21 December 2012

Its the Guns, Stupid

"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun"National Rifle Association (NRA) Chief Executive Wayne LaPierre

Umm, no. That doesn't work. This happened while LaPierre was speaking today.


"We ask why there is violence in our schools but we have systematically removed God from our schools"Mike Huckabee

That's not true either. From the same Pennsylvania shooting linked to above:

During a news briefing at the Geeseytown Fire Hall, officials confirmed the woman was shot and killed at a church. The Associated Press reported that the woman was fatally shot while decorating for a children's Christmas party at the Juniata Valley Gospel Church.

I suppose God was systematically removed from that church as well?

No. The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is to get rid of all guns in the first place. Hunting? Eh, maybe. Second Amendment? Its outdated at best.

20 December 2012

Post-Racial Children

Race is a major issue in the US, as it is in many places across the globe. We've just gone through an election cycle that was filled with racial undertones. Social conservatives here are apoplectic about the growing demographic shift away from WASPs to folks of many creeds and hues. My children have been exposed to hateful racial epithets both in my presence and away from me.

Still, with all this, it was interesting to see how my kids have a different view of "black" and "white" people. Being of mixed race and rather young themselves, they struggle with the concepts of caucasian vs asian vs black vs all the other colors of the rainbow. Last night was a great example.

Last night we watched Psy perform the famous Gangnam Style song taped from November's American Music Awards show. My daughters were excited to show me some "famous white man" who was in the performance.

Before the performance a gentlemen (sorry, I'm horrible with celebrity names because I basically don't give a damn about celebrities) was introducing Psy. He was African American and dressed in black attire. Leia said something like, "He's the black man. That's not the white man. That man is the black man. Wait for the white man to show up."

I respond, "OK. You're right. That's a black man. I'll wait."

When the song starts Leia chimes in again, "He's Psy. That's not the white man. That's Psy. Wait and the white man will come out."

So I dutifully wait. Meanwhile my wife is laughing at the exchange and explains to me that MC Hammer performs alongside Psy on stage. Sure enough, here comes MC Hammer to dance alongside Psy.

Leia jumps up and down all excited. "See! I told you! There's the white man dancing, too."

Now, for those of you familiar with MC Hammer you'll know that he, too, is African American. In fact, MC Hammer is noticeably darker than Psy or anyone else immediately apparent on stage at that time. MC Hammer is, however, dressed in a starched white suit with his famous baggy trousers. Leia seemed oblivious to the fact that the "white man" and the "black man" both are called "black" men in our culture. Instead, it was the color of the suit that signified the "white man".

I gave it a chuckle, happy that racism has not yet intruded its ugliness upon her life.

18 December 2012

Repeal the Second Amendment

Frankly, the second amendment is wrong and should be repealed. Guns ownership should be entirely restricted and on an as-needed basis only. And I can think of very few reasons why anyone would need a gun under such a law.

The second amendment is at best an anachronism. Armed militias are generally useless unless there is outright civil war. If the shit really does hit the fan and we have another civil war (gods forbid!) then guns aplenty would roll across our borders. There's no need to arm the populace now.

For those who think gun ownership makes you safer or able to defend yourself -- you're wrong. Plain and simple. Look at the numbers.

21 September 2012

Not Quite What You Want to Hear

We're in Japan right now. In Japan the bath is sorta a family event, with kids often soaking in the deep tub along with a parent.

Today while bathing, Leia asked a question I never really wanted to hear:

Daddy, why do you have such a big bottom?

14 September 2012

A Little Insult

The reaction in the Muslim world against an amateur video insulting their prophet really makes me want to insult their prophet. What a bunch of jerks.

Why are fundamental religious people so violent and brainless? My guess is it has to do with blindly following authority. I'm sure the hopelessness of poverty doesn't help, nor the lack of education; but, there are plenty of educated, middle class and wealthy fundamentalist Christians here in the US who brainlessly want to carpet bomb the Middle East. So there is definitely more to it than simply poverty and no education.

Rather than insulting Islam, I'll insult all religions. Faith leads to unquestioning acceptance of religious authority. Unquestioning acceptance of authority leads to immorality and violence. Therefore...

02 July 2012

Miserably Hot

113F here today. A little bit warm.

28 June 2012

Receding Jetlag

I'm back in Asia this week and next. Arriving last Sunday night, this Friday morning the jet lag finally seems to be receding. I leave for home next Friday, where there will be another grueling week of jet lag to deal with.

I must say, the greater New Dehli area does seem to be the armpit of India. Yesterday I went down to the Bangalore campus for a day trip. Sweat was literally dripping off me at 5am in Noida (New Dehli area) waiting for the cab to pick me up. Visibility was meager and the sky a grayish brown from the smog and ubiquitous dust. The instant I stepped off the plane in Bangalore I was greeted with pillowy clouds in a blue sky and a cool westerly wind. It was very refreshing.

It just so happened that the monsoon season reached Bangalore yesterday as well. Although the rain was light, it had the hallmarks of a tropical storm nonetheless. While awaiting the cab back to the airport at the end of the day, one side of the office building was raining while the other was sunny and warm. I literally stood on the side of the building with my left side getting wet and my right side staying dry. It reminded me much of the late summer storms growing up in Florida.

(I didn't take the below snap; but, it is a very typical scene on the roads of Bangalore.)

