The Hexed Gamer is back!

After a couple of years working shifts I am now able to put some effort into my blog…rising like the Phoenix from the ashes.

What am I playing at the moment? I have just started playing in a FFG Star Wars game, where I play a Bothan spy. We are currently caught in the middle of an Imperial invasion…

I am also running a 5e D&D campaign, which started with the Saltmarsh series, then went to Isle of Dread and is has just started Storm King’s Thunder (which is very good). Its amazing how easy it is to convert 1e and 2e modules to 5e. I am planning to run Dragon Mountain next.

Finally, I am running a Pathfinder game set in Ptolus. The party is in the middle of the Banewarrens adventure at the moment, and I plan to run 13th Age next (Eyes of the Stone Thief looks so good). I run this game on Mondays, and don’t work on that day so we can get a lot more sessions in.

I am working on a 5e setting called Greymark at the moment, and hope to put the information in a wiki at some point.

I am also hoping to get more involved with my gaming club to play more board games.

GMing the Pathfinder Starter Set

On Monday I ran the Pathfinder Starter Set with 4 players new to RPGs, and I had a blast (and it seems they did too!). We were using the adventure in the box, and the four ‘iconic’ characters (Fighter (Mark), Wizard (Bruce), Rogue (Adam H) and Cleric(Adam N)).

It didn’t start well – two Goblins got the drop on the party and attacked the Wizard and the Cleric. One was dispatched quickly, but the other was obviously a super Goblin, as it survived three rounds, before being downed by a Ray of Frost from the Wizard.

But things improved (although Bruce’s Wizard seemed to think he was a Rogue at times and got himself into several scrapes), and in the final show down against the ‘big bad’ of the dungeon was successful (although the Wizard and Rogue were both dying at one point, and were saved by the Fighter with a magical sword he found earlier).

As I said, it was fun for me (and different to run Pathfinder for a new group), and the players seemed to enjoy it. I was amazed how fast they slipped into the ‘architypical’ roles – the Rogue palming treasure etc.

I am looking forward to the next session!

Dungeons and Dragons is 40 years old today (we think)

On 26th January 1974 at 1.40pm EST (7.40pm GMT), E Gary Gygax invited some friends around his house to play a new game. Based on his Chainmail minatures rules, the game used the Man to Man variant of those rules to run adventures in fantasy dungeons, based on the works of Tolkien, Vance, Leiber etc (although Gygax himself disliked the works of JRR Tolkien, he mined it for ideas, especially Elves, Dwarves, Halflings/Hobbit and Balors/Balrogs, to the extent he was threatened with legal action by the Tolkien estate). The infamous Appendix N of the original Dungeon Master’s Guide gives some idea of the influences on Gygax.

This game became Dungeons and Dragons (named, according to legend, by Gygax’s daughter), which spawned the Role-playing industry. Without D&D you would not have computer Role-Playing Games, at least not in the format they took, with levels, hit points etc (World of Warcraft and most other MMORPGs pay a hugh debt to D&D). Although many RPGs moved away from the conventions of D&D (dispensing with levels, hit points, armour class etc), they are still recognisably the bastard children of E Gary Gygax’s original game.

With D&D itself having gone through four revisions (not counting BECMI in the 80s), and a new version due out this Summer, all I can say is Happy Birthday Dungeons and Dragons!

2nd Edition, here we come!

I will hopefully soon be running AD&D 2nd Edition for my Monday night group, which is currently making its way through the Serpent’s Skull Pathfinder AP. After running 3.x and Pathfinder since 2000, it will really make a nice change :-).

We will be playing with the class/race splat books, and a lot of the optional rules, as I like crunch. There are some options not available, like Bladesingers and Elven archery.

I plan to run the party through several first and second edition modules I own, cumulating in G1-3/D1-3. They will start with N1: Against the Cult of the Reptile God. Along the way, I hope to run Castles Forlorn, House of Strahd and the Dungeonland modules, as well as a couple of the UK modules. There is also the option of Greyhawk Ruins to fill in gaps.

Kill the monsters and take their stuff

I have been developing a new RPG over the last year or so: it is intended to allow quick and dirty dungeon based adventures, at least initially. It is called Kill the monsters and take their stuff, which I think sums up the ‘old-school’ philosophy. This is shortened to Kill the monsters… or KTM.

I currently have brief alpha documents, outlining chargen, the game systems and spell casting, and am transfering them into a beta document, which should be playable. If anyone wants to be a playtester, get in touch.

