Some 5E thoughts while stroking the variant human dongle

I am in a Strahd game with Matt and others and we made characters from scratch and dared each other to roll (which happened) rather than points buy. Since it’s 4d6 out of order and pick the best, you are going to get some good rolls, and fuck yeah I did.

I made a fighter, rolled 18 str, great weapon combat style and great weapon master feat via the Human variant (+1 to two stats, +1 skill, +1 feat).  It turned out every player went Human variant, and we all have extremely different characters.    I can’t see a reason why anyone would play anything other than this.  You want to make a fantastic assassin?  Variant Human.  Awesome sorcerer?  Variant Human.  Basically a two-hander rivaling GUTS? Variant Human.  This is at 1st level.

I think this is by design.  My limited exposure to 4E, 3rd edition and Pathfinder lead me to believe no one ever chose humans because those games are games solely of ‘testing your stats’ optimization, and the other fantasy races did this better.  Optimization matters quite a bit less in 5E because it’s not trying to be the beardy twink game that 3E is.  What’s attractive about the variant humans in 5E is specialization.  You could (should?) play a game only with human PC’s and you could have a ton of very different characters, even at first level and it would be great.  By design? Remember, as a human, you are unique, just like everyone else.

Secondly, while 5E isn’t explicitly a miniatures game, they will get busted out from time to time.  I ain’t playing with these shit assed Pathfinder/D&D pre-paints. They are terrible. Reaper bones are a slight level up, but still not great.  Given that, and the fact that my brother will do the same thing, I’ve upped the aesthetic a bit and built a couple guys tonight for this weekend’s game from a company that actually knows how to make miniatures.

5egame

Yes, they are not painted yet, yes they are still drying from being glued, and they need flash removed, but look at those badass landsknecht motherfuckers, compared to this shytte:

shytte

Next I’m looking at either Frostgrave or some of the Perry Twin’s foot knights box sets if I’m feeling a bit more 15th Century.

Things I learned from the Exalted Kickstarter

Exalted 3rd edition is out after many years, and seems better than 2nd edition.  Yet, after all this time I find that I still don’t have the book I kickstarted, which, according the the kickstarter, was the whole point of it (it was stated they didn’t need funding for development).  I reported awhile back that this was on my fucked kickstarter list, and it still is.

From the 3E PDF, the writing is superfluous, inefficient and overblown.  The system, while not as crazy as 2E, is as complex as ever, this time with some strange abstractions layered over the top of the WW storyteller system (which should have been abandoned in the first place). People may play this game, but as stated by the new head of White Wolf:

…while the monumental classic-WW-style books generally sell poorly and are more read than played. If future editions … are actively used rather than collected we have done our job.

Monumental. Did I mention it’s ….600+ pages. It’s not 2009 anymore.  Why would any RPG book need to be this large? The 5E PHB is half that, even the all-encompassing, rather wordy at times Runequest 6 only 450 pages. So what did I learn for the future:

  1. Never back an RPG that doesn’t send you an immediate PDF of the rules.
    •  No one needs money to do development on a new RPG system.
    • People do this in their free time (Black Hack, Godbound, Zwiehander) and are successful.
    •  Any COMPANY doing this will be able to support their developers during the development process, long, long long before they ask us for money (Feng Shui 2, Dungeon Crawl Classics).
    • I expect to Kickstart PRINTING of an RPG, never development.
    • This was just ignorance and stupidity on everyone’s parts that backed Exalted 3E.  Remember how long ago this kickstarter was, we were young then, and dumb.
  2. Never back another White Wolf / Onyx Path Kickstarter.
    •  This goes without saying
  3. Ask for kickstarter money back at the first missed deadline.
    • Don’t meet deadlines that you yourselves have set?
  4. Ask for kickstarter money back if the creator is openly stating that they are facing severe health problems. (people finding out on the side is a different matter)
  5. Be very wary of new RPG system re-development Kickstarters.
  6.  Don’t back anything that will fucking suck to GM, and Exalted, in all it’s editions is a game that’s great as a player, but it’s horrible to GM, not just the learning, but the playing.  This took awhile to discover for myself.

