Sunday, December 23, 2012

Peanut Avengers #5

I finally feel like I've nailed drawing the Wasp in the Peanuts style.  But her legs kept changing length on me!  Oh well...

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Peanut Avengers #4

I completely messed up on the Wasp in that last panel, inking in a belt and short boots on her when she doesn't wear either in panel 2! *sigh* This is why I let Mike Bridges do most of my art chores these days!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Peanut Avengers #3

For those who only know the Avengers from the movie -- that's Iron Man and Ant-Man.  I somehow didn't notice that my panels were crooked until it was already inked.  And Iron Man should be about to fall over backwards in the last panel.  But other than those quibbles, I liked how this turned out and enjoyed drawing Ant-Man.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Peanut Avengers #2

The last panel and Hulk's incongruous body language now bothers me, but I like how the rest of this turned out.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Peanut Avengers #1

I made a few of these as Christmas gifts to my coworkers this year.  Here is the first one.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Rpol H&H Campaign - pt. 29

Continued from here.

Tommy opened the door and saw two guards standing by a table with beer cans stacked on it. They were arguing with each other until he opened the door and then they stopped and turned to stare at him.

Tommy quickly ducked back inside.  "Oh crap!  They saw me...!"  He pulled back into the shadows of the room, hoping the guards didn't notice.  He'd have to be quieter, he thought.


"I surrender,” Agent Malefor said.  “Give us the prisoners back. We are leaving here."

Lt. Raupp ignored the confusing submissive-demanding dichotomy of Malefor’s frantic words and kept moving. 

The Mountain Man moved to follow the man. Anyone watching him, however, noticed that his golden gorget was beginning to glow, softly at first but gradually bright enough to be unmistakable. The Mountain Man's stony body was beginning to glow with a similar, more muted golden light. Just as he got as close to the woman with the sub-machinegun, the Mountain Man sprang to attack.  "Sorry, $500 isn't going to be enough when I've got all this gold!" he shouted.

Silver Scorpion, who had been watching Lt. Raupp carefully, joined the Mountain Man in the fray at almost the same instant he made his move, leaping forward to the attack!

Agent Malefor ran like the wind. He knew he could not go up against them. But before leaving the temple, he would try to search for the prisoners.  Not sticking around to see what happened next, he bolted past the guards into the hallway and barreled through the open door.

The pretty woman with the pretty deadly looking weapon smiled as she side-stepped the Mountain Man and Silver Scorpion’s initial lunges.  "I was hoping you'd decline the offer," she said.  Instead of firing in the close quarters, though, she tried to use the rifle butt to smack the Mountain Man around.  She was fast -- fast enough that both of the remaining heroes were forced to stay on the defensive, backing up and blocking her quick swings and thrusts almost to the point of stumbling over the Daoist's body behind them.  Silver Scorpion saw an opening and took it, slashing a tear through the lieutenant's white shirt and leaving a red wound.  The Mountain Man just barely laid a punch on her.  She looked like she would have a nasty bruise, but she was not going down from this punishment.  Instead, she looked really mad.

Capt. Liberty was about to join the fray when he saw someone back at the entrance out of the corner of his eye.  Was it the Man in the Black Cloak?  He looked more closely, but it was only the mobster who had fled that way earlier.  He also noticed the two guards who had surrendered were looking a little bolder again after seeing one of their leaders holding her own against two heroes.  He gave them a ‘don't even think it’ look and smacked his fist into his other glove to dissuade them from getting back into the fight.


Tommy was hiding around the corner and listening to the guards in the next room.

"Hey, wasn't that one of our prisoners?" one of them asked.

"No, our prisoners are tied up.  Did he look tied up to you?" asked the other one.

Just then, Rudy Malefor stumbled into both of them.

"Oh, and who are you?" one of the mobsters asked, pushing Rudy back.  "A troublemaker?"

"Finally, some higher power is smiling on me," Tommy thought to himself.  He listened closely, trying to focus on the present instead of the insane thing he was about to do.  At the right moment, he was going to creep out and take the guards by surprise.

"I guess you could call me a trouble maker,” Rudy answered.  “I am going to get those prisoners free. If you'd like to fight me, go ahead bring it on, sissy boys."  Rudy threatened the two hoodlums as he started to brawl with them, just as Tommy took them unaware from behind. Rudy got the upper hand quickly, connecting with his fists as often as he missed and had one of the hoodlums reeling, but still in the fight.  Tommy tried for a quick knockout punch, but in his weakened state just could not deliver the goods.  Rudy's foe was soon giving even better than he got, connecting twice, though once just barely.  Rudy, not in prime shape either, was KO'ed by the second punch.  Tommy took a lesser pummeling, but could not handle even a lesser pummeling in his state.  Tommy was KO'ed too.

Agent Malefor went into a dream state, dreaming of being back in high school with his high school sweet heart. Oh, the things they got away with between classes, when the days were easier and he wasn't wondering if he would live the next day.  He dreamed about what him and his girlfriend did between classes...happy in his sleep. 

Back in the chapel, the lieutenant lowered the barrel of her M1 level to the Mountain's gut and prepared to fire.  "Now you'll die for the trouble you've caused."

Silver Scorpion laughed at her foe as she made a jab with the electrified cane and jolted the lieutenant in her gun arm. Raupp’s arm spasmed and she sprayed bullets into the ceiling just as the Mountain Man pummeled this nasty woman with his boulder-like fists and finished off with laying a haymaker on her.  She went down, her gun clattering across the floor right in front of the old man's feet.

Silver Scorpion laughed again at her remaining foe.  The Mountain Man leaped over the prostrate woman to reach the old man.

As the Mountain Man lunged, the old man ducked and snatched the sub-machine gun off the floor with unexpected speed.  He stood up and the Mountain Man grappled with him.  The old man was stronger than he appeared and it wa quite a struggle, one straining to bring the gun to bear in point blank range and the other desperately trying to keep that from happening.  The Mountain Man could feel his surge of extra strength failing him moment by moment and could not manage to get in the knockout punch he had hoped to land in time.

Silver Scorpion took advantage of the old man's distraction, flanked him, and lunged with the electrified cane.  The old man almost dodged, but the cane grazed him and caused him obvious discomfort.

It was not enough. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

D&D Uber Playtest - pt. 6

[This was a short one, as Megan and I only squeezed in an hour of game time. We're still doing AD&D, 1st ed., before switching back to the new version of D&DNext!]

The five adventurers returned to the Caves of Chaos and took stock of their options. They found more entrances concealed by foliage this time, making for a grand total of seven as-yet unexplored cave mouths and one unfinished! But again the adventurers went with what was closest and that proved to be one of the concealed entrances this time.

The kobold lair is the one that most frequently gets encountered when I run module B1, with the goblin lair a close second. So I knew from experience that the hardest thing they were going to encounter in that lair was the pit trap just inside the entrance. Jack the cleric fell in from the second rank of the party, alerting the kobolds in room 1 and the giant rats in room 2. John the cleric was already on the right side of the pit, nearest to the kobolds.

Mary the dwarf fighter leapt the pit and joined John in battle with the kobolds. The kobolds' spears proved useless against platemail armor. Those that stayed in melee got creamed, while those who hung back and flung their spears got to just be useless. Four were killed, one per round, while two ran and escaped.

The rat situation proved more serious. Beau the halfling thief and Ernil the elf magic-user tried to stem the rat tide with sling bullets and a Magic Missile, but three giant rats still scurried down into the pit to attack Jack. And for four rounds, Jack held his own, even though the rats outnumbered him and he was soon down to half his hp.

Megan was not interested in a prolonged fight with rats, however. John and Mary retreated back over the corner of the pit, Jack was pulled out of the pit, and the adventurers retreated back out into the ravine, crossing this cave mouth off their list for now.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Project Schedules

Expanded from a recent Facebook post, with possible end dates (assuming I never sleep).

