31 October 2011

The Basic Fighter: Mentzer Reflections Part 8

Looking over the fighter in the Mentzer Red Box, it's clear that the fighter is the base or standard class.  Mentzer notes that every group should contain one or more fighters and that fighters serve to protect the weaker characters.  They can survive alone in the dungeon, even if they have to solve problems with brute strength.  They neither have, nor need, special abilities to make it.

Their saving throws are a straight progression (12-16) and their experience progression works in 2,000 point increments (at least from levels 1-3).

I wasn't surprised by the centrality of the fighter to basic play.  What I did find most interesting here, however, was the fighter's level titles.  At first level, the fighter is a "veteran".  I don't want to read too much into the choice of these particular titles, but that suggests that, even at first level, the fighter is fairly competent and has seen combat.  This fits well with the solo adventure, where the sample fighter was portrayed as someone who, while new to the dungeon, already knew his way around the end of a broadsword.

The fighter picture is a stern-looking fellow with chainmail, staring at the reader while resting his hands on the hilt of a sword.  It's a Jeff Easley drawing.

A dungeon in reverse

One of the cool ideas I want to play with in the zombie apocalypse game is the idea of a dungeon in reverse.  What I mean is using the dungeon not as the dangerous area where people explore to gain loot, but rather as a haven, where characters return to after forays into the outside world.  I know this could be done with the "monsters as characters" trope, but I'd like to do it with a traditional adventuring party.

The way I envision it, the adventuring party is part of a group that has fled to a dungeon or nearby series of caves in order to shelter from an impending disaster.  They've brought some supplies, willing to risk the uncertainty of the dangerous dungeon rather than whatever is happening in the outside world.  Eventually, they venture forth to see what awaits them, but the dungeon remains as a place where they return to take shelter.  Of course, areas of the caves are unexplored and dangerous, spawning monsters to menace the party upon occasion.

I just think it would be cool to reverse the gaming standards of "safe zone" and "dangerous dungeon."

28 October 2011

New Blog Template?

I am trying one of the new Dynamic Views template on Blogger.  This one is called Magazine.  What does everyone think?

Apparently, with the dynamic view, you can choose the way you view the blog, which is pretty cool.  Not really sure how to log into my own blog while in the default view, though, since the "sign in" link that was there at the top is now gone.

The Basic Cleric: Mentzer Reflections

I'm trying to resurrect my section by section of the Mentzer Red Box Basic set.  You can read my earlier entries here:

Prologue, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6Part 7

Before I get to the cleric, which is the first class covered in the Basic book, there's a one page introduction to the "Characters" section.  Up until this point, there's been plenty of solo play as introduction to the game.  The introduction to this section mentions two other modules (M1 Blizzard Pass and M2 The Riddling Minotaur) that you can play by yourself, but focuses on playing in a group.  In a group "fighters are always needed" and mention is made of trying to include most of the character classes if there are enough players.

The introduction also covers the Prime Requisite.  I found it interesting that the penalties and bonuses are not symmetrical.  The penalties are -20% and -10%, while the bonuses are +5% (for scores of 13-15) and +10% (16-18).  This would really serve to drive players to play classes that suit the rolled ability scores, I would imagine.

Turning the page to the cleric,  the first thing one reads is an explanation for the clerics power.  In Basic, clerics get their power from serving "a great and worthy cause" which is usually the cleric's Alignment.  The next paragrpah takes pains to remove any ethical or theological beliefs from the game: "This game does not deal with those beliefs" (emphasis in original).  No gods, no temples, no religion at all.  I can only assume this was done to sanitize the game a bit.  As an introduction designed to bring new players into the game, talking openly about polytheistic deities could have been seen as risky.  That's understandable, even if a bit dissapointing.  What it could do, however, is reorient the cleric (and the game's theistic frame) to Law vs. Chaos.  The cleric channels those primal forces to power her abilities.

The next bit deals with saves, experience, and other class features.  Though there is no theology present, the class titles are clearly religious (you're a priest at third level!).  Advancement would seem to be rapid, with second level gained at 1500 XP.

The next section details the cleric's special abilities -- turning undead and casting spells.  Turning undead is the 2d6, check the chart, then 2d6 of hit die system.  And, lest there is any confusion about how to use this ability, there is this helpful paragraph:

"When you want your cleric to try to Turn Undead, just tell your Dungeon Master 'I'll turn the Undead.'"