    Solars
    These guys (the second tier signature Solars) are still cooler than the 3E ones, sadly.

MOO has my Meklars!

it’s now time to play and buy Master of Orion if you haven’t.  Silicoids, Meklars, Darloks (and espionage) are now in the game.  It’s fucking READY TO ROLL.

Given it wasn’t Spring and like the third nice day (without snow) here so far this year, given I didn’t have tons of crap to do, given I hadn’t had unprotected sex a few times awhile back, I’d be playing all weekend.  All I was able to do last night was play until I passed out in front of the computer.  meklars

World of the Lost session 2

Lost

Had to wait an extra week to play but here we are with the 2nd World of the Lost session report. Here is the first session.  As this was a playtest as well, I went in a different direction this time with a straight up fuckall deathcrawl compared to the open ended city session last time.  This was not what I was expecting to run when I first set out to do the playtest, but here we are.

Characters.  We only had four for this session.  One player bowed out because he said he can’t play RPG’s on roll20 and one no-show.

  • Rainer Keeling – MU with a leather mask to hide his face (1 hp), Move earth, Mass Suggestion and Stone Shape
  • Van Hagen – Specialist
  • Bernard Dreu – Fighter
  • Udo Quattlebaum – Fighter (w/mancatcher)

The characters woke up tied with vines outside of a ruined temple after a night of carousing in Khirima.  They woke to the screams of another of the Portuguese  from the caravan they had traveled with crawling on the ground with his tongue cut out.  Above him stood a tall, severely pregnant African woman with a wild wreath of red hair holding a bloody knife.  The very Ekene they had been sent to kill!  Around the crumbling stones and edge of the jungle were Ekene’s retinue, many with Leopard kilts, long spears and some with steel drums.  She seemed displeased.

She watched the characters slowly wake up to the sounds of the jungle and mid-morning sunlight flitting through the canopy and then told them (in Hausa at first, which none of them spoke since the translator was still passed out, then broken English) that they must beg for their lives for even thinking of harming her.  They babbled excuses at her that they hadn’t done anything and after a few of them actually begged for their lives, she called her guards over to remove a large slab from the steps of the temple.

Musty and chilled air poured out over the temple grounds, and the characters were untied, given their weapons and equipment and bade to go into the black space under the tomb to bring out anything they could as repayment for the offense given by their plotting.  While they had their pistols and weapons, Ekene confidently turned her back on them, basically daring them to strike her, and went and sat on a portable couch to watch while getting fanned by her retainers.  The drummers started up and the characters put their armor on, loaded their pistols and descended into the darkness.

The tomb was chilled and the air heavy. The stone of the temple was impossibly smooth granite and this caused some concern as they hadn’t seen anything like it in Khirima. They hit a wrought iron door first that Udo unlocked easily (a fighter who had +3 tinkering). This lead to a small, empty room with bas reliefs of priests worshiping a humanoid in long robes with a crow’s head.  They hit another iron door, but this one was not locked…

In the hallway beyond this door, the characters started to learn that Ekene wasn’t the nicest person.   Bernard fell into a pit trap and took 8 damage (I allowed a WIS save), and as the group pulled him out of the pit, Van Hagen hit a tripwire and was hammered by a swinging log on a chain from the ceiling  (taking 3 points of damage– I’m listing exact damage cause it’s important later) and barely missed being thrown back into the pit himself (I allowed a WIS save for this as well).

Beyond the trapped hall was a large tomb complete with a sarcophagus, and two steel statues; obviously some sort of protectors of the tomb.  Bernard threw his throwing axes into the room to see if he could trigger a pressure plate, but to no avail.  When he went to pick them up, the statues came to and after their long wait for intruders to pummel, started attacking.

Bernard used the (new) Guard action to hold them off and to push his AC up to 19.  Down to 2 hp it was lucky the statues didn’t hit him. This luck will run out.  Meanwhile, the other characters prepped the log to try to swing it at the statues as they came through the hall. Stuck between the pit and the statues wasn’t the most pleasant place to be!