17 June 2012

California Girl

Every day I try to write a little bit with girls, often by asking them what word they want to learn how to spell.

Leia is a California girl through-and-through, having developed a sophisticated palate based on the ubiquitous fusion cuisine. When asked what word she wanted to learn today, her response was "escargot".

I feel sorry for her dates in years to come.

Updated: Here's the entire menu she made, and then subsequently started playing restaurant with Alisa.

It's been a good Father's Day.

06 June 2012

Bad Train Karma

Four times in the last two days I've come to the train station within 15 seconds too late to make the train. What did I do to deserve such bad karma?

01 June 2012

Jonesing for a Game

I'm jonesing for a roleplaying session. Work has been absolutely insane in the last four months and there's no let up in sight. This is, however, somewhat of a culmination of what I've been trying to accomplish with the software development processes at work for years now. So my motivation remains high.

Here's a picture of one of the many faces of Kato. Photograph by lithium picnic at DeviantArt.com.

27 May 2012

I'm Digging this Fatherhood Gig

Life has been fine here. Two nights off from work and plenty of sleep for all four of us. The girls just keep maturing rapidly. Latest hits:

  • They're with me in the kitchen to cook pretty regularly now. Poor Leia started crying when Alisa beat her to setting the table.
  • Hirono and I saw UK in the city last week. It was the first time the girls went to sleep without at least one of us to put them to bed. They fared well and we got to see the whole concert uninterrupted. The next morning I showed the girls a video of the band in concert. Ever since, Alisa has been asking regularly about playing violin again.
  • Leia seems more interested in piano lessons, though her ear is not so strong. Girl got rhythm.
  • They like playing "concerts" with us, where we play whatever instrument is at hand and switch around quite often. There's plenty of dancing and singing as well. We're all looking forward to another concert after Alisa wakes from her late nap today.
  • We're struggling to find a good violin teacher. Alisa nearly cried yesterday when the violin teacher didn't show up (a fatal strike for that teacher, for sure) to just talk about starting lessons. She's really eager to get going. Luckily, Hirono's friend is a violinist in the SF symphony and is helping to find someone in in the South Bay.
  • All three girls have realized that if they speak together in Japanese they can leave me as a clueless bystander. I think they're plotting something.
  • Their Saturday morning にほんごひろば, aka Japanese Romper Room, classes are ending. The teacher's children have just grown too old for them and she's moving on to dance instructions. Both girls have indicated interest in dance again, though I'm suspicious that they may just think they'll miss the teacher.
  • Leia beat the pants off me in hopscotch today.
  • They're both into stories; but, particularly Alisa. She's intent on getting all the way through The Last Unicorn, Peter Beagle's masterpiece set to graphic novel. She also has asked for The Hobbit a couple more times; but, tires of the lengthy prose after three or four pages. She makes up her own stories, short affairs lasting about 2 minutes to tell, many times a day.

First Words Typing

As a 21st century parent, I find myself as proud of my daughter's first words typed as their first written words. Yesterday, Alisa picked up an electronic gadget and started typing words. Her first typed word was おさしみ, in English that's "sashimi" or slices of raw fish prepared for eating without rice. Its one of her favorite meals.

Then Leia picked up the gadget and the two of them together worked out the words おしりたんてい, farting buttocks. 

Stormdragon Draft

Dr Bargle asked for the Stormdragon rules. Here's a draft:


Note that the reader is assumed to know the Pendragon combat and passion rules already.

05 May 2012

Playtesting Stormdragon

So our gaming table finally met again. This time we went through a second iteration of the "Stormdragon" ruleset. Stormdragon is our home-brewed gaming ruleset that mixes Strombringer 1e magic and setting with Pendragon combat rules and Runequest skill rules. It worked fairly well. Here are some thoughts:

  • Referee Swapping - One player and I switched back and forth in the referee role, with me dominating about 90% of the time. It worked fairly well and I felt we  allowed each other plenty of free scope for improvisation. We each had our character as well, which made it easy to ebb and flow the role of narrator. No need to change anything here.
  • Player vs Player - The first half of the session focused on the new player characters to the campaign world. They got involved in a subplot, which eventually brought them in contact with the elder player characters. When they finally met, they were on opposite sides of the battlefield. It was a grand battle, ending in the new player character's fleeing the battle and later joining forces with the victorious elder player characters. I had a PC in the mix as well and he escaped with his life. Another one of these player vs player battle royales needs to be orchestrated some time.
  • Character Generation - It was a little slow still. We went with character builds instead of random rolls. I prefer random rolls as it really puts players in unexpected places and makes them think on their feet. One of the new characters was a priest of the second circle, meaning he could summon elementals and demons. Magic using characters take a long time to finish; but, I think its worth it in the end given how rich the magic system can be. The number of skills was too high and slowed down the process too much.
  • Skills - I think there's too many skills. I'll probably shrink the number of skills significantly. Perception skills and poison lore gotta go. Maybe up-level some skill descriptions to be more broad in scope and reduce the overall number.
  • Experience - If we reduce the number of skills and broaden each skill in scope, then I think experience is working out just fine.
  • Passions - Nobody used passions!!! That sucks, people! Get 'em out there.
  • Combat - Seemed to work pretty well. Everybody is playing a different character than they have in a long while, with the whole party being swordsmen knights in our previous Pendragon campaign. The stumbling we experienced during combat was probably more about learning curve in the new roles and lower power levels than we're used to.
  • Magic Use - So casting magic slowed down the game significantly. At this point I attribute it to lack of familiarity with the rules and will forge ahead. I like the creativity of this magic system very much.