Alpha documents are here: http://db.tt/VrEp2nXL

D&DNext first public playtest kit

Well, its here – the first glimpse at D&DNext, via the first public playtest documents. It consists of 5 characters (Fighter, Wizard, Rogue and 2 Clerics), basic rules, DM guidelines, a bestiary, and an adventure (based on the caves of chaos from Keep on the Borderlands).

Characters

The clerics and wizard seem pretty solid. Turning is now a spell, but the Clerics have an ability to cast it at will, which indicates it will be available as a spell for other classes (the Paladin?). Both get minor spells, which can be cast at will. For the Wizard, vancian casting is back.

The rogue is a real skill monkey – he can take 10 for a skill check after rolling the check. He is explicitly a Thief, and does thiefy things. Sneak attack seems to improve every level.

The Fighter is, well, crap compared with the other classes. All he seems to get is +2 to damage. At second level, he can attack twice 2 times a day, and at third level gets cleave. That’s it, basically.

All the characters have a background and a theme. It is not clear whether these are class agnostic, or not. Could you, for example, have a Slayer Wizard?

Rules

All in all, the basic system is pretty good – it seems to have been dialled down from previous editions. The highest DC seems to be 27, and attributes max out at 20 (+5) for PCs. Given +3 for a trained skill, the best skill check appears to be +8. Saves are now attribute rolls, and there is no explicit BAB. As written, characters going up a level get more HP and some powers, but no bonuses to attack rolls/saves, which seems…odd. It may be that they stripped out level bonuses to keep things simple.

All rolls are checks now, based on attributes. So a melee attack is a check based on Strength, plus bonuses.

Combat notably has no rules for using a grid, which suggests such rules may be a module. This will be jaring for those used to later editions of the game. The armour table is one of the worst parts of the game – the maths is totally wonky, and Chain Shirts rule…

The rules include a selection of spells, most of which are the old classics. The save DC does not increase with the level of the spell, apparently.

DM Guidance

This is a shorter document, outlining what the DM needs to know. One glaring ommision is the lack of information on the check required to disable a trap.

Bestiary

The bestiary includes all the mosters from the adventure. The stat blocks seem to be a combination of 2nd and 3rd edition information. There are very few monster powers a la 4th edition. HP seem a bit high (88 for an Ogre?), but apparently that is one of the areas they want to test. It is all a bit bland, but thats OK for a playtest.

Adventure

This is a faithful reworking of the caves of chaos from B2. I think it would require a lot of work by the DM to be fun, to be honest.

Good Points

– underlying system seems solid
– Wizard and Clerics have plenty of option in play
– old school feel

Bad Points

– fighter is very poor
– maths seems wonky at times (especially on the character sheets)

Overall, a good, solid start.

Red Stars sci-fi setting riff

[also posted to rpg.net]

The year is 250 SE (socialist era) (or AD 2167 in the old, bourgeois dating).The Federation of Socialist Friendship (FSF) dominates the earth and space, following the collapse of the imperialist west in the 70s SE (1990s), and is itself dominated by the Soviet Union, reformed by Mikhail Gorbachev in the 60s-100s SE
The USA is a declining state, still clinging precariously to its outdated imperialist-capitalist dogmas. Its main ally is Canada, along with some Latin American states and Australia. It survives mainly due to superpower rivalry between the USSR/FSF and China, and its nuclear arsenal. Both find the existance of the USA useful in their geopolitical tussles. Western Europe has been absorbed into the FSF as a number of Socialist states. The African Socialist Union rules Africa from its capital in Addis Ababa. The nations of the middle east are allied to the FSF. Most of South and South-East Asia is dominated by China, the FSF’s only real rival (and nuclear competitor).
Dominating earth orbit is the massive FSF orbital complex Lenin-Gorbachev, the HQ of the FSF fleet and administrative capital of the non-earth FSF in the solar system. The Chinese have a smaller orbiting complex, the Chairman Mao Zedong. The solar system is exploited by both the FSF and China, and there have been several stand-offs in the last few decades (none of which have thankfully resulted in a shooting war).
68 years ago, FSF scientists developed a practical hyper-drive, exploiting holes which had been exposed in the theory of relativity. China soon reverse-engineered the drive, and a new extra-solar space-race began. Dozens of colony worlds were established, and soon  great quantities of extra-solar resources were pouring into earth.
The strains were showing, however, and in 225 SE, 14 colony worlds revolted from the FSF, arguing that they should decide what was done with their resources. After a short civil war (and some humiliating defeats for the FSF: it is rumoured that the Chinese gave the rebels help), the Out-worlds treaty of 228 SE established the Out-world Union, independent of the FSF. These planets have developed into more democratic states than FSF or Chinese colonies, although they still have socialist economies. The FSF, China and Out-world Union have all started new exploration programs, and the total number of colonies and Out-world planets number in the hundreds.
Both the FSF and China have so-called Gulag planets, where criminals, dissidents and other undesirables are exiled. Whilst not as notorious as the early Gulag camps on earth,  in the 1st century SE, these are still tough planets to live on and are dominated by gangs and mafias.
The FSF and Chinese both maintain large space fleets. The pride of the FSF fleet are the Kutuzov and Zhukov class dreadnoughts, whilst the Chinese have the Zhou EnLai and Long March class Battleships. Although the USA doesn’t have much of a space fleet as such, its massive Yankee Clipper class merchant transports are important in transporting goods, especially to and from the Out-world Union. In addition, they are rumoured to support the Freebooters, pirates in all but name.