Rainer had Shape Stone (a 5th level spell), so when Bernard ran back into the hall to kite the living statues into the log, he cast it on a block of stone above one of the statues and pinned it to the floor for a bit.  Meanwhile, the other statue got the log directly in the chesticle, and was thrown back into the tomb.   Rainer fired his brace of pistols at the one he had pinned, but to little effect except a misfire that he burned his session Luck points on (also to no effect), so Udo then used his mancatcher to toss it into the pit, destroying it, and they hammered the other one with the log again.  Great job in the combat as there were no attacks with normal weapons (other than the pistols).

The guardians down, it was time to loot the tomb.  The characters did a bunch of search rolls (luckily no wandering monsters) and found a trapdoor made of stone at the top of a dais, and a small keyhole in a sarcophagus. After many failings at rolling the dice,  Rainer decided to simply Stone Shape the trapdoor, and things went quite awry.  Being his second spell of the day, he had to make a Magic save with 5D6, which failed and the spell was miscast!  An alien light filled the tomb and all characters re-suffered their last damage.  Bernard was  killed, and Van Hagen was down to 1 hp.  Since they had never taken any hp of damage, Udo and Rainer both doubled their hp.  Udo up to an incredible 14 hp (at first level) and Rainer up to a WHOPPING 2 hp.

rollin 1's all night!
miscasted.

We had to call it for the night.

Adventure notes

Needless to say, there’s lots of room for stuff in World of the Lost.  This tomb fit in pretty well for a non-plateau encounter.  I like Ekene, pregnant and fucking pissed as she is, and she ain’t one of the main module characters as written, but she is in mine!  World of the Lost has “make this your own” all over it without that making being a lot of work.  While this was just a two session game, and didn’t even scratch the surface of the content, so I’m looking forward to going back to the World of the Lost again.

System notes

This is a 0.1 playtest so there are some burrs. I like the spell system, but it’s a bit strange as players have zero control over what they get, a bit like the Arcanum from Into the Odd. I’m used to miscasts from WFRP and especially 8th Edition Warhammer Fantasy Battle so fuck yes to that. However, I think nearly all the spells need to be rewritten to fit the totally random method of selection. A daunting task and one that might fuck with backwards and forwards compatibility.  Of note as well, if designers are building adventures, it’s possible that they would assume that parties may have specific spells at certain levels. With the no level requirement and random spells, this may be impossible.

Frankly I would just directly steal the Warhammer Fantasy Battle cast and miscast rules.  The MU has a pool of D6’s based on his or her INT score (calculated just like the CHA and WIS saves) except these are used to cast spells. The formula would be XD6’s + level vs spell’s casting number, X being the number of dice the MU wanted to use to cast a spell.  Casting number would be the number of pips needed to successfully cast a spell. 1st level spells are cast on a 6+ for example.  MU chooses the number of dice they want to use from their pool (say they have a 2nd level spell that casts on a 7+, they might use 3 dice giving them a 9 average roll + their level to hit the casting number).  Spells never go crazy if they fail to cast, spells only go crazy when the power used to cast them is too much for the MU to handle!   If two 6’s come up, you roll on the ‘really bad’ miscast chart.  No matter what, the spell is cast if two 6’s come up, but other stuff happens, bad stuff (see picture below).  A 4th level magic user (with a +4 base to the casting roll) would rarely need to roll more than 1 die for 1st or 2nd level spells (D6+4 vs casting number of 6 and 7 respectively), so would have zero chance of a bad miscast.  Even with 2 dice to make sure, the chance is very low.  A 6th level magic user would never need to use casting dice to cast 1st or 2nd level spells.  The magic dice pool is refreshed every long rest the character takes that would also give back at least 1 hp.

miscast

Combat was fine, I’m not sure about the new armor rules  so just went with the old version.  The guard action seemed to be of use but there is both a firearms and ranged ‘combat style’ that seemed a bit redundant.

The skills are interesting now that everyone has them, but I think the Luck skill is by far the most important skill to get.  It can make impossible rolls possible and help the specialist be able to use every single skill in the game with just a small spread of points (by level 13, a specialist with points in luck left has statistically 100% chance of success in all skills if he spread just 3 points into every skill there is). In addition, if Steve had saved his luck for his miscast, things could have gone better. So rather than INT being the go to stat for Magic User, high CHA and Luck is the ideal to keep those miscasts off.