1. Castle Greyhawk webcomic (finish only when Mike gets tired of drawing it!)
2. Hideouts & Hoodlums
a. Daily Rpol campaign (finish in 2014)
b. Every-other day Paizo campaign (finish in 2012)
c. Quarterly ‘zine (finish in 2016?)
d. Supplement IV (finish in 2012)
e. Preparing a tournament module (finish in 2013)
f. Hideout Geomorphs (finish in 2013)
g. Mobster & Trophy Assortments? (finish in 2013?)
h. AH&H Mobster Manual (finish in 2013?)
i. H&H Basic Rulebook (finish in 2013?)
j. 3 H&H modules (finish 2013-2015)
k. Supplement V – cowboy genre (finish in 2013?)
l. Supplement VI – space genre (finish in 2014?)
m. AH&H Heroes Handbook (finish in 2014?)
n. 7 AH&H modules (finish 2013-2015)
o. Supplement VII - aviation genre? (finish in 2015?)
p. AH&H Editors Guide (finish in 2015)
q. AH&H Captains, Magicians, & Incredible Men? (finish in 2016?)
1970s fanfiction for Marvel Anthology site (finish in 2014?)
1940s fanfiction for DC Anthology site (finish in 2013?)
Possible Projects:
Return to running D&D Uber Playtest
Return to posting to Greytalk Archives blog
Preparing a Middle Earth OD&D campaign to run online
Podcast all my fanfiction
Creating a L’il Heroes webcomic, like Tiny Titans
Doing something with an idea for a Giant Ape & Monkey superhero story, either as a webcomic or prose

Saturday, August 11, 2012

D&D Uber Playtest - pt. 5 (long)

I thought Megan and I were done with the D&D Uber-Playtest experiment after the fit she had last time when her PCs were overrun with orcs. And I certainly didn’t expect to “playtest” 1st ed. AD&D again, but that was before I bought the beautiful reprint books. Gorgeous, faux-leather, embossed covers. Beautiful gilt pages. Crisp, lightly-glossed pages. You may have read about them all over the D&D-related corners of the Internet already and I don’t plan on using this to review the reprints in-depth. No, this is about the fact that Megan was impressed enough with the look of the books that she wanted to play D&D again so we could use them.

The AD&D we had played before was post-Unearthed Arcana 1st ed., so there was yet more scaling back of power to be had this time. The dwarf cleric had to become a human cleric, but this made no difference because Megan never used the dwarf special abilities anyway. I crossed out her non-weapon proficiencies, but she had never used them either, so that was no big deal. Losing the Fighter’s weapon specialization was very hard for her, though, but she managed to bear the loss of that sweet +2 damage bonus. It helped that, by AD&D rules, Beau the Halfling Thief had enough XP to be 2nd level and went up to 10 hp. Megan was hoping for new special abilities at each level instead of a very slow improvement of her old special abilities, but – again – because she ignores most mechanics that don’t directly relate to combat, most thief skills didn’t really matter to her.

Though Megan and I had enjoyed using the battle maps and miniatures in the playtest before, we went back to playing without them this time. It did lead to a few issues of not envisioning the room set up the same way, but It also speeded play to go without.
Rather than try to figure out where we were in that big battle with the orcs and pick up where we left off, I declared that Megan’s PCs had lost the fight and been captured. Enough time had passed that their wounds had all healed. Now they had even been given back their arms and armor and allowed to rememorize their spells before they were taken before the orc chief.

What I thought was a clever idea was to have the wily chief of Orc Lair B impressed enough by the fighting prowess of the PCs that he would want them to attack the rival tribe in Orc Lair C for him. And, of course, if they failed, the orc chief had plausible deniability for his involvement. However, Megan wasn’t having any of that. The orc chief sitting right in front of her was a big, juicy pile of XP and she kept mocking him, in character, until he was goaded into a fight.

The orc chief had felt confident enough to let the PCs be armed because he had 9 orcs with him in his audience chamber. The orcs won initiative and swarmed the PCs and several PCs became moderately injured right off the bat. Their wounds would have been more serious had I played completely by the rules, but I was going easy on her and rolling each damage die twice, taking the lower result. I planned on having one orc show up per round as reinforcements too, so this might still have been a TPK had Megan and I not both made a mistake.

We both remembered Ernil the Elf Magic-User having a Sleep spell. Actually, that was in the Next edition rules she had sleep and, in AD&D Megan had chosen Magic Missile instead. Well, Magic Missile would not have won this fight, but a well-placed Sleep spell certainly turned the tide. Instead of centering it on the melee around them, Megan wisely chose to cast it on the chief who had hung back out of melee. With the chief’s HD, it only would have affected him anyway, but he went down asleep. Then Megan risked one of her clerics by having him disengage from melee (the back attack missed) and murder the sleeping chieftain. Just in time for my morale checks.

At this point I have to say how handy it is having bookmarks sewn into the reprints. Indeed, I’m still kicking myself that I never used bookmarks in these books before, particularly for the Dungeon Masters Guide. I should probably have three or four bookmarks in that book, but I kept the bookmark on the morale rules page since I was less familiar with the location of that page. I can open up the DMG to the to-hit table pages by memory after all these years. Likewise, I kept the orc page bookmarked in the Monster Manual so I could refer to the list of weapons orcs use (a handy feature all future Monster Manuals should have had). We did not refer to the Players Handbook as much and I did not need a page bookmarked in there.

So, perusing the list of modifiers to morale, I saw that losing your leader was a big penalty. If the orcs had not outnumbered the PCs two to one, the chance of their morale breaking was up to 80%. With them outnumbering the PCs, it was still 60%. And then I started making percentile rolls. It seemed like my average roll was 10. Orcs were suddenly fleeing in panic, disengaging to retreat, and falling back all over the place. Only a single orc wanted to stand his ground and fight where he was.

Megan’s PCs finished off that one fast and moved on to the orcs that were falling back, fighting. This would have been over quickly if not for the reinforcements, half of which fared much better on their morale checks and joined the fight. I let the battle go for seven rounds before I stopped having reinforcements show up. The PCs had clearly won the field. Amazingly, Ernil with her 10 AC had walked out of that battle without a scratch on her thanks to more bad dice rolls on my part (and I wasn’t even fudging to hit rolls!). What injuries there were now seemed so light that Megan did not bother having the clerics heal anyone.

The PCs looted the corpses, found some good treasure on the chief (Jack the Cleric got the Shield +1 – their first magic item!), and Megan considered having them leave the dungeon so they could get their XP, but it also seemed like the complex would be emptied by now and there were other caves to loot. Her assumption that the other caves would be empty was wrong, though. The chamber to the west was the communal chamber full of the women and children of the tribe and, because the only exits led to the chamber where the PCs had just been fighting, they were all trapped in here. There were 18 cowering female orcs in all. The module called them non-combatants, but Megan saw them as potential XP and asked if she would earn XP if she got them to fight. I agreed that they would, that if cornered the females would pick up improvised clubs and defend themselves. So Megan had her PCs charge in.

I balked at rolling 18 morale checks, so Megan volunteered to roll them. And this is what made this battle so much more dangerous than my previous battle. While my rolls had been pathetically low, her rolls were averaging around 70. A full 13 out of 18 females stood their ground to defend themselves and/or their young. To emphasize that these female orcs were also evil, I had one of them pick up a toddler and was using that as her improvised club.

Outnumbered now by more than two to one, the PCs had a difficult time of it. Mary the Perpetually Unlucky Dwarf Fighter went down (this was her third or fourth time unconscious). Ernil, who had escaped harm in the earlier fight, was almost killed. The clerics had wisely saved their Cure Light Wounds spells after all, for they needed every one to get Mary and Ernil back on their feet and out of the melee.

Instead of having reinforcements show up, I had the number of combatants drop each round, as some females at the back of the battle were slipping out of the cavern with the young. Despite this, and the fact that the orc women wore no armor and had lousy ACs, they were still doing very well for themselves. I stopped rolling morale checks for them because they were both cornered and seemingly winning and, indeed, kept hinting to Megan that her people could just back out and leave. But Megan stubbornly refused to give those women the satisfaction of making her run, even if it led to a TPK.

But it did not lead to a TPK. Even though, in the end, it was just Beau, Jack, and John (the other cleric) in the fight, their much better ACs kept them safe enough to let them win the day.

The loot was feeble in this room compared to the last and the PCs found little in the next few empty caves, so they pulled out of the dungeon and headed back for the Keep on the Borderlands. I had already made it clear that there was something special about the orc chief’s shield and I suggested a Detect Magic spell to verify they indeed had a magic shield. It was the gp value of the chief’s ring that really upped their XP haul, though – high enough that both of the clerics were now also 2nd level. Further, they now had enough money to upgrade both of the clerics to platemail armor. They both now had ACs of 1 and one of them had 15 hp – a formidable 2nd level PC indeed for A&D, and I told Megan so.