The story also worked pretty well. It got off to a slow start; but, I expect it to pick up once we gain familiarity with the magic rules. Demons are important personalities in the milieu of this world and our stumbling with the rules definitely hurts the storyline. Also, the party wasn't really together until the last 1/3rd of the session - so there were some slow intervals for one character or another.

02 May 2012

Not Interested

I've been loosely following the D&D 5th edition discussions. I want to give Wizards of the Coast the benefit of the doubt; but, this post just makes me totally uninterested in D&D 5.


Too. Many. Rules.

Tonight's Game Setup

The Lance of Thunder, Chief Astrologer of Duke Vezhan in distant Esmir, charged the clergy with a quest. "Seek the Holy White Lotus, which tumbles where water and earth meet." While searching the Dragon Sea you call port at the Dreaming City of Melnibone. There an adventuring sorceress told rumors of a great waterfall of lotus flowers in rocky peaks hedging the Mist Marsh. Her ship's navigator frequently spoke to her of it in awed whispers. Alas, the poor soul was lost at sea in her last voyage; but, she knows his home village. It is, she fears, beset with pirates.

You find yourself on a ship at sea [column 26.row 40] a half-day's sail from the navigator's birthplace. Good money and days spent pouring through Melnibone's libraries uncovered a map of the Serpent's Teeth.


13 April 2012

Raining Cats and Dogs

Its raining crazy hard outside, at least for California. Last night we had a record-breaking storm in terms of lightning strikes and rainfall.

I'm always amused by what counts as hard rain here in the SF Bay Area. Growing up in Florida, I know a little bit about heavy thunderstorms. This ain't it.

06 April 2012

Hark! What yonder light...

The girls are showing a lot of interest in academics at their new school.

They go to Japanese immersion school. It switches between Japanese and English by subject. The girls have shown tremendous progress since they started the new school a few months ago. They recognize characters in both languages and Alisa is starting to put letters together into words. Their ability to speak in Japanese fluently has skyrocketed.

I'm proud of my little buggers. There's another bragging father story below.

We have a big gallery as our front room, whose ceiling lofts up more than 20 feet. Its splayed with vinyl covers of albums that have been dear to me or Hirono. Arranged beneath the colorful emblems of King Crimson, Accept, Judas Priest, and Emerson, Lake and Palmer are a handful of string and percussion instruments. There also sits the recorder collection and, center piece, keyboard surrounded by amps and cabinets.

Cut into the heights of the gallery is a staircase leading up to a lopsided landing with railing overlooking the instruments. On the landing sit the two girls, legs dangling over the edge. Their pink and orange pajamas were highlighted by a sharp spotlight that shined directly in my eyes below.

So I quoted Shakespeare to them, Romeo and Juliet. Hark! What yonder light... After a few sentences Alisa was hooked. Now she wants me to read the story to her. I told her it would take a week of nights and there are no pictures; but, she is undaunted.

I'll be floored if she sits through the story. You never know.

25 March 2012

Sayonara Shannon-chan

Today we went to a memorial service for a friend of the girls. She was four years old and such a sweet little one. So tragic to lose a young life.

22 March 2012

Play Test Report

So last night we tried adopting the Magic Realm rules to tabletop, face-to-face RPGs with mixed success.

The good:

  • The free form story setup for a one-shot play test ended up engaging the players' creativity more than usual. Folks generally liked the improvisational, low preparation approach as it left the story arc more open to player input. I've always been a fan of the "Yes, and..." approach to RPG stories and encouraged players to contribute more to the story direction; but, it was so painfully obvious that I had no story line prepared that the players had to step up to the plate and create their own. This is the way it will be going forward for all our sessions in the near future. Although its not a direct outcome of the game system, its something that I really welcome.
  • The fatigue and wound system in the Magic Realm board game translated really well to tabletop RPG. Its simple, elegant and gives a good cadence to the players abilities. Character fatigue set in at just about the right time based on what was happening in the story. It just felt right. We didn't go through the rest/healing rules as it was just a one-shot play test. If I could only find some way to use a fatigue system like this that didn't have the drawbacks noted below I'd be very happy.
  • Encumbrance also worked really well. It resulted in more fatigue and less quickness in characters, as expected.
  • Dying Earth is a wonderful game setting. Although none of the players had red the stories, it resonated well with the player's sensibilities. The burning red was palpably hanging overhead.
  • Seventh Sanctum f'ing rocks! The elves and dwarfs came from the Seventh Sanctum random generator. They were unique, unpredictable and flavorful without loosing the normal fantasy tropes. Its also virtually zero prep time for the referee.
  • I ended up creating colorfully named maneuver cards to replace the board game's chits. For example, the Swordsman's Fight M5 chit became an "Overhead Swing" card with a picture of a scrawny kid flailing a sword over his head. This added some interesting twists to the combat descriptions. The best one was when the Berzerker knocked in the door by flexing his pecs in a Manly Pose maneuver card.

