Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Helium Triumphant!

“John Carter,” the Princess of Mars movie, is fun!

Purists are gonna hate it; it's actually a conflation of A Princess of Mars and The Gods of Mars. Kinda... There are lots of liberties taken with both stories.

But oh, there is so much here. John Carter is a fighting man from Virginia, and he fights through the whole movie. By the time we are finished with his introductory scenes, I knew I was going to enjoy this flick.

Did you know the people who made “John Carter” are Pixar folks? The Director, Andrew Stanton, also directed “Finding Nemo” and “Wall-E” and has writing credits on all three “Toy Story” movies and “Finding Nemo.” And it shows in “John Carter” because so many things that shouldn't work, work. John Carter's speeches work. The tharks work. Woola works.

There's a scene that must have looked cringeworthy on paper, that combines action, melodramatic flashbacks, and comedy. And it works.

Tars Tarkas is an ass, but you like him. The Heliumites are bold and noble without being wooden and dry. Deja is a warrior-scholar-princess without coming across as an overachieving “tiger baby” ice queen.

The trailers looked a bit rough, felt a bit flat. The movie does not. If “The Avengers” and “The Hobbit” were not coming out this year, I'd risk suggesting that it would be the most fun you'd have in a theater this year. If it had come out last year, I know it would have been the most fun I'd had in theater in 2011.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Racial Disharmony

Over at WotC’s “DnD Next” page, Monte Cook has written a second article kinda circling around how to handle PC races. Basically, Mr. Cook is wrangling with the question of how much mechanical impact your choice of race should have. Since I can’t seem to figure out how to post over there, and since I don’t have time to write something brief and pithy, blog post!

If you’re going to separate race and class (and we know they are for 5e) and class is going to dictate the lion’s share of your character’s abilities, what does that leave for race? Traditionally, race has offered a few small tweaks to your character sheet: a few bonuses or penalties to stats (which vanished in importance fairly quickly in every iteration of the game) and a handful of special abilities and bonuses (which also often got swamped out by escalating bonuses and abilities as the characters approached mid-level). In 1e, the big bonus you got from choosing a non-human was the opportunity to multi-class, and it was fairly similar across the races.

If you’re going to bother having character race be a choice, what do you want to accomplish with it? Or, rather, as is the case for 5e’s design team, if you’re stuck with including elves, dwarves, halflings, etc. in your game, what opportunities do they give you?

What pops foremost in my mind is the chance to create a new experience while playing a familiar class. The basic mechanics of the class might still be the same (still rolling a d20 to hit with your weapon or still picking spells in advance via a Vancian system), but the race should offer a wrinkle that fundamentally changes how you play that class. That means more than a simple +1 when using certain weapons or the like.

What you’d look for are frequently used but seldom modified sub-systems that can be adjusted by your choice of race. One of my favorites is inventory management. The dwarf’s extra carrying capacity in LotFP’s encumbrance rules or my own pixie’s equipment costing half as much as normal are examples of this sort of thing. A race that received extra benefit from clerical spells would play very differently than norm for just about every class, as would one who was highly resistant (or even nearly immune, even to beneficial clerical magic). A race that reacted very differently to dropping to nearly, or below, zero hit points might also offer some interesting differences (assuming the PCs in your game did that frequently enough). So might a race that couldn’t wear armor but offered alternative options for adjusting AC.

That’s just off the top of my head. I’m sure there are enough interesting sub-systems in 5e that they could come up with a fun and interesting tweak for every race that would alter how you play nearly every class enough to make playing a fighter of one race very different from playing a fighter of another. Keeping it all balanced would be a headache, but as I’m a “combat as war” kinda guy, I’ll admit to not being terribly interested in that aspect of it.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Playing with Doom & Tea Parties

This post is an attempt to round up all the house-rules and background details I use in my Doom & Tea Parties Labyrinth Lord hack game.  It's been running for just over 2 years now and I'm quite happy with it.

This is primarily intended as a resource for my players.  I also have little random tables and the like I use on my side of the GM screen.  Many of these have been posted on this blog, and I'll probably pull them together in a post like this sometime soon.  Maybe.

It'll also serve as a one-stop spot for new players entering the campaign.  We play online, via MapTool, so it's common to have players I've never met face-to-face before.

Introduction to the Campaign

Character Creation - I ended up using the equipment lists from 2e's Al-Qadim.  Say what you will about 2e, but it had the best equipment lists.  Plus a few additional goodies.









For clerics: The Gods

For magic-users (usually called sorcerers IC): Residual and Secondary Powers From Prepared Spells

Weapons, Initiative, and Damage

Shields Shall be Splintered!

The Table of Death & Dismemberment - I do not use the Constitution bonus when rolling on this table.

Example Combat

THINGS TO BUY (not found in 2e's Al-Qadim Supplement)

Drugs & Herbs





The Multiverse

The Eldest & Titans


Noble Titles Among the Efreet & Genie Corsairs