This, of course, made Megan eager to head back into battle and test out her newly improved, more formidable PCs. Rather than take her all the way back to the caves (it was getting late), I settled this by letting her have a quick wandering encounter on her way back to the caves. I initially rolled a gelatinous cube on the wandering encounter table, but that made little sense in the woods, so I changed it to a four-orc hunting party. These orcs went down so fast that there is little point in the telling of how it happened.

Despite how long this write-up has been, this was really just a half-session of two hours. Whether we will finish the session someday with AD&D, or continue on with the Uber Playtest with another edition remains to be seen.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Rpol H&H Campaign - pt. 28

Captain Liberty used the door to knock on the drunken hoodlum and the guy crumpled to the floor under the impact.

Silver Scorpion, in the adjoining secret room, opened the black case and found, lying in some padding inside, were three tiny metal capsules, each sealed but hinged to open if pried...or on impact.

Another room away, after taking some time to get used to freedom again, Tommy took stock of the situation. He could hear the sound of battle outside, and hesitated. The room was nice and dark. He felt safe. Did he really want to get into the middle of a gunfight? He was just a kid, barely 19!

But something was different. There was someone else with him. Alpha-Woman. As Tommy admired her long hair and soft features, he felt a twinge. Love? Maybe more like admiration. Or perhaps some sympathy for a fellow captive. He alternated between trying to revive her and untie her.

While, out in the chapel, the gunman on the opposite balcony saw what the Mountain Man did to one balcony and decided not to remain standing on his balcony. He disappeared from view on the upper level. The two brawny guards remaining started crying like sissies with "Don't hurt me!" and "Rooster, save us!"

Then the tapestries on the west wall parted and two people stepped out. One was the old man from the dais last night and, beside him, a beautiful, long-haired woman. They were both dressed all in white. The old man appeared to be unarmed, but the long-haired woman was holding a sub-machine gun.

"I think it is time we all talked," the old man said.

The Mountain Man restrained himself from charging headlong at this man. He would hear what he had to say.

Rudy Malefor said, "Sure, let’s talk; where have you taken my comrades and what do you plan on doing with the prisoners?"

The man and the woman, both dressed identically in white turtlenecks and slacks, stepped further into the middle of the chapel. The woman held her M1 Thompson leveled in the general direction of the heroes, but mainly at the Mountain Man.

The running soundtrack playing through the temple erupted into a series of rooster crows. No one could hear what the old man said to the woman over the noise, but she walked sideways to the concealed door, parted the tapestry, and waved -- with the barrel of the gun -- for Silver Scorpion to step out and join the others. Silver was able to conceal the black case before she complied. The woman stepped into the control room, flipped some switches, and the lights went back to normal and the loud noises stop. Then she stepped back out.

Silver Scorpion joined the Mountain Man, Captain Liberty, and Agent Malefor as they all waited to parlay.

"That's better," the man said. "As I am sure you are by now aware, your presence here is disrupting some very important plans of ours. Make no mistake, I do not doubt in the least that we can defeat you. In fact, I'd daresay that Lt. Raupp here could take you all single-handedly," he said, and the woman nodded. "But, suffice to say, we are on a tight schedule and really can't afford to waste more time cleaning up this fiasco."

Agent Malefor again pressed him with his questions.

"We have two of your more -- shall we say colorful? -- comrades safely in our custody,” the old man said. “Any of your comrades we had before them have, I regret to inform you, been sacrificed. None of you need share their fate. In fact, I am prepared to buy your cooperation. I shall hand the lot of you $500 in cash. You will walk out of here with our remaining prisoners and never come back. Would that be adequate...compensation for the loss of your comrades?"

Meanwhile, Tommy resisted his teenage urges and untied Alpha-Woman. But, sadly, she could be so easily awoken. Her injuries seemed to be more serious than they appeared. Tommy sighed at his brief but futile effort. With a look at the door, he seemed to make up his mind. Mask or no mask, he needed to escape. Whether to help the other heroes or just to get out of this whole township, even he was not sure yet. He tried the door, hoping to find it unlocked.

Back in the chapel, Agent Malefor replied first. "Five hundred dollars is a pittance; that woman saved me and took my place in the cell." He paused to take a breath. "I am not leaving the prisoners here for you to sacrifice. I am going to get them back. As for my comrades, they died for the team and I am proud of them. But you aren't taking out these…” Malefor looked around at his new comrades-in-arms, unsure of what to call them, “…people either."

"Hmmm...” the Mountain Man mused noisily. “Five hundred dollars might be a start....Although, how will you keep secret the ‘magic’ you use in your ceremonies from all those yokels outside?"

Silver Scorpion, for her part, struggled to stifle a laugh at the offer presented. Did this clown really think he could just buy them off? The only real question was whether she should play along with their little game in order to free her two comrades, then return back later to continue kicking some butts. She kept a careful eye on 'Lt. Raupp', who would be her first target if events took a turn.

The old man smiled and said, "My offer at $500 stands. If you're interested, follow me. If you're not, then you may feel free to take your chances with the Lieutenant here." The man then turned towards Willy’s office.

Monday, July 23, 2012

My Golden Age

They say the Golden Age is whenever you were 10 years old. In my case they were wrong -- I was 10 years and 4 months old. My mom had bought me Marvel Comics since I was 4, but this is the month that turned me into a Marvel zombie (screen capture from Mike's Amazing World of Marvel Comics).

Thursday, July 5, 2012

D&D Uber Playtest - pt. 4

This one's a long one. It follows from here.

Today, Megan and I – at Megan’s insistence -- moved ahead our playtest of D&D to 2012 and the next edition, or D&D Next. We picked up on day 17 of the campaign, with Megan’s 5 PCs having spent a week back in civilization so Mary the dwarf fighter could rest and be fully healed after her second near-death experience. During this time, their goblin and hobgoblin followers had wandered off.

The PCs returned to the ogre cave and used it to enter the goblin caves and continue exploring there. The first new room they hit was the communal chamber where most of the rest of the tribe had gathered. It was 5 vs. 22 and Megan was going in.
Ernil the elf magic-user had much (MUCH!) more spells now than in the previous edition and led off with Sleep, a very successful tactic in the packed room. Beau the halfling thief still wasn’t using any special abilities, but then, he was so good with his sling still that he didn’t seem to be needed for anything else.

As per the AD&D session, Mary and the two clerics continued to be the front line fighters. They mowed through the goblins like crazy, with even their minimum damage high enough to take the goblins down in one hit. One of the clerics had a feat/superpower that allowed them to put attackers attacking one of his adjacent allies at a disadvantage. Advantages and disadvantages are one of the new mechanics and I did not care for them at all, being way too powerful and unbalanced. Whereas, in AD&D, had this 4-to-1 odds fight been done to the death it would have surely been a TPK against the PCs, in this edition the super-PCs killed all 22 goblins with not one PC under half his or her starting hp.

Now, one reason for that was that I was initially wary about using goblin archers at the back of the room to fire into melee. I could not find any rules in the playtest material about dealing with this obvious situation. Instead, I waited for Megan to set a precedent by firing into melee, and then I did the same. Likewise, I could not find any rules about how long switching weapons takes. I at first assumed this would take a full round, until Megan set a precedent for requesting weapon changing and an attack in the same round.

One of the biggest weakness of the rules is the lack of morale rules. An Old School DM understands the importance of morale rules, though I think the AD&D “playtest” session aptly proved it as well. If all monsters are expected to fight to the death, then you have to upgrade PCs until they are powerful enough to fight all monsters to the death. Not to suggest that morale is the only factor that has lead to power inflation in the history of D&D, but its absence definitely makes power inflation more mandatory.

Related to that complaint, an Old School DM also understands that one of the important facets of what makes D&D the game of D&D is resource management. The PCs, no matter what level they are, are supposed to have limited resources in all things – spells, gold, hp, etc. Magic-Users in particular are supposed to enjoy resource management with their spells. This is not a punishment or even necessarily a weakness; this is part of the fun of playing D&D. But everything about these new editions spoils resource management.

At-will spells turn Clerics and Magic-Users into Fighters with different fluff (one of Megan’s clerics was soon casting Radiant Lance every round to fight with a better weapon).

Though Megan had not picked up during the AD&D session on the value of taking enemy armor back to the keep for resale, she could not ignore the increase in its value (half-price on chainmail went up from 37.5 to 50 gp) and was soon hauling armor back to the keep after every battle, whether she needed to go back and heal or not. And it was her PCs doing the hauling because the equipment purchase lists in the playtest packet somehow did not include any pack animals.