The bad:

  • Armor sucks. It just doesn't translate well as written in the board game rules. We couldn't find a good way to tweak it easily either. Either the lighter characters like the Swordsman became useless or the heavier characters like the White Knight choose not to wear armor. This needs serious attention if we're ever to play this system again.
  • The maneuver speeds are overly complex. Trying to keep track of two numbers for each combatant for each round was just overwhelming for me as referee. Big show stopper.
  • The maneuvers started to feel repetitive after a while. I think that's because there's not much in the way of contextual advantages written into the rules. This can be pretty easily addressed by adjusting attack strength or speed for advantageous or disadvantageous circumstances.
  • Nobody died. Its always a bummer when the characters make it through the session relatively unscathed.

After the session we chatted about our next games. Most of the group wanted to pick up Pendragon where we left off last October; but, we'll need someone else to referee if that's the case. The Pendragon story has come to closure for me when young Arthur pulled the sword from the stone. My heart isn't into continuing the story right now. Pendragon is nothing without a heartfelt and powerful storyline. So I have to pass on that offer.

D&D4 was another option bandied about; but, again, I'm not going to referee it. The rule system is just too heavy. I cannot see myself devoting a month to learning the rules when I'm really not interested in that style of game.

We ended up deciding to do another play test, this time of the Sorcerer rules by Ron Edwards. I'm thinking a one-shot horror scenario, perhaps set in 20th century New England or maybe 17th century France.

Assuming the Sorcerer play test dies after a session or two, we'll then go back to the Young Kingdoms setting of Elric. This time I plan to use the Pendragon combat and skill system; but, adapt the Stormbringer 1e magic system to it. That sounds like a match made in Hades! I'm really looking forward to it.

18 March 2012

You Meet at an Inn - Vancian Style

This Wednesday I'm playing a test play of a home-brewed RPG inspired heavily by Avalon Hill's board game, Magic Realm. The set up for the adventure is the classic: "you all meet at a tavern". The world, however, is Vance's beloved Dying Earth. Here's the write up sent to the players:

Fiarazio's Walled Garden

The husky red sun loomed over a world grown old. Mankind had lived since long before the gentle hills of Agravaine were jagged peaks newly sprung from the ground. So many eons passed that man forgot his birth and conquering of the globe. Civilizations were swallowed by the slow grind of Earth's rocky core. Great empires perished and new ones born afresh in countless repetition. Over millennia the weft of mankind warped - his mind burnt with knowledge and his soul steeped in quavering ether - 'til now, when humanity is a half-dozen different beings of various shape and perspective.

Beings of a darker sort inhabited Agravaine's wastes. In the hills stretched between the decaying city of Majaethit and Kirmo's Sparkling Eminence came presences from otherwhere, who trapped the unwary and carved their bones into twirling fetishes. Along the route to Majaethit were caravansarai, strongholds built to protect sojourners. Blessed by the Priests of Radiant Devolution, wells of the caravansarai caused an odious aroma about persons who drank from them. These noxious vapors repelled the presences, who claimed it spoiled their bone fetishes.

And so it was you found yourselves at the caravansarai of Jaredd, along the headwaters of River Somn. Here people sowed the ground with a dark purple rye. Its curiously strong drink, Hassad, proved fortifying. Over time a brisk Hassad trade developed among the merchants along the Majaethit road and Jeredd became a trading post in its own right. It is here, at Amereth's tavern, that a Prudhite in red turban and gold filigree asked you to join him for a frothy mug, for he wishes to ask a boon of you.

12 February 2012

Sharing Dreams

Leia came to me this morning to tell me a dream. Her dream, it seems, was very vivid and memorable. In my words (Leia's were half in Japanese and half in English):

A baby raccoon came to our bedroom at night and flew out the window hand-in-hand with Leia. They met the mama and papa raccoon, who only understood English (not Japanese) but couldn't talk at all since they were just raccoons. They all flew together to school and had chocolate birthday cake.

I thought it was a rather cool dream and maybe will embellish it a little bit in the next make-believe play session with the girls.

03 February 2012

Could It Be More Plain

"Religious groups that oppose the regulation say it forces people of faith to choose between upholding church doctrine and serving the broader society."

Ah, religious people make the truth plain for all to see. It must be divine inspiration revealing the Truth. Abandon your faith and you're free to be a better citizen.

Magic in Stormbringer 1e

Magic in Stormbringer 1e requires a significant investment in mental energy from both the player and referee to work. There are no spells in the normal sense, no set of predefined effects from a given in-game action. Instead, magic revolves around summoning elementals or demons and getting these creatures to do the sorcerer's bidding.

The best way to get a summoned demon to do one's bidding is to bind it. Binding is a dangerous proposition for any would-be sorcerer and it cannot be taken lightly in the game. This makes for a dramatic build up to the binding roll and a great deal of forethought by the player to summon exactly the right type of demon.

Almost by necessity, these factors bring about a more narrative approach to using magic than most games I've played. A good example from last weekend's Kato, a Demon of Knowledge summoned and bound by one player's character, Prefect Thule. Thule had a 95% chance of summoning such a demon. The summoning is a straightforward roll of d100, though I allow up to +/- 10 for circumstances and special preparation. So Thule had a very easy time summing the demon. Next, however, the player had to define who and what is this demon so it can be bound and put to use.