A bit we didn’t like was the -4 hp save/partial save mechanic.  at -4 HP, while the full save equals ‘passed out but survives,’ the partial save means the same thing as a failed save: death with no chance of healing or recovery (it just takes longer).  The feedback loop of a partial save (not that easy to get on 3 or 4d6) makes it feel like it should be a better outcome, like you are out and will die in 1d10 rounds, but can be saved by another player somehow.  Also, the death saves are based on Wisdom (non magical), which was a bit odd.

Damage healing was very harsh in the new version, especially with no clerics and no access to healing magic except randomly.  Expect characters to drop like flies if they get into combat after combat.

Lastly, I had to make saving throws for the monsters and didn’t know how many D6’s to roll. They can no longer ‘save as a fighter of X level’ anymore (X=HD).  Maybe I missed something in the book.

My biggest issue with the playtest packet is that I put the LotFP current ruleset on a high pedestal for my D20 gaming.  The rules are really perfect for the style of play and totally compatible with nearly everything put out by the OSR (DCC, S&W, LL) and likely 5th Edition as well.  I don’t want it to change as drastically as this playtest doc suggests the new version might.  I just want something that I can use with little trouble if I grab stuff as disparate as Secret of Bone Hill, Idea from Space or Out of the Abyss. I think if the LotFP fans grind on this with long months of playtesting, there could be something great out of it.

First 5E action

First game of 5E as a player this afternoon.  I don’t get to play much (as one of those perpetual GMs), but I’ve realized I have a one track mind when I do play.  My brother and I are totally opposite in this regard.  He wants the boss defeated and to save the day (while crushing stuff when needed in fair combat), but I’m displeased unless everything’s Kid Miracleman’s London in order to get there. He’s the St. Cuthbert, I’m the Double Henderson (most of the time, we must not forget Tono and Kono).

GUTS

swinging off some NUTS today

This is a post about people that made some cool shit that just came out.  We’re all into the high end AAA video game titles and polished D&D 5E and 13th Age books, but today this post is about two titles that are not AAA by any means, very few people on the planet will ever notice them, but are still fantastic.

First is Venger Satanis’s Girls Gone Rogue, a companion adventure to his recent Space Station module, Alpha Blue.  Because I got Alpha Blue along with another module of his that I just couldn’t put down (Purple Putrescence) I hadn’t looked at AB too much except reading it on the shitter here and there.  It looks cool, and if you don’t want to use the game system in the book it would be a great setting for Runequest Star Wars (yes, this actually got made by Design Mechanism), White Star (even though the rulebook is the most fucking boring thing ever, the rules are solid), or if you haven’t already become completely disillusioned with FATE like any normal person, Bulldogs!  If you are a fucking masochist, you could use Star Frontiers, but no one would do that would they?

slutbot
slutbot

That said, there’s not much adventure in AB driving the players.  Lots of hooks, yes, and very interesting stuff as a setting, but no flat out adventure.  GGR solves this problem where players are tasked with taking down a slutbot gone rogue.  I haven’t read much yet but first, the HOOK is just fantastic and unexpected and the art– holy shit.  Tits everywhere, alien orgies, some sort of vaginal… I’m not even sure what that is…where Alpha Blue was pretty tame with the art, GGR is gonzo with the nudity and space robot fucking.  The names Satanis chooses are ridiculous and some of the charts are incredible.  ie: What the Fuck did I do last night??!

All in all, along with Purple Putrescence, which is excellent BTW, GGR solidifies me as a Venger Satanis fan. He’s got a ridiculous sense of humor and he knows his genre and his slavering, sex starved middle aged, children of the 80’s audience as well.  If I’m ever having a bad day at the fucking office, I can come home and read some of this crazy shit, and if the feeling takes me, I can run it and you know they’ll be cascades of space piss into your open mouths.