Umm. . . yeah.

For the spells, a cleric doesn't get to cast any until second level.  She meditates to learn the spell, choosing what she wants to learn at the beginning of the adventure.  There's a tacit assumption that the cleric will leave her home, go on an adventure, and then head back for a good night's sleep, as she only gets one spell per adventure at 2nd level, though there is a note that in "advanced games" where adventures can last for more than a day, she gets new spells each morning.  Only eight spells are given; none of them are remotely offensive.  They certainly emphasize protection, detection, and healing.

The cleric's role as a secondary monster-fighter and a caster of supporting spells is pretty clearly laid out here, even if the religious nature of the class is shoved way to the background.

I also like the Elmore illustration of the female cleric, running and brandishing her mace.  Wither her winged, feathered helmet and dark hair, I get an Eastern European vibe from her.

27 October 2011

Why the zombie apocalypse?

In a fantasy world, the rise of the zombies would need to be, well, fantastic.  Given the literal "dead walking the earth" thing, an event of tremendous magical magnitude seems appropriate.  A super-necromancer might have finally succeded in his arcane ritual.  Maybe a party of adventurers failed in their attempts to prevent it and evil has (temporarily) won.  The players in this game wouldn't know about this, however.  This set up wouldn't necessarily radically alter any game mechancics.  It gives a BBEG to fight against, if the PC's make it that far.

Although this is beginning to remind me, a bit, of the Midnight setting for 3E, which I did not care for.

Another alternative is something more akin to the Cataclysm in the Dragonlance setting.  The gods up and left, creating all sorts of havoc.  The principal consequence of the abdication of the pantheon is the dead rise.  Another serious consequence is the lack of any divine or clerical power.  No cure spells!  No turning undead!  This really ramps up the survival horror aspect of such a game, as traditional means of overcoming environmental hazards, especially injury, are now gone.  The denial of turn undead seems pretty harsh in an undead-centric game, but it also makes sense.  This gampaign frame seems a bit more open than the one above.  The PC's can try to figure out why the gods left and what, if anything, can be done to resore clerical power.  Or they can loot the now vacant churches.  Either way, they have plenty to do.

26 October 2011

Cannibals are better deep fried. (Pathfinder Update)

My character's name is Culver, by the way.  I know that was keeping all of you up at night.

Monday's session was very, very fun -- maybe the most fun I've had in the Pathfinder game yet.  It was essentially one long combat, as we tried to escape/were rescued from the cannibals.  Culver and the paladin managed to work free from their bonds and take a couple of guards from behind while the rest of the party drew off the bulk of the cannibals.  The cleric then led that group into an ambush by the rest of the party.  After the initial batch was dealt with, we reequipped, hid in the village, and ambushed another group of cannibals as they returned from the jungle.  Big nasty cannibal chief was with this group.  He proved to be pretty tough, but the fighter eventually took him down after we peppered him with arrows.  We ended up with one captured cannibal, who told us about the evil witch who lived in a hut outside the village and the wives of the chief who lived in the lighthouse.

In retrospect, it's hard to believe no one died.  There were something like 20 cannibals, plus the chief (who had in excess of 40 hit points).  In addition to a fair amount of luck, I'd like to say good tactics won the day.  We managed to separate the cannibals into smaller groups, drawing some away so we didn't have to face them all at once.  We used our spells to good effect -- ray of enfeeblement on the chief, increased speed from a domain power on the cleric to draw some of the cannibals away.  I also took a page from Cthulhu's Librarian and used grease to slow a bunch of the cannibals down as they charged us.  Not only did it buy us an extra round or two for missile fire, but then the paladin set the grease on fire, causing some cannibals to become deep fried.

Good times!  I still don't feel like I really know who Culver is yet, nor how he feels about being on this island.  But I still had a good time.

24 October 2011

Pathfinder Update

We're playing our Pathfinder game again tonight, after what seems like an extended hiatus, though it's only been two weeks.

The group itself is good. They are fun and smart people.

The adventure, thus far, is solid.  It's the Serpent's Skull adventure path.  We're the victims of a mysterious shipwreck.  Currently, we're making our way across the island to a mysterious lighthouse, which we hope will give us clues about how we ended up here and provide us with a way off the island.  There's an interesting group of NPC's tagging along with us.  All in all, it reminds me a lot of Lost, which is a good thing.  Of course, last session two PC's (including mine) and two NPC's were captured by cannibals; we'll see if we can make it out of this without being the main course!