Thule's player decided he wanted a demon who heard and understood court gossip from a multitude of planes and kingdoms. So his character cast his gaze through the Hells until he found Kato, the demonic curator of Duke Arioch's morbid museum. Kato is refined and dignified; but, a terrible gossip. His vast intellect stretches across 47 prime planes and through 9 Hells. He hears all that any courtier whispers on each of these levels of existence. Through such keen hearing he is able to learn, or guess at, most anything that transpires in courts great and small. Kato takes the form of a thespian mask; but, as Chaos is his very nature, the details of the mask are constantly changing to reflect the focus of whatever he might be overhearing at the time. When asking Kato a question, Thule dons the mask and then, should Kato know the answer, hears a distant whispering answer to his question.

Mechanically, the character just summoned this demon of knowledge and determined its statistics. The sum of all the demon's statistics had to exactly equal the sum of all the summoner's statistics, with some restrictions thrown in around minimum levels of magical power. The demon is then bound to an object, in this case the thespian mask.

Demons of Knowledge have a good chance of knowing the correct answer to just about any question asked of it. After all is said and done, Kato had a straight 47% chance of knowing any answer. Its a simple as that. However, because of the color added to Kato by Thule's player, all of Kato's answers were couched as gossip and gleanings overheard at the various noble courts and posh bathhouses throughout the multiverse. It made each question and answer, while mechanically a very simple d100 throw, a colorful and imaginative narrative.

So I'm quite pleased with this Stormbringer magic system. It forces a creative narrative just to be able to effect magic, which pushes the game in a very different direction than if the system were more like the Vancian magic of Dungeons & Dragons or the point-and-level-based system of Rolemaster.

02 February 2012

A Beautiful Sentiment

Cartoon by Natalie Dee

It should be part of our intellectual, Enlightenment culture that every idea — atheist or religious — should be open to argument and criticism, with no exceptions. And if your culture demands obedience to dogma, violent reprisals to criticism, and murder of any opponent of your views, then I’m going to recognize the fundamental conflict between your views and the goals of a civilized, forward-thinking society, and dismiss your culture as an enemy of reason, and oppose you by committing our version of your hateful acts: by promoting the health, welfare, and education of your children, and mocking the stupidity of your beliefs.

PZ puts it more eloquently than I could, even if it is a run-on sentence.

29 January 2012

Playtest Report - Stormbringer 1e Combat System

So we finished our first playtest of Stormbringer 1e rules tonight. Although there's plenty to say about the session, and the story was great fun, my main take away about the rules are that the magic system is great but the combat system blows chunks.

Combat in Stormbringer is a d100 dice throw where a seasoned warrior has about 50% chance or so of hitting. Then the target gets to roll d100 to see if they parry the blow. Then, if its still a hit, the attacker throws damage (which can be a mix of a couple of different dice, depending on the circumstances.) Finally, if the defender has armor there is a dice throw to see how much soak the damage does. Thus, a single attack can take four different dice throws, one with an obtuse addition of heterogeneous dice.

This takes entirely too long to work through and slows down combat significantly. It also turned out that many times the combat would go a few rounds where nobody was hurt and then, blam, somebody gets a crit and a combatant is killed. It definitely produced some of the tension and feel of old-time Swords and Sorcery novels; but, it just creeped along at a snails pace at the table.

An example:
Pangaarl Krin, corsair of Pan Tang, wields Odo, a Fire Elemental bound in the form of a battle ax. Pangaarl and his band of ne'er-do-wells have trapped a clan of Kronks (think orcs that look a bit like orangutans) in a room at the top of a staircase. Pangaarl takes his flaming ax and sets into the door, hacking it to smoldering pieces. He then bursts through the doorway, ax swinging at two Kronks trying to stop the onrush. The Kronks bear puglunks, iron shod staves that allow two attacks per round.

Pangaarl closes; but, the Kronks are ready for him. They attack first, twice each, followed by Pangaarl's battle ax attack on them. In addition, Pangaarl calls for Odo to belch forth a burst of flame at a Kronk. This one round of attack ends up requiring 14 separate rolls - far too many for a smooth and speedy combat round.

  1. Kronk 1 rolls first attack (d100) and misses.
  2. Kronk 1 rolls second attack (d100 at -20) and hits.
  3. Pangaarl rolls first parry (d100) and succeeds, blocking Kronk 1's second attack.
  4. Kronk 2 rolls first attack (d100) and hits.
  5. Pangaarl rolls second parry (d100 at -20) and fails.
  6. Kronk 2 rolls damage (1d8).
  7. Pangaarl rolls armor soak (1d8-1) and ends up taking one point of damage
  8. Kronk 2 rolls second second attack (d100 at -20) and misses.
  9. Pangaarl rolls attack (d100) and hits Kronk 2.
  10. Kronk 2 rolls parry (d100) and fails.
  11. Pangaarl rolls damage (1d8 + 1d6 + 2).
  12. Kronk 2 rolls soak (1d6-1) and ends up taking 11 points of damage.
  13. 11 points in one hit is a major wound, so Kronk 2 rolls a major wound (d100) throw and we find his jaw is broken.
  14. Odo bursts into flames, catching Kronk 2's hair afire and rolls damage (2d10) for another 7 points of damage.

