's live session was the reveal for the Captain's name as well as that of the ship. Bunjee-jumping beasts and impromptu naming were some of other enjoyable game moments. Can't wait till next session and see what adventure has in store for the PC's! 

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Where in the World is Xoth?

Xoth is here actually. Well, only in my multiverse. The World of Xoth is Morten Braten's creation for his Pathfinder game. I took his setting material and used it for my playtesting of USR Sword & Sorcery. This, an the "Known World" of Mystara from B/X D&D, are my touchstone campaign worlds when I got back into gaming five years ago. With some regular play it didn't take long to start  daydreaming about intersecting gaming worlds and gaming groups with each other. The Flailsnail's conventions showed me that I didn't even have to be thaaat concerned about different systems mashing with different system PC's. Running some Classic Traveller and keeping a Clockwork & Cthulhu campaign going the pieces of my multi-verse are mostly full-formed now. Mystara, Xoth, 1646 C&C Earth and the super-future of my Outer Frontier Traveller Universe I'm placing all in the "normal", terrestrial universe, with only Clockwork & Cthulhu and Traveller necessarily being separated in time.

I quickly populating the different campaign worlds with many different "doorways" out of the terrestrial universe and into other "realms", the multiverse of my game world; "Murph's Multiverse"! Mystara PC's ventured into the far future, Mystara's the-end-of-time (my Ro'Myr setting?) as well as crossing over into A Red and Pleasant Land. Xoth, these PC's activated ancient devices which connected to beings in Outer Frontier Traveller Universe, as well as through Lotus poisoning in the far-east they ended up in a strange mushroom-dreamland. The PC's from my current C&C game have entered the realm of The Pale Lady (shares space with A Red and Pleasant Land) and became acquainted with "trans-arcana" penetrations. In the Outer Frontier that PC group investigated and activated more troubling powers started in another time and place on Xoth which brought my multiverse its first glimpse of horror-scarred Carcosa...

Which gets me all thinking about a visual map of all this. Where all these great settings get placed and their linkages get tracked.

So now I know where Xoth is, Trappist-1, and Earth. Mystara can be place anywhere in the known universe (or beyond) and right now there really isn't a pressing need at this point to pin it down. The Outer Frontier will eventually get mapped back to "original" Earth. Oh yeah, I even have some modern-day adventures from Anthropomorphic USR and Fear & Loathing USR to bridge all my imaginings to the here and now!

The inspiration for my map is coming from that great map of Kamandi's world by Kirby. Now I guess I just got to draw it :) 

The Why? of doing this is to hone a functional DM'ing device to tap crossover opportunities by retaining, recognizing and cataloguing mentally them for later use. If I have a multidimensional model of my homebrewed gaming universe I can hang cool ideas like ornaments on a christmas tree. Or stars in the night sky I guess.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Running Rom'Myr for Hobbsapalooza

An online weekend of live play, Hobbsapalooza is open to anyone who wants to play or run games online for three days starting this Friday! I will be using this opportunity to see if I can get a Friday night game of BFRPG going to try my own Dying Earth setting of Rom'Myr. Being late evening for the east coast I can easily see this game not getting off the ground, but fingers crossed...

The Google Drive document the Hobbsapalooza link above sends you to is where you write in the games you want to run or play. The administrator will copy your DM submission into the Player sign up page when "approved". This is a small online con, but knowing Hobbs & Friends it will only grow every year. So come on down!

Friday, November 16, 2018

A Red & Pleasant Land Random Generator Page

I've started another page on the blog for aRaPL random generators. Like all the other random generators I am using Meandering Banter's Text to HTML tool to take split-column tables and get them as close to a one-click generator as possible. I haven't figured where the break-down point exactly is, but I think somewhere north of 23,000 combinations crashes the HTML posting here on blogspot.

For example; this first generator Intercepted Communique had to be broken up into three separate buttons to provide the over 2 million(?) combinations the various tables from the book generate, giving you a complete mysterious missive on the fly!

Anyways, I will add more split-table generators from this great OSR setting, there are some real cool ones in this publication.

[EDIT] It seems Blogger can only handle so much HTML in any given post so I cannot dump everything in one page. Two to four generators per page seems to be the limit. Somewhere between 30,000 and 40,000 combination/table entries is where I think I break my blog. What this means is many separate pages to cover a specific topic, bargle! 

