Quotes from the Game

“So, how’s the party doing?”

“They’re dealing with the new Slayer’s disbelief”

“Apparently the normal method is to have Donald Sutherland start chucking knives at her.”

Geek Talk

I Am A: Chaotic Good Human Bard (4th Level)

Ability Scores:
Strength-13
Dexterity-12
Constitution-14
Intelligence-14
Wisdom-12
Charisma-13

Alignment:
Chaotic Good A chaotic good character acts as his conscience directs him with little regard for what others expect of him. He makes his own way, but he’s kind and benevolent. He believes in goodness and right but has little use for laws and regulations. He hates it when people try to intimidate others and tell them what to do. He follows his own moral compass, which, although good, may not agree with that of society. Chaotic good is the best alignment you can be because it combines a good heart with a free spirit. However, chaotic good can be a dangerous alignment because it disrupts the order of society and punishes those who do well for themselves.

Race:
Humans are the most adaptable of the common races. Short generations and a penchant for migration and conquest have made them physically diverse as well. Humans are often unorthodox in their dress, sporting unusual hairstyles, fanciful clothes, tattoos, and the like.

Class:
Bards often serve as negotiators, messengers, scouts, and spies. They love to accompany heroes (and villains) to witness heroic (or villainous) deeds firsthand, since a bard who can tell a story from personal experience earns renown among his fellows. A bard casts arcane spells without any advance preparation, much like a sorcerer. Bards also share some specialized skills with rogues, and their knowledge of item lore is nearly unmatched. A high Charisma score allows a bard to cast high-level spells.

Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus (e-mail)

Indistinguishable From Technology

So here’s the thing about D&D: it makes no sense. None. Don’t get me wrong, I like it and all, but the world as presented is completely wrong-wrong-wrongity-wrong, and the new Pathfinder setting (much though I enjoy it) has done nothing to change that.

You wanna know why?  One word: magic.

Magic in D&D is reasonably common, which is bad enough, but what’s worse is that it’s reliable.  If you cast magic missile more than once, the only difference between castings is precisely how much damage you’ll do, and even that will vary only within strict limits.  Which is bad enough.

Where magic gets really bad, though, is in the utility stuff.  Don’t tell me that a world that has fireball lacks, say, a spell to keep food from spoiling, a spell to make a roof more weathertight, or a spell to keep bugs out.  And given that even the smallest town is likely to have a person who can at least use level 1 spells, life in a D&D universe should not look much at all like the pseudo-medieval setting it generally defaults to.

I mean, consider continual flame.  A magic item that can cast it at will would cost 10,800 gp and take 11 days to make; it produces items (gravel-sized stones would be great) that appear to burn but need no fuel or oxygen and never go out.  And then the city that made it could have streetlights for the cost of whatever they’re mounted on, requiring no fuel or maintenance, and easily replaced if stolen.  And could start exporting “flaming” stones for a little over the cost of shipping…assuming anyone could be coerced into buying them.  Everyone in town could have all the light they needed, and trust me when I say that that mere fact is enough to make a lot more work and production possible. 

How about teleportation circle? It costs 1000 gold to inscribe, and the circle’s only 10 feet in diameter.  More to the point, you need a 17th level caster for it.  But you can make it permanent, and then you have a circle big enough to drive a largish wagon into that will send your cargo to the destination instantly.  I can see a wizard retiring from adventuring and going around to cities and large towns, offering them teleportation circles to other places for, say, a couple months’ worth of room and board.  It’d only take a decade or two before a whole continent would have a transport network that would put the US Interstate system to shame.  Pretty soon people would start doing it for destinations inside large cities, and then you don’t even have to walk through rush hour anymore.

Cure light wounds? No more crippling injuries from stupid accidents.  Purify food and drink means no one gets sick from food gone off.  For that matter, a 5th level cleric can feed 15 people a day with one casting of create food and water, which means famine not so much.  Repel vermin, made permanent, means one can sleep without worrying about lice, mosquitos, bedbugs, or any of the other disease-carrying bugs of the world.  And if you get malaria, the cleric can fix that, too, so no need for sickle-cell.