Fourteen dice rolls! Count 'em, fourteen. For one combat round with three contestants. It took a fair bit of time and description to get through that round. The rolls help make a tense series of steps and add color to the description; but, it took 14 rolls for Pangaarl to take 1 point of damage and deal 18 points of damage and a major wound to Kronk 2.

I tried doing things like rolling multiple dice at once; but, trying to keep 3d100 separated and straight when dealing with a Kronk's roll was just too much in the heat of a session.

The magic system rocked and clearly fit the ambiance of the Elric novels. I'll have to do a post on my impression of the magic system in a couple of days. Today, however, I can say that before the next time I play Stormbringer I'm going to give the combat system a complete overhaul.

28 January 2012

Lonely Tower of Throng Keel Player Map

1 hex = 1 km

3. Unnamed village at castle
4. Fan Ha Well
5. Ol' Crabbies
6. Wetlans Village
7. Nyor Ten Village
9. Sunken Ribs' Graveyard
10. The Castle of Tumbling Lotus

Yes, I know I skipped some numbers. On the referee's map the numbers go up past 10, too. Apart from the eponymous adventure site, I don't have anything pre-generated for each possible area of interest on the player's map. Just names.

The Castle of Tumbling Lotus is home base for the crew tonight. They decided to play a sorcerer and pirate captain duo from Pan Tang, dipping into the darker side of story telling.

Updated: Using the same map for starting up a campaign with the full crew in two weeks. Home base may or may not be the Castle of Tumbling Lotus at start when playing with the full crew.

27 January 2012

Rock the Bass

Tonight was probably the most fun I've ever had playing music.

My twin daughters are 3 years old and just starting to turn into little adults. Tonight they decided our make believe play was to be in the local cafe with open mic night. I played either bass or recorder and they sang and danced. After one night playing together, our repertoire includes:

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
Cinderella and Her Prince Waltz - this is an improvisational dance number with accompanying bass

Then we switched bands. Hirono took iPad and played blues keyboard while I played bass. We played "Happy Birthday To You" by the Beatles while the girls danced.

Fun times!

The Lonely Tower of Throng Keel

Here's the adventure description for Saturday night.

Among the craggy shores of The Serpent's Teeth hides the abandoned lair of a sorcerer from an elder race. The Melnibonean who dwelt there was rumored to study the secrets of Chaos Incarnate. He has not been seen nor heard from in nearly two decades. What has become of him and what treasures await in his inner sanctums?

As noted below, I lost my notebook and have to wing it on Saturday night. Characters are rolled and ready. Let's get this show on the road!

26 January 2012

Winging It

So today was another MacWorld presentation. This one was pretty tame. I guess we fixed the worst of the installer issues and folks are quiescent now. We've got a good cache of improvements coming out soon now, too.

Unfortunately, I left my shiny new bag in the taxi today. So my notes from the presentation, the questions the audience asked, are currently being hunted down. The notebook also contained my map and encounter tables for the upcoming campaign kickoff on Saturday night.

Looks like I'll have to wing Saturday night's game. This actually heightens my excitement. There's a few minor things I'll have to recreate, like the random encounter tables for the adventure site itself and the effects of the Chaos Vein; but, otherwise I'm good for just improv for the rest of the game.

25 January 2012

Elegant Chaos

Law versus Chaos. This is the nature of reality in the Young Kingdoms. Every idea, every deed, every nebulous entity in existence fights either on the side of Law or Chaos. There is nothing else. No Good or Evil. No Balance. Only the Eternal Struggle.

Magic is chaos, wild and untamed, the work of demons. Sorcerers bind demons to their will with horrific sacrifices and rare ointments so that they might control the very fabric of reality itself. Demons are creatures of Chaos, spawned from the Hells dominated by the roiling, seething stuff of Chaos.

Law is the root of civilization, the boon of humanity, the source of order and growth in Nature. All that the young race of humanity deems good.

Law and Chaos can never be reconciled.

This is the setup to the kickoff session in a new campaign. We're starting small, with just a couple folks from our normal group to see how the new game system goes.

18 January 2012

Gaming Porn

Here's some gaming porn for all you RPG junkees. Zak asks interesting questions.

1. If you had to pick a single invention in a game you were most proud of what would it be? Ah, my players haven't found it yet - though it lives on Sir Betlowe's estate. A lake-filled cave at Betlowe quarry, the only source of building stone for the county, has caused the death of two peasants in the past five years. One was found floating in the lake, the flesh ground from the front of his body in a most gruesome way. The other had a large, smoking hole in her chest as if she'd been pierced with a giant's spear.

2. When was the last time you GMed? End of Sept, 2011. It was a good solid campaign of two years and about 40 sessions. I'm taking a break.

3. When was the last time you played? A couple weeks ago in the Hill Cantons.

4. Give us a one-sentence pitch for an adventure you haven't run but would like to. I'm back in the saddle again starting Jan 28 for a Saturday night session. Here's the homebrew we're playing:

Amongst the craggy shores of the Serpent's Teeth hides the abandoned lair of a sorcerer from an elder race.

5. What do you do while you wait for players to do things? Try to remember what the heck I was just talking about.

6. What, if anything, do you eat while you play? Salads or nuts. That just sounds weird now that I write it down; but, its true.