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

BRP Pulp Adventure Generator

Has been added to the Random Generator Page. With one click you get the frame work for your next astounding adventure in the world of two-fisted tales!

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Blood of Heroes Referee Charts

This is a PDF put together from making snapshot grabs from the DC Hero rulebook. It is rough. It is intended as my table side reference chart for live play of the MEGS heartbreaker Blood of Heroes from Pulsar Games. 

With my laminator I get a kick out of making durable reference sheets for the various games I play. Feel free to download a copy here if you plan on running any game with the MEGS system. The Action and Results Tables are used for everything in the game. You will want these two charts handy at the table so everyone is not flipping through the rulebook everytime someone needs to resolve an action.

Friday, November 9, 2018

A Vornheim Random Generator Page

I'm going to see how multiple pages on the blog work as a means to organize the random generators I'm making via Meander Banter's Automatic List to HTML Translator. This post over at D&Dw/PornStars helped crystalize the idea of using pages because, oh yeah, I use Vornheim the Complete City Kit in everything I run. 

So now I have a subject big enough to need its own page. I dove into Meandering Banter's HTML Translator and quickly broke it with the size of the file I was trying to create. Fortunately this blogger created version 2 which allowed me to create a generator with such a large combination set. This has the effect of a one-click generator for the interesting results which come from multiple random tables. I mean, if the online tool doesn't do anything different than the game book why make it? As I create more random generators from Zak's book I will add them to the separate page.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Are there days more finer?

Than receiving commissioned work for your DIY gaming project? Today I received my art pieces from Jeremy Hart for Deluxe USR Sword & Sorcery. This means I now have my artwork from Jeremy, and Michael Gibbons. Zak Smith, and Athan Kirk have submitted their written work (Mass Combat Rules and the adventure Race of Sorrows respectively), leaving only Gennifer Bone's surprise art pack and then me to put it all together (and Jens D to edit the mess!).

One of the assignments I gave to Jeremy Hart is to provide page treatments. This is a term I made up myself. I don't know what the official book publishing name for this is but I'm talking custom footers, chapter headings and column dividers. This is a blatant attempt to make my purchasing dollars go farther. Pay for an art image which can be used more than once. Here is a preview.

I'm hoping these repetitive images will help give the final book the brutal physicality I've always enjoyed in my Sword & Sorcery literature. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Live Session Stream #2 Clockwork & Cthulhu

[EDIT] Corrected the embed settings so the video plays from the blog post.

Enjoying the ability to live-stream my regular game and I'm finding a replay of the session a boon to memory and campaign consistency. This is only the second session recorded, but I've already received fruits from our labors. Specifically in today's session the players found themselves at odds with each other and it was great to go back to the "tape" and figure out where the group cohesion fell apart and the PC's went at each other's throats. So that goes down two thirds in of this nigh on three hour session, about 1:50:00 mark. This is really interesting to me as a referee. For the players it all seemed the frustration with each other was mounting as no easy answer, no easy out, was forthcoming. When another player retorted they didn't trust the other player either I wanted to hold up a placard stating "Roleplaying gold being mined here!" This was awesome sauce.

Playing the session back I got a chance to see the arguments, opinions and stratagems used by the PC's to try and resolve the situation. One of the PC's used influence on NPC's (rather successfully) to try and prevent bloodshed. Another PC wanted to try influence on a fellow PC. Here I said no, no. Between PC's you need to not really on rolls to work things out you have to, you know, role play it. And by no means has the issue been resolved. The repercussions and outcomes from everyone's actions will linger until next game session! Aaand the players didn't take any course of action I anticipated so I was painfully scrambling to put together adventure material as they zigged against my zag. Not to give any spoilers here for my players, but I had an awesome referee moment when I said to myself, "Fuck it, this is where the game is heading!" so I strapped in let the trans-arcana clock tick ever closer to midnight, because this is the OSR baby. We did it all wrong it was so right; split party, threatening and violancing on each other's PC's, the pleading, arguing and fuming. A great way to enjoy morning coffee and get more mileage out of my game material. The game literally runs itself when the PC's are all doing the talking.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

100 Reasons Why the Characters are Together & What is in their pockets?

I've created a separate page for all these buttons and random generators. It is here on this blog. The link is on the right. This page will continue to grow as I add more and more random generators.

Random Traveling Sorcerer done with a new toy