If you can summon and bind fire elementals, you can make steam engines that require no fuel.  Unseen servant can do drudge work like cleaning or weaving, freeing up humans to do creative things.  With a decanter of endless water, deserts can be easily made fertile; with a bottle of air, mining is no longer such a dangerous job…assuming you actually mine, instead of getting your iron from the wall of iron spell.  Anyway, just get a druid to stone shape the shafts.

Sure, people might not think of all these things immediately, but it wouldn’t take long; we monkeys are always looking for ways to do less work.  And a magic-driven world would be cleaner and safer than a technology-driven one, because magic doesn’t produce waste.

The Truth, and Nothing But the Truth

I’m running a character that uses a non-PHB class, to wit the wu jen from Complete Arcane.  One of the things about this class is that, every ~3 levels, you have to pick a “taboo”, something your character isn’t allowed to do lest she lose her spellcasting ability for a day.

My problem with this is that most of the example taboos are things that you don’t, in D&D, really have to deal with.  “Oh, by the way, I never cut my hair,” you say, and voìla! your taboo for that level is fulfilled.  Even stuff like “make a small sacrifice once a day” doesn’t specify that you actually have to spend any money on it–heck, you could say that you prick your finger every day before memorizing spells, and that’d cover it.

So for Altariel’s 3rd-level taboo, I picked one I’m actually going to have to roleplay: Cannot lie.  (Note that this is in the sense of “cannot make an untrue statement”, rather than “cannot allow someone to come to the wrong conclusion based on what I say”, but still, it makes perfect sense.)  If the universe is to be expected to listen to me when I say there’s a fireball over there, I can’t go around telling lies about other things, now can I?

Serenity, the RPG

Got a look at the Serenity rpg last night.  Overall, it looked pretty cool and I was favorably impressed, but there were some nitpicks.

The system appears to be that you have some target number, which you must equal or exceed in order to do whatver you’re trying to do.   All of your attributes and skills are assigned a value by way of the size of the die you roll when you use them–that is, if you’re Jayne your brawn gets d10 and your smarts get a d4; if you’re Simon it’s vice-versa.  Bonuses and penalties happen by changing the size of the die some number of steps.  I have never encountered this mechanic before, but I rather like it; it makes it so an expert can still fail, but does so less often than a novice, and that this happens with a frequency that’s easy to see.  It’s pretty clear that someone rolling a d4 is only going to beat a 3 half the time, while someone with a d12 will do so 5 times out of 6.  I’d have to see it in play to know how well it works, but on the whole it looks promising.

I must also confess a liking for any game which includes such ads and disads as “Leaky Brainpan”, “Moneyed Individual”, and “Sweet and Cheerful”.  But this leads into one of my problems: the whole book is written in the Ole West Hick dialect, including explainations of mechanics and examples of play.  It gets gratin’ right quick, if you catch my drift.

I didn’t have time to take a thorough look at all the background info they provided, but one bit I did see was the money system.  Turns out a Firefly “credit” has about the buying power of $25, for shades of B5 (though if I recall correctly the disparity there was less).  There’s also coin, which disdains such intuitive systems as “straight decimal” in favor of something that works out to the smallest coin being worth 40 cents–it was along the lines of $25>1 credit>2.5 platinum (1 p=$10)>5 gold (1 g=$5)>62.5 silver (1 s=40 cents).  I may be misremebering, because, well, nonintuituve.  I know that the British Empire got along with a horrendously nonintuitive currency for literally a thousand years–remind me again how many shillings in a guinea?–but still.  This is gaming, I don’t want it to be accountancy too…

Lightning’s Heart

Having recently purchased Weapons of Legacy (which I shouldn’t have, because I am poor, but that’s not relevant really), I am really liking the idea of an item that gets better as you level.  The base item has to be magic, but can cost no more than 4000 gp; you have to perform a series of rituals to “unlock” the item’s powers, which you can’t do any earlier than 5th level.  These rituals are based on events that took place over the history of the item and cost money but not xp (and you have to use Knowledge (history) checks and/or spells like legend lore to find out how to perform them).   Also there are personal costs, which are in theory balanced by the powers of the item. I think Altariel needs one of these items, and given her projected career (10 levels of electrical elemental savant) it should be something that relates to electricity.