The second item doesn’t have any tits or nudity, but it sorta DID in it’s first printing.  Palace of the Silver Princess is a pillar of D&D obscurity, the ORANGE cover version was pulled as soon as it was printed and few copies exist (since I grew up in WI, I know I saw one in person before, but can’t remember where or who had it or if it was on the shelf at the hobby store in Brookfield Square).  Why was it pulled?  Well there is a part of the adventure where 9 dudes are (maybe) tearing the clothes off a woman tied up.  Remember when this came out. Early 80’s? Kids getting into D&D and not just old beardies? Yep. They pulled it even though AD&D and Fiend Folio had drawings of boobs right there for us to beat off to.

It’s unfortunate because the Orange version is better than the Green version that eventually came out because it details an entire area, not just the dungeon/palace.  I’ve been thinking about running Orange for awhile (the PDF is around) but it’s got some of those ‘stock your own stuff’ rooms that I just don’t have time for. Christ no.

princess

Bam, then what happens?  A bunch of the LotFP writers got together and rewrote the entire module, indoor, outdoor, upstairs, downstairs using the original maps!  Raggi, Zak S, Kowalski, Green and others that I don’t know, probably promising n00bs specially selected.   I haven’t read this yet (I hate PDF’s and need to get it printed on lulu before I can read it), but there are good snippets I’ve seen.  It lists the writers of each section so you’ll know if you are walking into something interesting and crazy (Raggi, Kowalski, Green, Zak) or something boring and pretentious that takes itself too seriously (won’t mention names) and you can then skip the overwritten or lame parts or revert to the original module as needed.

Also, I need to mention, it’s FREE.

Fallout 4 survival mode and some tips

I’ve been playing a good deal of Fallout 4 in the last few months, like everyone else.   I just plowed through the Mechanist DLC last week (good, but a bit short) and really liked the new robot/raider mixed faction that appears as well since the regular raiders become, well, fucking fodder.

In addition to the Mechanist stuff, last week, a major new playstyle was also released: SURVIVAL difficulty mode.  In this mode you get to suffer hunger, thirst, fatigue, disease along with the normal people trying to fill you will bullets or eat you or burn you with lasers.  Sound fun? What’s more, you can only save when you sleep in a bed.  While it’s not exactly hardcore, you have to be very careful, especially if you are far away from a bed as all your hard work will be lost when you croak– an you WILL croak. Damage to you and that damage you do to others is super spiked in this version, and healing is much slower.  Get shot outside your power armor with a double barrelled shotgun at level 5?  You’re dead!

I’m not too far into it, but I tell you I’ve quit a couple times because I forgot it wasn’t saving the game at various points. My advice? Remember when you are dicking around in settlements that if you wander off and are killed, all the mundane building and assigning workers will be completely lost.  Remember this!

A few other tips:

  1. Get all the bottles you can early and use the bubbler in the vault to fill those bottles to create purified water. This will save you from drinking radioactive shit early game before you have anything.
  2. Maybe run away from the first Deathclaw. You know where the power armor is, you know how to get it, but you also have to face down a deathclaw right after. Maybe run away?  You likely won’t be able to establish sanctuary but you’ll have power armor and won’t be dead…
  3. Watch out for ‘regular’ fights.  Raiders can easily kill you and you no longer have the auto spotter dots on your radar for enemies, so you have to sneak, get in position and shoot, then move.  Rather than just running and gunning everything and stimpacking out of danger, you’ll get to see that the raiders/gunners actually have an AI!
  4. Watch the rad away– it increases thirst and hunger and leaves you susceptible to disease from stuff you eat.  So drink fluid AFTER rad away, but maybe don’t eat right away or eat before.  You will eat very yucky stuff, and you want your immune system to be tanked up– rad away will drop that down a lot.
  5. Reexamine the perks.  Some of the perks you ignored before so you could blow stuff up real good become powerful for survival, especially the ‘drink shitty water’ one.
  6. Remember you have to walk everywhere so the game world that was once much smaller will feel HUGE.  You will need bases of operations (and beds) all over the place if you expect to get anywhere in the plot.  If you pick up shitty power armor with no fusion cell, it may be a long, long way back to your base– slowly, slowly walking…
  7. Speaking of plot, remember when you accidentally wandered the wastes for 10-12 play sessions and were super tanked up for the plot missions and they were too easy?  Maybe that’s a really good tactic to use now…
  8. Ghouls are horrible to face now.  After the first few levels you can swat them like flies in the normal game, but in Survival, look out.  Use VATS to shoot their legs off so they can’t move and then finish them off when it’s safe.