Traveller Starports Review

[Archived from www.thehexedgamer.co.uk]

 Publisher: Mongoose Publishing
Author: Carl Walmsley

Traveller Starports is a supplement for Mongoose Traveller, about, well, Starports. It is tagged as a Third Imperium product, but could be used in any campaign.
The book is softback, and has 118 pages, divided into 6 chapters: Introduction, Starport Encounters, Designing Starports, Sample Starports, New Ships and Reference Manual.

Introduction

This outlines the different types of Starport, and the (Imperial) Starport Authority (SPA). It explains what travellers can expect to find at the various classes of Starports (E to A), and Highports and Downports.
The SPA covers the organisation of the Authority at Imperial Starports, its objectives, customs law and links with other Imperial organisations. The Imperial Starport Organisation details the directorates within the SPA at each Starport, from Administration to Traffic and Flight Control. In a small Starport, employees will cover multiple roles, whilst the largest Starports will have hundreds or thousands in each directorate.
Finally, other Starports (Scout, Naval, Naval Depots, X-Boat Station, Independent Ports and Private Starports) are covered briefly.

Starport Encounters

The bulk of this chapter is devoted to tables for encounters at Starports, from Backwater Locations to Metropolis Locations. Each group of encounters is divided into General (day-to-day) and Significant (unusual and/or perilous). Some are patron encounters, environmental encounters, opportunities to buy unusual goods, and others are specific passengers.
Finally, it includes tables for local character details, the Starport Governor and Starport Quirks.

Designing Starports

This entire chapter is given over to designing Starports, and their associated costs. It is pretty comprehensive, covering everything from landing pads to security holding cells. Each Starport has a Profile, which may be filled out by the GM when creating it.
Starports are expensive – even a Class E Starport will cost upwards of MCr 1.
The chapter ends with a couple of examples: a Class E built from scratch and a Class E upgraded to a Class C.

Sample Starports

This includes details of 9 Starports created under the rules of the Designing Starports chapter. These are detailed with adventure hooks and important locations and personalities at the Starport. However, despite what the chapter introduction says, the do not include maps, which is a bit of a let-down. This from Mongoose, who provide plans for every ship they details (even 200,000 tonne warships!). Poor show.
The Starports range from Rhylantinople, the city-sized Starport of Rhylandor, to The Boneyard, an independent Starport built into the hulk of the Imperial battleship Megalith by a group of radicals (called the Dregs) from Querrion.
All the Starports have their place in the OTU, but could be transposed elsewhere with a little work. This is probably the most Third-Imperium centred chapter of the whole book.

New Ships

This includes 4 new ships: Dreg Fighter, Dreg Hunter (both associated with The Boneyard detailed in the previous chapter), Recovery ship and Tanker, all with associated rules and ship plans. New equipment is also included: Fuel Transfer Equipment and Magnetic Grapples, both of which may be included in other ships.

Reference Material

This has example Starports of each type, both Downports and (where appropriate) Highports. It also has basic schematics of each class Starport.

Conclusion

A good, solid supplement, aside from the now inevitable Mongoose typos: why can’t Mongoose hire proof readers (they jump out of the page at you, so a once-over would have revealed the problems). Still, it’s nowhere as bad as the Universe of Babylon 5 sourcebook! The lack of maps in the Sample Starports chapter is also a disappointment.
I would recommend this supplement to anyone running a campaign in the Third Imperium.