The big jump in starting hp for PCs meant that PCs were seldom in danger. Although I had initially balked at the idea of healing your HD back after 10 minutes of rest, this did not feel as unnatural as the healing surges in 4E. Because Megan started using short forays on the caves spaced one or two days apart between combats, the rest of the healing rules became superfluous. I do not entirely blame the new edition for this change in her play style, but if the playtest rules had included pack animals or rules for recruiting henchmen/hirelings, she could have set up camp closer to the caves like she did in the AD&D version.

The first battle I ran with the playtest PCs as-is. In subsequent battles, I allowed Megan to use the better armor her PCs had upgraded to in the AD&D session. The improvement in AC made some difference though, like in every edition of D&D, when fighting larger numbers, natural 20s on my side of the screen are always the biggest threat. If I had not rolled a few, her PCs would likely have left their battles with only scratches. Until the last one, but that description is coming.
Each battle confirmed my observations. On day 19, they made short work of the goblins in the storeroom, as well as the hobgoblins that came through the secret door afterward. On day 21, they took out the goblin chief and his six goblins before the PCs could take 1 point of damage. Clearly, only large-scale combats posed any kind of threat for these PCs, despite being 1st level.

Day 22 confirmed this as well when Megan decided to ignore the hobgoblin lair and try a new cave. Moving to Orc Lair C, her PCs quickly followed the sound of voices to the big community chamber there and faced most of the tribe at once. Megan hesitated at the site of 17 orcs (it could have been more, according to the room description, but that was all the miniatures I had sitting out), but decided to chance it. But the orcs were considerably tougher than goblins and it took most of her PCs two or even three hits to take them down. When reinforcement orcs showed up and cut off her escape, just as Mary the dwarf fighter went down from a combination of melee and missile attacks (poor Mary! It was always Mary), Megan’s mood soured and she called off the playtest.

But I’d seen enough anyways. Her PCs ended (not counting the orc battle) with rich rewards. Everyone was over halfway to second level after the goblin caves (plus ogre cave and some of the hobgoblin caves) were cleared. They had a party treasure pool of 950 gp, which they barely touched, as Megan planned to save up for more platemail armor, to upgrade the clerics. Platemail is incredibly expensive these days in the game. Heaven help the DM who's players choose to sell all the platemail they find and become obscenely rich!

The change in editions made no difference in regards to proficiences/skills – Megan was not interested in using them either way. Non-combat feats/themes did not interest her either. She used 4 out of 10 Magic-User spells (M-Us get 10 starting spells now instead of 1!!) and 4 out of 9 Cleric spells (9 between the two different clerics). She described the rules she ignored as “too complicated.” I can’t blame her. This is way too much for a starting player to be expected to understand. Earlier editions understood this and gave low-level PCs fewer starting abilities.
As mentioned before, she loved the guardian theme. She also loved the fighter’s slayer theme. That one – doing damage even if you missed – made no sense to me at all. She liked the lucky racial feature added to halflings. I liked it too because, instead of moving the halfling away from being Tolkeinesque, as has so often been done in succeeding editions of D&D, this ability is very much Tolkeinesque. She loved increased weapon damage – some weapons do twice as much damage now as they did in AD&D. All of these things she “loved to death”. I can understand the difficulty anyone writing a new edition of D&D faces, balancing the better understanding of game balance that older players have versus the infatuation with power inflation that new players are more likely to have.

Yes, I don't envy that at all...

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Rpol H&H Campaign - pt. 27

[Continued from here].

Captain Liberty was having trouble with the door, only pulling it off of one hinge before his injury flared up and mades him pause.

One of the three guards at the south end of the room fled back towards the front door when faced with a charging bear and a man who could rip doors half off their hinges. But the two bigger guards were tough-looking bruisers with crewcuts, scars, and big truncheons in their hands and they stood and waited to receive the charge. The Daoist was forced to pull back from his charge as they swung their clubs and concentrated on him. While the Daoist dodged one, he took a blow from the other and felt weak and dizzy from the hit.

From above, a shooter on the balcony takes a potshot at the Mountain Man and only puts a hole in a nearby pew.

Meanwhile, in the concealed room, Dr. McDermott continued to swing his cane around impotently. When the metal tip at the end hit metal, Silver Scorpion saw sparks fly. Then she saw an opening, turned her knife around, and used the pommel to pop the Doctor in the face. He went down and his sparking cane clattered to the floor beside him.

Also meanwhile, Agent Malefor pushed past the guard in the stairwell and descended to the basement level, with the sound of "Watch where you're going!" and a few words that would make a gentleman blush directed at his backside. Knowing the route to the prison cells awfully well, he made good time and had almost reached the cells already.

Also also meanwhile, Tommy finally managed to untangle his legs from the last of his bonds and was free to act.

Back in the secret room, Silver Scorpion snatched up Dr. McDermott's cane to keep as a trophy. Then she moved to the surrounding machinery and began flipping switches, turning dials, and throwing toggles randomly for a few seconds, hoping to create a bit of chaos. Finally, she pulled off the Doctor's lab coat and cut strips from it with her knife for binding and gagging.

Back in the nave of the temple, the Mountain Man hefted his hatchet, took aim, and threw it at the mobster above him on the balcony. The Daoist continued his assault on the mobsters, hoping that help would arrive for him soon, or that the bad guys would decide to flee rather than fight a wild beast.

Because of Silver Scorpion’s fiddling, the lights clicked on and off and spotlights from above turned on and started swiveling around the room. Out of nowhere, everyone heard the sounds of baritone men chanting, followed by a heavenly choir of sopranos, and then roosters clucking over them.

In this chaos, the Mountain Man almost gots the drop on the gunman at the balcony, but the mobster had jumped back just in time and the hatchet buried into the wooden balcony rail instead.

Two more men appeared at the balcony above.

Captain Liberty was about to pull the door off its last hinge when he noticed the light display about the room. Something about the flashing lights reminded him of the Man in the Black Cloak and made him hesitate.

In bear form still, the Daoist swiped at the two mobsters, hitting one of them but not hurting him too badly.

The mobster who dodged the Mountain Man's hatchet returned fire, this time spraying bullets down into the chapel despite the presence of his fallen comrade on the floor. The Mountain Man managed to dodge them at first, but one bullet winged him and left him with a pretty bad wound.

The Daoist found, to his dismay, that the bruisers in front of him had no qualms with taking on a bear with just clubs in their hands. Also unfortunately, they seemed to be winning, as one of them landed another solid blow. The Daoist saw the room spinning before he went down.

Worse, another mobster stepped out of the room they came from, where they had left Willy tied up.

Meanwhile, Agent Malefor has reached the guardroom down below. The guardroom was lit by a table lamp. No one was home, but on a table were some weapons, a rat mask, and a smelly, fur-lined wetsuit. Looking further, he found his bulletproof vest and automatic pistol in one of two footlockers. Agent Malefor picked up the bulletproof vest and put it on, before he grabbed the gun. He was still dressed in the guard’s clothes over his vest. Now it was time to go look around the cells for his comrades…

Also meanwhile, Tommy stood up and tried to decide what to do next.

Back in the chapel, the Mountain Man charged for the beams supporting the balcony on which the mobsters with guns were standing. He slammed his fists into it, hoping to bring it down.

In the secret room, Silver Scorpion was making mincemeat out of Dr. McDermott's lab coat when a black case fell out of one of his pockets. After Dr. McDermott was well trussed, she examined the black case, placing it on a flat surface and opening to determine its contents.

Capt. Liberty gave the door one last heave and tore it free. He rushed the three mobsters standing over the Daoist, who had resumed his true form, holding the door like a battering ram. "Foul traitors! What foul hearts you must have to betray law and order!" Captain Liberty shouted.

The Mountain Man started punching the wooden beam closest to him. Though it didn’t break through, it began to splinter with a loud crack.

"They've all got magic!" one of the guards who took down the Daoist cried as he looked around. Apparently, these observations were having a cumulative effect on the mobsters who had beaten down a man changed into a bear. When the twirling spotlights left in motion by Silver Scorpion momentarily blinded the two burliest guards at the south end of the chapel and they lost it. "Nooo! The rooster god must be angry!" the other one cried out.

