About Me

My photo
Seattle, Washington, United States
I'm an old time roleplayer who became a soldier who became a veteran who became a developer who became a dba who became a manager who never gave up his dream of a better world. Even if I have to create it myself.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Tiers of Power

One thing I've grown discouraged with in some games is the incremental level being taken too far.  I appreciate carrot-on-a-stick approaches, I recognize the need for minor power increases, and I love leveling up like most roleplayers.  But, when games like D&D 4e talk about tiers of play as a categorization to various levels, the words fall flat to my ears.  Why?  Because the difference between a level 11 paragon and a level 10 hero in 4e is, roughly speaking, a +1 in attributes and a minor special ability usable once every other combat.  Oddly, that's also similar to the difference between a level 21 epic and a level 20 paragon.

I simply don't find that impressive enough.  I think a sound ass-kicking should be involved if an epic toon gets in a fight with a paragon toon, except in extraordinary circumstances.

Here's a draft on what I imagine as a more exciting version of tiers; they are pseudo-inspired by Greek mythology.  A gaming group could choose to play in only one tier, or spread across them all.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Awesome Tool: Character Portraits

There is a site that hosts a few thousand images, originally indicated for Baldur's Gate purposes, but excellently usable for PCs and NPCs in your own tabletop game.

Perfect for my Orc Barbarian!


(Obviously many of these images are copyrighted elsewhere and shouldn't be used in your own published materials)

What I really enjoy doing with these is roaming around, finding an unusual portrait, and building an interesting character concept from the image - like this guy, who is obviously a blind bard that wears magic spectacles of pink headband detection.

His name?
"That Guy."
Yea, it's Vietnamese... ish.


Friday, February 24, 2012

What is tabletop roleplaying?

A lot of different people have different definitions, leading to all sorts of variations from traditions like D&D and GURPS to variations on the theme, like Microscope.  Everyone is, of course, right in their own way - and wrong to many others.  Lost Garden says that if we want to make our own game, we should "Knock a genre down to its most basic element", so allow me to explain what tabletop roleplaying means to me as I step into the world of making my own.

Tabletop?  Check.  Roleplaying?  Check.
Tabletop roleplaying?  You wish.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Awesome Clips: Key & Peele

If you don't watch Key & Peele then you are missing out. I bet these guys are great tabletop roleplayers.

Liberal arts majors
Here are two recent segments you don't want to miss.

A Classic Roleplaying Adventure
Edit: Apparently this clip is no longer anywhere online, for reasons unknown...

Pegasus Sighting!


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Awesome Tool: On Writing

If you want to write anything, this book is a must-read.  It doesn't matter if you are writing blogs or emails or adventures or short stories or novels or even something lame like a novella or a blog comment.

You might not even like some of Stephen King's works.  I don't.  It doesn't matter.  He doesn't like some of it either and he talks about why in here.  His meanderings on life and death and on "telling the truth" give form and purpose to writing and teach about connecting with readers.

Monday, February 20, 2012

#1 Rule of Game Design

I used to work for an MMORPG game development shop, which shall remain nameless.  The management at said company left a lot to be desired.  I was young at the time, and couldn't really articulate why they weren't effective, but now I realize it was a fundamental lack of pure management skills - they loved video games, but didn't understand how business worked, lacked basic leadership skills, and didn't understand project management.

Still, they loved video games, and games of all kinds really.  There is at least one positive thing I learned while there - the fundamental rule of game design and game play.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Awesome Historic Cheese: Halloumi

It's spelled with one 'l' in places like Australia, because they have their own wacky version of English called we-never-really-learned English.  I lived in Sydney for a while teaching them modern concepts like databases and the wheel, so I also know that Australians are really sure they have great cheeses, but have only one kind of native cheese, elaborately named - I kid you not - Tasty Cheese.  Unfortunately, in we-never-really-learned English, "Tasty" means "what the hell is this crap", resulting in blokes from out of the country being woefully confuzzled.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Awesome Historic Rule: Dungeon Making

Book of Awesome, Volume 3
"In beginning a dungeon it is advisable to construct at least three levels at once, .... A good dungeon will have no less than a dozen levels down, with offshoot levels in addition, ...."
  - The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures, Gygax & Arneson, (c) 1974.