Given that standard D&D uses the 4-element system (Altariel uses a more “oriental” 5-element, in which electricity is linked to metal), I’m going to go with electricity>lightning>air>mind and use a +2 headband of intellect as the base item.  This comes in exactly at the 4000 gp limit.  Clearly, Lightning’s Heart should grant access to the Energy Substitution (electricity) feat, and there are a bunch of powers on the lists in the back of the book that fit the theme nicely: grants castings of lighning bolt, chain lightning and energy resistance some times per day, gives ability bonuses–Int in this case, of course–grants haste for some number of rounds per day, that sort of thing.  Where I’m falling down is the backstory.

Clearly, if I want a powerful item I should be willing to put in some effort for it, but I’m just totally blanking.  I hesitate to say “Can’t I just pay the gold costs and handwave it?”, but it’s awfully tempting.  The job is made more difficult by the fact that the stories in Weapons of Legacy vary between “This event caused this power” and “This character, the original owner, has a cool backstory, and by the way the item can do this nifty thing now”.

Also, neato house rule I heard lately: Epic characters (21st level and up) can’t be raised from the dead because, if they die, the gods on the planes they end up on look at them and say, “Hmmm, you’re useful; you’re sticking around.”

Things That Turn Me Off

There are few things that will turn me off a gaming website faster than the words Trump, Pattern, or [random Amber character name].  I just don’t give a damn; I don’t like Amber all that much and I don’t want to game in it, and the descriptions of the Amber RPG I’ve read strike me as intensely dumb.  Also a formula for the GM to do whatever the heck he wants, even more than most RPGs in which he has to at least make a pretense of rolling dice.

Plus, the whole Trump thing is just an excuse for people to do bad photomanipulation.

Not Worthy

I am looking at the playtest file for Bliss Stage, an anime rpg, and I am totally not worthy.  The mechanics could use some work, I suspect, but the concepts…it’s beautifully grim in that way that only anime can be. 

I am officially not allowed to post any of it, but if people want to see it lemme know.  Too bloody cool.

Gamist Gaming

In the Sunday night Dragonstar game, my character has recently had some bad experiences–basically, seeing that her homeworld is being run by an imposter (of her) who is the tool of the chaotic evil black dragons.  Cordelia (and that is her real name and she’s not going to forget it, thank you) is True Neutral, though she really wants to be Neutral Good, and she’s basically a social monster (as opposed to a combat monster or a skill monster or whatever). 

There’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem with Cordelia’s preferred method for working out negative feelings; does she use sex because she’s a social monster, or is she a social monster because using sex required her to become one?  Girl’s also got some identity issues, in that a large chunk of her skills are focused on allowing her to pretend to be other people, and in fact her continued existence depends heavily on not claiming her real name in public…but her recent trip to her homeworld showed her that her unclaimable identity as Grand Duchess of Vorbarra is actually important to her.  For that matter, she’s come to regret telling the other PCs that they should call her Ekaterin, her usual nom de guerre, even in private.

Now, D&D is not what you’d call Narrative-focused.  In fact it’s the flagship of Gamist gaming–witness how easy it is to gimp a character at first level with a bad feat choice.  So an important character issue, which in some games might be handled with “Secret Identity” or “Identity Issues” or whatnot on the character sheet, is instead a matter of me telling the GM that Cordelia makes it a point to use her own face whenever it’s not advisable to be someone else.