"You've all lost your balls, ya bunch o' girls!" the mobster by them said with a drunken slur. "I'll show you how to deal with magic!" he exclaimed as he pulled out a pistol and took a shot at the charging Capt. Liberty, but did not come close to hitting.

The mobster on the west balcony kept his cool too and tried to spray bullets the Mountain Man's way, grazing him with one slug.

Meanwhile, Agent Rudy Malefor was distressed to learn that the four jail cells on the lower level were all empty. There was no sign of his two fellow G-Men. Resolved to do what he still could to help, he ran back down the hallways to the stairs and climbed them two at a time to return to the gallery. At the gallery, he ran into the mobster he had passed in the stairwell earlier, now just standing there. No, hiding there from the sounds of battle raging on the other side of the far door. Rudy could not stand the sight of such a cowardly, superstitious criminal and pistol whipped the man hard enough to take him down.

Also meanwhile, Tommy still had not decided what to do next.

Above, the Mountain Man wrecked on that support beam like a mountain landslide, plowed through it, and charged half-through the next beam over. The balcony above buckled, tipped, and sent the two mobsters atop it plunging over the railing onto the pews below. The pews broke under the impact and, apparently, so did the mobsters.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Comic Books from When We Were Born

I own the following comic books that were available for sale during the month I was born (obviously bought later, though):

Amazing Spider-Man #99 (reprint)
Invincible Iron Man #40 (reprint)
Mister Miracle #3 (reprint)

Owned, from the month Megan was born:

Amazing Spider-Man #312
Excaliber #5
Fantastic Four #323
Marvel Comics Presents #13
Marvel Masterworks Vol. 6
Mighty Thor #400
Power of the Atom #7
Punisher #16
Silver Surfer #20
Solo Avengers #15
Speedball #6
Starman #6
West Coast Avengers #41
X-Factor #37

And owned, from the month that Tyler was born:

Kurt Busiek's Astro City #21
Marvel: the Lost Generation #10
Millenium Edition: Young Romance 1
Superman & Batman: Generations TPB

Thursday, June 28, 2012

D&D Uber Playtest - pts. 2 & 3

My original plan to have four-hour sessions was dashed by our busy lives, so session 1 actually took place over three different days. Day 1 I’ve already reported on.

Part 2 began the following day of game time (day 8 in what a random die roll determined was “June”) with the PCs heading back into the goblin caves. This time there were no goblin sentries at the entrance, allowing the PCs to move at their leisure back to the west room. There, the PCs found a single goblin manning the room they had previously cleared. The goblin prostrated itself, saying that it had heard the PCs were merciful to those who surrendered. The PCs allowed it to flee further west.

But rather than follow, the PCs decided to see what lied to the southeast first instead. What they found was a fully garrisoned guardroom with six goblins inside. The PCs bottlenecked the goblins at the entrance to the room and chopped down four of them one at a time, with two goblins fleeing out the far end of the room.

In hot pursuit, the PCs went up some stairs and reached the first of the hobgoblin caves. In the cavern were five hobgoblins and the two goblins they had chased up here. The hobgoblins wanted sport and pushed the goblins into battling the intruders. One goblin was hacked down while the other hid in the corner of the room. The hobgoblins moved up to attack, but luck was not with them and they were hacked apart fairly quickly. It had been a delaying tactic regardless, with them buying time for shadowy figures at the rear of the cavern to escape out a door.

Chasing after again, the PCs found a really long stretch of empty tunnels, even coming across another hidden entrance from the ravine they could use in the future. But eventually they headed up more stairs and came to a second cavern defended by two male hobgoblins – and nine female hobgoblins.

It was the longest battle yet, lasting a whopping 12 rounds. I looked through the books for fatigue rules but could not find them quickly enough and abandoned thoughts of using any. Though the hobgoblins had not made a very good showing of themselves, they managed to whittle down the front line fighter and clerics enough that the PCs might have lost had they not used all four of their Cure Light Wounds spells during the battle.

When the battle was over, the PCs discovered what the hobgoblins had fought to the death to defend – hobgoblin children. I knew this would be a tricky bit, since I didn’t want Megan to feel bad about killing their mothers. I impressed on her, though, as we role-played her trying to talk to the children, that they were more like semi-intelligent feral cats than human children. She left them alone at the back of the cavern, but didn’t feel bad about it.

Also worth mentioning is that Megan again never asked her goblin followers to do anything. They watched the PCs’ backs and stayed out of combat the whole time. They did suggest that the PCs could strip gear off their fallen foes and keep it to sell, but Megan didn’t choose to do it.

That was all the time we had for playing last night. Tonight when I got home from work we tried another mini-session to wrap up “Session 1”. Unfortunately, it did not go well.

We determined that it was now two days later, as the PCs needed more time to heal up after that big last battle. Megan returned the PCs to the same goblin cave entrance and met a single goblin sentry near the entrance. The goblin begged for its life, knowing of their reputation, and they let it flee to the west.

But, again, Megan decided to ignore the west and see what was going on east. She found the guardroom re-garrisoned with six goblins this time. Worse, they surprised her PCs. Apparently they had heard them coming and rushed down the hallway to meet them before the PCs could react. At least, I thought that sounded reasonable, but Megan balked that she wouldn’t have seen them coming and been able to react faster.

It turned out to be another long battle, with it taking nine rounds to fight their way down the tunnel and into the guardroom. The morale rolls stayed low and the goblins fought it out to the death, even though they could have fled. Probably they were afraid to flee to the hobgoblin caves. This time Megan looted the dead, but was dismayed to find they only had copper and silver on them.

Moving on to the hobgoblin rooms, the PCs found the first cavern was re-garrisoned as well, though this time by four male hobgoblins and two females. The PCs moved into the room slowly, but met stiff resistance. After some lucky dice rolls in the first few rounds, Mary the dwarf fighter was unconscious again. I explained that these must have been more elite hobgoblins, but Megan was very upset to have Mary go down again.

Just like at the ogre battle, Beau the halfling thief came through with some amazing dice rolls, slinging from the back of the cavern. The front ranks of the hobgoblins fell, the back ranks started to miss morale checks and didn’t rush up to fill the gap, and the clerics were able to move deeper into the room. But Mary, lying on the floor, was still the closest to a female hobgoblin that had fanatically not missed a morale check since round 1. Even as Jack the dwarf cleric was healing Mary, the female hobgoblin kept stabbing Mary with a dagger and started to kill her. It took a sling from Beau to take that crazy hob down, but by now Megan was very, very upset. The other female had fled and the last male, impressed by their fighting, offered its sword to them in service.

But, after the battle, when she learned that XP is only divided between those who come out of a battle still conscious, and that Mary was cheated out of her share despite having done her fair share of fighting, Megan announced that the XP rules were broken and was very, very, very upset. 107 sp retrieved from the dead failed to placate her, as an unconscious Mary was hauled back out of the caves for another week of rest and recuperation. Relieved that we were done with 1st ed. AD&D, Megan announced that the next session would not be the 1981 basic rules, as I had rolled, but that we were moving ahead to the 5E playtest and get it over with.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

D&D - the Uber Playtest

Megan and I are both signed up for the D&DNext Playtest…but now that the time had finally come, I didn’t feel like just playtesting the latest flavor of D&D. So I decided on something more ambitious – we were going to try and playtest all of D&D. Megan would control 5 PCs and play them through the same module – Keep on the Borderlands -- but each session would be converted to a different version of the game, determined by random dice roll. I would follow those rules as closely as possible, taking care to look things up fresh instead of running the game from memory. My first roll brought us randomly to 1987, the tail end of the 1st ed. AD&D years.

Megan’s party consisted of Mary, a female dwarf fighter; Jack, a male dwarf cleric; John, a male human cleric; Ernil, a female elf magic-user, and Beau, a male Halfling thief. Themes became non-weapon proficiencies, but we never used them. A lot of bonus modifiers dropped and backgrounds were dropped altogether. The magic-user took a serious power hit, dropping to just one spell. With weapon specialization added to the fighter, she began to look almost as powerful as how she started before conversion. Megan never took advantage of the thief’s special abilities, using him as another fighter. I cheated on hp, allowing everyone to have max hp at 1st level, which was never suggested in AD&D. This gave everyone 5-11 hp, much lower than for the official playtest. Though I rarely did so in the past when running AD&D, we played this game with miniatures and a battle map.