I will admit to not feeling my bard/archaeologist character, though.  In all honestly, I can't tell you his name right now without going to the character sheet to look it up.  Granted, we're only four or so sessions in, so he and I might get closer as things progress, but I won't shed a tear if he gets eaten tonight.  I am not really sure why this is.  Maybe it's because he's sort of a generic support character who's not really good at any particular thing.  Maybe I haven't thought enough about his story and personality.  Maybe it's his 9 strength.  That -1 really gets in the way of a lot of rolls.  I'm not sure.  We'll see what happens tonight and I'll get back to you.

21 October 2011

The University, Red in Tooth and Claw

A red-tailed hawk keeps the campus here as part of his territory (though I am not sure where he nests).  I spotted him this morning as I was leaving the library.  Actually, I heard him first -- the clatter of his talons on the metal lampshade.  I looked up and there he was, enjoying a breakfast of some at this point unidentifiable meat.  My money would be on squirrel.   I snapped a quick photo with my phone.  I can't exactly say why, but catching him looking at me was very cool.

A beautiful fall day here.  Unless you're a squirrel, I suppose.

20 October 2011

Seriousness in RPG's

This is thought that deserves more attention, but all I have got is this for now:

I think RPGs, as a form, are capable of exploring some of the various aspects of the human condition like fear, love, tragedy, revenge, death, longing, etc.

These are games that would be more "serious" than others. (1)

I'd like to play/run games that do the above, at least sometimes.

But that never really happens.  I am not sure why,

(1) I am not implying that these sorts of games are better -- in any sense of the word --  than other sorts of games.  I am just trying to differentiate the tone of said games from others.  Also, I would imagine, there would be fewer jokes about bodily fluids and/or Monty Python references.

19 October 2011

The Character Funnel and Zombies

Continuing with the zombie theme, here's my latest brainstorm.  Granted, it's almost certainly been done before.  Also granted, I likely won't get very far with the idea.

A sword and sorcery post-apocolyptic zombie horror campaign.

This summer, I commented on my brief Dungeon Crawl Classics experience; I was critical of the character funnel idea.  I thought it was artificial in several ways, but would  make sense given certain initial campaign scenarios.  Well, zombie apocolypse is one of those scenarios.  Imagine that the initial party of 14-20 PC's are all that's left in a town after some Event happens that turns almost everyone else into zombies.  Viola!  Medieval zombie horror, where PC attirition is expected, resource management becomes key, and "heroes" emerge.

As an added twist, you could keep the true zombie-nature of the game from the PC's.  Game play begins in the dungeon.  The 14-20 person party has fled their village into nearby caves in order wait out the Event.  They've been stuck there for days/weeks/months, but finally have to venture out.  Part One of the adventure, then, becomes exiting the dungenon.  The party faces traditional dungeon monsters and hazards, with maybe a few more zombies than usual.  Those who survive stumble back into their village only to find it overrun by zombies, including friends and family who are now the undead.  In a nice reversal of tropes, the dungeon (which is at least partially cleared of monsters and hazards) becomes the safe space that the party can retreat to, while the vilage and most of the outside world becomes the "dungeon".

Next: other scenarios and possible rules modifications.

Image from tricketitrick on DeviantArt

17 October 2011

Zombies in Your Games?

My new favorite show is, certainly, The Walking Dead.  I missed it on it's first run, but I've watched the first season on Netflix and caught the season two premire last night.  More about the series later; now, it's got me thinking about zombies and gaming.

I know they are out there, but I've never really played in any sort of zombie-horror game, with any rule set.  With the exception of smashing and turning zombies in D&D, zombies have never really been a big part of any game in which I've participated.

So, how many of you folks have had games in which zombies have been a big deal?

What had happened was. . .

So, six weeks without posting.  Um, yeah.

Work, blah, blah. . . family, blah, blah, . . . perceived lack of gaming things to talk about, blah, blah. . . Google + will change everything blah, blah. . .

All of it, and none of it, but the simple fact is I like blogging (on my own schedule) and like interacting with the few folks who read and post here (and whom I follow and post on their blogs).  So expect more posts soon.