7. Do you find GMing physically exhausting? Absolutely.

8. What was the last interesting (to you, anyway) thing you remember a PC you were running doing? Deciding to jump through a glowing gate following a lone fighter in our group, figuring he'd need my help. I was playing a peasant farmer, so the only real help I could provide was holding the torch for him or clandestinely removing silver daggers from the crazy loot.

9. Do your players take your serious setting and make it unserious? Vice versa? Neither? No. Our setting is light hearted; but, keeps a serious undertone to it all.

10. What do you do with goblins? They sell fruit.

11. What was the last non-RPG thing you saw that you converted into game material (background, setting, trap, etc.)? Office politics.

12. What's the funniest table moment you can remember right now? The dice indicating that, in the heat of battle against the Earl of Bayeux, the player character literally lost his mind and fled mad from the field. His own earl was at his side. To make matters worse, the same player character also went mad at the last major battle literally when he faced the enemy Saxon king. That poor character was a psychic wreck, which the player admirably portrayed.

13. What was the last game book you looked at--aside from things you referenced in a game--why were you looking at it? I just bought it.

14. Who's your idea of the perfect RPG illustrator? I like the no-name amateur stuff at Deviant Art. The vast majority just doesn't fit; but, there are some real gems. I use a lot of abstract art and more evocative work rather than illustrative. This wiki chronicles a number of pieces that inspired our last campaign - or at least the first third of it until I just didn't have the energy to keep the journal going.

15. Does your game ever make your players genuinely afraid? It has a few times. I've not done any horror sessions in the last 6 or 7 years, so its been a while - at least as far as I know. They've been freaked out lately, though.

16. What was the best time you ever had running an adventure you didn't write? (If ever) Any time I run B2: Keep on the Borderlands. Probably my favorite was with my nephews. I played it too adult, I think; but, you could tell they were startled and into the adventure story. Next time I'd lighten the rules. On a side topic, I've look at the kiddie RPGs and the boys are too mature for those.

17. What would be the ideal physical set up to run a game in? Lots of light. Big table. Giant white board and plenty of markers. Space to pace - I usually don't sit down when I referee.

18. If you had to think of the two most disparate games or game products that you like what would they be? I'm pretty two-dimensional when it comes to gaming. Hex and counter wargames on one hand, RPGs on the other. Variants on the wargames with little plastic pieces work well, too. So I'd have to go with Risk and Stormbringer.

19. If you had to think of the most disparate influences overall on your game, what would they be? Jack Vance. The designers at Avalon Hill.

20. As a GM, what kind of player do you want at your table? Ones who like to throw out their own ideas and go with the hooks.

21. What's a real life experience you've translated into game terms? Office politics. Lots of it.

22. Is there an RPG product that you wish existed but doesn't? Yeah, one I want to write. That's for another post someday.

23. Is there anyone you know who you talk about RPGs with who doesn't play? How do those conversations go? Not really. My wife a little bit. They're usually one sided and brief. The are also friends and family who read the title of my gaming posts and presumably stop reading.

15 January 2012

The Serpent's Teeth

Here's the player's map for our upcoming foray into Swords and Sorcery pulp fantasy. Its pretty unadorned (though the referee's map has lots more to it.) Unfortunately, the text of some areas is hard to read in this image; but, the bulk of the early adventuring occurs in hexes 21.44 and 22.44 - at the Castle of Tumbling Lotus and Throng's Keel respectively.

13 January 2012

Swords and Dark Sorcery Encounter Tables

So I'm getting ready for a new, short RPG campaign. Its probably only going to be 2-3 sessions, though if it turns out we want to keep going we might go for a dozen or more longer. Its a grim world of Chaos eternally struggling against Low, ala Michael Moorcock.

Anyway, I'm going for a high fantasy sandbox style of play. The setting is at the cusp of a craggy seashore, great desert and fetid swamp. Below are the random encounter tables I'm using, or at least the fetid swamp part of the random encounter tables. I used the methodology described over at the Welsh Piper as a framework. Tables exist for the rocky crags, water seas and desert as well.

Mist Marsh Encounter Tables (1d20)
1 on 1d4 per day or 5 km travel
1-4 Dinosaur
5-8 Pest
9-11 Humanoid
12-13 Undead
14-15 Chaos Creature
16-18 Hazard
19-20 Hazard + Reroll

Dinosaur Subtable (1d20)
1-2 Allosaurus (1d4)
3 Aukylosaurus
4-6 Giant Snail
7 Brontosaurus (1d8)
8-9 Giant Crab (1d3)
10-11 Diatrym (1d12)
12-13 Monoclonius (2d10)
14 Plesiosaur (2d4)
15-16 Pteronadon (1d2)
17 Stegosaurus
18 Triceratops
19 Tyrannosaurus Rex
20 Velociraptor

1 Howler Monkey (1d20)
2 Panther
3 Water Buffalo (2d4)
4 Crocodile (1d8)
5 Deer (2d4)
6 Dog, Feral (2d4)
7 Spider, poisonous
8 Insects, swarm of biting bugs
9 Spider, giant
10 Frog, giant (1d4)
11 Barracuda, school
12 Giant Pike (1d2)
13 Boar, wild
14 Snake, poisonous
15 Snake, giant
16 Catfish, giant (1d3)
17 Rat, swarm
18 Beetle, giant (1d2)
19 Praying Mantis, giant
20 Intelligent Mold