The PCs came to the Caves of Chaos and headed straight for the goblin caves because it was closest. They found the entrance guarded by six goblins, but managed to lure four goblins outside into the ravine with taunts. After taking some hits, three of the goblins surrendered and one fought to the death. Mary was hurt by a military pick, but it was Beau’s sling bullets, fired into melee, that took her down before the battle was over. The remaining two goblins fled back into the caves to alert their kin.

Low to hit rolls marred this first combat and almost soured Megan on the experience. Most of the time her rolls were low enough that the huge modifier boosts of later editions might have still not made a difference. Had the goblins all charged and fought to the death, it likely would have been a TPK. What changed that was AD&D’s morale rules, which when followed closely essentially give each monster only a 50% chance of attacking each round. The morale rules were not only Megan’s best friend, but varied the encounters and ultimately made them more realistic. I might not have thought on my own to have two goblins hang back and watch to see how the battle turned out, but I thought of that after the morale results suggested it to me. When so many goblins surrendered, I decided that they hated their leaders and were eager to change sides, even to dwarves and an elf. Now I wish I’d used morale checks more often when I used to run AD&D (I always waited until the monsters were at half hp before rolling).

What initially seemed to be a problem were the negative hp rules from AD&D. Since Mary had been brought down to -1 hp, she needed a full week to recover even though she had received clerical healing right away. I was concerned that this would kill the momentum of the campaign. Indeed, something similar had literally killed my Blackmoor play-by-post campaign I once ran. But what had taken us a month of downtime in online time in that campaign took only 30 minutes to resolve in person. And forcing Megan to pull back her forces and rest gave us a chance to reflect on what the world was like around the dungeon.

It quickly became apparent that, with three more goblin mouths to feed, Megan’s PCs did not have enough food for everyone to last the week. When some of her PCs went to the Keep on the Borderlands to restock, Megan found PH standard prices for rations seemed ridiculously high (which was always intended, reflecting a “gold rush” economy around a dungeon), especially since Megan had generously paid each of the goblins 2 gp to work for the party. The solution we came up with was for Megan to trek even further back towards civilization. I determined off the top of my head that there were villages just 16 more miles away and her PCs made that journey. For her troubles, she got rations for 1/10th the “standard” price.

In AD&D, you ‘re actually less likely to have an encounter the closer you get to civilization, as the encounter tables are geared towards wilderness monsters instead of farmers and shepherds. I described encounters with animals and villagers without rolling for them, but I did manage two lucky d20 rolls of 1 during that week of camping outside the village. The first wilderness random encounter (rolled out of the DMG encounter tables) was a midnight raid by giant rats. I rolled on the Monster Manual no. appearing range, but then averaged that with the number in Megan’s party and narrowed it down to 13 giant rats. Again, frequent morale checks were Megan’s friend. Half of the rats held back from the initial attack. A few reinforced the first wave, but some from the first wave also fled. Megan’s dice rolls were better, the rats weren’t able to hit anyone, and soon she had killed or routed them all.

The second encounter, rolled the same was, was for a warband of halflings. This turned out to be a roleplaying encounter and gave Megan her first chance to talk as Beau. I determined that the halflings had been conscripted to reinforce the keep and were heading there. They asked about the goblins and wanted them for target practice, but Beau refused.

The goblins I named Mag, Glub, and Yet (an inside joke of D&D trivia). I secretly rolled their loyalty scores, though I only took the time to skim the long list of loyalty modifiers.
When the week was up, Megan’s party returned to the goblin caves. They found three goblin guards waiting for them this time. The same two ran to alert the rest of the complex while one stayed behind to delay the PCs. The PCs made short work of that one and took off in pursuit of the goblin that had fled west.

This led to the very first room in the goblin complex. This would be my second big “cheat” too. The room description had called for 6 goblins, but I recalled this encounter being very difficult in my Blackmoor campaign and I decided to tone it down by rolling 1d6 to determine how many goblins were there. There was only one, plus the one the PCs had chased, and they were negotiating with the ogre behind the open secret door.

Megan’s PCs charged into the room with Mary and Jack in the front row and everyone else lined up behind. Only one of the goblins came with, though. The most disloyal of the three goblins, Yet, had immediately fled the other way to rejoin his old comrades. Glub had stayed by the entrance, his loyalties torn. Only Mag was fairly loyal.

By all rights, the ogre battle should have been a huge threat. But Megan’s dice were on fire. She could not roll below a 17 on d20. Beau scored two natural 20s in a row with his dagger (no criticals in AD&D, to Megan’s chagrin). The ogre was dropped in two rounds without having hit anyone.

One of the two goblins had fled west again, while the other tried to hide in the ogre’s secret cave. The PCs followed it in, killed it, and looted the ogre cave of their first serious haul of loot. They had enough gold to send some PCs to the keep, trade in three suits of chainmail armor, and come back with one suit of platemail for the fighter and two suits of banded mail for the clerics.

And that was where we stopped for the first night, after just under two hours of play. I had planned on each session being 4 hours, but we had taken too long a break in the middle of the first session and ran out of time. In the future, we’ll just play until we’ve hit four hours, then stop and convert to another edition of D&D.

It was difficult, even for me, adjusting back to the slower pace of XP gain in AD&D. I joked that Megan just needed ten more ogre caves before she reached 2nd level! While I had at first thought that the lack of bonus modifiers in AD&D was going to be a discouragement to Megan, I think the more she missed earlier in the game, the more she appreciated the times she hit at the end.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Top 10 Comic Books of 2012 Free Comic Book Day

Mind you, I only managed to snag 10 this year. Some of these wouldn't deserve to be on a top 10 list otherwise.

10. Spider-Man: Season One. Plodding, drawn-out retelling of Spidey's origin story. Should have read the original again and learned about *brevity*.
9. Mega Man: Origin of a Hero. Never escapes from its video game superficiality.
8. Avengers: Age of Ultron #0.1. Butthead Bendis showing off again that there is no character he won't butcher to badly tell a story. Besides that...if you ignore the word balloons, there is a great assortment of classic Marvel characters in here to feel nostalgia over.
7. Transformers: Regeneration One #80.5. If I ever want a comic book that succinctly summarizes all 80 issues of the Marvel Comics run of Transformers, this is it. No mention of the Spider-Man cameo, though.
6. The Smurfs/Disney Fairies. I always wondered if the comic strip was as bad as the '80s cartoon show. Now I know.
5. Sonic the Hedgehog. I'm always impressed by the massively complex story lines whenever I look at a Sonic book. I just can't bring myself to care.
4. Serenity/Star Wars. The artwork is atrociously ugly on the Serenity side of this flipbook, but the dialogue is so spot-on perfect you can hear Nathan Fillon saying it in your head!
3. Donald Duck Family Comics. You can't go wrong with classic Carl Barks.
2. Superman Family Adventures. Not as awesome as Tiny Titans, but Art Baltazar still delivers the goods.
And, top of the list...
1. Bongo Comics Free-for-All. A must-have item for the first chapter of an autobiography of Sergio Aragones, hidden in the middle of the book!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Rpol H&H Campaign - pt. 26

[Continued from here]
Tommy was led through a room with three guards in it to another room where he was pushed down on the floor and has his legs bound tight with the same rope around his midsection. Next to him, lying unconscious on the floor, was Alpha-Woman.

"You just stay put until we come back for you," one of the guards said to Tommy. "You two are gonna have a real close view of the ceremony later."

"Hey," said the other guard. "What are we gonna do with that stinking coat of his and that weird rat mask? I don't want to sit with them all day in the guard room."

"We'll come back and leave that stuff with them..." the first guard said, with a nod to their prisoners, before they left.

In the dark of the cell, Tommy started to calm down once they were gone. He missed his rat mask and his fur coat and wanted to feel like Sewer Rat again. No, this was more like the old days, when he was first exploring the sewers. He kept only to the supply tunnels, pumping clean water to help along the process. Just a little waste from the homes; not like further down where everything accumulated. Not everything you found in the sewer was human waste. Everything that ever went down a gutter was in the tunnels. Candy wrappers in the Spring, tennis balls in the Summer, leaves in the Fall, and fresh melted snow in the Winter. He did his first good deed in the sub-unit in front of his apartment building, throwing back some keys a motorist had dropped. Boy was he surprised.

Tommy stopped his drifting thoughts and concentrated on the here and now. He relaxed his chest and felt the rope around him slacken. He knew it would still take some time to get out of those ropes. Whether he had enough time before the guards returned remained to be seen.