Return to Second Edition

[Archived from www.thehexedgamer.co.uk]

Recently, my gaming group have started a 2nd Edition AD&D campaign – and it’s been interesting. Travel back with me to D&D, 90’s style…

My group currently has 3 players and a DM, but another player is about to (re)join us. We were previously playing a long-term 3.5 campaign, from 1st-20th level. We hope to move onto Pathfinder when the 2nd edition game finishes. One of the players in the previous campaign (I was the DM) volunteered to DM this campaign, to give me a break (thanks, Louise!)

Characters

The characters are as follows:

A Human Cleric of Waukeen (me)
A Dwarf Fighter/Cleric of Moradin (Gerry)
A Elf Thief/Wizard (Matt)

We should hopefully be getting an Elf Ranger joining us soon.

I had forgotten just how useless low-level Wizards were in 2nd Edition – luckily I persuaded Matt to play a multi-class wizard, so he still has his Thief skills to fall back on (once he uses up his one spell). The whole multi-classing took some getting used to for players used to the d20 model. To be honest, I am playing a human only for story reasons: Humans are very weak compared with other classes, unless you play a long-term campaign with level limits. Still, I should be one level higher than the others throughout the campaign, which is some compensation.

Clerics are a mixed bag: having to memorise Cure spells is a pain, as it really reduces the flexibility of the Cleric, but I love the god-specific spell lists (I had largely forgotten these until recently). It is irritating that I can’t use certain spells, but it adds to the Role-Playing aspect of the whole thing.

Combat

The first thing we did was run a small combat, to get us used to the combat system. It feels a lot less tactical than 3/3.5, but that is perhaps inevitable given 1 minute combat rounds. It was a bit weird that technically this combat outlasted pretty much every combat we ran in the previous campaign, as it lasted about 5 rounds (5 minutes). That would be 50 rounds in 3.5! Actually, I’ve always found one minute rounds allow the abstract elements of D&D (Armour Class, Hit Points etc.) to make more sense.

It took some time to get used to announcing what you are doing at the beginning of the combat round, and then rolling initiative (we are using the individual initiative rules). That required some house-ruling (what happens if the situation changes etc.). But by last session (our fourth or fifth), it was beginning to become second nature. We also misplayed the backstab rules, treating them as more like the later Sneak Attack. We are now playing the correct rules.

Other Rules

Talking of rules, they are not that well organised in comparison with 3.5. Some rules are quite obscure and downright badly written. For example, are all bows assumed to have Str bonuses for those with less than 18 Str? Or only specially made ones? Since they cost the same, I can’t see why you wouldn’t buy and enhanced bow. Indeed, the whole bow specialism section seems odd. But that’s probably with 10 years experience of running a system designed with checks and balances (3/3.5). AD&D was always much more “simulationist” (potion mixing table etc), or as much as a game with magic could be…

One of the advantages of d20 is that there is one over-arching system. There are lots of different sub-systems in 2nd Edition (combat, non-weapon proficiencies, thief skills etc), which is good and bad – it allows systems to be created for specific tasks, but can be confusing. I find the non-weapon proficiencies to be better than skills in d20: you are proficient in the skill to start with, and they don’t overwhelm other systems like some skills do in d20 (diplomacy for example is badly broken in d20).

Conclusion

I am enjoying our journey back to the 90’s. I don’t think I would play it all the time, but it has rekindled my interest in the game (I played it to exhaustion back in the 90’s, and openly embraced d20). Unlike d20, it really is basically the same game as original D&D, with some additions – the real jump in evolution would come with d20. Of course, d20 was itself based on Gamma World, 4th edition (released in 1992, only a couple of years after 2nd Edition).

10 Things I learnt from RPGs

Ten things I learnt from reading and playing RPGs:

  1. What a diety is (AD&D)
  2. How the Numbers game works (Gangbusters)
  3. How to fix the Numbers game (Gangbusters)
  4. French Roulette uses 0 instead of 00 (James Bond 007)
  5. Differences between various pole-arms (AD&D)
  6. How to pronounce ‘Scenario’
  7. The format of medieval jousts (King Arthur Pendragon)
  8. Various parasites in Africa and their effects (Dark Continenent)
  9. Medieval metaphysics (Ars Magica)
  10. Japanese ritual suicide is called Seppuku (not Hari-Kari) and consists of 3 cuts (Bushido)

Just goes to show the educational benifits of RPGs…

 🙂