That’s it for now, I am going to go back in and see how far I can get.survivalmode

LotFP: World of the Lost first session

So we belayed 13th Age for a bit to try out the new playtest rules for Lamentations of the Flame Princess last night starting the new World of the Lost module from Rafael Chandler.  There IS confusion around the new rules, since it’s no longer JUST a better version of B/X, there are some biggish changes, and I’m not sure I like all of them yet (hence playtesting which will round off the burrs), so let’s see how it goes.

Main things are:

  • Everyone has some random skills, specialists have more skills that they can choose
  • There are fighting ‘styles’ now and Fighters can use all of them
  • Saving throws are different and use D6’s
  • All spells can be cast at first level.  This makes things a bit crazy because now spells can go awry (a la Warhammer Fantasy Battle/Roleplay).

Session stuff

Characters:

  • Rainer Keeling – Magic User (1 hp)
  • Van Hagan – Specialist (tinker, bushcraft)
  • Udo Quatellbaum – Fighter with a man catcher
  • Bernard Dreu – Fighter (I’m glad matt picked a good name this time)
  • Anton Schleiss – Magic User
  • Isaac Netherwood – Specialist (languages)!

The characters joined a ship’s crew in Cornwall under one Richard Trower who sold them on the idea of heading over the ocean to Africa, finding the city of Khirima all for a hoard of the “Negro silver!”  After months on a boat and weeks of travel from the Portuguese port of Lagos along with a Portuguese caravan, they made it to Khirima and settled in to start to look for the silver. Trower took 6 Germans from the crew and went off, supposedly to meet a contact and then come back the next morning– and that was a week ago.  While they waited, they stayed on the down low but got some rumors from the tavern.

As money ran short, the characters talked about what to do and decided to leave the tavern they were at to search the city for trace of Trower or the Germans.  When they did so, they were approached by an obviously sick and recently beaten Portuguese brass caster (who was with them on the caravan from Lagos) who kept repeating: “they put a disease in me.”  He told them that since Trower was now ‘gone’ THEY had to fulfill his debt for the crime he committed by fulfilling a task for ‘them’.  They were to protect a caravan from attack while also murdering a noble that would be a long with it.  They were suspicious and tasked the Portuguese hard but he only had so much information.

When he wandered off, they followed him into the Royal district, where he dropped dead while walking.   After being accosted by guards (Leopards) and a barber surgeon who noticed them following the man (as Europeans stick out quite a bit in Khirima), they dragged the body off, dumped it in an alleyway and high tailed it back to the tavern.  It was only a Portuguese anyway right?

They decided to scout the caravan they needed to guard the night before departure, but couldn’t find it, and then headed back to the tavern where they caroused.  Someone slipped them something in their drinks and they woke up in the jungle tied to stones by vines with something crawling towards them screaming.

Welcome to Africa!

Lost

Of note, the characters were constantly exposed to languages during this short session, so there were rolls for Hausa, German, Portuguese and nearly French as well.  The linguist specialist speaks nearly ALL of the languages they will encounter during this game and I tell you that helps.  I wasn’t sure what to do with languages since with a normal party, they wouldn’t be able to communicate with anyone except via hand signs, with a linguist specialist, they have it made.

World of the Lost is pretty fucking badass,  got to run it more, but so far: recommended.

Comic Recommendation

Head Lopper.  Get it.

While I think LOW, one of my current favorites, may have jumped the shark with sentient MICE, I was happy to find issue 3 of Head Lopper sitting on the shelf and it’s superlative.  Think viking violence mashed in with adventure time.  I also picked up Miracle Man Olympus from the Alan Moore period where he teams up with the soon-after-to-be Swamp Thing artist.    Also just finished Junji Ito’s UZUMAKI, which I had only read parts of on the internet in the past.  Highly recommended.

lopped
lopped