G-Man Rudy Malefor stood with his new comrades, taking in the situation in the chapel and hoping the others had a plan. In a low voice, he said, "I think we should get help before we go deal with whatever is going on up here."

"The moment we do that they'll know we're trouble. I can try one thing..." The Mountain Man whispered back to Agent Malefor. Then he raised his voice and answered the booming voice of the Doctor, saying, "Willy said to take 'em to the cells."

Silver Scorpion tensed, waiting for the response.

"Willy? Willy?" the voice said, sounding like the great and terrible Oz. "Am I to take orders from Willy? Get those prisoners up here!"

Agent Malefor, increasingly eager to return to his cell, reached the door to the gallery and held the doorknob, waiting to see if the others would join him. But it looked like they would continue to try and talk their way through this with the unseen voice, for whom Willy seemed to hold no authority. So Rudy came back and whispered the beginnings of a plan to the others. "The two people not dressed as guards should go to the dais as ‘prisoners’. Me and the other two men dressed as guards should go downstairs and look for the other two FBI agents that are probably still in their cells. We need them as reinforcements." He paused for dramatic affect, then added, "I feel something big is going to happen soon and we are going to need help."

The Mountain Man liked at least some of that plan. He roughly (mostly as show) pushed the Daoist forward toward the dais. He also grabbed Silver Scorpion and pulled her along as well. As he walked he whispered to them, "If this goes south we will fight them, so be ready."

The Mountain Man dragged his two ‘prisoners’ to the north end of the chapel. The mobster standing there had a lit cigarette dangling from his lips and nervous fingers on his holstered pistol. Glancing up, the heroes could see a second mobster on the balcony above watching them with a rifle in hand. Suddenly, one of the tapestries on the east wall moved aside and a man stepped through a concealed doorway. The man had thinning salt-and-pepper hair, wore glasses and a lab coat, while holding a cane. He raised a shaky hand and pointed it at the three closest heroes. "Yes, yes! You all are the ones from last night's attack! How unwise to return and face the technological might of -- Dr. McDermott!"

Agent Malefor realized that, without his gear, he was not ready for a battle. He quickly scampered off into the gallery, heading for the stairs down to the basement cells.

Realizing the jig was up, Silver Scorpion decided to assault the 'Doctor'. She ripped her bonds free and threw herself at him.

The mobster closest to the Mountain Man and the Daoist un-holstered his pistol and drew a bead on them with lightning speed. "Take it easy, boys," he said. "Let's see if Doc here is as good in a fight as he claims he is..."

Silver Scorpion launched herself at Dr. McDermott so quickly that the doctor was forced to back up. In an instant she had a silver knife in either hand and began her deadly dance with the doctor. The doctor was a somewhat skilled combatant, parrying several thrusts and recognizing some feints for what they were, but Silver had already fought better. Backed up to the tapestry, Silver pushed him through and they both disappeared into the concealed room he had come out of.

The concealed room was narrow and half-full of machinery. But there was no time to examine the contents, for Dr. McDermott was waiting to fight with that cane. Silver double feinted, got past that cane he'd been blocking her with for the past 30 seconds, and finally cut him. Dr. McDermott was moderately injured, his sleeve turning bloody. He continues to swing with his cane, never landing a blow.

Meanwhile, the Mountain Man, the Daoist, and Captain Liberty paused while they considered whether to wait this out and see what happened or take a more active hand. Looking up, the Mountain Man and the Daoist saw the guard at the balcony above was calling to some friends to come see. Captain Liberty, still at the south end of the chapel, saw a door open and two leather jacket-wearing guards come out and join a third guard who came from the entrance. Everyone was just watching from a distance for now, but with Silver Scorpion's personal duel now in a separate room, there was little to entertain them rather than capturing intruders.

Also meanwhile, Agent Malefor ran through the gallery to the far door, but it opened as he reached it and he and a mobster with no visible weapon on the other side surprised each other.

Also also meanwhile, Tommy nearly dislocated his shoulder, but managed to pull his arms out of the rope. The pain made him nearly pass out, but he managed to hold on and start working the rope off his legs. The narrow room he was in was empty except for him and the amazon-like Alpha-Woman (still unconscious and more expertly tied up than he was). There was a ladder leading to a trap door above him and the door the guards entered and exited through.

Back in the chapel, the Mountain Man seemed to grow another foot tall and another foot wide as he pulled his hatchet from its holster and charged the mobster holding a pistol on the Daoist and him.

Following the others' lead, the Daoist transformed into a brown bear and swiped at the same mobster.

The mobster with the pistol trained on the Mountain Man and the Daoist was taken aback by the startling transformations. His hand holding the revolver shook. The Mountain Man was surer in his grip on his hatchet as it came out of hiding within his jacket and he used its blunt side to clop the man in the head and take him down. The Daoist, losing his nearest opponent, charged the three at the south end of the chapel in bear form, scattering pews in front of him like a plow through snow.

Monday, May 28, 2012

D&D/MSH Sample Character - Merlott Incusper

I've rolled up my first character using the mash-up rules I posted last time.  For anyone paying attention to this experiment, I want to explain how I did it, what decisions were made, and then compare this character to an "ordinary" D&D character.

First, I rolled up the seven basic attributes in MSH.  My Fighting roll was 10, or Good.  My Agility roll was 5, or Typical.  My Strength roll was 6, or Typical.  My Endurance roll was 12, or Good.  My Reason roll was 19, or Excellent.  My Intuition roll was 17, or Excellent.  My Psyche roll was 7, or Typical.

Though the MSH rules would call for a high Psyche to work magic, the equivalent attribute to D&D's Intelligence is Reason, so it still made sense to make this character a magic-user-type.  I went with the race of human, somewhat arbitrarily, because I thought demi-humans should have a higher Psyche, even though that was not a rule I had written up.  My human magic-user, who I named Merlott Incusper, has a health score of 33 and a karma score of 43.

I rolled a 10, or Good, for Resources, and a 1, or Feeble, for Popularity.  I deliberately made starting Popularity scores much lower because, in a fantasy setting, the characters will not be the instant celebrities that a superhero would be in a modern context.

I was lucky and rolled 4 for number of powers.  The obvious choice for any 1st level magic-user is sleep.  I rolled a 9, giving the sleep spell the rank of Good.  Then I had to decide what that meant.  I decided that half your rank, rounded down, is how many targets you can possibly affect and that the duration is equal to the power rank in combat rounds.  Resisting the spell would require a modified FEAT roll, so that someone with a Typical Psyche would have to roll a red result to resist, someone with a Good Psyche would have to roll a yellow or red result to resist, and so on.

For a defensive power, I picked protection from evil.  I rolled a 19, making the power rank Excellent.  Since I had already determined that this spell would confer a column shift penalty to attackers rather than act as body armor, the rank would not matter except for duration.  I also decided to give Merlott my combined read languages = read magic spell, Read Anything, and rolled a 23, or Excellent, for that -- though I have yet to think of a particularly good use for the rank other than, again, duration.

Since these characters are not straight-jacketed into classes, I decided to use one crossover power and gave him the "Thief" ability of hiding in shadows for his last power.  I rolled a 12, or Good, for this power.  The "Thief" powers, I had decided, would require only simple FEAT rolls.  A green or better Intuition roll means Merlott had hid successfully, but a green or better Intuition roll from someone else meant that Merlott was still spotted.

I had not addressed talents yet, but decided to roll 1d4 for that and use AD&D non-weapon proficiencies as talents.  I rolled a 1 and chose animal trainer as his talent.  He won't get to start with an animal companion because he would have had to set aside a power for that, but he could train one later in-game by making an Intuition FEAT roll (and probably spending lots of time and gold).

At this point in character creation, Merlot should be buying starting equipment, though it is not vital to do this for our example.  His dagger, for example, will always do damage equal to his Strength score of 6.

Merlott will start out pretty lucky for a “1st level” magic-user.  Starting hp for a 1st level m-u is usually average or slightly below average compared to an average person, but Merlott has a 40% advantage over the average health score of 24.  He starts with, essentially, two good spells, making him more like a 2nd level m-u.  Because of his Good Fighting, he has a 55% chance to hit, while a 1st level D&D m-u has a 45% chance to hit.  Saving throws are even better.  Merlott’s chance, in D&D, of resisting snake venom would be a mere 35%.  With a Good Endurance, it jumps to 55%.  So, while Merlott looks pretty tame for a Marvel Super Hero, he is definitely well-off compared to a D&D character.