Chaos Creature (1d20)
1 Basalisk
2 Blob
3 Dryad
4 Elemental (dice for element)
5 Gargoyle (1d4)
6 Golem
7 Medusa
8 Griffon
9 Hippogriff
10 Demon (dice for type and power)
11 Manticore
12 Tree, carnivorous
13 Unicorn
14 Kronk (1d30)
15 Warg
16 Wyvern
17 Harpy
18 Minotaur
19 Naga
20 Will O'Wisp

Humanoid (1d8)
1 Giant (dice for element) (1d3)
2 Kronk (1d30)
3 Ogre
4 Troll (1d3)
5 Human (1d12)
6 Myrrhyn (1d12)
7 Lizardman (1d12)
8 Adventurers (1d6)

Undead (1d8)
1 Ghost
2-4 Zombie
5-6 Skeleton
7-8 Ghoul

Hazard (1d10)
1 River
2 Quicksand
3 Flaming Gas
4 Lake
5 Impenetrable Undergrowth
6 Ruin
7 Cliff, dropoff
8 Sink Hole
9 Thicker Fog
10 Cave/Tunnel

05 January 2012

New Year Meme

Tagged by Toast.

1. What did you do in 2011 that you’d never done before?

Played a G+ Hangout RPG. It was a great experience and I’ll run a few in the coming month. RPGers around the world, you’re welcome to join (Toast, this means you!)

2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Get back on NHE, and I kept it.

2012 is get back to the gym. I will keep it.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Yes, our nanny. Also, one of my best local friends had their first child Monday, which is technically 2012.

4. Did anyone close to you die?


5. What places did you visit?

India, Holland, Japan, Germany. Layover in London, if that counts.

6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?

High fantasy. I’ve been playing Pendragon, a low fantasy setting, pretty exclusively for about 20 months. Its time for some high fantasy. It will be through Google+ Hangouts as well, so can include a wide variety of time zone people (generally East Coast US to Hawaii, down to South America.)

7. What dates from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

Sept 28, when Squire Arthur pulled Excalibur from the stone outside St. Paul’s Cathedral. Baron Hitchen (Chris’ player character) was the first nobleman on the scene and the first knight to bow to Arthur. It was a daunting moment for game mastering an RPG; but, my players were suitably impressed so I think it went pretty well.

8. What was your biggest achievement(s) of the year?

Pulling off the sword from the stone scene. See above.

9. What was your biggest failure?

A strange malaise at work.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Minor colds.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Windows laptop. I’ve branched out into all kinds of side projects, learned four new computer languages and dabbled in online databases. Its led me to an interesting new mission in my spare time.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

The Occupy Wall Street movement.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

The GOP debate audiences.

14. Where did most of your money go?

Mortgage. Day care.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

My daughters getting out of diapers. Both of them. And there’re very few accidents now.

16. What song will always remind you of 2011?

“Ballerina Girl”, by Lionel Ritchie. Its totally a Daddy thing.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

a) Happier or sadder?
b) thinner or fatter?
About the same.
c) richer or poorer?
Poorer. Its the long slide, man.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Sleeping. Scratch that, playing music. I started up on the bass again last week and the girls now play in front of my while I practice, sometimes picking up a guitar or recorder or sitting down at the piano.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Wasted daydreams.

20. How did you spend Christmas this year?

Embroiled in a chaotic maelstrom of paper, ribbons, cards and children.

21. Did you fall in love in 2011?

Every time I read a nighttime story.

22. How was work?


What was your favorite TV program?

What’s TV?

24. What did you do for your birthday in 2011?

Dinner at a new restaurant in town, Nachtmarkt. Its Austrian cuisine and the chef is a task master. The food was impeccable.

. What was the best book you read?

The 1981 edition rules for Stormbringer.

I fell in love with its magic and character generation systems. It is definitely my next game system.

There is virtually no player choice in the character you’re allotted. Everything is determined by the dice. It can be a challenge when you get a loser. And the odds are better that you play an uneducated farmer than that you play a magic wielding character of any form. Still, every character seems to end up with an interesting personality and role in the story.

The magic system is all through intermediaries. Those who can cast magic do so by summoning and binding demons or elementals. This leaves for a very interesting dynamic for the sorcerer and a whole host of interesting plots. There’s also a tremendous amount of power inequality possible, with the same party containing weak Red Shirts and super powered mages. It takes a sophisticated group to play it; but, its fun as all get out.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Pandora. Its been a sad year musically.

27. What did you want and get?


28. What did you want and not get?


29. W
hat was your favorite film of this year?

What’s a film?

30. Did you make some new friends this year?

Yes, though all online.

31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

The demise of the Fox News empire.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011?

Top of the pile.

33. What kept you sane?

Long walks.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?

The Arab Spring.

35. What political issue stirred you the least?

Most anything domestic.

36. Best sports moment?

Forward flip off the double stroller into a fake snow bank on the street corner.

37. Who was the best new person you met?

ChrisK, of Hill Cantons. He’s the dude who got me into G+ RPG games.

38. Burn any bridges?

I hope not. I’ve been pretty rough edged at work lately.

39. Best new restaurant you went to?


40. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011.

Unchain the colors before my eyes,
Yesterday's sorrows, tomorrow's white lies.
Scan the horizon, the clouds take me higher,
I shall return from out of the fire.
- from “Strange World” by Steve Harris, Paul Di’anno