They sure don't make them like they used to.

Remember what it was like to explore a huge dungeon?  Wondering what amazing surprises and cruel traps and forgotten treasures awaited you around the next corner?  Tomb of Horrors?  Castle Greyhawk?  Or even the Slavers' Hold?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Unicorns and Virgins!

In college, I learned that both of these are myths, regardless of what her father might be desperately clinging to.  The virgin myth originates with the desire to keep getting tuition money - but where does the unicorn myth come from?
Not a virgin either.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Realism != Fun

Tempted to disagree?  Fine.  Let's play a game where you go to work all day and do boring shit that I want you to do so that I can get rich while you stay poor.  Then I'm gonna go live in my mansion with my servants and my 12-car garage and my personal chef and think of ways to pay you less.

Meanwhile, you can sit in your little straw hut and eat leftovers again while you watch sitcoms on your 12-inch tube television.  Maybe if you are really lucky, you'll get to hear your neighbors having sex later, just to remind you how alone you are.

Sound harsh?  That's realism.  Oh, what's that?  You didn't mean realism in jobs?  You meant realism in the fun stuff, like combat?  Fine, let's talk about that.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Mr. Blue's Tavern Chili

What better to warm your party on a cold winter's night than a bowl of piping hot Mr. Blue's Tavern Chili?
Looks like one of my gaming groups

Friday, February 10, 2012

Awesome Tool: Dynamic Graph Paper

I've always had a hard time finding the right size and shape of blank graph paper that I need, especially in RPGs but also for software architecture documents or the likes.


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Rule 00 - Don't Be a Dick

I recently read a post over on ars ludi about the practical limitations of "don't be a dick".  This is a response to that entry - the more I wrote in the comments field over there, the less it made sense as a comment.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Awesome Historic Creature: Aurumvorax

-vorax is Latin for voracious, and Aurum is a type of Italian liqueur - ever seen a ferret act like a mean drunk?  Courtesy of the 2nd edition D&D Monstrous Manual, this is the 'roid raging gym rat of the animal kingdom.
In 2nd edition D&D, the ferret keeps you as a pet

Monday, February 6, 2012

Golem and Eve

Who was the first golem?  His name was Adam.

Yes, that Adam.  The one you would have learned about if you had gone to church instead of frantically worshiping the devil in your mother's basement.  You with your polyhedral dice and your spellbooks and your demons tanar'ri.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

BOOM! Exploding Dice!

As many roleplayers have heard or experienced, some dice explode.  And I'm not talking about the positive aspects of a little C-4 on poor performers - which surely none of us have seriously considered...

Rather, I'm talking about the die mechanic that says when a player rolls the maximum value on a die, they get to roll again.  I've been contemplating this rolling mechanic for my own nefarious purposes, and decided to do a bit of mathematical analysis.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Awesome Historic Rule: Darkvision

"it is generally true that any monster or man can see in total darkness as far as the dungeons are concerned except player characters."

From the little green book, Monsters & Treasure, Gygax and Arneson (c) 1974.  The era generally considered "pre-1e" by modern archaeologists.  Why do I think it's Awesome?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

How they apparently plan on fixing D&D for 5e

After reading articles like this post from Hack & Slash, I got curious about what WotC was really doing.  So, using ancient black hat kung fu techniques, and a bit of trash can digging, I have discovered the following code artifact.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

One attack roll to rule them all

There's a lot of different attack mechanisms in modern roleplaying games.  I've spent a lot of time thinking about these, in between meetings and system outages and games and more meetings.  What is the nature of an attack in an rpg?  Let's dissect it.

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