Right.  So back to Codelia and her bad experience.  She’s back with the rest of the PCs, and she’s feeling intensely stupid and self-destructive.  Being a social monster, she’s decided, mostly unconsciously, that the way to deal with this is to make someone else just as miserable as she is.  She’s picked out Krellit, the Geeky Mechanic ™ of the party, as the most logical candidate, i.e. the one most likely to, you should pardon the expression, fall for it.  It hasn’t really dawned on her yet that this is going to be Bad for Party Cohesiveness.  It should have dawned, mind, but I mentioned stupid and self-destructive, right?

Cordelia is aware that Krellit, not being an idiot, knows she can literally bluff the pants off him should she so desire.  So she went into it pretending to be awkward–the theory being that when blindsided by real emotion she’s just as unsure as anyone else.  And he went for it, and they have started a sexual relationship.  Which led to an issue.

It occurred to me that, while I am aware of the in-bed competence of Krellit’s player, Krellit the character is a different story.  And at some point I said, “Um…I have to roll dice.”  And the GM looked at me and asked for what, and Krellit’s player and I said, pretty much in unison, “Bluff”; that is, Cordelia was faking it (“I’ll have what she’s having.”).  Which led to the slightly injured question on Krellit’s player’s part of why I thought she was going to have to fake it.  How did we know Krellit wasn’t an erotic genius? 

Unsurprisingly, D&D doesn’t have a “Have Sex” skill.  It also doesn’t have anywhere in particular that one can be shoehorned in, with the exception of Perform. Problem is, Perform is Charisma-based, which leads to the ludicrous conclusion that unattractive people are ipso facto lousy lovers.  Amid much laughter, the GM went for Sense Motive on the strength of “paying attention to body language”, which was amusing but not IMO quite right.  Me, I’d go for a Dex-based Perform, or just a whole new skill, with possibly a Con check for how long the characters can, and I swear no pun is intended here, keep it up.

But anyway.  My problem is that I love D&D, I really do, and at the same time I adore games that center on or at least include issues that D&D just isn’t equipped to handle.  In some games, Cordelia’s identity issues would have gotten her extra points or provide a mechanic in some situations; in D&D it’s basically me looking at the GM and saying “I want to have a plotline involving this.”  (Note that the GM has provided one, it’s just that he had to do it with no system support pretty much at all.)  Similarly, it would be amusing if Cordelia discovered that Krellit’s watched enough porn to have a, hmmm, firm grasp of the basics and that she was actually having a good time, even if not so good a time as she pretended; lacking any way to work it out, we fall back on the image of the hopeless techie (“You!  Have you ever kissed a girl!?”).

I don’t know as I have any coherent point here, aside from a personal preference for Gamist mechanics and Narrativist play.  It’s just so hard to abstract things like a brilliant conversationalist…

More Images

Player’s Handbook 3.5(July 2003): 

female male unknown female dress passive female dress neutral female dress active female stance passive female stance neutral female stance active male dress passive male dress neutral male dress active male stance passive male stance neutral male stance active
25 40 0 0 7 18 2 13 10 3 11 26 2 24 12
38.5% 61.5% 0% 0% 28.0% 72.0% 8.0% 52.0% 40.0% 7.5% 27.5% 65.0% 5.3% 63.2% 31.6%

 This has the same caveats as my last post on the subject, and some additonal notes:

Two of the male “passive dress” notes are in fact naked, both line drawings from chapter headings with the relevant bit carefully smudged out; one of these is a half-and-half, with the left half of the body naked and the other in full plate. I listed it as two different images. One passive stance is Krusk, the iconic barbarian, as the iconic cleric Jozan steps on his head to climb a cliff–Krusk may be helping, but one of the definitions of “passive” we’re using is “doesn’t want to be doing this”, and Krusk has a look of pain on his face. Lidda, the rogue, shown as an example of what happens when Use Magic Device goes wrong, was listed as passive; she is active when dodging a ray because she’s being attacked but is doing something about it. None of the miniatures in the combat chapter are listed because they’re hard to identify as humanoid, much less male or female, just by looking at them. The small figure blocked by prismatic wall seems to be male, but I could be wrong, and is listed as passive. The target of raise dead is about as passive as it’s possible to get, and was listed as such.