Some extra mash-up rules:

Karma is the new XP.  Karma points can be used both ways, to modify dice rolls and to go up in level.  Spending Karma to modify dice rolls would be limited to no more than 10 karma per level for each percentile roll.

Every time a character goes up in level, he gets to add 3 points to any one ability score, or spread them out, as the player sees fit.  Resources will always change based on how much money the character has, not what level the character is.  Popularity will go up 1d10 points per level.  The character will either gain a new power or raise one power one full rank at each new level, and gain one new talent every other level.

Because karma can be spent, characters can go down in level if they spend too much karma.  But, because karma has this dual function, the karma requirements for each level should be half what they are in D&D.  

Saturday, May 26, 2012

D&D/Marvel Super Heroes

The idea came up on my Facebook profile recently, could you run a D&D campaign using the Marvel Super Heroes (1984) rules?  I've begun a project that may not amount to anything, but I wanted to see if I could find a middle ground between the MSH rules and the 1st ed. AD&D rules.  Below is a rough draft of what the character creation rules might be in this mash-up.

Ability Scores:  Roll 1d20+1d12 for each score.  Keep that number as the value of that score for determining health and karma, but for the universal table determine each score’s column as follows –
2.  Feeble
3-4. Poor
5-7. Typical
8-15. Good
16-25. Excellent
27+  Remarkable

D&D Equivalents:
Feeble    Non-combatant
Poor    1st level Magic-User
Typical    Most 1st level PCs
Good    1-2nd level Fighters
Excellent 3-4th level Fighters
Remarkable 5-6th level Fighters

Feeble    DEX 3-4
Poor    DEX 5-7
Typical    DEX 8-10
Good    DEX 11-15
Excellent DEX 16-17
Remarkable DEX 18-19

Feeble    STR 3-6
Poor    STR 7-12
Typical     STR 13-18
Good    STR 18/01-75
Excellent STR 18/76-99
Remarkable STR 18/00-19

Feeble    Giant centipede
Poor    Giant rat
Typical    Human
Good    Orc
Excellent Gnoll
Remarkable Ogre

Resources:  Roll 1d20+1d12 and keep this roll to determine Resources rank.  Multiple this number by 10 for starting gp.  Resource rank helps determine the eligibility of an item as follows –
Up to 5 gp.  Feeble
5-10 gp.  Poor
11-20 gp.  Typical
21-50 gp.  Good
51-100 gp.  Excellent
101-500 gp.  Remarkable

Popularity:  Roll 1d8 for starting Popularity, but otherwise treating as above scores in terms of treating it both as numerical value and for assigning column value.

Powers:  Every character gets to start with 1-4 powers, determined by a random 1d4 roll.  Roll 1d20+1d12 for score of each power and treat as ability scores above.

First Level Powers
Fighter Powers (cannot be combined with Magic-User Powers):
Archery (double attacks at range)
Body Armor     (Leather = Feeble
 Leather & shield = Poor
Chain = Typical
Chain & shield = Good
Platemail = Excellent
Platemail & shield = Remarkable
Martial Weapons (+1 CS damage, can get kill results)*

*Fighter Powers are the exception to the 1-3 powers limit, as the other powers can be purchased using Resources and gp at any time

Magic-User Powers (cannot be combined with Fighter Powers): 
Fire Control
Light Control
Detect Magic
Hold Portals
Read Anything
Protection from Evil (-2 CS to be hit)
Mind Control (1 person only)
Induce Sleep (opposed Psyche FEAT rolls vs. up to 16 targets)**

Magic-User Powers, once used, cannot be used again for 10 minutes

Cleric Powers (cannot be combined with Thief Powers):
Undead Turning    (Skeletons = Psyche opposed FEAT vs. Poor
        Zombies = Typical
        Ghouls = Good
        Wights = Excellent
        Wraiths = Remarkable
        Mummies = Incredible)

Thieves Powers (cannot be combined with Cleric Powers):
Open Locks
Find/Remove Traps
Hear Noise
Move Silently
Pick Pockets
Hide in Shadows
Climb Walls
Backstab (requires surprise or Move Silently first, then +4 CS to hit and double damage)

Dwarf Powers:
Resistance to Poison
Stonework Awareness

Elf Powers:
Combine Fighter and Magic-User Powers

Friday, April 27, 2012

Rpol Hideouts & Hoodlums Campaign - pt. 25

"Hmmm, yeah I'll go find something to do," Rudy said. He wandered the hallways until he found a door to open.

After taking some binders for his sack, the Mountain Man then cracked the doors to this office and observed what he could while planning what to do next. To the south, the guard still stood there who was there when they came in. He missed the sounds of the scuffle from the room, apparently, because he was talking to a second mobster who just came down the ladder from upstairs. When the Mountain Man opened the north door he found it led back into the chapel – and a guard was coming straight towards him.

Rudy saw the door open and shut. He could not quite make out the person, but it looked like another guard. So he advanced to the door to see what was going on.

"There's another guard coming," The Mountain Man whispered before taking a position next to the door. He would close it behind the guard as soon as he got in there.

Silver Scorpion looked around for something to bind and, especially, gag Willy. She was still tying him up with his own jacket when the Mountain Man gave his warning.

Rudy walked up to the door and knocked. "I know somebody’s in there,” he said. “I saw the door open and shut. Is there something going on in there?" He scratched his chin and thought this was some suspicious behavior and, maybe, the guards had caught another prisoner inside, like that woman who had saved him.

The Mountain Man realized he could not have this guard drawing attention to them like this, so he opened the door real fast, grabbed the guard on the other side, and hauled him in. He kicked the door closed behind him, knocked the guard down on the floor, and bent over him.

"Whoa, who are you people?" Rudy asked. He could see Silver Scorpion binding an unconscious guy. "The good guys?" he asked more quietly. "I'm FBI!"

Just then, the south door opened and the guard from outside glanced in. Everyone looked at him and froze where they were. He looked in the room and saw a man bending over another man on the floor and a woman in a torn silver jumpsuit tying up a third man.

"Geez," the guard said. "This cult just keeps getting weirder and weirder..." and then he shut the door.

As that guard left, Rudy went on to explain, "I am Rudy Malefor and I was a prisoner here until a woman with an A on her shirt saved me. Bad news is they captured her and put her in a cell. That is the last I saw her." He paused and went on to say, "I think I saw another of your kind captured also. They were taking him somewhere. I asked what they were doing with him and they didn't give me an answer. I had seen him in a cell at first though, when they took him out, I followed them until they got too suspicious of me."

"How well do you know the layout of this place?” Silver Scorpion asked. “Could you lead us to Alpha-Woman's cell?" She added as she finished tying up Willy good and tight. "But more to the point,” she said, addressing everyone, “how are we going to get around this place without bringing all the guards down upon us? Perhaps we could continue the 'prisoners' ruse and say we've got orders from Willy to escort the 'prisoners' to the cells.” Addressing Rudy again, she asked, “Have you seen the guards using any written orders or authorization, or is it all verbal?” Then, as it occurred to her, she added, “Secondly, did anyone see a set of keys around the office? Could come in useful." Before she could get an answer she started searching Willy for any items on his person.

"Yes, I can help you find your way to the cells," Rudy answered and then paused. "And about the written orders, I've never seen it. From what I see it's all verbal. I do like your idea." Then, after another pause he added, "I say about this guy, since he's knocked out, we're just going to have to leave him here and go down there without him."

"Willy's tied up and gagged. I'm fine leaving him, we can just tuck him under the desk. Guards'll assume he's left by the other door or something."

The Mountain Man rubbed his beard thoughtfully, "Let's get to the cells and free the folks we need to...then I'm fixing to brawl and end this nonsense once and for all if we can pull it off."

The desk was small, but the Mountain Man managed to shove Willy completely under it. Silver Scorpion had found nothing useful on Willy.

The heroes decided next on a desperate gamble -- a run into the basement cell block and back with anyone they could find. Rudy knew the way and the way meant crossing the south end of the occupied chapel. The Daoist and Silver Scorpion re-submitted to their false capture and were led by three ‘guards’ time back out of Willy's room.

The ladder had been put aside in the chapel and one of the mobsters was standing on the dais at the far end. Though the heroes could see no microphone by him, his voice still boomed. "Check one. Check one," he said. "Hey, Dr. McDermott, those prisoners are coming back through."

"What?" another voice booms in the chapel. "Bring them to the dais!"